Let’s Get This Straight, You Didn’t Create a BRAND

One of the most challenging and elusive aspects of building a business is creating this thing called a “brand.” It’s not like a machine where you can just write a check and it gets “installed” next week. You can’t go to a website and choose the type of brand you want from a menu – and check out. That being said, if this were possible, the people least likely to ever build a brand for their business are those who’d select the “Standard Brand” over the “Premium Brand,” given a choice.

You can’t even hire a service provider or marketing company to create a brand. At least, not without your company’s full participation and adherence to what the “brand experts” tell you to do. (For example, we could help you create a brand, but it’s like trying to lose 30 pounds with a trainer and never following the meal plan – the pounds aren’t coming off.)

Creating a brand is an incredibly detail-oriented, and carefully curated process that is only validated… let me repeat… ONLY VALIDATED by your customers. What does that mean? It means that your customers will be the ones to say if you created a brand. Not you. You’re probably saying, “You mean to tell me, all the money we paid that marketing firm to “brand” our new product didn’t actually create a brand?” If you’re Unilever Corporation and your customers are still asking the clerk at Wal-Mart what aisle they can find cotton swabs, instead of Q-tips – then yes, you didn’t create a brand. If you’re 10 year old nephew doesn’t shame you for not yet upgrading to the iPhone 6 (like mine did today) – then yes, you didn’t create a brand.

If your customers don’t promote, defend and obsess over you – then yes, you didn’t create a brand.

If you are just like everyone else, but with a fancy new whiz-bang-whatchamacallit – then yes, you didn’t create a brand.

My feelings on branding are summed up in this simple litmus test: “Create a company that people want to do business with, before they even know what you do.” That’s what we did at Hotcards. Our customers validate this ALL THE TIME. They often times refer to Postcards and Business cards as “Hotcards.” As in, “I’d like to buy 5,000 Hotcards.” We have to ask them to be more specific – because you certainly don’t want to end up with 6” x 10” business cards! Try stuffing that in your wallet. I recall being sent a picture from my friend judging a high school business plan competition in Ohio. Each one of the students put on their list of marketing tactics, “Distribute Hotcards.”

When people start calling products like postcards, flyers and brochures (products hundreds of years old) by your company name – then my friend, you’ve created a BRAND!

Below are a few more examples of customers telling us… “You created a brand!” Including the group of ladies wearing our shirts and taking photos wearing Hotcards oven mitts (how they even got their hands on our mitts, I don’t know!). Then there’s Eddie Griffin holding a box of Hotcards with oven mitts. And how about the dude on Twitter spreading his love for our cooling station?! It’s humbling to see this stuff!

These are brand validations. You can’t fake ‘em... and you can’t buy ‘em. We’ll talk about some of the ways Hotcards created this “movement” in future posts.


Hotcards Girls Mitts 

Eddie Griffin Hotcards

Hotcards Cooling Station


The Brochure Given Out by Ebola

Every company has to have a brochure. Yet, Ebola isn’t really up to speed yet with "his" brochure because, well, his fame came suddenly this time around and he just wasn’t prepared.

Be Prepared with Marketing Materials

When you land yourself on worldwide television nightly, as Ebola has, be prepared before it happens. Nothing is worse than having your name and information given out all day long on every television station in the world, day after day, and not having a single piece of positive marketing material ready. Ebola is that victim, as the media caught him with his pants down. The best exposure anyone can ever dream of getting and Ebola had zip, nada, not a thing to hand out. How to stop Ebola is a mystery! Why? Because Ebola doesn’t have a brochure, that’s why. It has been weeks and still, Ebola doesn’t have a brochure! So, even with the best coverage the world can give him, he still is not up to speed with his marketing material.

Brochure Printing and 23-Hour Turn-Around

Soon the world’s best physicians and scientists will gather to try to figure out how to handle this virus. We can only hope that Ebola gives us a call to do his brochure before that happens. We can do a full color brochure with numerous folding options. Maybe he would want something in a glossy color to really offset his work. We can do matte coated, also, so, no worries. But time is running out for Ebola and he needs to give us a call. We can do a 23-hour turnaround, if he has his art ready and knows what he wants to put in the brochure. The clock is ticking, though.

A List of Your Products or Services

A brochure is very handy for your customers. It lists all of your services and gives what benefits a potential customer will receive from those services. Your customer can pop it in their shopping bag and take it home with them in order give it to a friend or to cherish it always. They are like a very large business card that spells out all that you do and what you charge. It does all of this in a very pretty way, or in Ebola’s case, not so pretty. However, Ebola has yet to call to order his brochure and other marketing materials, so it is a bit of a non-issue. At this point, our staff is whispering they are happy he hasn’t dropped in personally.

Your Brochure and Marketing Materials will be happy to put together the whole package for you of business cards, letterhead, flyers along with your brochure. It is everything you need to startup your business. Use our website to put in your order or just give us a call. If you know Ebola, let him know we can do this for him, also, with a 23-hour turn around, but tell him just use the website and not stop by the office. For some reason, our staff is not anxious to meet this guy.


Ebola Brochure 

Calendar Ideas to Print for Your Hilarious Free Calendars

Of course, you want your giveaway calendar that you print to be way cooler than that other guy’s. You know that guy. He’s that guy that is always kissing up to the boss and gets the great sales bonuses because of it. Yeah, “that guy.” It is time to totally outdo that guy with spectacular free calendars that feature your name and phone number for your clients. You don’t have to buy a lame stock calendar. Print a cool calendar. Give them away for free. Bury “that guy” in sales this year.

The Calendar from Hell

Okay, maybe not a calendar from Hell, exactly, more like graveyard. How about your free calendars featuring zombies this year? Every month features a zombie in a new and interesting pose in print. February is a month for Valentines and zombies like to hook up, too! Pose your zombies proposing marriage or loving a tasty bite of human flesh with hearts all around. A possible feature for May is a pin-up zombie in a sexy little number because of the warmer weather. Who doesn’t love zombies? Everyone love zombies! When your clients’ friends see your print calendar, they’ll want one also. So, now your contact information is in your clients’ friend’s hands, too! And in the hands of the friends of their friends!

Calendar of The Armadillo’s Hunt

The crafty armadillo, yeah, is the animal no human ever seems to be able to catch. He simply must have his own hunting calendar. Put into print armadillos posing with a backyard full of holes or holding a human by the ankle as the human screams and tries to get away. For August, print an armadillo laughing hysterically as a human tippy-toes around the yard with a rifle looking for him. Think Wil E. Coyote. This is a sure winner in the southern states for free calendars.

Garbage Men in Print

What client wouldn’t love their very own Garbage Men of the Month in print? What a page turner! Of course, November being the month of Thanksgiving would have to feature little turkeys on his boxers while he hangs spread eagle from the back of his garbage collection truck. January being one of the coldest months would certainly feature our favorite guy posing buck naked in a fur coat that he clearly found in someone’s can at the curb. The ladies will be begging you for more free calendars to pass along to their friends.

Free Calendars of Holy Bacon

Become everyone’s hero by giving free calendars this year featuring everyone’s sacred food: BACON. Have November feature a bacon wrapped turkey. For June feature a gal in a bacon bikini at the beach! In December you simply must have a bacon Santa. Under a bacon tree, have a load of packages of bacon for presents! Don’t forget the bacon bows, now! Even the vegetarians will beg for more free calendars for their friends.

How to Get Your Calendar in Print

Yeah, it is definitely time to beat “that guy” at his own game. Print your calendar now for the 2015 year. Get a head start on handing out your free calendars and will do them up right for you. The look on that guy’s face when you get the big bonus will be priceless. Yeah, totally priceless, it doesn’t even need bacon. Wait! Everything needs bacon!


A Piece of Paper That Folds Itself into a Robot

Imagine a group of flat sheets being sent into space, and then organizing themselves into a satellite. It really seems like some low-budget 1950's science fiction movie. Except for the fact that it'll actually be available. Eventually. As last week saw the world's first robot to fold itself and start working without human interaction.

A team at Harvard and MIT created the self-folding robot, inspired by the complex 3-D shapes constructable with origami which were recently published in the journal Science.

Sam Felton, a graduate student at Harvard University, says that the robot is made from composite paper, a bendable circuit board and uses the toy, Shrinky Dinks. When heated, the sheet shrinks into small, hard forms. These materials allow for the quick construction of cheap robots, but eventually, Felton said, better materials will help people build objects in places that are more difficult to reach.

The self-folding robot that they created is kind of modest, but the future applications for the technology are virtually endless. Imagine, if you will, a flat robot being sent into a collapsed building to assemble and perform its function?

It's almost dizzy-making to contemplate where technology is heading.

Types of Designers to Avoid

There are innumerable reasons for not hiring a particular designer, but these we can reduce to warning bells which can typically warn an employer (or contract employer) that a particular designer will be more trouble than he, or she is worth. LUCKILY, Hotcards doesn't have any of these types of designers, which means you're pretty much assured an awesome experience if you hire us to handle your next design project! (Shameless plug ;)

The Deity - designers of this type simply can't do any wrong. Everything that they do is like manna from heaven, regardless of what your impression of it is. Arrogant doesn't quite cut it, as that's a personality flaw that can be overcome if there's adequate talent on display.This is more akin to a kind of deluded arrogance that is inexplicable. Certainly not someone who you'd like to collaborate with given a choice.

The Safe-player - These are designers who don't stand out much. They have basic skills and usually produce okay work, but they're not likely to engage in much risk-taking. Clients often avoid hiring such designers because they'd rather hire a designer who has the ability to produce something we haven't seen before.

The Perfectionist - Perfectionist designers tend toward being obsessive about their work. And while this can be an admirable quality in a designer, it can prove to be a challenge in working with them. They sometimes ignore instructions and prefer to do things according to what their will tells them to do, and their flawless style can also lead them to believe that they're superior to other designers. Worst of all, they have a hard time ever finishing a project, because it's never perfect!

The Turtle - designers of this type are generally nervous wrecks who envision negative feedback from clients before they've even presented. Designers like this completely lack confidence in their abilities, and as a result, frequently hide underneath their shells, like turtles. Their lack of self-esteem deters employees from hiring them.

The Hoarder - This type of designer collects multiple projects at the same time. They forget to set priorities and often have many work-related, freelance and personal projects at the same time. These designers have no balance and need to work on their time management. They tend to deliver projects late and the quality of their work is often dubious due to their lack of focus.

The Copycat - A designer of this type tends to surf the net for inspiration. Everything that he or she does marks the stamp of looking brutally familiar. Perhaps not all lifted per se, but at least heavily borrowed. You want to avoid such designers as complete originality is not in their bag of tricks.

The Pretentious - Designers of this type are show-offs. They love bragging about skills that they don't actually possess, but they can "talk the talk" and "dress the part" even if they can't produce high quality work. People often avoid working with this type of designer because they're essentially poseurs.

The Slug - These designers are the "lazy" type. They tend to get very sluggish, and this is the main reason why their projects are often delayed. The opposite of a "flash" designer who breezes through projects without missing deadlines or even finishing ahead of time. Being a slug isn't so bad as long as good work is ultimately produced, but clients often avoid this type simply because of their inability to meet deadlines and their tendency to waste money.

The Soloist - Designers of this type are lousy collaborators, although working on a collaborative project. They generally see their own work as being superior to that of other designers, and they usually don't listen to feedback. Instead of attracting clients, they tend to drive them further away.

The Flash - A designer of this type is a fast worker. They deliver projects quickly, often ahead of deadlines and present to clients on time. Although being a fast worker is generally a plus, clients often avoid hiring them because in their rush to completion, they often produce substandard work.

Will Phermone Infused Business Cards Get Me Dates?

AXE, the men's care line that has dutifully portrayed its users in commercials as being relentlessly pursued by scads of hot women, has taken a subtle and interesting turn by passing out pheromone business cards to its employees. It certainly seems like a lunatic concept, but AXE is betting on their employees being somewhat irresistible. One can only hope, I suppose. For real business cards that rely on one's charm to be irresistible to the lady folk, there's a nice batch of them ready and waiting for you here at Hotcards. These work for women, too. No guarantees that members of the opposite sex will be tearing off your clothing comes with the order, though. You'll have to rely on your own charms for that :)

 Axe Business Cards 1

 Axe Business Cards 2

Buffoonish Design Mistakes.

I've gotta be honest, nowhere that I've ever worked would be capable of putting out something this immensely ridiculous. The people are too smart. Too many people eyeball everything before it makes it out the door. And again, people are too smart. But Luckily, the world is populated by people who care so little about their work - that their work makes great fodder for my blog posts! So there's plenty of work out there to laugh at.

Pepsi doesn't seem like a company floating in incompetence, but someone had to be sniffing glue when they ok'd this layout. Can't say that people being taken aback by the gratuitous word "rape" necessarily surprises me, even if it is technically an "a".

Pepsi Ad 

What's actually missing in this ad? Well, the art directors IQ for one thing.


The family that hangs together, dies together. Reassuring imagery at a place that's devoted to healing people.

Hang together 

Pepsi again. This time revealing a hatred for punctuation. Tasteless sugar, that's a new one.

Pepsi ad 2 

This one pretty much makes the only argument you'd ever need for keeping art directors away from the crack pipe. I suppose that there's an attempt at a semi-joke in there, but really, the jokes on whoever designed this. Who says that Millenials are illiterate?

Wander Ad 

And really, this is a word salad that would be at home in an Arby's.You can only hope that someone got fired for this monstrosity.

Xbox ad 

This one's kind of luck. Who knew that the distortive effects on the words would be so unfortunate?

suit yourself ad 

Someone with eyes could have helped here though.

Birdy two mouths 

Poor fools probably had to put a word on the can, lest anyone mistake it for a beer. College administrators are really sillyheads enough to overlook this.


Poolife. Get it? Pool Life? Talk about being too danged clever by half!


Funny Greeting Cards

I'll admit right off the bat that I didn't get the humor in all of these, but I'll assume that's a function of my abysmal and rapidly degrading cultural literacy. I'm concerned for the current generation of young adults (which I could be classified under), as I think that social media and smart phones have degraded their brain stems. But anyway, back to the topic, which is the often very funny and always attempting to be so "Dear Blank" greeting cards created by Lisa Krowinski. She works for a letterpress print shop in Pittsburgh that specializes in stationary, invitations, announcements - all letterpress. Her designs are driven by typography and are generally intended to be humorous, which they are, more often than not. Enjoy! (oh, and by the way, you can print your own greeting cards at Hotcards!)

















Myths About Green Printing

1. Green printing is a lot more expensive. It has been more expensive to print green in the past, but this isn't necessarily the case any longer. Prices for green printing have been continually going down, and have become somewhat competitive with means of traditional printing.

2. Recycled paper results in lower quality. Another myth that may have been true years ago but isn't the case anymore. These days, a high-quality recycled paper is virtually indistinguishable from paper fresh out of the mill. And customers are always noting this, so it's not like I'm blowing smoke here. But don't take our word for this, ask us for some recycled paper samples!

3. All recycled papers are the same. The fact of the matter is that recycled paper can be composed of varying degrees of post consumer waste content. Post-consumer waste is what most of us would consider to be "recycled," as it denotes paper that has been disposed of in a recycling bin. But, such is not always the case with the paper used in recycled paper.

4. Going green means not printing at all. Sure, there are instances when not printing is the wiser choice. Most people would rather have their primary photo album on their computer, for instance (although, photo books, photo mugs and photo greeting cards are da bomb!). But there are also times when printed material is very necessary. For instance, a business card seems a mandatory implement for people with jobs. And you're not likely to show up at a trade show without a full complement of banners and brochures, either. On occasions like this, green printing seems like a no-brainer proposition.

5. Green printers are all the same. Hmm… would you say that there's a difference between a printer who only pulls out recycled paper upon request and one who uses it as their house stock? How about one whose green printing practices have been verified by third party audits as opposed to one that hasn't? Those are some of the ways that green printers can be considerably different. Not all are fully walking the walk, so to speak. We are certified at Hotcards and all of our house stocks contain post-consumer waste. It's just good business to be green!

3D printing: A Beast Upsetting the Apple Cart?

Every time I think I have a handle on 3D printing and its potential to change the world, something comes along to suggest that I have no clue. In general, the big movers in the 3D printing space have employed a razor and blade business model whereby they offer the razor at a significant discount while offering the blades - in this case, printing materials - at a significant price hike.

But one company, 3COR, a 3D printing company in Ireland, is turning things on their head by printing with the kind of paper that's readily available in any office and most homes. So there's no effort to lock users into buying proprietary materials at a considerable markup through the printer's life. It's kind of like giving away razor blades to go along with your razor. But, of course, it seems more reasonable to discuss a company which prints with paper on a traditional printing blog. So there's that.

Anyway, what 3COR's technology does is employ selective deposition leveling, or SDL. which involves a water-based adhesive and a tungsten carbide blade to precisely adhere and cut paper one sheet at a time to create a three-dimensional object after multiple repetitions. They make both full cold and black and white printers which both use A4 paper, and they boast an operating cost that's at least 1/5th of the industry average. Their technology is only intended for prototyping and modeling applications for professionals seeking quick and affordable high quality prints. And it strikes this writer as a kind of techno Plaster of Paris. But anyway, while it isn't as versatile as other competitors platforms, there are significant cost savings.

But while 3COR's total potential market size may be more limited than other competitors, every product out there begins at the prototype or model stage. So a company like 3COR is positioned well to take advantage of this space. You're not going to print parts for a spacecraft or a jet airplane with it, but that's not exactly the sweet spot in the consumer business anyway. So 3COR may very well be able to carve out a significant chunk of the 3D printing business for itself. 3D Printing using run of the mill paper. Whodathunkit?

3D Printed Head 

Corporate Logo Changes For 2014, Part 2

We really left the most exciting changes for last. Just kidding.

University of Illinois. The fighting Illini. A program which shows its face in the Rose Bowl every 50 years or so, has eliminated its own state from its logo and gone for a classic block "I". Not exactly original in the world of college athletics, but it does look classier. And who knows? Perhaps a winning season is in the offing.

 Illinois Logo

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have themselves a sporty new logo. Well, not new exactly so much as a new illustration. But it's pretty dang good. Greg Schiano may have gotten the old heave-ho, but the 'eers are heading into the future with a snazzy and simplified logo.

 Tampa Bay Logo

Reebok had kind of a dumb-looking logo to begin with, so the fact they've modernized and simplified things a bit would normally be an improvement. But the fact that a shoe and sportswear manufacturer's logo now looks like that of a generic tech company isn't going to fire many imaginations. And come to think of it, there are tech companies with more interesting, more imaginative logos.

Reebok Logo 

Next up, Fandango I'll have to admit that I've NEVER even heard of this company. Evidently they have something to do with movie tickets, so I'm basically admitting to being an insular dweeb. But still, never heard of it. But anyway, their old logo featured an "F" which kind of looked like a movie ticket. The new one doesn't, nor does it look like its trying too hard, either. Still not a terribly attractive logo, but it is an improvement.

 Fandango Logo

Oxford Dictionaries got themselves a logo overhaul. The former one was pretty generic type of the words, while the new one is a more modern typeface and additionally a symbol. Big improvement, really, though who even knew that something like a dictionary company needed a logo? I suppose that they do, but I can't imagine them going through the process of changing it.

Oxford Logo 

Morton Salt has an updated logo. In fact, you could say that the changes are so minuscule that you almost have to wonder why they bothered at all. I mean, really, looking at the two of them at the same time its like there's barely any difference. The "R" in Morton's is now curved anyway.

Morton Salt Logo 

Visa now simply spells out its name, whereas previously it spelled out its name and had a gold flourish on the "v." Hopefully they didn't pay a corporate identity firm a six-figure sum to come up with this dinky, inconsequential change. I mean, really, its hard to imagine what symbolic importance the flourish had, so I'm not gonna think less of them for losing it. In fact, I can honestly say that I never even noticed it.

Visa Logo 

And, finally, Netflix has got a new logo. I like it. Its basically the name, as it was before, but now it's very simple and doesn't give off a corporation vibe. Seeing as it is an actual corporation, my statement doesn't make whole lot of sense, I grant you, but the internet is a humungous place, and you're free to find a place to post different opinions.

Netflix Logo 

Corporate Logo Changes For 2014, Part 1

As always, there are a gaggle of companies who felt the urgent need to make their logos fit into what they perceive to be the current landscape, if you will. Some are stunning improvements, while others fall under the category of no one cares but the company itself.  But nothing scares the bejesus out of businesses like change does, so I suppose that they all should be applauded for putting on their big boy pants and doing a little bit of it.

Olive Garden made a drastic change to their logo. Can't say that it's a bad thing as their old one seemed like the kind of craptastic fake sign that you'd pick up for $4.99 in the bargain bin at a Marshalls. Their new one isn't exactly a textbook display of design prowess, but is simple and basic. If only Olive Garden could similarly tweak their menu and add a heaping helping of culinary competence.

 Olive Garden Logo

Bacardi's former logo featured a stylized big creepy bat, and their new one features a smaller, more life-like creepy bat in a slightly old school package. All in all, a pretty big improvement, assuming that you don't have any particular aversion to life-like bats. But really, any step away from stylized graphic logos has to be a big improvement.

Bacardi Logo 

Pay pal's got a new logo. The new one is keeping up with design trends I guess, but I can't really say that their old one was out of date or that the new one brings anything new to the table. I suppose that the overlapping P's emphasize a human connection, but that strikes me as almost tangential for a faceless internet money transfer company. It probably makes them feel better about how they see themselves though.

PayPal Logo 

Black & Decker made subtle changes to their logo. Forsaking the previous orange and white one for an all-orange variation and engaging in the uber trendy design motif of swapping out the ampersand for a "+". Simple, but at least it'll look classy for five years or so until it looks tiresome. Trends are funny that way.

Black + Decker Logo 

Next is Lipton Tea which basically rearranged the same deck chairs by centering the logo inside of a lemon and eliminating the previous "sunshine" caused by the lemon. Really, a case of why even bother. And as business insider pointed out, it pretty much looks like a dead ringer for Lay's Potato Chips logo now. And really, could there be a more disgusting sounding combo than tea and chips? Perhaps not in England anyway.

Lipton Logo 

And Cadillac got rid of the tacky wreath that previously surrounded the crest. Kind of a subtle change as the crest generally remains the same, but it is an aesthetic improvement. And you can only imagine the sleepless nights that Cadillac execs in HQ had over even a negligible change like that.

 Cadillac Logo

And finally, there's Florida State University, which, on the crest of their national Championship in football appears to have basically redrawn their logo. And really, I absolutely hate it when college sports teams screw with their logos basically for the sake of merchandising, so I'm happy for FSU that their modifications were so modest. Not the jackassery which usually accustoms such changes. But anyway, that's it for today. Tomorrow will see the second half of the year's big changes in logos.

Florida State logo 

Social Media Advertising... Useful?

It's hard to deny that an approach to advertising that's so simple and, as a general matter, is infinitely more cost effective than whirling out all manner of printed matter and then paying to place it is a virtue.

But aside from a feeble stab at name recognition, it really isn't altogether obvious that social media advertising is accomplishing much of anything. In a sense, it's quite obvious that advertisers would go this route, as fragmentation of the market is increasingly a problem, and the likes of Facebook and twitter have to be monetized in some way, but it's hard not to get a sense that marketers are going about it wrong. All wrong.

It's a compelling argument that something such as certainty, which social media advertising provides in the sense that you can track all visitors who lay eyes on your message, but what, really, is the point? I'm certainly not the only person who has aimlessly visited a website, only to have their banner ads then follow me around the internet like crazed, comatose hippies. Unlike traditional forms of print media, digital and social media does in fact offer advertisers the boon of being able to follow these potential customers across the internet.

How much traffic has your social media campaign driven? By what percentage has your revenue increased? All that it would seem to require of advertising executives is a little mumbling of somewhat meaningless statistics. But clients can actually point to them as something. There's an old saying in advertising that clients want, more than anything, a way to cover their arsses. And with regard to social media, that really seems to be the principal objective. Few companies deny the need to advertise, it's just that they'd prefer to do it in a way that minimizes their out of pocket expenses and risk. And with the addition of figures that they can point to, they're in hog heaven even as they ride a wave of know-nothingness into an unknowable future.

Which, naturally, brings us to the concept of going viral. The concept of gaining a ton of free publicity because your product reaches the stratosphere by virtue of free media (minus production costs) is pretty irresistible, really. Leaving aside the fact that so few companies avail themselves of the potential of it. But it's most assuredly the way for upstarts to join the party, as it were, though it may well be a mix of fear and desperation that entices upstarts to indulge in such to begin with. But social media advertising, in a nutshell, has amounted to nothing. It's managed to put self-proclaimed experts into the realm of rich new media pioneers, but it's not as though anything has come out of it.

Somehow, ten years into this, it doesn't seem as though marketers have grown smarter and wiser as to their approach. In fact, one of the few pieces that left an impression on me, the Burger King Subservient Chicken, is ten years old already. And really, we've reached a point where while being awash in this impersonal internet twaddle, real personal contact in the way of direct mail pieces or even something as prosaic as business cards, are more notably personal than ever. Social media makes the recurring error of attempting to appeal to every one, and thus, appealing to no one.

Marketing will continue to evolve. There can be no doubt about that. And it can be impossible to predict the success of a particular campaign, even if new media "experts" manage to delude any number of people as to their prowess in doing so. But it's pretty much a fact as well as a universal truth that people are always asking "what's in it for me?" And you don't arrive at the answer to that question via impersonal means and gimmickry. When push comes to shove, selling is a personal conversation that the best in advertising can engage in with innumerable people at the same time with. You can't do that with vapid prattle and some search engine optimization. There's really no formula. Just people who are good at it, and bad at it.

Is The Art of The Newspaper and Magazine Ad Dying?

There was a time when print ads were a precious commodity, slaved over at the highest levels of the advertising business. But more and more, it seems as though they're being left in the dust as people frantically, mindlessly even, reorient themselves to prioritizing the web.

And really, is this an improvement when rather than competing for eyeballs and attempting to stand for something, we've been taken over by people who engage in search engine optimization and the notion of persuading people has given way to measurements of who can screw with the searching process with such significance that they basically fool people into eyeing their half-assed pitches?

It's undoubtedly true that much of print advertising was never any good, as there is an ocean of hacks in the advertising business who are not very good at what they do, and there are countless clients who essentially operate off of checklists but have no intuitive sense about how to persuade. But really, things have gotten a lot worse, as the craft of writing and the skill of persuasion seem to be at an all-time low. It may be, as numerous people suggest, that people these days are pretty much illiterate and they just don't have the capacity to read. But then, the internet is overwhelmingly composed of written content, and I personally don't know a single person who doesn't routinely avail themselves of it. So that theory wouldn't seem to hold water.

So what is the story? If it isn't that people can't read, then perhaps it's that people simply can't write. Or, perhaps, it's that people's attention spans are now so abysmal that good writing simply isn't worth the effort. That's a hard pill to swallow if writing is the only thing that you're good at!

Attached is one of few print ads - one for the Mt Sinai Medical Center - that I've seen in recent years that is really good. Do you know of others?

Mt Sinai Ad 

Gripes About Snipes

This one's a bit short, but there's plenty of piss and vinegar in it. I'm sure that things are similar in the burgeoning metropolis that houses this company, but I really have to take a moment to gripe about the gratuitous blight on humanity that is snipes in my home of New York City.

Companies pay a kings ransom to idiot teenagers and slacking collegians to befoul every last inch of open space with concert promotions, corporate promotions and every last asinine thing that is printed and strikes someone's fancy. Advertising on the cheap.Cheap ploys to catch people's attention, really, when push comes to shove, it's not unlike someone lighting themselves on fire and then reciting the Declaration of Independence. Pointless.

And really, it's not like they're are artistically-noted, well thought out pieces for the most part. If I can make up a new phrase, they are generally information vomit. There's a good reason why the likes of old-timey Guinness Beer signs contue to hold some sort of value. Is it really so hard for people to attain similar grade shchool type artistry?

Even a country like France - which has notoriously awful and pointless advertising - has a penchant for making posters which aren't eyesores. Perhaps we should pat them on the head and give them a biscuit. Or at least take notes, as similar advertising here has the look of a last minute, throwaway thought, or, more likely, a brain dead edict courtesy of a client who really doesn't give a crap.

Seriously, at a time when advertising is quite literally inescapable in one's day to day life, would it be so hard to hold out some sort of aesthetic standards when assaulting the living crap out of every building that's getting worked on, Street sign, mail box and garbage can with assorted corporate crap?

That's ok. I already know the answer to that question.

Guinness Printing


Guinness Printing Again 


Is Printing Destroying The Planet?

We all learned the lesson as kids. Don't waste paper. You're playing a part in the mass extermination of trees.This has long been taken as a rallying cry against the printing industry for wreaking havoc on the world's tree supply and for releasing untold chemicals into the water supply.

True. No?

Printers are the first to admit that when the industry burst into existence, people weren't giving renewable resources a great deal of thought. Even as a child, I remember roadsides being used as perpetual trash bins, though the situation is far less acute in most places today, Because, en masse, people today are more sensitive to the issue of environmental degradation, and printers are too.

Printing companies today are by and large responsible stewards, but the question remains, can an industry such as printing change it's reputation? As Richard Romano pointed out in an editorial in PRINTCEO, the print industry is working its collective butt off to develop technologies, best practices and strategies which make sure that resources are used as carefully and cleanly as possible.

Printing is never going to be described as antiseptic, but neither is any media or technology. Kindles don't emerge from pumpkin patches and Twitters don't land in one from out of the sky.

Everything that's manufactured has a carbon footprint of some sort.

The sole difference between the printing industry and other media is that the printing industry has been called out on it's negative environmental impact, while the impact of assorted other media forms is just beginning to be known. As Romano put it, "we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that pixels are somehow pure and holy and that paper is the spawn of satan."

But in a sense, this disparity has been a positive one for the printing industry. Printers have been intensely focused on improving the aspects of their business that they need to get better at, while assorted other media stick their heads in the sand and allow printing companies to take all the heat. This disparity doesn't show any signs of weakening, even though printers have stiffened their resolve.

But will printing ever be able to escape the stigma of being harmful to the environment?

It seems that as long as there are perpetual busy bodies and fret mongers, there will be hostility to anything which comes from nature. But perhaps there's some wisdom to be gleaned from the childhood teacher admonishments to not WASTE paper rather than not to use it at all. After all, nobody with any sense in their head actually cleans their plate with the idea that children are starving in China.


3D printing. The possibilities are kinda, sorta endless.

On the one hand, the advent of 3D printing is a little overhyped. It's not as though there's a personal 3D printer out there that can readily spit out anything your heart desires as though you're a futuristic George Jetson clone... yet. But the applications, for anyone who's made of money and in possession of various materials in abundance, are pretty much wide open.

There's a little movement in regards to home use, but the real action, thus far, is in the various applications of this on the industrial side. We're in early days, to be certain, but there's no shortage of players seeking to take part in the space. A Chinese company just produced and erected ten homes using a 3D printer. Disney researchers printed a teddy bear and medical researchers are moving closer to the ability to print human organs.

It's somewhat mind boggling, really. From airplane builders to auto manufacturers, everyone with money and vision is utilizing the technology to build protoypes, save money and speed up production. But what about home use? A recent survey indicated that a home 3D printer is something that one in three people would buy in 2014, but one really has to wonder if the limited variety of designs and materials at present would make it worthwhile. It seems that people are quite smitten with the idea of home 3D printing, even if the reality of it still lags a bit behind.

But in between the monoliths of industry and the home user, there's an opportunity for printers such as Hotcards to basically serve as middle men by purchasing commercial grade printers and doing customized work for the likes of Joe and Sally down the block. There may be no need for your neighbors to plunk down a few thousand dollars for a printer to print out a handful of customized plastic pens, for instance, but that's what printing companies are for. And they'll be able to do such at a much cheaper price than previously.

The commercial implications are all too obvious with 3D printing, and as the technology advances, it's not a remote fantasy that one day people will be able to make a rubber ducky for the bathtub after printing out a replacement for a missing knob on their coffee machine, but that's still off in the future. For now, 3D printing is a plaything for deep pocketed businesses, and still kind of an idle fantasy for the guy next door.

3D Printed Ball 

Eco-friendly Direct Mail Printing

As the printing industry increasingly pushes into environmentally conscious territory, a glaring issue remains in how to tackle direct mail printing.

A study fostered by UK firm CC Fat Map appears to provide the answers - as they polled a demographically representative number of UK citizens on the matter. It seems that 46% of respondents are of the mind that unpersonalized printed matter such as leaflets, coupons and samples are egregious affronts to the environment, compared to 20% of respondents taking a similarly dim view of personalized direct mail.

Direct Mail Printing 

It also appears that people are likely to perceive shoddily printed black & white brochures, leaflets, and flyers as 'junk' as opposed to well-designed, professional full color printing.

So, essentially, if an advertiser puts forth the effort to design a nice full color piece and has it sorted, addressed and targeted by direct-mail specialists, it runs a far lesser risk of being perceived as 'junk' which is gratuitously harmful to the environment...

Perhaps a notice on the piece that illuminates people as to your company's green policies or a note that the piece was printed by a green printer could alleviate people's concerns right from the start.

 Direct Mail Flyers

Don't need a business card? How about a calling card?

I remember my first business card. Being subterranean pond scum somewhere beneath the actual totem pole of success did in fact still provide a way for girls you met at a bar to communicate with you (at work), even when client contact was still rarer than sasquatch sightings. It kind of makes you wonder: What on earth do people who live on this planet, but are not among those designated to be worthy of business cards supposed to do when they need to disseminate semi-personal information? The old writing stuff on the back of a napkin or receipt gambit just screams low rent at the top of your voice.

Hence calling card printing. It's cheap, classy as all get out, and anyone can do it. Professional printing services ain't just for businesses anymore.

Originally popular in the 1700's, people would request a visit by leaving a calling or visiting card at your door. And to show that you were amenable to a visit, you'd likewise leave a card at theirs. A lovely, if passive, way to keep in touch with people. Kind of slow motion texting, long before such existed.

Unlike texting, though. Calling card printing leaves an impression. High quality card stock and embossed printing is a pleasant sensation to feel on your hands. Plus, it's more personal. A number gotten off the back of a napkin can be dialed and then forgotten, but a card suggests that you're interested in engaging with someone.

These days, all kinds of people are using calling cards to build new relationships.

• Bar and club goers use calling cards as a classy pick-up tool.

• Parents use calling cards to organize play dates for their children.

• Travelers use calling cards to stay in touch with friends they meet on the road.

• People attending large events use calling cards as an informal way to make an impression on acquaintances, or to reconnect with old friends.

Back when calling cards were at the peak of their use, there wasn't much in the way of information on them. Name, and perhaps a coat of arms. And they were generally business card sized or a bit larger.

You could put everything under the sun on modern day calling card printing, they're a great way to impart minimal information as well. Name and email address with some design-y element would work just fine. Something that's subtle and low key.

It isn't the 1700's anymore, but the idea behind the calling card and the etiquette of relationship-building hasn't changed. A calling card basically says that you'd like to hang out, but if the other person doesn't, that's no big deal. It's a perfect low pressure deal.

That's probably why calling card printing is coming back in such a big way. It's tasteful networking, without offering up the potential for any awkward moments.

Why Political Printing is a More Effective Advertising Tool Than The Web

The internet is essentially a highly-developed library, where access to any and all information is readily at hand to anyone who can be bothered to look for it. It's truly a wonder. But look closer, and the web is essentially a series of sophisticated algorithms predicated on the delivery of advertising messages. In fact, there's such a glut of advertising that people have learned to tune it out. I mean, quick, name a banner ad that has stuck in your memory? You probably can't. And you're not alone. It would take something just short of a miracle for an online ad message to stand out, let alone stick.

By contrast, print campaigns are generally delivered right to the customer by way of direct mail or other means. When you employ post cards, flyers or other means of print promotion, you're delivering your sales message directly to your potential customer. And if the piece is well-designed, you'll have at least a few seconds to make an impact. This can't be said of the web, where you typically have to make an active choice to leave the site where you're at and click for more information. It's essentially like running across the street to a neighbor's house every five minutes to borrow a cup of sugar.

Also, for all the eyeballs that a web ad can attract, you have no earthly idea where the people are coming from. If you're advertising on a Los Angeles-based website, do you really give a damn if someone from Dubuque, Iowa has read your message? Not likely. Various means of print promotion are more finely targeted. You place a direct mail piece or flyer in the mail, and they go specifically where you want them to. Easy.

Political Printing Flyers

So, essentially, your costs with printing are more predictable and your results are more quantifiable. With the web, you have to throw a lot more money at it to hone in on what's effective for you. A lot of trial and error is in the offing. But print is a tried and true vehicle for imparting and receiving a winning message. Especially now that everyone is desensitized to online ads. 

Political Printing Buttons 

FSC Certified and Recycled Paper - Which is Better to Use?

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.

3 Reasons Print is a More Effective Advertising Medium Than the Web

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.

Don't Forget Graphic Design Fundementals

One designers take on the current state of graphic design and the common shortcomings of many new designers.

I’m going to start this by giving the definition of Fundamentals:

Forming or serving as an essential component of a system or structure

Notice, if you will, the word ESSENTIAL. In relation to the design and print world, you can not achieve a printed piece without the essentials... unless of course you just get lucky.

Interview With Your Friendly Neighborhood Print Blogger on M-Bossed

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.

Printing Commemorative Tickets

A great promotional tool for any type of event.

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.

Polaroid is Back!

Another victory for tactile technology.

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.

The Truth About Social Media Advertising

…and other urban legends…

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.

Positively Print: The Print Campaign to End All Print Campaigns!

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."

Print Industry Calls it Quits Days Before iPad Takeover

We surrender! CEOs come out with their hands up.

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."

Friday Print/Design Roundup - March 26, 2010

Posters! Poetry! iPads?

It's Friday! Here's a roundup of some of the week's best, worst, and wackiest print and print design news from around the web!

Fake Storefront Printing!

Using jumbo print ads to combat the recession.

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.

"Power of Print" Campaign Seems to Question its Own Message

Magazines, you're making a scene…

"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.

Oberlin Plant Shutdown Sets Tone for Print Industry

And it's not pretty.

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.

Saints Super Bowl Win Good News for Printers

Sorry, Colts fans! Try to understand!

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.

Catalogue Printing for Online Business

A calculated risk.

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 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?

Adobe Pulling Out of the Print Game?

Don't go Adobe, I'll change!

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.

What Has the Last Decade Taught Us About Print?

That it needs to get to the point!

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.

Is Desktop Printing a Hopeless Technology?

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.

The Care and Feeding of Your Small Commercial Printer

A Happy New Year of Desktop Publishing

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.

Buying White Space

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.

The Gift of Printing, Part 2

Unique holiday goodies at your printer's!

Today, our printing gift list continues with some of the most one-of-a-kind gifts money can buy, at prices that fit a recession-conscious holiday season.

Graphic Design

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.

Hang Tags

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.

CD and DVD Covers

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.

Business cards

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.

For Business Owners

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!

This Holiday Season, Give the Gift of Printing

A truly unique offering.

The last few weeks of pre-Christmas craziness are upon us. And at this time of year, we often ask ourselves: what do I get for someone who has everything?

Ever considered printing?

It might sound like an unusual gift, but that’s exactly what makes it so special. Here’s a list of ten great printing gifts you can get for that hard-to-please loved one this holiday season:

A vehicle wrap

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.


Kids love stickers. So do all of us who are young at heart. You might not want to give 1000 as a gift, but have sticker printing done, and cover all your stocking stuffers in one fell swoop.

Greeting Cards

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.

Comp Cards

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!

Stay tuned for 1 - 5!

Newspapers Still Betting on Print

"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.

Augmented Reality Business Cards

Goofy gimmick or wave of the future?

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):

Which Print Ads Should You Use For A Large Campaign?

You asked!

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!

Printing, Augmented Reality, and Hotcards on Printoolz!

We live in interesting times, folks.

What's the most exciting game-changer in the printing industry today?

Augmented reality!

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.

Very cool stuff.

We'll be talking a lot about augmented reality here on ye olde printing blog in the coming weeks, but for now head on over to the excellent Printoolz for a peek at a guest blog I wrote on the future of printing and augmented reality.

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?

Cavs Already Printing Tickets For Playoffs

Game on!

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.

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Print Promotions For Halloween

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.

Designing On-Point Direct Mail Part 2: Writing Great Copy

Contrary to popular belief, yelling doesn't work.

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.

Designing An On-Point Direct Mail Campaign

How to hit a bullseye every time.

What has a better ROI:

  • 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?

What Do People Want From Printers?

That is the question.

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?

Not deeply.

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.

Cairo Is For Printers

Less babble, more pics!

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:

Is The 'Death of Print' A Uniquely Western Construct?

And if so, then why?

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.

Platemaking from the Fringe

Print as sculpture; sculpture in print.

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:

Hotcards Goes to Cairo!

Ads of the World Edition

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...

Printing 411

Deep thoughts on printing.

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.

Time For (serious, budget-minded) Back-To-School Advertising

Recession-conscious print promotions.

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.

Walmart Launches Printing Services

A cold shiver runs up my spine…

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!"

Ha ha.

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.

Even Newer Design Idea of the Week!

The Album Cover Ad

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…

Printers Make Bankruptcy-Prone List

But what about our customers?

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?

The 10 Biggest No-Nos Committed by Printing Blogs Part 2

6 – 10 on the business blog burn chart.

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.

The 10 Biggest No-Nos Committed by Printing Blogs

(Without Actually Naming Names)

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:

Setting up a blog, posting once or twice, and then never posting again. This makes visitors wonder: is this place still in business?

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.

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.

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!

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.

New Design Idea of the Week!

The square business card.

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?

Running A Bad Printing Blog

10 Mega-Mistakes Most Printers Make

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 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)!

Prepare for the Impact of Print Promotion

Let your ISP know about impending traffic spikes.

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!

Is Technology Stealing Print's Soul?

Hey! That's a leading question…

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.

Print Industry Mind Map

Courtesy of M-Bossed

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.

What is a Marketing Communications Provider?

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.'

What exactly does this mean?

Accountability in Printing

Is it disappearing?

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.

Print/Design Posts of the Week – Swine Flu Edition

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.

Cool Piece of Printing History

From the Ministry of Type

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.

Print Services Need to Change, Not Fight, to Survive

"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.

CMYK Set to Drop One Color

Byebye magenta!

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."

Print / Design Posts of the Week 8

Best of the printer-fied web this week.

This week's offerings are the usual blend of print stuff, design stuff, and end-of-the-world type stuff...

How the Stimulus Plan Affects the Printing Industry

(Hint: it’s not. Not yet, anyway.)

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…

Printing Signs of the End Times

Goodbye Circuit City

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:

Does the Global Printing Community have any Value?

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?

Print Design Posts of the Week 6

This week in printing news…

This week's links are more about the design of the printing industry than print design per se. Printers are stressed, but at least we’re in the news!

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

Milk, and the Narrative Power of Print

Every sign tells a story.

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.

25 Random Things About

Since soooo many printers have been tagging us…

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.

Use Your Printer to Stay on Top

Guest blog on WAJC!

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!

Print Design Posts of the Week 5

Print Design Posts of the Week 5

We like the funny stuff.

Enjoy the best links about printing from around the internets this week!

Print Blog Great Example for News Publishers

Don't die, just adapt!

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?)

Great Quotes About Printing

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.


Ban On Digital Billboards in LA

Don’t Stop the Presses!

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.

Print Design Posts of the Week 4

Something special for the Print Junkies.

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!)

Float image:

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.

Float image:

Is There Anything You Won't Print? Yours Truly blogs on Printjunkies - a great community of printers!

Hilarious print shop videos made by a team with dangerous amounts of time on their hands, and pretty decent editing skills, too.

A list of great ads used to sci-fi movies to help explain the films' complex speculative plots, proving once again that print is an essential element of visual storytelling (Don't Stop the Presses!)

One Less Day For Direct Mail

USPS plans dramatic cuts.

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.

Print Takes Over the Web in Second Life

It's bizarro world!

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!

Giant Print Ads Tell the Story in Bolt Movie

Animated print campaigns, anyone?

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.

Personalized URLs – The Future of Direct Mail?

Great ROIs or empty hype?

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.

The End of Print? Not Quite Yet.


"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.

Greatest Printing Video Ever

Those machines are beasts!

Ever wonder what the printing industry was like in the U.S. waaaaaaaay back in the day? It was pretty different, as this 1947 video from the Internet Archive shows:

Does the Printing Industry Need a Bailout?

What do you think?

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.

The Printing Industry in 2009

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:

NYE Print Advertising That Stands Out, And Takes A Stand

This is what two-sided printing is all about.

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:

Celebrity Christmas Cards 2008

Design decisions of the rich and famous.

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.

Direct Mail Printing Appeals to Recession-Conscious Consumers

And it’s not bad for tight ad budgets, either!

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.

10 Ways Out of Work Designers Can Market Themselves Offline Part 2

The Hotcards list continues: 6 - 10

More shameless self-promotion techniques for creative risk-takers who know how to turn downtime into opportunity.

10 Ways Out of Work Designers Can Market Themselves Offline


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:

Big Business Converts to Color-Reduced Printing

Could this be the end of full color printing as we know it?

Unilever – a company that prints so many labels and so much packaging that it would make your head explode to take it all in – is in the process of making a major change to the way they print.

Using Project Rainbow – no, not the secret government project, a color harmonization program – the company plans to reduce the number of colors it uses on packaging and labels from over 100 to just six.

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…

The Glamorous World of Full Color Printing

And another guest post from yours truly on!

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.

Motrin Ad Mess Shows Power Of Social Media, Resiliency of Print

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.

Mass Printing of Fake NYT

A prank six months in the making.

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.


Ten Things To Do With Two Years Worth Of Election Campaign Printing

Don't throw it away, think creatively!

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?

Massive Full Color 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?

Don't Vote

November 4th, 2008

Vehicle Wrapping The NYC Subway System

It's History (Channel) in the making.

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.

Full Color Printing in the Paris Metro

La Vie Est Belle

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...

Vehicle Wrap Your Taxi Cab

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!

Olympic Hero Phelps Begins to Choose His Print Advertisers

Choose wisely, athletes! Print is forever.

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.

Olympic Print Advertising

Olympic Print Advertising

The Daring! The Drama! The Digital Age!

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.

Magazine and Booklet Printing

Hotcards welcomes you!

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.

Gang-Run Printing

Not actually run by gangs.

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.

What’s That Name Again?!

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

Flier Printing For The Ages

Archive of an era, or two, or three…

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.

Print Business Cards (and Everything Else) With

It's simple.

One of the new design interns at Hotcards created this video about printing business cards, and I thought it was so great that it deserved a spot up here on the blog. Enjoy!

Watch HotcardsTV on YouTube!

Get to know us a bit better (we're not robots!).

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:

New Obama Poster by Scott Hansen

Artists for Obama comes with a new message for a very different audience.

Although it’s still listed as “In Stock Soon,” 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.

Artists for Obama Progress by Hansen

Cool Print Media Product Ad

Popular viral video has its roots in print and print design.

Hidden away behind most great marketing campaigns, there’s a great printer. And hidden away behind every great printer, there’s a whole host of equipment and print media required to do the job.

But the people and equipment behind marketing campaigns don’t always get a lot of attention, which is probably what UK-based company Clustarack had in mind when they created this viral video:

Apparel Printing – For Your Head

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?

Any Questions?

Ask your printing and pre-press questions here.

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!

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Green Printing Paradoxes

...and Tom Fishburne’s wonderful Brand Camp

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:

Eco Claims Arms Race 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.

Honda’s Green Direct Mail Campaign

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.

Thanks to Freddy over at Advertising/Design Goodness for the cool link, which he found via the always fascinating Direct Daily.

"Direct Mail With Teeth"

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

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.

The Writers’ Strike is At An End!

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.

The Design Police

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.

Design Police Sticker Screenshot 1

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.

Design Police Sticker Screenshot 2

Political Print Design Echoes

Did Romney win thanks to an Obama print design?

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 “” 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.

The 10 Greatest Moments in Printing of 2007: 10 - 6

It's the most anticipated end-of-year list in the history of printing, at last!

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.

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="">Obama campaign, as I’ve mentioned a few times over the last year. Who would you elect the next President-by-design?

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!

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.

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.

Christmas Card 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?

Writer’s Strikewatch – The Visible and the Invisible

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.

Primaries, Holidays, Scheduled to Conflict

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.

Printing for Enviro-Conscious Events

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.

Green Printing, Sustainable Printing…

…call it what you want, it’s here to stay!

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.

Print Advertising on Video

Make a powerful visual statement, again and again.

The future of advertising may be online, but that doesn’t mean the end for print advertising. In fact, it just means that print campaigns will be able to reach that many more viewers!

Design Idea of the Week

Check it out!

The Design Idea of the Week is just one of the great new features on the Hotcards site.

Hot on the Campaign Printing Trail

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!

Print Advertising for the Fourth of July

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!

Successful Print Campaigns Start Here

Think that choosing a printer comes at the end of the print design process? Think again!

Every day at Hotcards, we deal with customers that have the same problem. They’ve got a great print design or concept, but it can’t be implemented because it wasn’t actually designed for printing.

Print Advertising Your Ebusiness

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…

100% Made in America Printing

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.

Hotcards is in Ohio’s Top 100

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.

The Future of the Printing Industry

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!

Why Choose Full Color Printing?

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.

Obama ’08 Campaign Printing Tips

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.

Signs for Climate Change

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!

Don’t Waste the Power of Print on Boring Campaign Ads

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.

Print Advertising: Simple, Effective, Irreplaceable

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.

Functionality in Print Design

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.