Millions of trees are cut every year to make paper. Deforestation poses a threat to the environment in several ways. Rise in temperature, increase in levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and soil erosion are some of the more evident effects.
Frequent flooding due to the lack of trees to absorb excess rain water is also a real possibility. We cannot stop using paper despite the usage of electronic tools and devices having become popular but we can surely work towards minimizing the damage. You can contribute by using recycled paper. In addition, you also have the option of using FSC certified paper when not using the recycled one.
The world the internet has ushered in has brought with it plenty of ways to make our lives easier.
Whether that's doing our grocery shopping or discovering our new favorite band, it's quite amazing what we've been able to achieve. But it's not all good news. Thanks to the sheer number of advertising methods the web offers, it's actually making certain promotional methods less effective, simply due to over-saturation. When everyone is advertising with web banners, everybody starts to ignore them: it's simple common sense.
Actually, M-Bossed put together a whole week of Hotcards!
Recently, our excellent friend Ryan McAbee over at M-Bossed asked me if I’d be interested in talking to him about how Hotcards uses social media to promote our printing services. He had some great questions, which I responded to with many a noble sentiment on the ability of social media to connect us and create online communities that parallel the communities we develop in our own neighborhoods and cities.
Summer's on its way, which means festival season, tons of concerts, sporting events, and huge parties/productions. People are also traveling, and spending money on tourist destinations. All of which have one thing in common: ticket buying.
We might be on the way to a future of digital tickets handled exclusively by our cell phones, but that doesn't mean it's time to stop thinking about ticket print design. In fact, as if in reaction to the digital trend, some organizers are taking ticket design to the next level with special runs of commemorative ticket printing.
This summer, for example, Lollapalooza introduced a collectible 3D festival pass. The beautifully designed tickets were produced to act "as a token of your kick-a#% Lolla weekend," and were printed in a limited edition run that sold out almost instantly.
Any event coordinator or producer can build the hype for an event by designing and printing high-quality event tickets and selling them as an advanced promotion. These special tickets act as a fan's first peek at the design aesthetic behind an event, and printing a limited edition run can work to speed and increase early-bird sales, which is always a good thing.
Living life online is all well and good, but we have to strike a balance between the lives we live on Google, Facebook, Reddit, Flickr, and YouTube, and the life we live in our bodies, out of doors and away from the computer. Otherwise, we’re all gonna end up like those sad people in WALL-E or Surrogates.
As digital technology becomes increasingly accessible and integrated into our everyday lives, balancing between the two worlds is becoming more and more a choice that we have to actively participate in. We have to decide what we want from our globally-connected, high-speed, content-rich digital world, and what we want from our physically active, movement-oriented, sensory-rich world.
As such, we’re finding ourselves immersed in a culture making choices between certain technologies that deepen our experiences in the worlds we choose to inhabit. And over the last few years, we’ve been seeing an interesting move in the direction of choosing to embrace and preserve certain tactile technologies that have been challenged by new digital iterations of the services they provide.
It was the best of times to be in marketing, it was the worst of times to be marketing…
Or at least, that's how I imagine Charles Dickens might have started A Tale of Two Cities if he was writing it today. The paradox is true. It's a tough time to sell marketing services – everyone's looking for an expert, while the terrible reality is that trends are shifting too quickly for true expertise to exist. On the other hand, there's never been a better time to be "mad men" because there are no limits, no boundaries, no set of rules to follow anymore.
At a time like this, a commodity like certainty is worth its weight in gold. A "marketing expert" who can guarantee a campaign's success will go far, until, that is, it becomes clear that – just as you suspected – there are no guarantees when it comes to promotion and advertising.
Unlike traditional forms of media, (like, ahem, print), digital and social media promise investors the wonders of being able to track the results of their investments. How much traffic has your social media campaign driven? By what precise percentage has your revenue increased?
We love being able to see these numbers, and yet, our ability to use them remains limited because of how fast the landscape is changing. What worked this week might not work next week. The company that generated crazy traffic with Twitter is not the same company that will explode on, say, ChatRoulette (and yes, businesses are starting to advertise there, too).
Nope, there are few guarantees to be had in this day and age. However, there are some things that remain true because they're older than social media, older than print advertising, older than the concept of marketing itself. And that's the little kernel of thought that contextualized human interaction as such: if I appeal to you on a personal level, you're more likely to interact with me, a.k.a. patronize my business.
Remember – think way back to, say, five years ago – when social media came into the mix? What made it special, different, better than other forms of advertising?
Way back in those halcyon days, a Facebook page or a blog or even a (ugh) MySpace page, made advertising personal again. It was supposed to make marketing friendly, accessible, individualized.
But what has it done? What happened to the greatest revolution in advertising since the town crier?
In short, it's ruined social media without actually benefiting business. The only people who have benefited from the whole process are web types who styled themselves "social media experts." This is not the fault of business, but rather of the social media platform's need to monetize. Either way, however, the results are the same, and all the numbers add up to EPIC FAIL.
Or, er, to kickstart a new era of print campaigns, as it were…
What's so great about print advertising? If you had to explain printing's role in the publishing, advertising, news, and events worlds to, say, someone from another planet, what would you say?
That's the question the bigwigs over at (deep breath) The Printing Council, Printing Industries of America, The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies, and the National Association for Print Leadership are asking.
All these elaborately-acronym-ed print associations have come together to host Positively Print, a contest/campaign "designed to promote the power of print in the media mix."
Three days before the launch of Apple's iPad, positive reviews are pouring in, and the printing industry has officially decided to concede defeat.
"Yup," R.G. Blau, acting president of the International Conventicle of Print Industry Types confirmed the rumors early today. "With the iPad, we feel that Apple has once and for all proven that there is no longer any need whatsoever for books, newspapers, magazines, catalogues, posters, billboards, banners, brochures, or anything of that other stuff that we print."
"It's a sad day for the printing industry, but we also feel some measure of pride at having been defeated by such a worthy competitor," Hotcards blogger Anne Stewart said at a press conference this morning. "I, for one, welcome our new digital advertising overlords."
There are few things more visually depressing than a business district turning into a ghost town. Empty storefronts, faded, torn posters billowing in the wind, dust and grime encrusting windows that once shone with the promise of consumer bliss.
Over the last year or so, this has become a too-common sight in towns and cities all over the world. And the worst part is that the cycle is depressingly self-perpetuating: when businesses start to close, it leads to other businesses closing, whether because of the decrease in area traffic, or because the business itself doesn't want to cling to a sinking ship.
Knowing well the nature of the beast, the city council of North Tyneside, England, has decided to take a radical approach. Instead of letting their shrinking business district go gray and seedy (140 shops have closed in the city, recently), the council has begun to print storefronts.
The vinyl building wraps, each costing about 1500 British pounds, are designed to depict the front of an attractive, bustling business. Not only do the fake storefronts cheer up the neighborhood, the city council is hoping they will encourage prospective business owners to invest.
"This business is perfectly legitimate." "All my transactions are totally on-the-level, completely above-board." "Trust me, baby. Would I lie to you?" "I am 100% confident that this is the edgiest new product on the market." "I know your part seems small, but it's really important."
What do all these lines have in common? The fact that they are never true, and that just speaking the words actually serves to render them less true. For example, if a business is "legitimate" you don't need to call it "legitimate." If a person is actually trustworthy, they don't need to say "trust me." We've all dealt with people who love to throw around this type of language, but it never gets more believable.
Unfortunately, these are the one-liners brought to mind by the new "Magazines, The Power of Print" campaign announced last week by a group of five major magazine publishers. The focus of the campaign is to remind advertisers, shareholders, and "industry influencers" of the fact that people still engage with print. Unfortunately, the campaign comes off much like calling a product "edgy" or a business "on-the-level." If print was actually still relevant, the reader thinks, it wouldn't need to insist on it.
Sad news today from Oberlin, Ohio. The World Color Press plant, located in Oberlin, is closing. 119 printing employees will be out of a job as of May 21st. The line of reasoning sent down from World Color's head office is simple and one we hear too often lately: the economy is bad, we all have to make tough decisions.
The plant shutdown comes on the heels of Quad/Graphics acquisition of World Color (formerly Quebecor World Inc.) in January. While World Color reps call the closure unrelated, you don't have to be a genius to figure out that the multinational company is cleaning house and cutting costs where they can.
Direct mail and magazine insert printing done by the Oberlin plant will be transferred to other World Color branches, and employees will be notified of openings at other locations. Unfortunately, in this economy, we all know what that means.
Frustrations aside, however, the modus operandi of all large printing companies has been the same since the recession began: consolidate, trim the fat, lower expenses. As major forces in the printing industry begin to prepare for the trade show season, many, such as Heidelberg and Komori, are scaling down, choosing to market themselves in less expensive ways rather than invest in a costly trade show expo.
The irony here, of course, is that if printers won't invest in print, then who will? Shutting down small plants and shunning trade shows can be viewed as basic self-preservation tactics, designed to ensure the industry's future, but ultimately, these stop-gaps can neither be called innovative solutions or creative developments. This type of defensive maneuver only works for weathering a temporary storm, not revitalizing an industry.
The Oberlin World Color plant has been a leader in instituting green technologies, and cutting costs in the process. That's the kind of smart, forward thinking that printers need to survive, and yet, it's being crushed by corporate bottom lines. If the game plan according to major players is to stamp out innovation in favor of self-preservation, then maybe this industry, at least so far as the old way of doing business is concerned, doesn't deserve to survive.
Every year, all across the country, printers watch the Super Bowl with bated breath. Because we love football, but also because the results of these championship games have a huge impact on who's printing what Monday morning.
Competition for printing Super Bowl t-shirts, banners, posters, and other paraphernalia is fierce, but the work is anything but guaranteed. Normally, different printers are contacted to produce victory collateral for the champions, depending on who wins. Because shipping of the collateral is so time-sensitive, printers are normally slatted for every region, and the ones printing - in this case, since New Orleans won – Saints gear, are not necessarily the same print providers who would be working their butts off right now if the Colts had won.
Over the last few years, a trend has been growing among large online businesses – particularly retailers. Turns out catalog printing is a marketing strategy that works, not "even for online business" but "particularly for online business."
The big success story in 2009 was the Zappos.com print catalog. Zappos has been experimenting with print advertising for a few years, but its only in 2009 that they really committed and mailed out three complete catalogs over the course of the year, at a rate of almost 1 million copies per issue.
According to Zappos brand marketing department, the catalog proved to be a great way to get in touch with "lapsed customers." People who hadn't bought anything online for a while responded positively to the catalog mailer, often returning to make larger purchases than they had in the past.
In fact, King Fish Media, the company publishing the catalog for Zappos, says that the average catalog order is twice the size of those normally made through direct online sales.
This phenomenon can probably be attributed to the fact that the average online shopper doesn't mind making small purchases, whereas unpracticed buyers might feel like the purchase is a big event, and are therefore prepared to invest more. However, this begs the question: will shoppers reeled in by catalog mailers return for a second round?
Earlier this month, without so much as a press release, Adobe made the decision to drop its weightily titled "Adobe Partner Connection Print Service Provider Program." The program offered printers a variety of services, including a complete copy of the Adobe CS, and regular upgrades, for a relatively low ($595 - $995) yearly rate.
When questioned, Adobe defended their position, saying that the product's retirement was due to decreasing membership. And indeed, "only" 3000 or so printers used the service (Hotcards not among them). However, the implications of the planned February 4th shutdown are resonating deeply throughout the industry.
This week, Communicate – a London-based publication that looks at the ways in which corporations conduct public and internal relations – posted an interesting article on the decade in print.
Communicate asked industry types to identify their favorite pieces of print material over the last decade. And the results were very interesting. Overwhelming, respondents favored print that prioritizes readability and information quality, integrating these elements with other aspects of visual design in order to create a uniquely easy-to-use and straight-to-the-point experience.
Normally, terms like "usability," "accessibility," and "functionality," are used to describe web design, but in the case of the last decade’s standouts in print, it seems like these same terms apply because the priority remains quality of information.
So what does this say about the future of print?
As print vies for consumer attention and marketing dollars with digital communication, the tendency – throughout print design – seems to be to focus on color quality, huge, intense imagery, and even webpage-style products.
Of course, the problem with this approach is that print is never going to beat the web at its own game.
Where print can succeed, and continues to succeed, is by placing useful, accessible content into the hands of relevant viewers. Ever since the invention of the printing press, people have instantly been drawn to print’s ability to communicate clearly, to increase access to information, rather than obscuring information.
While the web takes this mission to a whole other level, it also requires from viewers a comprehensive knowledge of how to access that information, how to navigate the glut and find what we’re looking for. Simply speaking, it’s the world’s largest library at our fingertips, but sometimes, I don’t want a library, sometimes I just want a book, a catalogue, or even a flyer - a finite amount of specific information that’s important to me, and clearly represented.
And that’s what print has always offered readers. The idea, conversely, that it should try to compete with the web over issues of design or distribution is absurd. To remain vital and relevant over the next decade, print and print design must play to its strengths – clear, concise, relevant communication, targeted at and delivered to the people who are interested. Anything other strategy risks turning print into a lost cause.
Add it to the list of "Things that shouldn't be done at home."
At the beginning of the day, I like to take the temperature of the printing scene on the internet. Any hot news? How about wild conjecture? To be honest, exciting things don't happen every day, but almost inevitably, intriguing trends do emerge over time.
Ever since the beginning of the new year, for example, I've been seeing a lot of tweets to the effect of, "I got a printer for Xmas. Still sitting unopened in the corner…" Moreover, as of late, multiple bloggers have been questioning the future of printing—not commercially speaking, but on the desktop.
Congratulations! You got a printer for Christmas! But the holidays have been busy, and maybe you haven't even taken your printer out of the box yet. If you're one of these people (according to Twitter, there are over 7 billion of you!), you better hope that printer box had some air holes!
Thanks to the recession, many Americans who had desktop printing technology on their wish list received small commercial printers for Christmas. Don't be nervous! These printers are really easy to look after! They don't eat much, or take up a lot of space on your desktop. Just follow a few simple rules, and your new small commercial printer will take care of all your desktop publishing needs for years to come!
Connect Your Printer With Your Computer
Your printer's pretty handy with a computer, so forget about networking bugs. Sit back and relax as your new printer interfaces seamlessly with your laptops and desktop PCs. It's true! Your small commercial printer will be able to access all your household computers, smartphones, and cameras with virtually no baffling networking errors!
Keep Your Printer Supplied With Rootbeer
The best small commercial printers function optimally on a rootbeer-rich diet. Keep your printer supplied with rootbeer, and hardware and software issues will become a thing of the past. Your printer knows everything there is to know about prepress, printmaking, and even die-cutting and folding, so you'll never find yourself stymied by error messages again. If your printer is performing sluggishly or seems reluctant to respond to commands, try upping his or her rootbeer intake.
Keep the CMKY Flowing
Your new small commercial printer will never make you feel like you're doing all the work, but he can't do everything himself! Respond to your printer's requests for fresh ink in a prompt fashion, and you'll never be disappointed by the full color results! If purchasing ink seems like a hassle, simply provide your printer with your credit card number. Don't be nervous! You'll find his billing practices to be prompt and exacting.
Listen To Your Printer
A healthy, content printer will make a soft humming noise while he works, akin to the purr of a cat. However, if your printer is insufficiently fed or cared for, he may begin to make grumbling, clanking noises while at work. Several strategies can be used to return your printer to optimal health:
First, try making the switch to natural, soy or vegetable based inks and recycled paper. This will create a safer, healthier work environment for your printer, which will, in turn, improve mood and productivity.
If greening your workspace doesn't help, consider consulting your printer on graphic design issues. Your printer comes fully equipped with tools to aid in font selection, color management, and formatting, and may react in a dissatisfied manner if these features aren't used properly.
Never Get Your Printer Wet
While printers love a day off here and there, they hate baths, walks in the rain, and afternoons in the pool. If you do accidently get your printer wet, apologize profusely and don't ask her to work again until she has been thoroughly sun-dried.
Finally, and most importantly…
Never, EVER Feed Your Printer After Midnight. This is the ultimate feed error and may result in fatal systems failure. Or gremlins.
I'll be the first to admit that I don't speak great Japanese. To be honest, I don't speak any Japanese at all. But a friend sent me this link with a premise so interesting that I couldn't resist posting about it, regardless of the risk that it may be completely out of context.
According to my friend, this neat bit of printing news is that in Tokyo – one of the billboard / outdoor signage capitals of the universe – businesses have started to buy up billboard space in order to leave it blank and clear up the skyline a bit.
Whether it’s a wedding invitation or a business card, everybody needs print design services at some point, and a gift certificate for graphic design work might be the most unique gift of all. Even better, it’s one of those gifts that you actually get to do something fun with after the holidays, and that’s the best kind of gift to receive.
For the crafty soul. We all know someone who makes everything from clothes and purses, to salsa and fudge. Personalized hang tags can be used to attach a stylish signature to all those homemade items. Whether your loved one sells their work at craft markets or gives everything away as gifts, printing hang tags lets them attach their name, and a unique flair, to their work.
These are another great gift for the artist in the house. Who’s working on a CD, an indie film project, or even a piece of open-source software? Maybe they’d never have the funds to package their work in a glossy casing, but offering CD or DVD cover printing as a gift could help turn a hobby into a career, or take professional dreams to the next level.
There are few people who wouldn’t love a fresh stack of business cards. Newly-launched entrepreneurs love them. Professionals who haven’t updated their cards in years need them. Those who already have cards might need something different for a personal project. And even people on your list with no interest in business will be charmed by personalized calling cards or stat cards to share with friends.
Most of these suggestions are geared towards friends and family who may not normally use printing services, or print design. For all those who are business owners, on the other hand, the options are endless. Peek around the business. Are new brochures in order? Perhaps a local promotion like postcard mailers or door hangers? Sometimes, small business owners are too busy to plan promotions for themselves. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!
A colorful, removable, vinyl cover for your car or truck isn’t just a great business ad. Kids wanting to bring some personality to that ‘gently used’ first car love vehicle wraps because they can be printed with the patterns or images of their choice. And when trends or interests change, the vinyl coating can be removed as easily as a sticker.
Every family has an event planner, or, at the very least, a wedding in the works. While you’d have to be a psychic to design greeting card printing for someone, ask your printer about gift certificates for a given quantity of cards. You can offer your design services after the fact.
Gift-hunting for an aspiring actor or model? A comp card is an essential tool for self-promotion, but many struggling performers get stuck in the position of needing comp card printing to advance their careers, but not being able to afford the printing without any jobs. Glossy comp cards aren’t just a thoughtful gift, they’re an investment in your loved one’s future.
Who doesn’t have a friend or relative in a band? A cool band poster, designed with space to write in event dates so that it’s flexible and reusable, can be an invaluable promotional tool, and a truly unique gift. Imagine, concert poster printing that didn’t come from the office copier. ‘Tis the season!
"The idea that this is a good investment isn't crazy."
Mortimer B. Zuckerman, owner of The Daily News in New York, recently shelled out $150 million for an expansion of his printing plant, including new, high-speed presses that are cost-effective, while allowing for quality, full-color printing on every page of a news publication.
From an observer's perspective, the investment may seem ill-advised. Circulation is down, money is tight, and the print news industry seems to be balanced on the razor's edge. But look closer at the state of the industry, and you can see why Zuckerman's play might be just bold enough to save his empire.
To begin with, the new presses are a major draw for advertisers. Print advertisers are used to working around the blurry, low-quality printing standards in daily rags, but a new generation of presses could change those expectations. And in an industry hit hard by the recession, the extra edge of high quality, full color image printing might be exactly what The Daily News needs to beat out competitors.
More importantly, a line in the sand is being drawn in the industry between those publications that will retain their presses, and those that will outsource their printing. Papers that hang on to their presses will be in demand as increasing numbers of struggling competitor look for printers. And with some of the nicest printing technology now on offer, The Daily News could turn extra printing work into a valuable revenue stream.
And sure, Zuckerman might have made these pricey purchases two years ago – before this whole icky recession started – but they might turn into the foundation that secures the future of The Daily. Will advertisers and other newspapers come running? Would you? Zuckerman is betting on it.
The correct answer is: wave of the future! Just because it looks goofy now, doesn't mean the technology won't hit its stride. Integrating augmented reality into print is the beginning of a whole new age for print media, and it's really kicking off with business card design.
An augmented reality business card is usually designed like a regular card on one side. However, flip it over, and the back side contains an augmented reality marker, looking something like this (albeit quite a bit smaller):
Recently, several blog readers have asked the same question: what do I need to do to put together a print campaign? What kind of collateral should I design? To provide you with an in-depth answer, and a walk-through of all the different pieces a strong campaign needs, we put a feature article on the subject up here.
Enjoy! And if you have any other questions about designing for print or printing, in general, don't hesitate to ask!
What's the most exciting game-changer in the printing industry today?
Combining print and augmented reality will allow print and digital technology to interact in new and super cool ways.
For example, imagine a third layer of fresh content that you get by combining a magazine purchase with its company website. Or imagine sunglasses or even a contact lens that will allow you to see hidden content in a billboard or other print ad.
Printoolz is a great site for news, reviews, and all kinds of information about printing and print software. Check it out! And let us know what you think about all this augmented reality business. Is it the future, or just another goofy trend?
Ah, there's nothing like the start of a new season. And no, I'm not talking about autumn. I'm talking, of course, about the kickoff of the new NBA season. For a printing house, this means everything from printing franchise-related promotions, to printing collateral like posters, brochures and flyers for the many industries catering to sports fans.
For the superfan, like the crowd we got hanging around here at Hotcards, it means getting a first look at the ticket design for the new season, and for a lucky few, it means receiving that package of season tickets in the mail. Oh baby.
But this year, there's a difference in the usual season ticket package, and that difference has got everybody talking. Included with the regular tickets is a complete set of playoff tickets. Not surprisingly, this has got folks asking, "Why did the Cavs engage in such preemptive ticket printing?"
For some, it's a good sign. We've got a great team, and it's easy to say, in these heady preseason days, that we have every chance in the world of grabbing the Eastern Conference. Why not print tickets that show a confident attitude?
However, for others, this is a classic jinx move. Hope that the Cavs might have a shot at winning the Championship this year has to be treated delicately. Any serious fan will tell you that the worst luck can come from counting your chickens before they're hatched, or, as we can now say, printing your playoff tickets before the first match.
But as another saying goes, ya gotta be in it to win it.
As the gang at WaitingForNextYear points out, and as any printer will confirm, the Cavs likely printed and shipped playoff tickets to season ticket holders with the usual package to save on the cost of printing and shipping an additional package in the future.
The fact is that the more you print, the cheaper it gets, and pro teams are able to print playoff tickets alongside regular seasons tickets at the beginning of the year for virtually no additional cost, whereas a small, specialized batch at the end of the season could be a hefty additional expense.
Even if the Cavs don't make it to the playoffs, they won't have lost money on the additional ticket printing. And if they do, then they don't have to add playoff ticket printing to the litany of expenses tied to a prolonged post-season. And yes, thinking of things in such grimly economic terms does take some of the romance out of playoff dreams, but let's face it, beautiful dreams aren't going to win us this Championship. Here's what might: LeBron, Shaq, Mo, Z, Delonte, Parker, Moon, and a few well-chose rookies. Oh baby.
A pocket of consumer enthusiasm in a slow economy.
What's your favorite thing about Halloween? No! Don't tell me! Is it dressing up? Making a cool costume? Carving pumpkins? Going to a great party? Or maybe taking the kids out trick or treating? Whatever you love best about Halloween, you're in luck. Even in the midst of our sluggish economy, everybody's ready to have a great time this season. Which means all you businesses out there have got to get a move on those Halloween print promotions.
There are a lot of different copywriting mistakes that can be made when putting together a direct mail campaign. Everything from typos to going off-message can weaken a print ad, but the majority of mistakes can be grouped together under the heading, "yelling at people."
As we all know from life, someone doesn't actually have to be in our faces, screaming, to make us feel like we're being yelled at (or talked at, or talked down to, or threatened, or even unduly questioned). There are a million different ways to make someone feel uncomfortable in a dialogue, and most of those can be found in writing copy for direct mail, too.
Here are some of the major things that can make people feel uncomfortably like they're being yelled at in a print ad received in the mail:
A font size that is too large within the context of the rest of the ad.
Too much capitalization, particularly when combined with bolding.
Using the word ‘you,' as in ‘you know you want it.'
Too many questions, as in 'Tired? Sick? Unhappy?' Depressed? I am now!
Posing an ultimatum. If I don't like it when my parents do it, I'm sure not gonna take if from an ad.
The 'we know you better than you know yourself' angle. Even if a brand does know me better than I know myself, no one likes to be perceived as transparent.
A blanket direct mail campaign sending tens or even hundreds of thousands of mailers out to diverse cross sections of consumers?
A targeted direct mail campaign combined with a follow-through web presence using pURLs and personalization technology to instantly engage the consumer?
A highly targeted, gift-giving style campaign that focuses on sending just a few super high-quality mailers – like glossy catalogues, posters, calendars, flowers, food, or even apparel – to ideal marketing demographics?
Monday is always a great day for printing news. If you care about printing. Which, let's face it, not a lot of people outside of the print and design industry do.
I mean, people care. Print buyers care. Companies across all industries that use print advertising care. YOU care, of course. But as far as lives are impacted by the future and enduring health of the industry, do people outside of said industry care?
The upshot of all this is that most discussion pertaining to the future and enduring health of the print industry happens within that industry, much as it will next week at Print '09. The digital people will preen their feathers, the oldschool guys and the new wave 'marketing service providers' will raise their eyebrows at each other, everybody will scratch their heads over why the heck the social media wiz they hired to Twitter for them 8 hours a day isn't making them rich yet, and then we'll all go to a seminar on PERSONALIZATION.
None of which will actually involve talking to the average print buyer about what s/he wants. Ah, if only the print industry could somehow survive solely by making money off of itself.
You know what the problem is with writers? Sometimes, we write too much. We vote in favor of typography-heavy posters; we force designers to resize fonts to fit all our copy into brochures; and when it comes to blog posts, we tend to go on and on and, uh, on.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been posting about the print design and advertising I saw on the streets of Cairo, but what I haven’t been doing is putting up many pictures. Not very interesting or proper, since Cairo’s skyline is one of the most fascinatingly billboard-heavy skylines I’ve ever seen.
So without further ado, please enjoy Cairo in Print:
For the past two weeks, I've been living and working in Cairo. And one of the things that has stood out to me here is the amazing quality of print advertising and media, in general. If we are, in fact experiencing the slow decline of the print industry, nobody told them about it in Egypt.
The national literacy rate is growing by leaps and bounds here, and as such, news publications are rampant, as are privately published ‘zines produced by everything from large organizations to local coffeeshops.
And the printing frenzy extends to marketing collateral. Beyond the print ads displayed prominently on every lamppost and windowless building face, the sheer amount of flyers, club cards, and brochures to be found in businesses and in the mail is staggering.
And not only that – both the print media and the advertising that I've seen being produced is of an amazingly high quality. The paper stock is thick and heavy, the designs are in blazing full color, and the use of die-cutting and custom folding is rampant.
I'd hate to be quoted on this, but it seems to me that many international brands are putting more effort into producing high quality print collateral here than in the U.S. The brochures that I've seen for cell phones and IT have been of the quality that we only see in North American for the most upscale products.
I've heard it mentioned on journalism blogs before that the waning of print journalism is a problem unique to North America and western Europe. Now I see that the same seems to go for print advertising.
Today I was prowling around on Printeresting, one of my favorite blogs about all things weird and wonderful pertaining to print, and they got me on to the work of Handsome Boy Printing Club, the work of two German sculptors who ask the question: "How would that print?"
Patrick Wagner and Samuel Seger use and abuse steel and zinc plates in ways you've never imagined in the search for unique and unusual prints. Check out this video to watch them shoot, drown, crush, poison, tool, and even drag plates behind their car:
Watch a film or commercial on TV in Egypt, and you'll instantly notice that the sex scenes are cut out, and all kinds of language bleeped to adapt to restrictions in the Middle Eastern world. However, hit the streets; if there are any laws restricting the sheer amount of advertising allowed outdoors in Cairo, they are unapparent.
Driving into the city on one of its massive freeways, the first thing you notice is how the gently sandblasted landscape is overlaid by a downright futuristic web of offramps and bridges, all of which are layered with billboards and other signage where roadsigns and blank building faces might otherwise be.
Imagine the city Marty McFly first encounters in Back to the Future II, or the world John Anderton occupies in Minority Report. Now change all the glossy skyscrapers to crumbling brick and marble, and change the holographic ads to print. That, in a nutshell, is the advertising environment of Cairo...
The other day, Mike and Andrew from Printing411 got in touch with us here at Hotcards to tell us about their great new blog, which explores, in their words, "the psychology, style, history, and environmental impact of mail marketing and modern propaganda."
Mike and Andrew are both grad students who take an academic interest in the print industry. Although their blog is just in its infancy, they've already posted on great topics like reducing the environmental impact of marketing materials, and weighed in on the pros and cons of personalization in direct mail marketing.
As all you print lovers out there know, it's hard to find a printing blog that's not primarily promoting a business interest, so check out Printing411 for what might turn into an interestingly impartial look at what print is doing right, what it's doing wrong, and where the industry as a whole is headed.
The back-to-school spendfest that marks the end of summer is the second-largest consumer blitz of the year, after the holiday season. But this year? Less kids are going to college, and according to market-surveyors, more kids are going to be wearing last year's gym shoes.
According to a feature in AdAge this week, spending per family on school supplies will be down 8% this year, which means down, approximately, fifty bucks per family. So does this mean retailers should be advertising less? Nay. Rather, the challenge is to advertise differently.
Instead of creating back-to-school print ads that look like posters for a rock concert or a Disney sitcom, the focus this season has to be on savings, and making the most of your money. Postcards and door hangers will be a valuable resource for getting the word out about special sales and bargain offers.
The ad campaigns that will do the best this season are those that promise both savings and value. The tone of much back-to-school advertising will be fairly serious, advocating ‘smart spending' and the like. However, retailers that can infuse some fun into their brand will offer harried consumers a welcomed relief from the stress of constant budgeting.
No family, struck in the last year by hard financial times, wants to feel like they are sending their kids back to school with junky, shabby stuff. So if a print ad can convey the message that it is possible to stretch that budget, while still getting quality stuff, AND feeling good about purchases, that ad has the potential of hitting all the right notes.
I can remember, years ago, when Walmart first began its big box takeover of the small, locally-owned and operated retailer. At the time, commercial printers would jokingly say, "Whew, good thing they’re not selling printing!"
On Friday, Walmart announced that it would begin to offer on-demand printing services for small businesses in Canada. In conjunction with PNI Digital Media, Walmart photo centers across Canada will now provide print products such as business cards, brochures, and posters, that can be designed and ordered online using PNI's Digital Media Platform.
This isn't happening in the US yet, but one can only assume that Walmart is using Canadian outlets as a testing ground for this new service offering. And what can a printer do but sigh heavily and hope that customers running small businesses won't make the switch?
In our industry's current quagmire of weak-economy-meets-flailing-business-model, prices are lower than ever before, with many printers offering free runs of collateral like business cards in a desperate attempt to attract new business. On top of this, every printer hoping to survive is jumping on the web-to-print bandwagon. So is Walmart really going to be able to offer a lower-cost, more efficient service than that already on the market? And if it does, what will independent printers – already stretched to the limit – do to compete?
We can only hope that the print industry here in America is still vibrant and powerful (and union-strong) enough to keep Walmart from wanting to compete. And for the time being, cross your fingers that Canadian printers are tough enough to make Walmart think twice before expanding its new service.
The days of vinyl records may be long gone, but that doesn’t mean album cover artwork can’t still come in handy. Next time you’re working on a promotion, consider replace that boring old flyer with a print design that rocks…
A grim little news piece on WhatTheyThink reports today that printers have made the list of the top ten most bankruptcy-prone industries. Research firm Sageworks, inc. compiled the list based on the debt-to-equity ratios of various industries over the last 12 months.
On the upside, printers snuck in at the very bottom of the list. Unfortunately, that put nine industries, most of which use print collateral heavily, ahead of us. It's no surprise that printers would be hit hard when industries that buy print – like automotive, real estate, hospitality, and hobby industries – are being so affected.
When any business (or family, or person) is struggling, it's easy to overlook the fact that others are also having trouble, but like the Sageworks' data shows, not only is the printing industry better off than others, the success of all is interconnected.
Many printers are managing to survive and thrive still thanks to the continued strength of industries like IT, education, and health. So instead of bemoaning our fate (as some seem to do incessantly in the WhatTheyThink comment threads), at Hotcards, we believe that our industry should be thinking: what can we do to help out?
Why don't you tell us? As a printer, as your printer, what can we do to make your job easier? How can we make your business strong?
Yesterday, I listed 1 to 5 of the worst mistakes a printer can make when running a blog. Today, we travel even deeper into that terrifying world of ambivalence and confusion, staring with...
Ugly blog. Sad but rampant throughout the print industry are blogs so poorly designed they look like they were actually set up before the web 1.0 bubble burst. We're part of the advertising world, printers, let's act like it!
Feeling the need to post your entire business philosophy in every blog. This is a major Twitter no-no as well. Readers are not looking to constantly be told who you are, what you do, and what great quality and prices you bring to the table. This does not a regular readership build in the blogosphere.
Breaking the bank on a blog post. Typical rookie mistake. A lot of printers start out all excited about their new blog, and invest a ton of time and money on doing something worth writing about, taking nice pictures of it, and putting together a gorgeous post. This is wonderful, but guess what, you're not going to do it every day. A good blog has to be sustainable.
Writing like it's a college essay. Long paragraphs, too much text, and terms like "in summation," and "I have clearly shown," will turn off all but the most determined readers. This is one of those mistakes that instantly puts visitors on to the business-y-ness of a blog. Not friendly. Unfortunately, this style is rampant throughout print blogging.
Repeating content. I'm a writer, so words are pretty important to me, but you can't look at every blog post like a priceless jewel that should be submitted to article sites and distributed as a press release and reproduced in your newsletter and left on the front page of your site for a month because it's so brilliant. That's not how blogging works. Everything's gotta be fresh and new. Unfortunately, the many printers who don't get this are hurting themselves by reproducing their content all over the internet.
Printers, and all small businesses, in fact, are under enormous pressure to run blogs in today's web-centric commerce climate. The result is some blogs that offer uniquely personal insights into once stone-faced businesses, and others – many, many others, that are so off-base it would be funny, if it wasn't your industry.
Here, for your amusement, I hope, are the 10 biggest no-nos committed by printing house blogs:
1. Setting up a blog, posting once or twice, and then never posting again. This makes visitors wonder: is this place still in business?
2. Posting 1000+ word blogs that no one will read in a million years. This usually happens when someone around the shop is given the task of writing a blog post, has never written anything in their life, and feels the sacred responsibility of penning their magnum opus suddenly upon them.
3. Posting desperately sales-focused content so fat with links and sale-sy jargon it's too laughable to be considered ‘black hat SEO.' This is a common practice amongst printers hoping to directly convert blogging into sales.
4. Posting exclusively bland industry news about purchases, awards, and stock fluctuations. Blogging is about connecting, on a personal level, with customers and colleagues. Put your personality in your writing, please!
5. Posting detailed technical step-by-step blogs that never end. Actually, this kind of content is solid gold, but not when it's 2000 words long. If you're releasing great content like this, do it in parts!
That being said, you'll all have to wait ‘til tomorrow for 6 – 10.
Business cards are one of the tiniest, but most technically difficult pieces of printing. The challenge? Pack all the personality of your professional identity into one tiny card. This Design Idea of the Week asks the tough question: are you SQUARE?
I was just reading a recent post over at Poor Richard's Printshop. Richard was lamenting the fact that the marketing people representing the franchise he's a part of were kind of putting the kibosh on his un/official blog about the day-to-day goings-on at his business.
Admittedly, Poor Richard spends a lot of time poking fun at typical print customers. Apparently, some people got offended. So what we have here is a classic case of the perils of running a business blog.
All of a sudden, if you're a printer, you're supposed to have a blog. We've been doing it here at Hotcards.com for a while, so we're kind of experts. But for the newbie, the instant fear is this: how do I run a blog that doesn't offend ANYONE?
Folks, it's almost impossible.
Unfortunately, the result of this fear is an ever-increasing army of printing blogs that are so boring and poorly executed, they will bring you to tears. Poor Richard's blog, indelicate as it may be, does exactly what a blog is supposed to do – it's interesting and it provides actual insights, not just bland platitudes.
So what makes a good blog post? I will now demonstrate one way a business can go about writing a blog that is both interesting and relatively non-offending. I'll do this by listing the 10 Biggest No-Nos Committed by Printing Blogs (Without Actually Naming Names)!
Most successful advertising campaigns don't use just print, just web, just TV, or, er, just radio. These days, a good campaign has to be working cross-media to provide a complete marketing experience for consumers.
Of course, most businesses already know that cross-media promotions need to support each other. For example, if your print ad is driving traffic to a website, make sure that the website references the ad in some way (even just in terms of color) so that visitors know they're in the right place.
Seems obvious, but I've seen an ad or two that didn't even include the same business, product, or event title found on the landing page! Poor coordination of this type can kill your ROI. On the flip side, so can failure to coordinate with your IT people.
This weekend, I was having dinner with a group of web design and developer types, and we were discussing how effective a print ad is in driving traffic to a URL. It was a lively debate, until our ISP friend piped him. He said that he always knows (too late!) when one of his clients is running a print campaign, because traffic spikes are so high that he has to scramble to keep the servers from crashing.
He went on to say that he wished businesses would let him know in advance when they were running print ads, so that he could prepare for the increased traffic. Before that conversation, coordinating with technology providers never occurred to me. But there you have it. Don't stop at making sure your campaign's cross-media launching and design work together, make sure your IT people are prepared to handle the results!
Computer technology has come to play a central role in the printing process. GOA recently posted a list of the 10 'Critical Core Technologies' that any printer requires to survive in the unavoidably techno-centric future.
The thing about this list, and the way it's presented, is that it makes the whole situation seem rather grim. Like the print industry has gone from craft to manufacturing process, and, in short, the romance is gone.
Examples of the soul being sucked out of printing may include:
Loss of specialized jobs like type-setting.
Loss of craftsmanship in areas that have become automated.
Web-to-print eliminating face-to-face communication between both customers and printers, and printers and vendors.
Variable data and ‘personalization' creating an advertising culture of what is, in fact, absence of intimacy masquerading as personalization.
The uniqueness of the industry itself being subsumed into just another IT job.
That being said, my position on the issue is STRONGLY DISAGREE. Print has more soul and personality than ever. Technology has connected us, and brought us together, via the web and around the print plant / office. As computers make it easier for us to do specialized jobs, we have more space to bring our personalities to our work and the community.
I'm not sure what the ratios on this blog are in terms of industry types vs. print buying types. I'm guessing three print buyers and two industry people?
But seriously, if any of you do come from other areas of the printing industry, you should check out a cool project being put together by Ryan McAbee over at M-Bossed. Ryan's working on putting together a list of all the information on printing available online, using this really cool collaborative mapping tool: mindmeister.
Any print industry enthusiast can get on the mind map and add their favorite printing news and information resources. I just added the Hotcards blog, now you add your own gems.
If you’re anything like me, you've probably got a list of dozens, if not hundreds, of printing blogs and resources bookmarked in your web browser – am I right? Of course I am! So start adding.
An important part of the future of printing is the coming together of industry people. This map should go a long way towards letting folks know what’s out there, and how they can get connected.
Is it the next phase in the evolution of commercial printing?
Last Week, the 2009 Offset and Beyond Conference took place in Las Vegas. It was an interesting year, with the focus of the conference mainly on the shifting face of the offset printing industry.
Experts spoke about the importance of strong leadership, 'leaning,' and embracing new technologies to get printing companies through turbulent periods. However, the main point put across by many speakers is that to survive, printers need to shift from being 'just printers' to being 'marketing communications providers.'
Yesterday, a Senate Committee heard the experts of the newspaper and journalism world testify on the subject of whether or not the industry needs a government bailout. Not surprisingly, the Huffington Post reports Arianna Huffington testified to the effect that the future of journalism lies not with newspapers, but on the web.
And while most of those who testified agreed, others, including David Simon (producer of 'The Wire'), and Committee Chairman John Kerry expressed a concern that the integrity and accountability of journalists might not survive the transition. After all, at a time when there's almost no difference between a news site and a personal blog, how can we know who's telling the truth, who's not being motivated by financial interests, and who's not messing around, just because they can.
Interestingly, we've got a similar situation in commercial printing these days. It wasn't too long ago that all print was purchase by professionals whose particular job was print buying. Printer buyers would be in close contact with printers throughout the printing process, and would normally proof a piece of printing before approving a run.
Although this print buying culture is far from extinct, the trend is towards an inexpensive, automated web-to-print world where anyone can order cheap printing online, have it proofed online, and shipped, without ever leaving their computer. The first time a business sees its investment is when the boxes arrive.
The question is, has this web-focused, less face-to-face system of print buying affected the quality of print negatively? And this provides a thought-provoking correspondence with the newspaper problem.
Because if your printer can't keep you informed, who can?
I know there's a lot of you out there depending on this blog for all your news, so I felt like I had no choice but to do at least one terror-inducing post about the latest potential pandemic.
As it turns out, Swine Flu and print design have a lot in common. You can't have a really solid, widespread pandemic without posters and billboards and newspaper front pages plastered with warnings and updates and all that good stuff.
Of course, I admit that when it comes to scaring the largest possible number of people, the internet has print beat, hands down, but that being said, here are some of the greatest posts from around the web this week that mark the meeting points between Swine Flu and printing.
With the wealth of information we find online, it can seem like there's very little to be had from other sources. But every once in a while, I'm reminded that print is still replete with more words, wisdom, and history than we can yet uncover on the internet.
Such a reminder came today in the form of a post on "The Romance of Printing" from the equally romantically titled, Ministry of Type. Blogger and all around good thinker Aegir Hallmundur brought my attention to a great old print proto-net titled The Wonderland of Knowledge.
"Don't get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water." – Bruce Lee
A while ago, I started a little segment on the blog here called "Don't Stop the Presses." It's all about finding interesting stories from around the internets about cool stuff happening in the print industry.
As you've probably noticed, I'm not the only one taking this tack lately. In response to various sources crying the 'death of print,' many bloggers have begun to write positively about the future of the industry. Which is great. No problem there. The thing that's freaking me out, however, is the sudden wash of writing that attempts to insist that nothing is wrong.
It's no secret that the printing industry is being hit hard by this recession. Commercial printers are losing huge contracts, print advertising budgets are being cut to shreds, and newspapers and catalogues that have been around for hundreds of years are going online.
But we printers are a feisty bunch. And the optimists among us have been saying that when the going gets tough, the tough find innovative solutions. Streamlined processes, new technologies, and corner-cutting strategies have all been introduced to help our industry weather this recession. And finally, the International Cabal of Concerned Commercial Offset Printers has come up with the ultimate solution.
As a decisive cost-cutting measure, magenta will no longer be included in full color CMYK printing. Or, as it's now known, CYK printing. This means that full color printing will no longer include reds, purples, pinks, or various shades of brown.
After long debate, the ICCCOP made the choice to eliminate magenta because in these stressful times, there's little place in print design for such a threatening color. Warnings, going-out-of-business signage, and red alert notifications are all printed using magenta, and extensive market research has shown that these, in turn, can lead to elevated blood pressure, risk of seizure, and in some cases, death.
While this new initiative is already sweeping across Asia and Europe, Hotcards is proud to be one of the first full color union printers in North America to fully eliminate magenta. Our signature red and black logo will soon become teal and black, and our slogan will be changing from "The lowest cost full color printer in the nation," to "The lowest cost full color (excluding magenta) printer in the nation."
As you probably already know, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is not heavily invested in stimulating the printing industry. Not by a long shot. The Act itself contains few mentions of printing, besides using print ads as small parts of revitalization efforts in other industries.
But what about all that money flowing through these other industries? Some observers are pessimistic about any of it flowing down our way. On Print CEO, Cary Sherburne points to the grim prognosis that most related marketing efforts will happen online. But is this an inevitability? Maybe instead of conceding defeat to digital media, the print industry should do what it does best, and advertise to these stimulus beneficiaries.
We’re all talking a big game about personalized and 1:1 printing. Why not use it to target those industries benefiting from the stimulus, and show them how essential print is to any marketing campaign?
I know that when Hotcards wants to get someone’s attention, we print for them. We might send some personalized direct mail, or we might design and print them some business cards, or other ad collateral, to show them how good their promotional materials can be. Printing for the community, and creating community through printing, is our favorite method of creating new business, because it works.
Furthermore, an effective marketing campaign should always involve print and digital media, working together to support each other, rather than canceling each other out in some grim either/or scenario. There’s no reason to think in black and white about the subject. We are, after all, a full color industry.
The market’s down, the field’s competitive, jobs are being cut every day, and most of your competitors would slit your throat soon as look at you. What better time to step up our game and go after the business we want, rather than moping as it goes elsewhere…
This week, Circuit City, a major U.S. retailer of consumer electronics, officially closed their doors after a long, painful death. And it occurred to me that one of the saddest forms of printing is going-out-of-business printing.
It seems unfortunate that the last thing a company has to do before their throw in the towel, is print a bunch of signage advertising the fact that they’re going out of business, in an effort to sell off their remaining stock. To do so, they have to hastily construct a series of signs that are both colorful and cheerful about the prospect of closure.
It’s a business’ final print campaign. And while I’m not saying that Circuit City brought us the finest print collateral human ingenuity has to offer, the images taken from it’s last days, varying for chaotic to ghostly, do have a certain poignancy:
You’ve got the social network, now what are you supposed to do with it?
This morning, I was checking out a feature on STEP inside design, about 25 emerging talents to watch in 2009. The editor of the piece, Terry Lee Stone, began by pointing out just how much the list points to "the emergence of today’s global creative community."
For example, it seems like nothing, in this day and age, for a young designer to grow up in the backwoods of Canada, take a degree in LA, then move to Paris for their first job. Of course, this whole process is very much facilitated by the design community on the web, which allows friendships, communications, and collaborations over enormous distances.
Over the last few years, the pressure has also been on printers to join the new global community by getting online, participating in social media, and joining communities like Facebook and Twitter. So we’ve done it. We’ve hopped on to the biggest bandwagon in history. The question that came to my mind while reading about globe-trotting designers is: what now?
Every year, around Oscar time, I try to see the big movies of the year. Some I see before the Oscars, some I see after. So although all the buzz is so last weekend, I just had a chance to see Milk, and besides being blown away by the film itself, I was very impressed by the use of political printing as a narrative device in the story.
Milk chronicles the rise of the gay rights movement in San Franciso in the 70s. The story centers around Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, and his years of campaigning. He runs his campaigns out of a photo printing shop that he owns, which gives him the opportunity to do a lot of election campaign printing, and what starts out as a few controversial signs displayed around a soapbox on a street corner, grows into a massive, and well-supported political printing campaign.
The filmmakers did an amazing job of using sign, flyer, and apparel printing to show how the campaign moves from a homemade operation, spearheaded by a small photo printing shop, to a large, organized campaign with visually consistent print collateral. This movement, of course, parallels the expansion of acceptance surrounding gay rights, which is portrayed, perhaps for the first time in mainstream media, as having been very akin to other mid-century civil rights movements.
I doubt that many people are aware of how much marching, sign-waving, and political deal-making were involved in this phase of action for gay rights, and I’m proud that political printing could be part of telling this story.
Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 printers to be tagged. You have to tag the printer who tagged you.
As 2009 lurches forward, we’re seeing the emergence of some interesting trends in the printing industry. Companies that have maintained ad spending are seeing positive ROIs. Big brands are redesigning their packaging, choosing to fight rather than go out of style. And while the clutter and hype of web advertising falters, consumers are showing an increased trust in print promotions.
All this goes to show that a soft economy is no time for the faint-of-heart. It’s prime time for innovators to step forward and find new, better ways of doing pretty much everything.
With this in mind, I recently wrote a guest post for We Are Just Creative, all about innovative ways that creative people can market themselves during tough times. Check it out!
I've spent the last couple of years on this blog trying to get the webosphere excited about printing. Have there been many takers? Perhaps not, but suddenly, just over the last few months, print is getting a lot more play online. Why? Because there's something glorious and mesmerizing about watching an industry go down in flames.
Don't panic! The collapse of the printing industry as a whole isn't being predicted, just the newspaper industry. It's been coming for a while, but since the economy started to sputter, papers like the New York Times and the Washington Post are really starting to show their frayed edges.
And it's sad. It might be the end of an era, an institution, and as many champions of journalism point out, it might be the end of truly high quality journalism, backed by research, access to resources, and sharp editing. Sure, the blogging alternative gives us the news up to the minute, but it rarely provides any true depth of insight.
So what's the solution? People aren't paying for content they can read online, and printing costs for publishers are going through the roof. However, this doesn't mean that the newspaper industry has to die, just that it has to evolve. As Michael Josefowicz points out on MediaShift, "the problem at hand is not the decline of print per se, but rather the decline of some newspaper and publishing companies due to poor business decisions."
The big question is what might constitute a good business decision? For the answer, I turn to that age-old adage: WWWD? (What Would the Web Do?)
Free, democratic, subversive, the engine of immortality…
It's been a while since printing was considered the greatest marvel of the modern world, but there was a time when people had a lot of interesting things to say about it. Over the last little while, I've been collecting cool quotes I've stumbled across about printing, and I wanted to share them with you.
Two things stand out about the below thoughts, I think. First, it's amazing how many people recognized printing as a powerful force for the democratization of society and the opening of our minds. In fact, a lot of great thinkers believed is was such a subversive force that it was dangerous.
Second, notice how many of these quotations about printing apply now to the Internet. It's sometimes funny, sometimes insightful, and always makes me think of the web as the progeny of the press. Hopefully our little multigenerational family can learn to get along.
The debate over how much signage should be allowed to fill, decorate, or blight the landscape of urban environments is old as the billboard itself. Some people consider outdoor advertising as bad as any form of pollution. Others feel it adds a fascinating design element to otherwise gray, uniform cityscapes.
With the birth of new forms like supergraphics and digital displays, the argument has only gotten more heated. And now, in a reworking of its civic sign ordinance, the city of Los Angeles has proposed some major changes to the way people will be able to advertise in a city famous for its signage.
The most interesting part of the ordinance, for those of us obsessed with the continued flourishing of the print industry, is a ban on digital ads. Apparently, the glaring lights at night and the flashing images seemingly designed to distract drivers were a bit much-too-much for Los Angelinos.
So who knows? Maybe this is the beginning of the end for digital signage and a future of targeted high-tech ads. Maybe the technology poised to crush outdoor print advertising will find itself stunted in its nascence due to how purely invasive it is.
Quality in Print: I'm not sure how many printers we have reading this blog, but if you're looking for a highly technical blog on the craft, here it is. And fairly new-ish, I believe.
More blog printing, Stuff Our Friends Have Written On The Internet 2008 is a print publication by a couple of intrepid UK designers. Here's a very nice walkthrough of how they designed the publication. (Don't Stop the Presses!)
The Power League of Printing – a video by the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation designed to get young people excited about a career in print. Besides the freaky nature of the animation, the most interesting thing about the video is how much it offended those already involved in the print industry.
Bottle label printing, a thread in which graphic designers are posting their favorites. Wow, it's a good thing the print design world doesn't get collectively obsessed over trends. That would be boring.
Boingboing reviews a new book on Norman Saunders, one of the artists who helped to define print media over the last century. The post has got lots of great examples of illustrations from the book in it, and it's amazing to see the range of different styles Saunders developed throughout his career.
Since 1983, the U.S. Postal Service has been required, by law, to deliver mail six days a week. But now, that may be about to change. On Wednesday, the Postmaster General asked Congress to change the law and allow the postal service to deliver mail only five days a week.
How will this affect the direct mail printing industry? That may be the wrong question. Unfortunately, it seems that the cause of the Postmaster's request is a drop in direct mail.
Ever since the internet began to replace letter-writing as the preferred medium for personal communication, mail volume has been dropping. The postal service has depended on direct mailing to fill the gap, and it has, until recently.
Over the last year, mail volume dropped by 9 million items, the largest drop in U.S. postal history. This, like most things, is largely due to economic woes, which have reduced the amount of direct mail advertising, despite the fact that consumers are more interested in deal-hunting and coupon-clipping than ever.
We're all used to hearing stories about how web technology, web advertising, and digital communication is 'replacing' print. But how about a story about print taking over the virtual world?
Today, in the online universe of Second Life, the island of Printalution was born. Printalution is an effort of the Graphic Communications community to create a place in Second Life where people can come to learn about the print communications industry.
On the island of Printalution, interested 'Gen Yers' (that's the targeted demographic, at least) can see introductions to the phases of printing, take print training seminars, and communicate with industry experts.
Printalution may even turn out to be a major green resource for the community, as education seminars can now be held in virtual reality rather than resource-intensive brick-and-mortar venues.
It remains to be seen whether or not the Second Life community will respond enthusiastically to Printalution. I'm sure success will depend on the super funzo interactive elements being integrated by the island developers, but I couldn't actually bring myself to sign up for Second Life in order to see it 'in person.'
And okay, so maybe it sounds a little cheesy, but it's not the cheesiest recruiting tactic ever rolled out by our industry. And any foray on the part of printers to take over a little piece of the world wide web makes me happy, because it makes me think of one thing and one thing only: print's still going strong, and doing cool new stuff every day, so DON'T STOP THE PRESSES!
Although it probably doesn't stand a chance against Wall-E, the animated kids' film, Bolt, is getting lots of attention thanks to an Oscar nomination, so I figured I'd check it out…with my, er, nieces and nephews, of course. The movie was cute, and what really impressed me was its great use of print advertising.
Thanks to variable data direct mail printing, marketing tools like postcards and door hangers now include offers and keywords tailored directly to recipients. I got a particularly choice example of this in the mail the other day, in which a psychic who works for Publisher's Clearing House had a vision that I, Anne Stewart, would win the grand prize and retire to a yacht.
I appreciate your faith in me, Publisher's Clearing House psychic.
Unfortunately, the problem with variable data direct marketing, vs. say, targeted mailing list management, is that few recipients actually fail to realize that they're being pandered to. Worse, an improperly designed piece can seem A) Intrusive, and B) like you know my name, but you don't really care who I am, do you?
That being said, variable data direct mail printing is evolving every day, and one of the newest tentacles on this particular monster is the tentacle of the Personalized URL.
Simply put, PURLs are included in each piece of direct mail in a campaign. They direct the recipient to a landing page designed specifically for them, so that if you weren't creeped out enough by a piece of mail that read like a note from a friend, there's now a webpage out there that will do the same thing. It might even have an audio function that chimes “Hello Anne!” when you arrive.
Of course, marketers of this concept and product pitch it as a can't-fail technique. Who wouldn't want the friendly, personalized experience of going to a webpage designed just for them?
The reality, however, seems to be that consumers don't always love the idea quite as much as they're supposed to. PURLs are a great way to track the ROI on your direct mail printing, but that ROI can be extremely finicky, and far from the guaranteed home run marketers promise.
"Break up the printing presses and you break up rebellion."
- Dudley Nichols, American Screenwriter
When I first saw the links relating to The End of Print on Design Observer last week, I frowned, shrugged sadly, and moved on. But after having slept on it, and despite being an avid reader of the blog, I woke up this morning kinda grumpy about the attitude behind the concept.
The End of Print, William Drenttel? Why don't I start posting about 'The End of Stuffy, Elitist Design Blogs'? Hmm, maybe because I would sound crazy, since the design blog, however overblown at this point, is nowhere near passed its prime. Which is kind of the problem. The bigwigs of the design blogosphere say print is over, thereby helping to usher in its end with the heft of those negative words.
Ironically, all that power language has to influence hearts and minds, and to make tangible change happen in the world? That's all thanks to print, and printers that once hand-laid type letter by letter so that news and ideas could be spread to people across borders and vast geographical spaces.
I won't argue that the internet hasn't taken us a step further, doing an unbelievably amazing job of connecting human beings together, and ushering in the age of the global community. But I still know that print is a relevant and essential part of our world. It still has as much disruptive power as newer technology, as much as this country's first political activists and labor unions had when they governed the course of our history by disseminating ideas about democracy and equality through print.
Some of this country's biggest industries are being pulled back from the brink of financial collapse thanks to what has come to be known as THE BAILOUT. And nowadays, more and more printers are asking, where's my bailout?"
Although not in the spotlight as often as the auto or financial industries, printing is an essential part of the U.S. economy. It just so happens that printing isn't one of those things you notice until you really need, like when you're printing your wedding invitations, or you're starting your own business and need to have your own business card printing done.
But the printers that handle these relatively low volume jobs for small businesses and individuals are not the printers most at risk. People are still printing, especially with printers that offer inexpensive web-to-print and POD services.
The printers that are really suffering are the largest printers that depend on two or three massive contracts for their entire income. With big business scaling back its advertising budget, these printers are losing $500, 000 and $800,000 contracts. A couple of those disappear, and so does your livelihood.
What to except, from the environment to the economy…
Last year, around this time, I put together a retrospective of the greatest moments in printing of 2007. But while I was working on a similar list for 2008, I became much more interested in what's to come in 2009.
Not only are we facing an uncertain economic future, the printing industry is in an extreme state of shift. With that in mind, here's a list of the top ten things to expect from the world of printing in the coming year:
New Year's Eve is the perfect case study for the importance of print advertising that stands out. There are a million parties going on, and every one claims to be the biggest, the loudest, and the most fun.
On billboards and sign posts, party printing competes for attention, not just to catch the eye, but to convince passersby to go home, gather up their posse, and purchase pricey tickets in advance.
That's quite the tall order. So, to bolster NYE party poster printing, many venues also print handbills that can be pocketed and examined later. This combination poster-handbill printing strategy is a good one, but I was really impressed when a friend brought this piece of print advertising to my attention:
The piece of printing starts out looking like a regular handbill. Fun, nothing spectacular, but bright enough to be worth picking up and slipping into your pocket.
The print ad gets interesting when you open it up to reveal a greeting card-style invitation, with all the details about the event:
Over the last couple of months, we've been doing just a little, tiny bit of greeting card printing. Businesses, charities, and even the occasional family send out, oh, bazillions of cards during the holiday season, some designed by spirited individuals, some carefully assembled by crack design teams.
But, of course, the most important cards sent out every year are those sent by celebrities. In 2007, we showcased the best, and the worst, of celebrity greeting card printing, and it was such a hit we're doing it again in 2008.
I’ve had direct mail on the brain lately. First, it made my advertising/branding trends to watch list for 2008, THEN I listed it as a great way for designers to self-promote during this recession.
But I only just realized why the topic keeps coming up - because we’ve seen a rise in direct mail marketing in recent months. At a time when budgets are tight, direct mail is one of the most effective and economical forms of print advertisement. For advertisers, AND for consumers.
After a heyday that seemed like it would never end, the tech industry is finally suffering. I'm not trying to rub it in, it's just a fact that layoffs are happening, startups are faltering, and designers and developers are having to look for work where work once came looking for them.
Depressing as this sounds, there's really no better time to look to the future in a positive way. Be light on your feet, try new things, get out of the box and don't be afraid to experiment.
In search of sustenance, many techie creatives are beginning to look away from the computer and towards the big old world outside. After all, when emailing, Twittering, and all-round internet living fails, the best thing you can do is get out there and start networking offline.
With this in mind, Hotcards presents 10 ways you can use low cost printing to fuel your next big career step:
For a company that prints as much as Unilever, this move is going to be a major money saver. And it might just be a green printing solution as well. After all, less ink means less waste, and reducing consumption is always good for the environment.
We haven't seen any of the six-color labels hit the shelves yet, and the jury’s still out on how consumers are going to react, but so far, I hear, insiders are impressed by the results.
Right now, this color reduction scheme is only benefiting giants like Unilever that print on a massive scale, but I wonder if this is a sign of things to come.
Will we someday see color reduction happening in everything from labels to desktop printing? Could an economic shift coupled with environmental constraints eventually return us to an age of black and white? Is it possible that full color printing could be a short-lived luxury, as some speculate air travel and imported food will be?
I'm no printing conspiracy theorist, but it's interesting to imagine a future where we’ve slowly phased out color, going from full color printing, to six color, to four, to two (minimalist designers rejoice), and finally to black and white.
Now full color printing is just a memory, Hotcards is 'the lowest cost black and white printer in the nation,' and scraps of full color print, not yet decayed by time, are valuable relics, perhaps even used as currency, with the wealthiest among us hoarding piles of old brochures, posters, and banners from a forgotten golden age…
And another guest post from yours truly on Deepglamour.com!
A big part of what we do at Hotcards is sell printing that’s a cut above the average offering of low-cost printers. Our prices might make you think we print on thin paper with dull inks, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Again and again, we’ve had customers amazed by the quality of the work they receive from us. Brilliant full color on high quality paper, finished with a durable, eye-catching high gloss – it’s perfect for everything from event invites and club cards, to concert posters and CD inserts.
And that’s just our printing. Our amazing design team really brings the full color to full color printing, with print designs that get to the heart of what our customers are looking for.
Don't get scared, I’m not just bragging for the sake of bragging. I do have a point. Businesses, event coordinators, and other professionals that come to Hotcards for printing are looking for one thing: they’re looking for a printer that can take a little piece of how interesting their business is, how cool their event is going to be, and how fabulous they truly are, and put it on paper.
And that’s what Hotcards does. We print, we design, we develop, and ultimately, we sell the glamour of our clients. In fact, Hotcards full color printing and design is so glamorous, that I just wrote a guest post on the subject for the blog Deep Glamour.
Unlike web ads, printing can't just disappear overnight.
Over the weekend, one of the best examples yet of the power of social media to dominate traditional forms of advertising took place. The collective voice of the Twitterverse quashed a video and print campaign within two days of launch, and posed an interesting issue for print advertisers. But I'll get to that last part in a minute.
It began with a campaign launched by the Johnson & Johnson brand, Motrin. The Motrin ad was designed to appeal to moms who have sore backs from using baby carriers. The problem? Throughout the course of the mostly copy-driven ad, babies are positioned as a trendy fashion accessory, sling-wearing moms are positioned as desperate to achieve 'official' mommy-status, and the entire baby-carrying process is portrayed as a mostly thankless pain in the…back.
Within moments of launch, and over the weekend, no less, the video and print ads were torn apart by angry Motrin moms on Twitter. One Twitter-user even put together a YouTube video chronicling the backlash found on Twitter.
As for Motrin? They got enough pissed-off emails from baby-carrier moms (and dads) that they pulled the campaign after only two days. The ad space on their homepage is now replaced by a big apology: "With regards to the recent Motrin advertisement, we have heard you."
You'd think they could have gotten the same result from two seconds of targeted market research BEFORE they launched the campaign.
This kind of instant response – instant action phenomenon between social media and advertisers is becoming increasingly commonplace. It's actually incredible to see how fast this all went down – from launch, to backlash, to shutdown and apology in 48 hours.
Yesterday morning, in New York and across the country, a special edition of the New York Times was handed out free of charge in subways and on street corners. Many readers at first thought they might be getting those extra Obama Victory editions that publishers have promised, but they were in for a serious surprise.
The free paper was, in fact, a satirical publication, dated July 4th, 2009. It featured headlines such as "IRAQ WAR ENDS" and "National Health Insurance Act Passes." The idea, it seems, was to riff on the media's tendency to insist that now that we have a new President, all our problems will be solved in the space of a few months.
Now that the 2008 Presidential elections are over, there are a lot of people wondering what the heck they're going to do with themselves. But if you're feeling a little adrift, just imagine how it feels to be a piece of political printing! A lot of signage is suddenly out of job, so the real question is: what are we gonna do with all that political printing?
You've seen the vehicle wrap, now check out the building wrap!
I’m always interested in printing projects that are mind-bogglingly massive. Vehicle wraps on buses fall into this category, as do billboards, jumbo banners, and those truly epic ads covering the entire side of a downtown highrise.
Check out this AdAir production in Dubai - the Guinness World Record holder for the largest banner ad ever!
But I’ve got to wonder, during a time of economic downswing, are we going to see advertisers opting for smaller, more economical forms of printing, like business cards, club cards, and flyers?
A couple of weeks ago, I was blogging about how taxis should take advantage of vehicle wrapping to help increase their revenue. Advertising on your vehicle = free money, right?
Well, taxis have yet to take my brilliant advice, but the good people over at New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority certainly have!
Okay, so there's a slight chance they didn't get the idea from me, but regardless, the MTA is getting set to unveil the very first, fully wrapped subway car!
[Cue wild applause.]
That's right. Vehicle wrapping has come to the underground world of the subway system. And while the print ads are still stuck on the walls in the Paris metro, the route between Grand Central and Times Square is officially the first vehicle wrapped route in New York history.
The move comes as a response to the MTA's strapped budget, which is projected to be in the red by almost $900 million in the coming year.
Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. The massively overfunded blogging department here at Hotcards sent me on a trip around the world to check out the full color printing scene in the major cities of Europe. Long story short, I’ve been busy with reconnaissance work, finding out just what good print design is in the Old Country.
My first stop was Paris, where I was blown away by the awesome, and dare I say, avant-garde, full color printing on display in the French capital’s extensive Metro (subway) system.
The funny thing about the Metro in Paris is that it’s a lot how you might imagine it. Really fancy! Everything’s all glossy white tile and artfully chosen fonts, and the tunnels and stops are lined with giant posters and what I guess you might call underground billboards...
Isn’t it a full color printing match made in heaven?
The other weekend, I found myself in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Doesn’t matter what town it was. What matters is this: it made me notice a cool thing about small towns, which is that they’re not stuck with all the same rules that you find in big cities. And sometimes, thanks to this, they come up with some pretty cool print advertising.
During my stay in Town X, I took a few cabs, each of which, I was impressed to discover, were covered in advertising for local businesses. The cabs, in this case privately owned, had been vehicle wrapped to increase the cabbies’ revenue.
So why don’t we do this in big cities? Every day I watch thousands of yellow cabs drive by my office window, adorned only with the name of their parent company. I suppose it’s corporate policy that prevents cabbies from monetizing with vehicle wraps – a state of affairs which is bloody unfortunately.
Now, I’m not advocating for advertising on every available public service, but since cabs are big rolling advertisements anyway, why not vehicle wrap, and maximize the potential of that already existing ad space?
Private cabs, and small town services not bound by arcane company mores, get to do it, and they’re benefiting from not being stuck “inside the box” by increasing their revenue stream.
Zen printing thought for the long weekend: Sometimes the most innovative printing solutions come from off the grid. Clunky corporate dinosaurs – vehicle wrap those scales or face extinction!
Michael Phelps is already all over the covers of magazines and newspapers worldwide, but that’s not where his career in print advertising ends. Since Phelps became the most-medaled Olympic athlete of all time, sponsors have been clamoring to have him represent their brand.
According to his PR rep, the ‘Phelps’ brand has the potential to go from 5 to 100 million bucks in earning power – IF he can bring his star quality to TV and print advertising.
Not every medalist makes the cut. Many athletes just don’t end up having the charisma or ability to generate public interest that you need to build a successful brand.
But so far, companies as diverse as Visa, Pizza Hut, and Speedo have gotten behind the earning potential of Phelps’ Olympic gold – all banking on the ability of his golden touch to launch successful commercials, digital ads, and print campaigns.
At a heady time like this, a guy like Phelps has to be careful. He’s young, he feels untouchable – if he makes the wrong move, all those endorsements could disappear overnight.
The Olympics are a big deal for athletes, but just maybe, they’re an even bigger deal for advertisers. Once every two years, you suddenly have a global audience at your feet, and the opportunity to run a campaign of TV, digital, and print advertising that will be seen around the world.
In this frenzied climate, a lot of crazy things happen. New brands introduce themselves to the world. Cross-border miscommunications cause tempers to flair. Massive ad campaigns disintegrate overnight, and guerilla marketers that are anything but ‘official Olympic sponsors” seize any chance to capitalize on the major event.
This year more than any other, advertisers have been funneling budgets away from TV and print advertising, and towards digital media. And why not? It might very well be the only time of year when advertisers can flood the internet with an ad that barely needs to be targeted.
One of the biggest topics in the printing world is one we barely touch on in the Hotcards blog. That is, magazine print and design. I can’t really explain this lack except to say that it’s such a massive world unto itself that it seems daunting to cover it as well as everything else about full color printing.
That being said, we do print magazines and booklets here at Hotcards. We get to work with a lot of small, cool publications that print in limited runs, and it would be interesting to talk about that process now and again.
I was inspired to get into this topic by a post on print design over at the excellent design blog, Abduzeedo. The post got me looking through some awesome collections of book cover, magazine, and booklet design. It’s amazing how diverse magazine printing is – everything from art theory zines to corporate booklets can run through our printer – and yet, a common thread throughout is obviously the importance of visually arresting design.
There’s a new Design Idea of the Week up, and it’s all about how businesses can collaborate on print advertising in order to build a sense of community. Products like multi-ad door hangers and postcards are great community-building tools, and by advertising collaboratively, businesses enjoy a very, very low bottom line.
What you probably didn’t know is that if you print with Hotcards, you’re already getting super low prices thanks to membership in a community: the gang-run printing community.
That’s right. You’re in a gang and you didn’t even know it! But don’t worry, this gang isn’t about any of that crazy ‘blood in, blood out’ stuff. And ‘gang-run printing’ doesn’t refer to printing run by gangs. In fact, it’s more about saving money, and doing something good for the environment.
Check out the newest video from Hotcards full color printing! Now who wouldn’t want to print and design with such a talented, charismatic bunch?
My favorite thing about this video is that it shows off some of the print design work we’ve been doing lately. Everything from door hangers and direct mail, to restaurant menus and club cards get designed and printed at Hotcards. And ordered at Hotcards.com.
Fliers. What does that word bring to mind? Maybe pilots dressed in those old-timey bomber jackets and goggles. Or, if you’ve ever attended a non-mainstream concert, club event, rave, or ‘party,’ maybe the word ‘fliers’ evokes some ultra-cool club kid, swinging by your lunch table, smoke break, or bus bench and thrusting a sheet of folded paper, covered in lurid images and DIY typography, into your lap.
They’re inexpensive and often, they look it, but few items in the print media arsenal are more evocative of full color printing’s ability to spread the word quickly and thoroughly. For event promoters, flier printing is a dream come true: super cheap, easy to design, and easy to distribute.
I’m getting all nostalgic and teary-eyed on the subject because I just came across a very cool collection of fliers dating all the way back to 1989, courtesy of super-producer and DJ, Scotto.
From a printing perspective, it’s fascinating to scan through the collection and actually get a visual presentation of how design and printing techniques have changed over the years.
In 1989, full color printing was far from available to every business and every budget. It was still extremely expensive, and most low-cost printers (a.k.a. Xerox machines!) were only offering single color designs. Concurrently, colorful paper was often employed to brighten up the limitation of the ink. Starting in about 1992, the full color designs begin to appear, and design style shifts to accommodate.
At almost the same time, a transition occurs from a lot of hand-drawing, collage, and simple type-based designs, to fliers created using professional graphic design software. It’s at this point when original artwork begins to pop up more and more in flier printing, demonstrating how technology has freed, rather than repressed, the artistic spirit.
When you order full color printing on the web, it can be kinda scary. Who are these people you’re entrusting with first business cards, your concert posters, your campaign door hangers, your wedding invitations?
What if, you think, this company is full of really mean people? Or what if they’re not people at all? What if they’re robots that don’t care if your printing is done on time – that don’t have an eye for those little details that take a project from good to great? Or, worst of all, what if there’s actually nobody there on the other end of your order? No one to pick up the phone? No one to care about the thank-you card you send?
To alleviate some of these and other web-based full color print order concerns, the totally-non-robot folks at Hotcards have started to put together some videos, introducing themselves and life around the Hotcards office. Check it out.
You can see more on our YouTube channel here. And hopefully, as we go along, we’ll get our very own full color printing video player, because we’re just fancy like that.
I’ll post links to new videos up here on the blog. Until then, here are a few more shots from around the office:
Artists for Obama comes with a new message for a very different audience.
Although it’s still listed as “In Stock Soon,” BarackObama.com does officially have a new print up in their Artists for Obama Gallery. The poster is done by graphic artist/musician Scott Hansen, who was commissioned to create the piece by the campaign in early spring.
Hansen was a great choice, I thought, because he creates these amazing concert posters. And as I’ve mentioned before on the blog, the marriage of the concert poster and the political poster tends to produce some pretty radical results.
Because the poster has been a few months in development, there’s been a lot of hype and anticipation surrounding it. Hansen has posted on his blog in regards to creating the piece that the finished draft was, “A PSB file weighing in at 2.77GB with nearly 1000 layers…the most complex, largest scale work I have ever created.”
He also wrote about the experience of flying out to LA to proof the poster, but admitted that he couldn’t show off any drafts without approval of the campaign.
When the poster finally saw the light of day on Friday, the result was surprising, and discussion-worthy.
Bringing indie design to the world of baseball hats.
Ball caps are funny things. Traditionally, they’re utilitarian, keeping the sun out of our eyes when we play or work outside. As a fashion statement, they’ve evolved to the level of high art – if you’re a sports fan. My dad has a collection of over 100, representing every pro sport, and all his favorite teams, and even players. Which is just great, for sports fans.
Unfortunately, if you’re not a sports fan, but you still dig the style, your design choices are limited to vintage trucker, or ultra-trendy name brand. Many artists, graffiti artists in particular, often hand draw or paint designs onto blank caps, but the right style of blank cap can be hard to find.
All in all, ball cap style and design is a deeply personal, and sometimes even touchy issue. As web designer Matthew Carpenter points out on his blog: “getting a great baseball cap is a painful, tedious process.” And he’s right, the question is, why?
Beloved Hotcards readers! Here on the blog, we usually talk about news in the world of print, design, and advertising. But sometimes, it’s nice to get back to basics, right? If you have any questions about the printing process, or about what you need to do to prepare a project for printing, ask them right here, on this or any other post’s comment thread.
Maybe you’re wondering about the printing process, in general. Maybe you have questions about putting together a print campaign, or about direct mail marketing. Or maybe you’re dying to know more about a particular printing product – from palm cards to catalog's to apparel – the answers are all here!
Every week, we’ll try to answer a couple of questions in an effort to make the whole printing thing as transparent as possible for you, our wonderful customers.
Remember folks, no question is too basic, too broad, or too complicated. Unless you’re an expert, printing can get confusing, and that’s why we’re here to help!
At Hotcards, we’re always trying to come up with ways to be a better green printer. It’s not easy. We’re part of an industry that revolves around paper, for Petey’s sake! In the end, all you can do, in business and in life, is just TRY as hard as you can to make eco-friendly choices, even when it seems like the odds are insurmountable. It’s only when we’re not trying that we begin to have serious problems.
Of course, the really tough green printing decisions come when you have to choose free a variety of options, each purportedly ‘greener’ than the last. If you’re a business or an individual looking for a green printer, then you know the feeling. Recycled paper or tree-farmed paper? Soy inks or vegetable inks? Should you work with local suppliers to reduce your fuel footprint, or order the ‘greener’ product from halfway around the world?
It’s easy to think that you’re the only one who doesn’t seen the obvious answers, which is why I got a major laugh out of this recent Brand Camp cartoon by Tom Fishburne:
I’ve wanted to tell you guys about Brand Camp for a while, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Anyone who’s ever worked on a branding, marketing, advertising, or design project will get some much-needed catharsis out of these comics. You can browse through them on Tom Fishburne’s blog, here.
Plant seeds in the consumer imagination – they are guaranteed to flourish!
If you’ve read the blog before, you know how I love to harp on the importance of using print to offer consumers something tangible, something gift-like that they will be happy to possess and value. This is the earmark of a great ad campaign.
Never is the inherently valuable offering more important than in a direct mail campaign, when your primary goal is to mail out something that won’t be automatically classified as ‘junk.’
Honda put an interesting spin on this imperative recently with a one-page letter that had seeds imbedded in the paper. We’ve seen this done with business cards, but this is the first I hear of the tactic being used in a direct mail campaign.
Honda’s goal with the campaign was to remind gardeners that that its lawn and garden equipment is built with care for the environment in mind. To cap off the project, the letter was printed on recycled paper, and low VOC inks were used, making it – and Honda – a friendly addition to your garden. How absolutely sweet and delightful.
Of course, naysayers will tell you that these gimmicks never work. You plant the paper, but nothing grows. However, it’s not a mailer’s job to assess the quality of your green thumb, is it? The job of a direct mail campaign is to spread a feeling or a concept that recipients can feel positive about and attracted to. The company that put this piece together definitely accomplished that.
At the Graphics of Americas Personalized Communications Conference over the weekend, this was the subject of the keynote address. You can read all about it on the great print news site, WhatTheyThink.
The concept behind ‘direct mail with teeth,’ as explained by speaker Harvey Hirsch, is the trimming of mass marketing communications down to something that’s lean, mean, and very effective, in scope, while being less like mail, and more like an interactive 3D experience, in form.
Take direct mail printing, for example. Hirsch suggests that instead of running a campaign of ten of thousands of mailers, you invest in just 100 very targeted, very personalized, high quality packages or ‘kits’. Offerings so darn lovely, clever, and compelling (What’s…in…the box!) that you can expect response rates of 50 to 90%!
With Hirsch’s method, instead of printing ten thousand postcards, you might have your printer design and create 100 posters, which would wrap around 100 screen-printed t-shirts, which would, in turn, conceal a magazine, brochure, or even a business card, all specially tailored to attract your small but very well-targeted audience.
An additional benefit of this style of direct mail printing is that it consumes fewer resources while offering a greater return. The upshot? Your campaign is eco-friendly!
Before you get too excited about this, however, don’t forget that Hirsch’s keynote speech was also a pitch for his own services (he specializes in creating these marketing kits). If anything, the real gem of wisdom here is to always strive to get outside the box when it comes to direct mail printing. Modern consumers are savvy, eco-conscious, and skeptical of all but the most cutting-edge advertising. Whatever form they take, the direct mail campaigns that succeed are the ones that truly – pardon the pun – push the envelope.
Can union printing be auctioned off to support the strike fund?
After 100 days on the picket line, Hollywood’s writers are putting down their union printing and going back to work! Woo hoo! TV’s not going to die! Now we’re finally going to get all those answers we’ve been waiting for in Lost!
There were a lot of hard things about the strike, but there were lots of great, special things, too, the greatest and specialist among them being, I think, the strike signs designed to include white space where strikers could ad their own messages.
A hilarious parody of these signs, commemorating the end of the strike, can be enjoyed here.
But although many of these pieces of union printing were designed to get a laugh, the purpose behind them was very serious. The WGA showed union organization and strength with their well designed, color-coordinated printed, and the showed the union members' passion and individuality by leaving the white space open for unique expression.
The question now is what will happen to all those signs and all that artwork we’ve been seeing at rallies, marches, and on the picket line over the last four months? It would be a shame to see them all go in the recycling bin. Since financial assistance for struggling writers is such an issue, it might be a good idea to auction off some of the best signs in support of the WGA strike fund. After all, the line between union printing and artwork is a fine one, and a lot of people would probably be proud to have a strike sign framed and displayed in their home.
At last, law and order come to the world of print design geekery.
Ever run across a print design that’s so lame, unimaginative, or poorly executed that you felt compelled to express your indignation? If you’re anything like me, you probably get this feeling several times a day. Especially when you see work put out by some big company that’s supposed to be bringing the quality. But what can you do?
In the old days, you might have had to file a report with the Bureau of Design Investigation, which would take months to process, and probably come to nothing. But those days of frustrating paperwork are over, thanks to the Design Police.
Their slogan is, “Bring bad design to justice.” On their website, you can download sheets of stickers that you will be able to use to make your critical designer’s voice heard, and ultimately, make the world a better place.
Mitt Romney won the GOP Michigan primary Tuesday night. And all the cool kids are asking how much the win had to do with a new sign design the Romney camp pulled out in the days leading up to the vote. The red rally sign declares “Change Begins With Us.”
Of course, Romney’s been pushing the ‘Change’ agenda for a while, pressing home the concept that Republicans want things fixed in the White House as much as Democrats. The new red rally signs act as a conversation with larger blue banners that tout Romney’s favorite catch phrase, “Washington is Broken.”
And who will fix it? We ask. Why, WE will, of course, answers the red sign, bringing to mind another rally sign, just visible over on the other side of the proverbial fence.
The second I saw the Romney sign, its design brought to mind Obama’s blue “Change We Can Believe In,” rally sign to such a degree that Romney red seems like a direct response to Obama blue. The similarity in message and font makes me wonder if Romney’s trying to style himself as a sort of “Obama of the GOP” type candidate.
I’ll admit that the Romney signs are busier than Obama’s. The design includes a snazzy black and white star border, and it touts “Romney 2008” in large letters, as opposed to the “Change We Can Believe In” sign’s modest invitation to visit “BarackObama.com.” These are little differences, but it’s amazing what little differences like these can do to two essentially similar print designs changes to an essentially similar print design can convey.
It's the most anticipated end-of-year list in the history of printing, at last!
10. Print and Online Advertising Joined Forces on the Campaign Trail
I’ve been seeing it since the earliest days of election season, and I’m liking it. We all knew that this would be the year of online campaigning for Presidential primary candidates, but who could have guess that campaigning online and campaigning in print would go together so swimmingly? We are seeing everything from print designs featured prominently in online videos and photoblogs, to web design techniques showing up on signs and booklets! The best example of this trend appeared in the YouTube/CNN debates, where the line between web and print designed seemed to blur and disappear on a stage where all media was good media.
9. At Last, Design-Consciousness Came to Election Campaigning
Bland red, white, and blue patriotism went out this year in favor of personalized logos and print design. Each primary candidate on the campaign trail has a design that says something distinctive about them and their vision. And at least a few of the candidates have some uniquely clever print collateral. My personal favorite design-wise is the < a href="http://www.hotcards.com/blog/4/11.html">Obama campaign, as I’ve mentioned a few times over the last year. Who would you elect the next President-by-design?
8. The HOW Design Conference
This year’s HOW Design Conference was the best yet. There’s nothing like meeting like-minded people who love to talk about their work as much as you do! We’re already looking forward to next year, can’t wait to see y’all again!
7. DIY Political Campaigning
In the early, wild days of American politics, it wasn’t unusual to see average citizens printing political literature, and even getting in fistfights in support of their favorite candidates. In 2007, this DIY political ethic came back in full force, at least in terms of printing. Candidates like dark horse Ron Paul have enjoyed massive support from voters who are independently printing posters, brochures, and booklets to promote their personal feelings about who should be the next President. Often, however, print campaigns launched by individuals are based around a broader concept, like “get off your ass and vote!” The trend towards DIY print campaigning is on the rise thanks in no small part to the newly affordable nature of full color printing. Nowadays, anyone can be an advertising mogul.
6. The Signs That Shouted Louder Than Words
This wasn’t a turning point, it wasn’t a trend, it was simply a moment, caught on video, that spoke volumes about the power of print. As a protestor confronts Hillary Clinton at a rally, the video shows dozens of supporters raising their signs in the air, the squares of heavy paper blotting the lone protester out. I don’t know if the dissenter had a point or not, but in the future, he should come armed with his own full color printing.
The true history of one of the holidays’ print design essentials.
The Christmas season sees more greeting card printing than any other. After all, the Christmas card was the original greeting card. “It’s tradition,” as my grandmother always says. But where did this particular tradition start?
News from the front: Success depends on the picket line.
Any strike action that is not resolved after the first few days runs into the same problems. Strikers get tired, they get disillusioned, they get broke. A strike captain’s toughest job is making sure they get the bodies out there on the picket line every single morning, with union printing held high in the air.
The picket line is the face of any strike action – the visible front made up of signs and banners, musicians and megaphones, and most importantly, people marching.
Start planning now for the festive, er, election season.
Usually, this is the time of year to ready your full color printing for the holidays, but because our country can’t wait to race to the polls this election season, we might see campaign advertising coming in to conflict with holiday advertising. This will mean some tricky maneuvering for holiday advertisers and campaign organizers alike.
Strategies for leaving a light advertising footprint
On my way to acquiring my morning coffee today, I came across an interesting poster. In fact, I came across it several times, on every telephone pole lining my street. The poster advertises a series of events protesting the logging of old-growth forests. At Hotcards, we’re extremely aware of the problem of old-growth logging, which is why we use only paper that has been milled from trees grown on a tree farm. However, the unfortunate truth is that not all printers are committed to using only farmed trees.
Right-wing pundits love to position environmentalism and eco-consciousness as a sort of left-wing conspiracy, or worse, as a fad topic that will pass as quickly as it came. According to these trend-forecasting geniuses, environmental stewardship is totally 2006, and is going the way of the dodo as fast at Leo DiCaprio’s The 11th Hour is hitting the DVD racks.
Election campaign printing is on the rise even as summer heats things up…
We’re getting close to the middle of this hot, rainy summer season. If we were kids, we’d probably all be lazing around in the backyard, haunting friend’s pools or the mall to beat the humidity. But now that we’re all grown up, every summer we get to relearn the tough lesson that business doesn’t stop for the heat!
It’s all about the broad stripes and bright stars.
As this week draws to a close, I am compelled to remind everybody that the Fourth of July is only two weeks away. Okay, okay, maybe it's a bit farther than that, but from an advertising and marketing perspective, the time to get to work is nigh. Hotcards has already been taking orders for Fourth of July print advertising for weeks. Any promotion you’re working on for the 4th should be happening. If not, get on it!
Print advertising can be the perfect way to make an online product or service stand out from the crowd.
At Hotcards, we’ve been noticing a trend amongst online businesses. Once they start to use print advertising, they come back again, and again, and again. It seems like print promotions are doing more for ebusiness than anyone might have guessed…
The labor we use and the paper we choose all say something about the role that printing has to play in the politics of this country.
Printing is a funny business when it comes to political matters. On the one hand, we work for political campaigns, printing signs, posters, and flyers, running direct mail campaigns, and at Hotcards, even designing print ads and websites.
The nation’s biggest multicultural B2B portal has named Hotcards one of the Top 100 diversity-owned businesses in the state of Ohio.
At Hotcards, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what it is to be a “diversity-owned business” (mostly because we’re too busy doing business!), so it’s nice to be given an opportunity to remember what it means to live in a country where so many different races and cultures have come together and made such a huge impact on business.
I’ve been told that the future of the printing industry somehow involves the CEO of Hotcards blogging about the future of the printing industry, so here it goes…
People are always asking me where the printing industry is headed. They do it almost slyly, like they know what my answer will be. But I like to try to surprise them. Instead of saying that the internet is driving printers out of business, I always say that the printing industry is headed where many other industries are headed.... ONLINE!
In a world filled with monochrome political signs, is there room for full color campaigning? And if not, why not?
I’ve been talking with a lot of you folks out there in webland lately about full color printing. I guess me and my cohorts have been making a big deal out of how inexpensive it can be to use full color in political campaign printing which, obviously, gets people wondering how we do it.
Printing palm cards for the Obama Election Campaign got me thinking about running for office when your budget is under the microscope.
Running for office? Don’t worry, it’s easy. Just get your name and issues out to millions of people as cheaply and quickly as possible. Oh, and don’t forget to be inspiring and make a dramatic impact while you’re at it.
When it comes to outdoor election campaign advertising, the best design and the brightest colors can’t make up for choosing print materials that can’t weather the storm.
Around here at Hotcards, we, like most of you out there in webland, are getting pretty excited about the ’08 elections. Man, they are a long way away, but it’s obvious that more than a few of us are ready to start seeing some change, um…now!
Never underestimate the ability of print to win voters over with moving, inspiring design. Campaign ad veteran Marcus Roscoe weighs in on online campaigning, issues management, and using print campaigning to do anything but play it safe.
Last week, one of my fellow bloggers here at Hotcards was talking about the wave of online political campaigning we’re seeing grow in a full-fledged tsunami this campaign season. She rightly pointed out that campaign managers would do well to continue to dedicate time and energy to improving their print advertising. However, she was way off base in her reasoning for doing so.
As political campaigning evolves online, don’t forget that political printing needs to evolve along with it. Failing to cover all your bases can leave you between a blog and a hard place.
Political campaigns have always relied on print advertising to get a candidate’s name and message out to the voters. Over the years, radio, TV, and now the internet have all had their chance to step in and contribute. However, time and time again, print advertising has proven itself to be the most effective form of voter contact involving the least amount of potential for embarrassment.
There is a line between success and my design, and that line is made up of service people who have neither the time nor the energy to deal with my crap.
The other night, we were down at the local watering hole, indulging in sundry libations, when my eyes trained, all of a sudden, on the uniquely shaped beer coaster positioned beneath my pint of brew. This was no common circle of soggy pasteboard. It was a large, thick, intricately cut maple leaf, a marvel, we all agreed, of advertising design technology.