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Secret sauce bottles for logo, branding and website design with a Big MacYears ago McDonald’s launched a product that defined their brand, the Big Mac. At it’s core, the new burger wasn’t anything new, since it is basically a double cheeseburger. It’s the special sauce that sets it apart from the competition. After all, we can all recite the jingle from memory years after the fact. “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” The food industry has been using “family recipes,” “secret ingredients,” and “special sauces” to differentiate their products in an over-saturated market for decades with great success. Why not take that same model and define your own secret sauce for your industry?

The Family Recipe

A secret sauce by nature should be something that only a few know, while many people have experienced it. Consumers love a good mystery, and they will continue to buy your products or services to try and reveal the magic behind your secret sauce. In the case of McDonald’s we’ve all mixed ketchup and mayonnaise together to recreate their special sauce yet the Big Mac is still just as popular as when it was introduced nationally in 1967. A secret family recipe adds a level of comfort to a brand. There’s a sense of love and trust embedded in the idea that’s been passed from generation to generation, and it shows a commitment to the quality of your product or service. You’re brand is defined by the feeling that your end-user gets from interacting with your product or services, and a secret sauce puts them on the inside of the circle of trust.

The Key Ingredients

To define your secret sauce you need to examine 3 key factors — your customers/partners, your competitors and your processes. Begin by talking to your end-users and any partners who interact with your brand. How do they view your products or services? Why do they come back to you? Often you’ll find that it isn’t your core service that keeps customers from coming back, especially since most industries have multiple choices for purchasing products and services. In the case of Walmart, you might immediately assume that low prices are the reason for customer loyalty when in fact it is the convenience of grocery, pharmacy, household and even a doctor under 1 roof that keeps many consumers coming back. If they add apartments into the mix, customers would never have to leave the Walmart compound.

You’ll also want to take a close look at your direct competitors. What are they doing that’s similar to you? How are they different? And most importantly, how do they view you? It’s okay to do what your competition does, but find a way to dress it up with your own secret sauce. Target has taken the same approach to the one-stop shop just like Walmart, however Target features top fashion and furniture designers that you would see at high-end department stores. Target’s secret sauce is “life-style within budget.” Consumers view Target as a higher-end big box retailer despite the fact that they sell much of the same products as Walmart for the same price. Often the consumers perception of your brand can be greatly influenced by your secret sauce.

Next you’ll want to take a look at you’re internal processes in respect to your target market and your competition. Do you have a unique way of presenting your products? Is their a process that you consistently go through that is unique to your business? For example, Google developed an algorithm to rank websites based on content as well as popularity which has made them the #1 search engine on the web. Google openly talks about the results that their algorithm gets, and the fact that it is an algorithm, however, they don’t reveal what the algorithm is. If they did, then they would probably not be on top. Your secret sauce can be anything related to your business, but it should become the core of how you differentiate yourself from your competition.

Add to taste

So, now you’ve found your secret sauce, but how do you use it? Take your idea and boil it down to the simplest terms. If you’ve come up with a revolutionary new sandwich, what makes it so different? It’s the sauce made by mixing ketchup and mayonnaise together rather than two separate spreads. In the simplest of terms “special sauce.” Less complex is better.

The next step is to figure out how your process solves your target market’s pains. For example, color strategy is an area that’s confusing and full of misinformation, and most decisions unfortunately are based on personal opinion. My secret sauce involves a process that reveals the strategy behind brand color in simple visual terms, which eliminates any preconceived notions of what colors mean and more importantly eliminates the urge to make a decision based on personal opinion. In simplest terms, we create “color harmony.” If you can relate your secret sauce to solving a problem for your client then you’ll immediately begin building trust and showing your expertise.

Remember you’re taking your process, and making it marketable. Don’t reveal what your secret sauce is, only what it does. Think of it like a magic trick. We know it’s a trick, what it involves and we often try to figure it out. If someone shows us how to do the trick then it loses its power. It’s the mystery of trick itself that we’re attracted to. Likewise, your secret sauce should sell the results of your unique process as well as the mystery of how it works.

Every company has a secret sauce. Discover it, and make it a key ingredient in your recipe to success.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook.

A few weeks ago, a stream of tweets went out within my network about LogoGarden, the latest cheap logo design DIY site to pop up on the internet. What really drew my attention is the fact that many well-known graphic designers were finding logos that they had designed for sell on the site as icons. While the poaching of logos isn’t something new, the audacity with which LogoGarden repurposed some of the best examples of logo design from some of the most respected designers in the niche is. I spent a few hours thoroughly searching the site to make sure that none of my work had been stolen, and I was fortunate enough that it wasn’t. However, many of my friends, heroes and some of both weren’t so lucky. Jeff Fisher of Jeff Fisher Logomotives documented on his blog 20 of his creations that were being sold on the site as LogoGarden originals.

It’s disheartening to discover that John Williams, the founder of LogoGarden, is supposedly a leading logo design expert, who served as Entrepreneur.com’s branding columnist for five years. If he’s truly an expert then he would have a deep understanding of the strategy and client collaboration involved in developing a successful logo. Williams doesn’t even demonstrate a basic understanding of the keys to effective logo design — flexilibity, memorability, differentiation and timelessness. How do you differentiate yourself when you give everyone the same off-the-shelf options for their logos pared with a handful of fonts that aren’t designed with the logomark in mind? If Williams is an expert on logo design because he’s found a way to capitalize on other people’s creations, then I can honestly say that I’m an expert on fashion design in that I’ve sold used clothes in a garage sale. He is, in fact, an expert in finding a vulnerable market and exploiting the consumers and workers for his own profit.

The design community has done an excellent job of bringing the debacle to the attention of fellow designers, but we really need to spread the word to the client base of LogoGarden to discredit the founder, John Williams. I’ve taken time to search out any articles that John Williams has written for small business owners and start ups, and I’ve left comments warning readers about the dangers of LogoGarden. Many business owners may not be aware of the legalities associated with logo trademarks, and the best thing for us to do as designers is to educate them.

I also sent an email to John Williams through the LogoGarden site, and I was surprised when I received a response. Here’s his response in it’s entirety which looks to be a canned response sent to several designers.

“First, I appreciate you bringing this to my attention. To build our vast symbol library, LogoGarden.com contracts with designers nationwide and from around the world. Many of the symbols in question came from a small number of these designers.

If any of these symbols do indeed violate copyright laws, our policy is to extract them from our online symbol library immediately and to terminate contracts with the designers who submitted them. As a business practice, all the designers we contracted with signed a “work for hire” contract that guaranteed their work would be original.

Given the library’s size, although we do our best to ensure originality of our artwork, we can’t catch everything. And while sometimes a design conflict may be obvious, other times it’s a judgment call. We do our best.

We ourselves have issues with our logo symbols being copied, so we appreciate your concern and vigilance. In the future, if you find any symbols that you feel violate artwork you’ve designed and copyrighted personally, let us know.

Thanks for your understanding,

John Williams,

President, LogoGarden.com”

While I give him a little bit of credit for responding, I don’t agree with most of the email. In particular, I don’t see much evidence that the staff of LogoGarden scans any of the logomarks for copyright infringement. I understand that Williams and his staff can’t possibly know every logo design that is trademarked, but I do find it revealing that the World Wildlife Fund panda and the Time Warner eye are included as options. Both logomarks are highly recognizable inside and outside the industries that they represent. Also, the fact that they have their logos copied is laughable at best. Does that make those a third generation copy?

The response only opened further questions for me. Who is qualifying the logo designers that Williams is using? As I business owner, I know I wouldn’t just hire anyone because they can produce what I’m selling. Interviewing, references and a resume would be only a few of the crucial steps I would use to hire designers to represent my business. What happens to the stolen property that’s been sold through the site? While it’s great that he’s removing the copyrighted material, LogoGarden should also be responsible for contacting any businesses that have purchased the stolen material offering a full refund, and taking care of any legal fees associated with the use of the trademarked property for both the purchaser and the designer that created the original work. I would also question how upfront LogoGarden is about the fact that business owners won’t be able to protect themselves with a trademark from their DIY logo creation. Many of the icons are listed in multiple categories, and from what I can tell are not removed when a client purchases that symbol. To put this into perspective, your logo will not be unique. Hundreds of other companies can use the same icon for their company, and hundreds of companies will. Instead it looks like LogoGarden maintains the copyright to your icon, which is not how you want to start your business.

DIY logo sites sound like a great idea for the start-up business on the shoestring budget, especially with costs as low as $79, but the cost to effectively use a poorly designed logo backed by no strategy can put a company out of business in the long run. It’s important to realize that a logo is an investment in the long-term health of your overall brand rather than an item you check off of your brand grocery list. Working with a designer to develop a logo to take you through the first 5-10 years of your company’s life has a much higher value at a much lower cost.

The best thing that we can do as designers is educate our clients and prospects on the dangers of sites like LogoGarden, and to continue making as much noise about the issue as we can in the most professional way.

Other Posts Regarding LogoGarden (via Jeff Fisher)

The perils of do-it-yourself logo makers; The Logo Factor Design Blog – by Steve Douglas of The Logo Factory [08.15.11]

Thoughts on the Logo Garden controversy; by Dani Nordin [08.15.11]

Logo Garden Sells Logos it doesn’t Own; In Brief: August Miscellany – Brand New [08.15.11]

DIY, Crowd Sourcing or Piracy – You be the Judge; Drawing Conclusions – Prejean Creative [08.15.11]

Grand Theft Logo; Northwest Indiana Creative – by Judith Mayer of Keyword Design [08.16.11]

WWF panda for just $69; by David Airey of Logo Design Love [08.16.11]

LogoGarden Should Be Plowed Under; Drawing Conclusions – Prejean Creative [08.16.11]

More Logo Thievery; by Scott Lewis of Iconify.it [08.16.11]

How low can they go?; by Cathy Fishel, LogoLounge.com [08.17.11]

What is the liability of using stolen property for your business?; You get the idea, by Roland Murillo of Murillo Design [08.17.11]

Charlatan, Huckster, Moron, Thief!; Love Thy Logo, by Bill Gardner, RockPaperInk [08.18.11]

How to get your logos removed from LogoGarden.com; Drawing Conclusions, by Brent Pelloquin of Prejean Creative [08.18.11]

Logo Garden’s bitter harvest; The Logo Factor Design Blog – by Steve Douglas of The Logo Factory [08.18.11]

AIGA ACTION ALERT: Check LogoGarden for identity work stolen from you; from Richard Grefé, AIGA Executive Director, AIGA [08.19.11]

LogoGarden Responds Regarding Stolen Logos; by Scott Lewis of Iconify.it [08.19.11]

The Rape of the Bear Logo; by Sean Adams, Burning Settlers Cabin [08.19.11]

Dubious Mother F****r Stealing Other People’s Logo Work and Reselling It; The Denver Egotist [08.19.11]

Official response from LogoGarden.com; Drawing Conclusions, by Brent Pelloquin of Prejean Creative [08.19.11]

Logo Design Trend: Blatant Fraud; ohTwentyone [08.19.11]

AIGA Launches Action Alert for Design Theft by ‘Logo Garden’ Site; by Steve Delahoyde of UnBeige [08.22.11]

Graphic Artists Guild: Advocacy Alerts: LogoGarden.com may be infringing your work.; Graphic Artists Guild [08.22.11]

Leggo My Logo; by Jaci Russo of The Russo Group [08.23.11]

LogoGarden: Copyright and Do-It-Yourself Logos; by Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today (PT) [08.25.11]

LogoGate 2011; by Von Glitschka, Drawsigner [08.26.11]

For part 2 of my interview with Jeni Herberger we talk about creativity, public speaking, and we even talk a little shit. Don’t forget to check out part one.

What was the impetus behind you becoming a more prominent public speaker particular with HOW and AIGA?

It was quite accidental. I get a high or rise out of feeling other people’s energy shift from being negative to being positive, or to see them overcome fears. Fears that I don’t really have. Or to see them be hopeful about something maybe they weren’t ever hopeful about. I can literally feel the charge in a room change when I’m talking about something.

I’ve done it in different arenas throughout my life. When I was a very young adult it was for my family. Making a difference for my family. In front of people that I worked with as a photographer and creative director. And then when my company got big, as far as employees are concerned, it was about making differences in their lives. About feeling that charge, that energy for my clients, too. I’ve always enjoyed it.

And then, somebody said, “Why don’t you talk about it?”

What would you say is the hardest presentation you’ve had to get through and why?

The very first time that I had to give a client presentation, not a speaking presentation, but a client presentation. My partner couldn’t make it, so I just went and did it by myself. I walked in to this very, very corporate office. You’ve seen how I dress. I dress pretty stylishly and not very much like a designer. (laughs) I walk into this corporate office. I’m like “Okay, this is going to go great! This is going to go great!” I look into the room, and it is a boardroom of about I’d say 18-20 men all wearing blue suits, red ties and white shirts. And they’re all at least 45, 50 years old and up. And I literally thought to myself “Oh shit! This is going to be horrible. They are going to slaughter me.” I’m this little girl, all by myself going to give this presentation. So, I walk into the room, and nobody stood up. So, I just stood there. And finally, the CEO goes, “Well, why don’t you have a seat.”

I said, “Well, a lady just entered the room, and not one gentleman stood up. So, I’ll wait until ya’ll decide to do that.”

That’s awesome!

And so at that moment, everything broke and I put myself on equal footing with them. (laughs) I figured if I could tackle that one I could pretty much tackle anything, right?

So, did the presentation end up going well after that?

Oh yeah. We totally won it, and it was awesome. It was great, but I knew that those guys were going to eat me alive. I knew that they were instantly going to take off on a very chauvinistic approach, and I was like “Yeah, this isn’t going to happen.” So, instead of balking and rebelling against being a woman I just totally played into it. (laughs) It was a lot of fun. It’s one of my favorite stories I think to this day.

Tell me a little bit about you’re companies.

I actually own five companies. Because you’re required to box all of these into separate entities, right? But what’s really, really funny about it is the only one that I would consider to be a business in the traditional sense of the word is Big Fish Staffing.

And you know, that was an amazing adventure. An adventure that really brought me to the place that I am today both financially and just in how it is that I go about doing what it is that I do. It was tremendously successful, which is awesome, because it’s afforded me the opportunity to do what I’m doing right now. It’s become a bit of a ministry for me for lack of another word. To where I don’t have to worry about whether I’m making a zillion dollars when I’m out talking to people. I truly get to be a human advocate. You know, a minister, call it whatever it is that you want to call it.

Jeni Herberger Logo

And then, the whole branding yourself is always a very interesting thing. I’m not branding a design firm. I am literally branding me, and that’s a trip and a half to brand yourself. Because it can have a tendency to be a bit on the egotistical side, and you’re like “Whoa, whoa, whoa! I am not quite that egotistical. We gotta humble this thing out a bit.” So, that’s [Jeni Herberger Creative Concepts] another business venture if you will.

And then, we have an avocado farm in Hawaii which is just weird.

That’s not weird.

Well, how many people do you know that have avocado farms? (laughs)

Apparently just one, but I love avocados. So I wouldn’t consider that weird at all. I could see myself having an avocado farm just to be able to eat my product.

(laughs) There you go! We actually yield about 6000 pounds of avocados a year, and it’s so bizarre to literally have the luxury, if you will, to throw avocados away. When you buy them over here on the mainland you spend two and half to three bucks for an avocado, and it tastes like crap in comparison to what comes off of our farm. It’s an organic farm. It’s just so amazing. So, that’s just another business, crazy side venture that we have. We make like $3000 off of it a year. It’s awesome!

Have you had to learn a lot about farming or did you know a lot ahead of time?

I had to learn a lot of it, although what was so funny about it was, the first house that we looked at over there was a coffee farm. And we decided that that wasn’t for us. We didn’t like the location as much. So, then when we started looking around, and we actually found this avocado farm. I started laughing my ass off when we seriously considered doing that, because my dad and his dad were the first people to ever put an avocado on an airplane.

So, back in the day, in San Bernardino County my dad and his dad and my dad’s brother owned Herberger & Sons which was an avocado processing business where they transported them. And they had a crazy idea of putting gourmet avocados on a plane, and sending them to the east coast. Nobody had ever done that before. And so, avocados are in the blood. So hilarious when I bought this farm. I called my dad and I’m like “Oh my god, dad. I’m going back to our roots.” And I never even grew up on an avocado farm.

Give people the space to be creative in the way that they wantThere’s nothing better than seeing your husband who grew up in Spokane, Washington and had never done anything like that with a pickup truck full of chicken shit. And he’s spreading it around 80 trees. (laughs)

But see that’s when you get back to what you’re talking about and creativity. That’s a creative life. And I think that’s something that we can all pull into. What we have to be able to do, is we have to be able to give people the space to be creative in the way that they want to be creative.

Who’s been the biggest influence in your life, particularly who influenced you to go the route that you did?

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, my dad, and right next to him my mom, because they’re so connected as a couple. I grew up in an all male family, meaning I have all brothers. And my parents were pretty traditional, but they had one of the first marriages I’ve ever seen that was truly a partnership where it wasn’t about roles. It was about getting it done. And my dad realized very early on that I had a pretty good head on my shoulders, and not only that (laughs) he called me a hustler. I’d go after things. And so simply because I didn’t have a penis that did not matter to my father. He pushed me in the most loving and wonderful ways, yet always expected me to act like a lady. He didn’t ever want me to change that aspect, but he wanted me to be able to conquer the world however I saw fit.

And right next to him was always, always my mom with that big smile on her face going “Yep! You can do it. You can do anything you want to do.”

Do you find that you have that same influence on your kids?

I hope so! I think so. It’s always hard when you’re in the moment when you’re with you’re kids, because you sit there and you go “Oh my god, do they really love me? Do they really know everything that I’m doing for them and how hard I’m trying.” You know, being in it is very, very difficult. I think the joy comes once you’re outside of it, and you get to look back. And you get to go “Oh thank god they are well-adjusted!” (laughs)

If you’d like to find out more about Jeni visit  jeniherberger.com, or follow on twitter @jeniherberger. And be sure to tune in to Talk Story to hear her do the interviewing!

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

Part 6 of The Paper Cuts SeriesThe Standard 4 and A Field Guide to Folding

Though the design industry has changed in many ways just since the 90′s, printing is still a thriving and vibrant source for connecting with consumers, and paper is the key. For this series, I’ve interviewed some of the best printers, paper reps, and designers to give their insights into how paper can strengthen your brand.

If you attended the HOW Conference in Denver last year then you may be familiar with Trish Witkowski from her packed session which launched “The Standard 4″ from Sappi. In case you aren’t familiar, she’s all about folding. Prepare to have your mind folded in ways that you never thought possible.

Tell us a little bit about your background

I did my undergraduate work in graphic design, and worked full-time as a designer while I went for my master’s degree in printing from RIT. In studying design and print, I started to see the gaps in the resources available to the industry — resources that help the communication process between designers and printers. At the time, I had to come up with a thesis project, and one of the most nagging problems I was dealing with in my day job was the inconsistency of answers from printers with regard to what different folds were called (ex: accordion, z-fold, zig-zag, back and forth) and also how to set them up properly. So, I decided to research the topic. I defended an early version of what was to become my book FOLD: The Professional’s Guide to Folding to complete my degree, but spent another 5 years or so after that completing the research. That research in the book became the FOLDRite System, which is now a patented folding system that we use as a foundation for software that builds dynamic custom templates for folded materials. We launched foldfactory in 2002, but it was more of a proof of concept/demo site at the time. It has really been in the last 2-3 years that we have worked very hard to build the community and the video library and resources.

What first drew you to paper and specifically folding?

It’s amazing how a problem or minor interest can turn into passion. I really just wanted some definitive answers about nomenclature and file setup, and it’s become my full-time job, and something I really enjoy. I decided that if there was no resource for folding, I would build it myself. I’ve always seen the value in it, and I think others have started to see it, too.

How has the use of paper and folding changed over the course of your career, and what’s affected that role the most?

I think the technology of folding has improved, so we can do more, and produce it more efficiently. But I also think digital print and direct mail has had a huge impact on what people are doing — but these technologies provide an opportunity to do more and to get greater response from it. Variable data, PURLs, QR codes, all offer ways to enhance print and to create a two-way communication with an audience. Folding is a part of the process, but should be seen as a tool in the toolbox. A cool fold means nothing if the recipient doesn’t get the message and act on it. There should be careful thought and consideration for how the content is revealed and presented, and the fold can help or hinder that process.

Can paper define a brand? Can folding?

Hmmm… I’m going to say no. I think independently they would be limiting. If you decided that one fold was yours and all you’d ever do for any of your materials as your “signature” fold, I think that would be missing the point. Your information changes, and the folding style may need to change to best present that content. Paper might be a characteristic that would be part of a brand — if you always used a certain paper that is distinguishable, but I would say that if you always chose a quality paper, that would help define your brand, rather than a specific sheet. Paper colors and finishes can also come and go with trends, so I wouldn’t want to commit to one sheet and date myself. There’s also a necessary element of surprise in marketing — keep doing the same things and presenting them in the same way and your audience gets bored. Change the fold and the paper to keep things fresh.

Tell us a bit about the FOLDRite™ Template Master Software plug-in for InDesign.

FOLDRite™ Template Master is a plug-in for Adobe InDesign CS3 and CS4 (CS5 coming soon). It provides users with a quick and easy way to choose a folding style, customize it to their specific needs, and build production-ready InDesign folding templates instantly. Gate folds, roll folds, tri-folds, you name it. Template Master is the only dynamic, custom digital folding template creator for graphic arts professionals. With 85 folding styles to choose from, FOLDRite™ templates are mathematically adjusted for the folding process using industry-approved settings, and come complete with fold marks and panel cues in the slug area. Flash animated folding illustrations, the option to save presets, and useful educational information about each folding style helps designers to visualize, to stay on schedule, and on budget. You can get it at foldfactory.com

How soon should you talk to your printer and paper rep during a project cycle? What are the advantages to collaborating with both?

Talk to them early. They are part of the team — and should be considered as such. Remember that you have to rely on the expertise of others to truly get the best result. A paper rep can help recommend a sheet that will perform well, or price well and perform well, and can give you weight recommendations, paper dummies, and possibly introduce a few sheets you haven’t considered. Your printer and bindery can guide you into proper file setup, sizing and production issues, and can save you from design decisions that could make the job more difficult or expensive to produce, or on the flip side, they can help you push the limits of the medium and do something really exciting. They’ve done a lot of projects and techniques you haven’t seen, and they may have some ideas that could make your design even better.

What are some the latest folding trends designers/agencies are using?

I’m seeing a surge in interest in proprietary solutions. There’s some amazing patented and branded solutions that are available — Zcard, Popout Branding, solutions from Structural Graphics, SmartMail, there are too many to list. These types of companies can offer high impact solutions in a tidy package for direct mail. I’m also finding that there is a world of folding solutions that no one has seen before, but once they see them, they want to use them the potential is there. For the Sappi road show I’ve been on recently, Sappi chose to do a Twist Fold (see photo), and the response has been amazing. All sorts of requests and inquiries about that fold. So, I see a trend coming where people are starting to explore new things.

Sappi Road Tour Twist Fold

What’s one of the most innovative folds you’ve seen?

I love all my folds, they’re my babies, but if I have to call out an innovative solution, I’ll pick the Book Cube from Structural Graphics. It’s a direct mail solution that offers an exploding dimensional cube that flies in the air when you open it. Whenever I pass that around, it gets a huge response. Direct mail is all about response, memorability, and making a connection with the recipient.

Where do you get the samples for your “60-Second Super Cool Fold of the Week.” and how many different shirts do you have? (My favorite is “Are You Going To Fold That?”)

I’ve been collecting for a long time, so I have a huge sample library, but people send me folds from all over the world, which is really fun. Everyone thinks I’m going to run out of cool stuff to show, but I’m really just getting started. I just did my 77th Fold of the Week segment, and I create a new shirt for each episode. I keep thinking I’ll run out of ideas, but those keep coming, too.

By the way, we just launched a Folded Inspiration design competition — we’re looking for the best in folded solutions for print. 11 categories, prizes, and a chance to get into the Folded Inspiration book at the end. It’s cheap to enter, and it’s all for a good cause. To learn more and to enter: http://www.foldfactory.com/contest.php

In what ways does paper choice effect you’re folding options?

Paper choice is everything when it comes to folding. Some folds are more sculptural, requiring a stiff sheet, and if a sheet that is too light is chosen, it becomes a floppy mess. You can choose a weight that is too heavy and get wrinkles in the corner joints of the folds and other stress-related issues. I could actually write a pretty long response about this, because there are so many reasons why paper affects the quality of the fold — weight, paper grain direction, the overall experience, etc. There’s a lot to consider.

Which paper stock would you be and why?

I think I’d be Curious Papers — for two reasons. The name — I’m always asking questions and doing research to try to get to the bottom of things and provide resources for myself and for the industry. Secondly, because they’re tactile and colorful and a little bit showy. Unconventional. I’m a strange bird — bookwormish much of the time, but I also like an audience.

If print is dead, why was your session at The HOW Conference in June, so packed? Did I attend the session with zombie designers?

haha! I know — it was a great crowd. When I first entered that huge room I was a little bit worried — we had no idea if anyone was going to show up, and then they started coming, and they didn’t stop. We were almost at standing room. I think the other thing to note that night was that out of almost 700 people, nobody left. Somebody ALWAYS leaves. They were engaged and it felt magical. I find that the content is really fresh for people. There’s a lot of talk about branding, logo design, web design, etc., but folding is a new topic for people, and once they realize that they have options, it’s like a new world of creativity opens up. They’re bringing me back for 2011, so I hope to see you there!

foldfactory logoIf you’d like to find out more about Trish or Fold Factory visit  foldfactory.com. Signup to receive “The 60 Second Supercool Fold of the Week,” for a weekly dose of folding inspiration. Be sure to follow Trish on twitter @foldingfanatic, and become fans on facebook of Fold Factory. Finally, don’t forget to pick up a copy of “The Standard 4″ from Sappi to learn the real names of the folds you love to use.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve helped clients add a touchy, feely side to their brands with paper.

2010 Rewind books featuring the work of Creative SquallI thought with all of the year end wrap ups, best ofs and recaps that I’d join in on the fun and celebrate what has been an awesome year for Creative Squall. True it’s a little “pat yourself on the back,” but as my friend Jeff Fisher says “If you don’t toot your own horn, who will?” Honestly, while I’m proud of the achievements from 2010, I know that I couldn’t have done it without the great group of clients, friends, family and the inspiration that I get from the design industry that I’m happy to be a part of everyday.

I didn’t write the book on design, but I was fortunate enough to be included

This year marked the first year that I made a concerted effort to actually enter work into design competitions like the The Addy’s as well as submit work for publication. With the results, I’m not quite sure of why I waited almost 15 years to do so. Here’s the list in case you were wondering.

In addition, a wedding invitation design package was featured in May 2010 Issue of HOW magazine for the article titled “You’re Invited” on pg. 74 about paper selection for wedding invitation design. As a long time reader of HOW, I think this was the biggest moment for me all year. The same invitation design was featured on the Finch Paper blog, and appeared in 1000 More Greetings.

I had to draw the line somewhere

Mountain GoatsI completed the year long sketch of the day project in late July which helped me hone my drawing skills, let go of my need to polish everything and reminded me again of just how important music is in my life. If you aren’t familiar with the project, you can see what it’s about here and see what I spent an hour of my day on for over a year. I’ve just finished laying out the book version which includes some finished poster designs. You didn’t think I could let 366 sketches sit unpolished forever did you? I’m hoping to send the book to print in the next couple of weeks which will eventually be on sale at Blurb books. I’ll be posting more info soon.

Tweeting’s great, but talking’s better

I jumped on the Twitter wave in late 2009, and instantly made some great friendships — note I didn’t say connections. I had an opportunity at the HOW design conference in June to meet many of my Twitter friends in person for the first time. It really drove home how important it is to not only connect with people through social media, but make friends offline as well. Jamie Saunders from Neenah Paper has easily become one of my favorite people that I met this way. She introduced me to Jeni Herberger, Steve Gordon of RDQLUS Creative, Jeff Fisher of LogoMotives all of whom I have been following on Twitter and admiring their work for sometime. Jamie and Jeff were nice enough to drop some paper knowledge for “The Paper Cuts Series” on the Squall Line. Jeni and Steve are helping me out with my next blog project about creativity in non-traditional creative jobs which will be starting early next year. Don’t worry I’ll post details soon! But more importantly, I hope to meet many of you in person in 2011.

Next year will go to 11

From everything that I’ve seen and heard over the last few months, I think we’re all in for a big 2011. I hope to keep building on what started for me 2 years ago when I was laid off. So, pop open the champagne and join me in a toast.

Here’s to more awards, strong partnerships, and great friends — past, present and future.

Part 5 of The Paper Cuts Series

Neenah Paper BooksThough the design industry has changed in many ways just since the 90′s, printing is still a thriving and vibrant source for connecting with consumers, and paper is the key. For this series, I’ve interviewed some of the best printers, paper reps, and designers to give their insights into how paper can strengthen your brand.

I had an opportunity to talk with Jamie Saunders one of the most influential people in social media and the Marketing Communications Manager for Neenah Paper. She has mastered the art of promoting an analog product in a wholly digital medium. Her love of paper shows, and she let us tap into her wealth of knowledge to share with you.

Give us a little bit of background about yourself.

I am a wife of 9 years, mother of one beautiful little boy and a graduate of University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!). I have been with Neenah Paper for almost 5 years. As Marketing Communications Manager I am responsible for all internal and external communications for our Fine Paper division. I coordinate press releases, blog releases (which Matt Porter, our extremely talented independent writer pens), I am the voice of Neenah Paper’s Twitter and Facebook pages, our Paperworks contest coordinator and more! It’s busy but it’s a lot of fun!

What first drew (bad pun, I know) you to paper?

I have seriously always loved paper. My first obsession as a little girl was making sure that my presents stood out under the Christmas tree. I would make my mom take me to a fancy wrapping paper store and I would spend my allowance on fancy wrapping paper and bows for my gifts. I even made my own gift cards…So you could say, it started with Christmas and then eventually took over the rest of my life! In my day-to-day life, I try to write a note per day even if it’s just to my 5 year old son to say hi. There is nothing more special or heartwarming to me than a handwritten note.

How has the way you promote new Neenah products changed over your career, and what’s affected it the most? (internet, sustainability, on-demand digital printing, economic slowdown, “The Office”, etc.)

That’s an interesting question because so many of the things that you mentioned have changed the way that we, and others, think about paper. Certainly the surge of technology has affected our industry but we find ways to embrace technology in order to talk more about paper. The environment is a topic that is always hot. Neenah continues to develop and adopt new technologies in a commitment to produce our products in the most environmentally and technically advanced ways that are available. We just reached zero landfill at our mills — meaning any scrap or waste paper is recycled or used in a waste-to-energy program. How cool is that?

Social media seems to play a major part in Neenah’s marketing efforts. How do you go about selling a product that involves touch in a medium that doesn’t allow that kind interaction?

We originally adopted our social media program on a trial basis. We wanted to be the first paper company to use social media and we achieved that goal. It was rough at first because like you said, it involves a bit of touch to choose a paper but we knew that this is where our customers “live”. We had to be there. We found that you could talk about paper and make it fun, giving away promotions as prizes puts the pieces right into the hands of so many who may not receive it otherwise. I get to help people make decisions about what paper to use for a project. With our new website I am able to direct them to tools Neenah developed for our customers so they can work smarter and get what they need to get their project done. It’s been wonderful connecting with so many people who still have a love for paper!

In what ways can paper be used to define a brand, and can you think of a great example?

We believe strongly that premium companies choose premium paper products for their brands. We’re seeing our packaging line really taking off right now. Having a great looking business card, holiday card or annual report should be very important to a company’s image. We’re seeing a variety of papers for all types of applications ranging from linen textures to hand crafted aesthetic feel to matching their corporate colors. It wouldn’t be fair to pick one example, there are so many beautiful brands out there using premium papers to enhance the look of their products.

What’s the largest area of growth in the paper industry?

With the improved technology of digital printing, we’ve expanded our digital line of papers. Our new digital line up comprises papers from 12 premium brands in a wide range of colors, textures, and weights. To be specific, 29 colors, 13 textures and 12 weights. Most papers are available in five common digital sizes too. So many great things coming down the pipeline.

What are some common myths about paper that keep agencies/designers from specifying paper on print projects?

I’m not sure about myths but I would say that picking the paper as early on in the design process as possible, will really make your design pop upon completion. Paper choice is so much more important than some may realize. Using a beautiful paper can only enhance your project (and make your design look even better than you imagined!). We’re here to make you look good!

Neenah Paper 110% Promo CoverWhat’s the most amazing piece you’ve seen printed on Neenah Paper in the last year?

I think the most amazing piece I have seen printed on Neenah Paper in 2010 is the CLASSIC CREST 110% promotion designed by And Partners NY and printed at Hemlock Printers Ltd. It’s all about seeing solid ink on paper and I think it’s by far the most unique piece that I’ve seen in the market this year. The coverage will absolutely blow you away!

Tell me a little bit about Against the Grain, the Neenah Paper Blog.

We started the blog in June of 2009 so Matt Porter (mentioned above, our creative writer extraordinaire) could cover the HOW Conference 2009 in a thoughtful way.  He has such a beautiful writing style and a way with words.  While his writing was exceptional, we realized that we needed a more robust site to house it, one that really reflected Neenah Paper’s style. With our social media platform expanding every day, Rule29 understood that we needed a place to give our customers an experience that they could control. After a conversation with Justin Ahrens, of Rule29 we knew they understood our vision and we were not disappointed by the result. Love, love, love our new blog site! www.neenahpaperblog.com

How can someone find out about the line of papers that Neenah Paper offers?

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and be sure to visit our website www.neenahpaper.com

I know this is like asking a designer to pick a favorite color or font, but what’s your personal favorite paper stock and why?

I would have to say CLASSIC CREST. It prints so beautifully every time for any type of project. I think the name CLASSIC fits the brand so well.

I would consider myself anything from the French Paper line, because it’s more utilitarian, unassuming and a little rough around the edges. Which paper stock would you be and why?

I have to pick one and you picked a whole line!  That’s a great question, I think CLASSIC Linen Papers are probably my best fit with their tag line “Sensible Luxury”. I love fashion and I feel like everyone should try to look their best everyday but you don’t have to spend a fortune to do it! Mixing in the fancy pearl papers with standards makes for a finished product that you can’t help but love.

HOW (pun intended) do you continue to throw such great parties at the HOW conference year after year?

I have to give props here to Tom Wright, our Sr. Director of Advertising and Promotions and Kristin Carpenter, our Design Manager for the work they do on the HOW Conference. I, like you, am just a lucky participant in all of the good fun.

Neenah Paper LogoIf you’d like to find out more about Neenah Paper visit their newly revamped site  neenahpaper.com. The site is not only a great resource for all of the Neenah Paper lines, but it also has lots of helpful tools, dielines and apps to make the process from concept to completion much easier. Be sure to follow Jamie on twitter @NeenahPaper, and become fans on facebook of NeenahPaper. For the latest paper and design articles check out their blog Against the Grain.

Check back next month when we talk folding with Trish Witkowski of Fold Factory for Part 6 in The Paper Cuts Series.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve helped clients add a touchy, feely side to their brands with paper.

Part 4 of The Paper Cuts Series

Though the design industry has changed in many ways just since the 90′s, printing is still a thriving and vibrant source for connecting with consumers, and paper is the key. For this series, I’ve interviewed some of the best printers, paper reps, and designers to give their insights into how paper can strengthen your brand.

Rick Dobbs, yes we’re related, of Unreal shares his paper experience as a packaging designer and sheds some light on how important paper selection can be for product packaging. So, crack open a cold one (Lazy Magnolia if you got it) and learn how to think about the box.

Give us a little background about yourself.

I’ve been a “professional” designer for ten years. My first job was a designer in advertising at MGM-Mirage’s Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. I left Beau Rivage as an art director after almost five years there to take a designer/art director spot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at the design firm Xdesign. After two years at Xdesign I made the leap to go solo with Unreal. That was in October of 2006 so Unreal is almost four years old.

What first drew you to graphic design and specifically packaging?

I was a fine art major (painting) and got to talking to some design students in one of my painting classes. The concept of “commercial” art as a career while at the same time being able to paint on the side sounded very appealing — although I rarely am able to find the time to paint these days.

The packaging industry was not an intentional target at first for Unreal. After landing my brewery client, Lazy Magnolia, the other packaging work began to fall in my lap.

How do you use your printer and paper rep in the development of a packaging project?

We are wrapping up a direct mail packaging project for a large industrial client of mine at the moment. My printer and finisher have been most essential every step of the way in planning and execution — from stock and process recommendations to box construction and coatings.

My beverage packaging projects do not really require much dialogue with printers and paper reps on the front end. This being because label and carrier stock and processes are almost universal. I design to either CMYK or spot specs within the chosen vendor die templates and we are good to go.

How does paper impact your design process?

Paper impacts my design process from the very start. Color field and imagery selection depends heavily on whether or not you will be using coated or uncoated stock, cover or text weight.

The tactile integrity of stock is also essential. First impressions when someone touches or holds a piece are key.

How has the way you spec paper for print projects changed over the years?

It’s a weeding out process. Over the years I’ve developed a “go to” list of papers for certain uses. I like to use stock that I’m comfortable with and know what to expect when it comes to holding color, scoring/folding and tactile quality.

Can you think of a project where the paper stock has defined the project or increased the overall impact, and how so?

We just wrapped up a client’s large, coffee table, photography book. It would have been so easy to use cheaper, thinner stock and save tons of money on production. We opted to use nicer, heavier stock with great tactile characteristics. In addition to the nicer stock we added a spot varnish to the photographs. A cheaper paper would not have been able to hold the varnish as well. The paper and varnish combination make the photos pop off the page. I wouldn’t say the paper selection defined the project, but it definitely pushed it over the top.

Can paper be used to define a brand, and in what way?

I’m not really sure if paper can define a brand, but believe that great branding in concert with smart stock selection can be very impactful.

Have you seen a case where a paper choice hindered the effectiveness of a package design, and in what way?

Most definitely. Everyone has seen incidents where oils in in the product leak through and leave spots on the package. This is the result of poor stock selection and not specifying the proper coatings.

I’ve also seen cases (field observations) where cheaper beer labels peel off sooner than others under heavy condensation. If you are going to use paper labels I recommend laminating or coating them, but vinyl is the way to go in my opinion.

What has been your best use of paper in one of your packaging projects to date?

Our upcoming industrial client’s direct mail packaging is going to be super nice. It is a collaborative effort between the client, printer, finisher and Unreal. The combination of construction, paper, printing, coatings and design make it a one-of-a-kind piece.

In what ways has your role changed as a designer with online digital printing, sustainability efforts and the economy?

I have a few clients who when they see offset printing estimates tend to say, “Well, we can get these done online for a third of that price”. It is a hand-holding and educational process for the client, and it is my responsibility to guide them through. You have to explain the pros and cons off offset vs. digital, and also the drawbacks of cheap, online, digital stock.

I try to stay as involved as possible from concept to production with all of my clients’ projects.

What’s your favorite paper stock and why?

I’ve always liked Cougar Opaque and Classic Crest. They both have weights, finishes and color variations for every occasion — not to mention their scoring and folding qualities. I’ve had nothing, but good experiences with them and they are both at the top of my “go to” list.

Which paper stock would you be and why?

I would consider myself anything from the Curious line because they are weird, high-quality, expensive — nah, I’m kidding.

I think I would be Cougar. It’s a versatile and reliable line that has multiple uses and variations.

Letterpress or silkscreening?

I like them both and there are definitely fitting uses for each of them.

I have not been able to use letterpress yet, but will be on my upcoming, new business cards. The history of letterpress is also intriguing and important to the creative and printing industry.

My experience with silkscreening is limited, but am looking forward to utilizing it on a client’s upcoming event posters. Silkscreening is something I’d like to learn more about and eventually get some hands on time with.

If you’d like to find out more about Rick Dobbs and Unreal visit unrealllc.com. Be sure to become fans on facebook of Unreal.

Check back next month when we talk to Neenah Paper superstar Jamie Saunders for Part 5 in The Paper Cuts Series.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve helped clients add a touchy, feely side to their brands with paper.

Part 3 of The Paper Cuts Series

LogoMotives LogosThough the design industry has changed in many ways just since the 90′s, printing is still a thriving and vibrant source for connecting with consumers, and paper is the key. For this series, I’ve interviewed some of the best printers, paper reps, and designers to give their insights into how paper can strengthen your brand.

Jeff Fisher of Jeff Fisher LogoMotives has been designing logos and  corporate identities for three decades, and he’s witnessed the changes that design and more specifically paper have gone through, all the while maintaining a focus on print as a predominant part of brand identity. Jeff has seen it all, and done it all when it comes to graphic design, and he was nice enough to share a bit of his experience.

Give us a little background about yourself.

My career as a professional designer began in 1978 as the graphic designer for the advertising department of the daily college newspaper at the the University of Oregon, where I was a design student within the School of Journalism. In an economic climate much like today, when I got out of school there were few full-time design jobs to be had. Informational interviews with the principals of advertising agencies and design firms soon led to a lot of independent work coming my way. Eventually, one of my clients offered me an opportunity to join them in-house to create and lead a new design department. In addition, I was the art director for the group of medical publications. My next position was as art director for a Portland advertising agency. Following a move to Seattle, was I hired as the creative director for a clothing manufacturer. Each previous position gave me the experience necessary to go out on my own in 1987. However, it wasn’t until 1997 that I officially adopted the business name Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, and began focusing on identity design and branding.

In the last ten years I have found myself writing about design a great deal through blogs, design sites, and industry magazines such as HOW. I’ve also written three books on design topics: ‘The Savvy Designer’s Guide to Success: Ideas and tactics for a killer career’ (HOW Books, 2004, re-released as PDF on CD, 2009), ‘Identity Crisis!: 50 redesigns that transformed stale identities into successful brands’ (HOW Books, 2007) and the upcoming ‘Logo Type: 200 Best Typographic Logos from Around the World Explained’ (HOW Books). Other books are in the works.

I’ve also been speaking and teaching about design, social networking and small business marketing for almost a decade. I often make presentations at design schools, universities, design conferences, AIGA chapters and business organization events. For a week this past June, I taught at the © CEDIM design and innovation college in Monterrey Mexico, something I would enjoy doing much more. In addition, I’m a member of the HOW Magazine Board of Advisors, HOW Design Conference Advisory Council and the Art Institute of Portland Advisory Council.

What first drew you to graphic design?

From the time I was five or six years old I was obsessed with art – and always told people that I was “going to be an artist when I grow up.” Of course, everyone discouraged me and told me I would never be able to make a living as an artist. Art teachers in junior and senior high took notice of my talents and abilities and gave me a great deal of encouragement to continue. In fact, after complaining that one of my high school art instructors had told me that I “wasn’t doing my painting right,” I was the first student put on independent study in art in my school district and my advisor, art teacher Ken Collins, had a huge impact in my determination to have a career in the arts. While a senior in high school in 1974, I came across the new book “Graphic Design,” by Milton Glaser, at my local public library. It gave a name to what I wanted to do and showed that someone could have a successful career in such work.

I began my formal graphic design education in the Fine Arts department at the University or Oregon in 1974. Frustration with the program led me to consider quitting school completely. It was suggested that I speak with professor Roy Paul Nelson, the author of well-known books on the design of advertising and publications, who taught in the UO Journalism School. In our first meeting he told me, “Get the hell out of the Fine Arts program and into the Journalism School where you can learn some marketable skills.” To be able to take classes in typography, advertising design, publication design and cartooning I was required to take all the journalism course work. All that I learned in the program still serves me well today. My junior year in college I started working professionally as a designer.

How does paper impact your design process?

I will often have specific papers, or a paper line, in mind throughout the design process. Colors, textures and other paper attributes are usually in my thoughts as I design an identity and consider possible colors and applications for the design. Often the desire for a specific paper color or texture will determine the paper to be used. I’ve appreciated situations where paper reps, or paper houses, have provided sample stocks – and even constructed mock-ups of some projects – allowing me to determine if my design and printing concept is evidence that I am completely out of my mind.

How has the way you spec paper for print projects changed over the years?

Early in my career I would spend a great deal of time in the paper samples rooms of local paper companies seeking out just the right paper for a given project. Later, paper reps would make sure I had complete sets of their paper swatch books. I always enjoyed getting together with them, over a cup of coffee or cocktail, to update my swatch sets. In recent years, I usually request samples of specific papers from the print house producing the final product. Much of my research of paper stock these days is done online, at conferences or by way of those annoying paper stock inserts in design magazines.

Can you think of a project where the paper stock has defined the project or increased the overall impact, and how so?

Barrett Rudich Photographer StationerySelection of a specific paper can greatly impact the success of a designed project. Years ago I worked with a photographer who wanted an extremely unique card. Much of his photography work was black and white, and we ended up discussing a card that would be black on black. It was important to find a heavily textured black paper stock (I don’t remember the specific paper now) that would be almost completely smooth when the photographer’s name, title and phone number were blind embossed. A black foil was used to make the text info on the card “pop” even more. The card was also cut 1/4 inch shorter than a traditional business card; giving the illusion that it was a much different size than normal. It was necessary to work closely with the print house to “test drive” a few paper stocks to get the desired result and give the business card the impact wanted by the client. The card was very successful for the client and appears in several design books. To complete his stationery package, the photographer’s name was imprinted in black foil on a bright white letterhead sheet and envelope.

Can paper be used to define a brand, and in what way?

The texture, content, weight or color of a paper can be an important design element for a brand – just as important as color, type treatment, and actual design elements. How the paper stock is used in branding a business, product or organization can have a major impact on how that brand is perceived by the target audience.

Have you seen a case where a paper choice hindered the effectiveness of a printed piece, and in what way?

I have seen many cases of the wrong paper, or improper ink color, being used for specific project. Some heavy paper textures are not appropriate for the even ink coverage wanted. Ink sometimes soaks into paper stocks, muting the desired impact of a printed piece. I’ve seen nightmare situations where the paper cracked when folded after printing, resulting in an end product being rejected by the client. I know of cases in which designers didn’t take paper weights into consideration and caused postage costs to be much more than budgeted or anticipated.

What has been your proudest use of paper in one of your projects to date?

One of my favorite, and proudest, design moments occurred over a period of six months in 1992 when I was contracted to create the identity for The Governor Hotel in Portland, OR. It was quite an undertaking for a one-person design firm. I was responsible for creating the identity for the hotel and restaurant, and then applying the identities to all branding devices from signage to menus. The client initially looked at me like I was crazy when I proposed printing various project elements on totally different paper stocks. Papers from different mills – with varied textures, colors and weights – were used in producing various brand elements, creating a unique paper family for the hotel. The stocks included laid, linen, vellum and coated finishes, parchments, metallics and others. I designed every piece of printed material for the hotel including a stationery package, computer papers for the reservations office, brochures, a commemorative poster, direct mail pieces, stickers, coasters, grand opening invitations and much more. Many of the pieces were printed on recycled stocks, a bit more difficult to find nearly two decades ago.

The Governor Hotel Identity System 1

Unfortunately, there was a great waste of paper in the process of having items printed for the hotel. For all elements of the project I suggested earth tone ink colors. The interior designer of the hotel butted into the project and recommend a much bright color selection. I did my best to discourage the hotel management, but they went with the brighter palette in the initial printing of 10,000 of all pieces. When the printed materials were delivered, the hotel general manager opened the first box and exclaimed, “Oh my God, it’s the Taco Bell hotel.” The ink selected by the interior designer printed a much brighter orange than she ever expected. All printed materials were scrapped and the entire project was reprinted in the colors I had originally speced. Much of the earlier printing was salvaged where possible to create half-sheets and notepads.

The Governor Hotel Identity System 2My printing rep, Tom Switzer, was instrumental in keeping me sane (and the client happy) during the months of the project. I still work with him as a printing rep 18 years later.

In what way do you collaborate with your printer or paper rep during the design process?

As a one-person design firm, over the years it has always been necessary to create a personal team of collaborators – often including print and paper representatives – to successfully initiate and complete a project. I have paper and printing reps that I’ve worked with for almost 20 years. From the beginning of my career, over 30 years ago, I have almost always made contact with my printing rep and the print house production staff a priority early in the project. I’ve never been one to finalize a design and then drop some production nightmare on my chosen printer. For me it’s always been important to share my concepts with the print house and learn how I can make the process, from design through printing, smooth for all involved.

Having worked professionally as a designer for 13 years prior to a computer appearing on my desk, I developed a very hands-on approach in working with printers and learned a great deal about the printing process. My participation in the process continued when I was able to hand projects over to the printer on disks. Throughout my career incredible relationships developed with print reps when we would be meeting at all hours for press checks for major projects. I’ve spent quite a few hours sleeping on couches in the lobby of print houses waiting for a specific project to go on press. In the two years that I designed all marketing pieces for the Seattle Seahawks professional football team, my printing rep Julie Beaver and I became great friends. All projects, printed in six colors to ensure NFL logo colors and with runs of up to one million pieces, required personal press checks.

Over the years, my paper reps have always been very helpful in providing samples, creating mock-ups of folded pieces and making sure that the stock desired is available. Often that meant the rep was responsible for tracking down examples of a specific paper and hand-delivering samples to my home-based studio to meet a client demand or deadline.

In what ways has your role changed as a designer with online digital printing, sustainability efforts and the economy?

With online digital printing, I do still need to babysit – or lead – the client through the process. I still make paper and printing method recommendations. I don’t like to completely step out of the process of a project until the final product is delivered to the client and meets their satisfaction. I appreciate that many of my clients feel much more comfortable being involved in the digital printing process, than the traditional processes of getting projects produced.

What’s your favorite paper stock and why?

I’ve always been a fan of ESSE – and have only been able to use it on client projects a couple times. I love the watermarked grid of squares in the stock. It’s one of those papers that needs to be particularly appropriate for the specific project to really pull off the desired effect. Your question made me realize that I’m a long-time champion of many Neenah papers. In the past 30 years, I’ve recommended that many clients use papers such as Classic Columns, Classic Crest, Classic Laid, Classic Linen and others in printing their stationery packages.

I would consider myself anything from the French Paper line, because it’s more utilitarian, unassuming and a little rough around the edges. Which paper stock would you be and why?

I also am a fan of French Papers, but if I need to be a specific stock I don’t want to copy you. I suppose it would be the Eames line from Neenah Paper. There’s an ability to convey sophistication or be a bit more pedestrian. The color palette, variety of finishes, patterns and weights, and the way the paper invites closer inspection by those coming into contact with it all seem to convey various aspects of my personality.

Is print dead or just playing dead?

If dead, I think someone forgot to make print aware of the fact. I think it’s funny, and telling, that David Carson’s book, “The End of Print,” is in something like its fifth printing. Print has not died – it is just constantly evolving.

Jeff Fisher LogoMotivesIf you’d like to find out more about Jeff Fisher LogoMotives visit jfisherlogomotives.com. Be sure to follow Jeff on twitter @LogoMotives, and become fans on facebook of LogoMotives. For the latest on upcoming design books and helpful articles on business and graphic design check out bLog-oMotives.

Check back next month when we talk packaging with a New Orleans graphic design firm for Part 4 in The Paper Cuts Series.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve helped clients add a touchy, feely side to their brands with paper.

Part 2 of The Paper Cuts Series

Color Swatches

Though the design industry has changed in many ways just since the 90′s, printing is still a thriving and vibrant source for connecting with consumers, and paper is the key. For this series, I’ve interviewed some of the best printers, paper reps, and designers to give their insights into how paper can strengthen your brand.

The latest interview features John Cockrell, Jr. the owner of Enovation Group and Fresh Press, two exciting new concepts in digital and on-demand printing. John grew up in the printing business, but his journey outside the industry has armed him with a wealth of knowledge to put his own mark on more than just paper. His eagle-eye focus on precision drives his unique approach to printing, paper and the future of both.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

Technically, I’ve been in the printing industry for 30 years if you include dinner table discussions and summers in the bindery. Directly, I’ve been involved in the industry for 8 years. Enovation Group was launched in 2003 as a digital printing company focused on combining print and technology to meet the needs of an on-demand marketplace. At first, we were going to take over the world with variable data printing, but over time we realized our core expertise involved creating workflows that made printing easier for marketers and HR departments. I’m obsessed with trying to make printing a job on our digital presses as easy as printing to a network printer. We’re getting closer every year.

What first drew you to printing?

I avoided printing for the first 22 years of my life, which worked out well because it gave me time to explore a few different industries. Once I committed to working in the industry full-time, I was intrigued by the ability to combine creativity, business acumen and craftsmanship. It really ended up being a perfect fit. I would be miserable in an industry that didn’t allow for a creative outlet.

Do you prefer working with a designer and paper rep in the early stages of project development?

Earlier is always better, regardless of the involved parties. We don’t always have that luxury with digital printing — so many projects are last-minute and rushed. It’s a fun process to be able to collaborate with multiple people in order to create exactly what a designer envisions. Seeing a concept come to life is very gratifying and truly represents the craft. Plus, it usually ensures a better finished product.

Do you keep papers stocked in-house?

In digital printing, it’s necessary. Offset usually allows for the luxury of ordering paper just-in-time, but digital forces people to print a majority of projects on house sheets. We carry Neenah Environment (Smooth – Ultra Bright White), Galerie Art Silk, Galerie Art Gloss and Finch Fine as house sheets. Quality paper makes a huge difference in the end product. Many printing companies don’t seem to understand this concept and base decisions solely on price. I’m willing to pay more dollars per thousand to carry a quality sheet that results in a great product. As a result, I base my decisions on:

How well does the sheet run through our presses?
How does the sheet finish – will it crack, scuff, etc.?
Does the sheet provide a maximum amount of ink adhesion?
Does the sheet maximize quality and value without pricing our products out of the market?

Paper can be everything in digital printing. The wrong sheet can slow productivity in both the pressroom and bindery.

How has your role changed over your career, and what’s affected that role the most?

Cockrell Enovation

When Enovation was a separate company, my primary role was to make sure we sold enough to make payroll. I was more directly involved in sales. Since we combined with Cockrell Printing two years ago and became Cockrell Enovation, my role is primarily marketing and discovering new opportunities that will secure our company’s stability in the long-term future. The largest impact on my role involves how print is constantly changing, which is influenced by:

How people order print – an increase in the amount of orders placed online
Who is ordering print
– your buyers are not as sophisticated as in the past

The overall economic climate

We won’t survive as a general commercial printer, so we must constantly work to position ourself to meet the above influencers. Our client base is constantly changing as well. When we formed Enovation Group, a large portion of our sales came through advertising agencies and freelance designers. At that point, my role involved marketing Enovation Group to fit the needs of the creative — quick turns, high quality, thinking outside the box. This shifted completely over the last three or four years as competition increased and we made moves to move away from the identity of a commercial printer. Now we deal mostly with direct clients, primarily due to our focus on web-based print and marketing applications. While print is the output, we are positioning Cockrell Enovation as a technology firm that assists marketing departments with workflow and accountability.

Can paper define a brand, and how so?

Paper definitely defines a brand. It’s frustrating to see this overlooked because paper and print work together to stimulate your senses — which should be a major consideration when companies work to define a brand. You have to think about how a particular stock reacts with the printing process and then how it feels when it is touched by the consumer. It’s one of the easiest methods that can make a company stand out from its competition.

What are some of the trends in ways agencies/designers are printing with paper?

It’s a bit chaotic right now. Agencies are still specifying paper but the economic climate is forcing the end user to look after every dollar. As a result, it’s usually the first thing to change after the initial quote. Text and cover is still very popular because it’s seen as going back to the basics, even though it’s actually more expensive. On the other hand, end users aren’t specifying at all…it’s simply “make it cheap and make it quick.”

The same goes for additional services. We aren’t doing near as much with foil stamping and specialty finishing as we were 3-5 years ago.

For us, the trend is web-based automation. Companies are looking to have everything organized and accessible online for easy ordering and the ability to push the costs onto franchise locations or other end users.

What are common myths about digital printing that keep designers, agencies and end users from specifying paper on a print project?

Many of the myths are actually truths from clients being burned in the past. Old digital equipment was all toner-based, so all products printed/looked the same regardless of the stock — it was simply melted toner on paper. Fortunately, with technology from HP, we’re using actual ink that gives you the same benefits of offset printing where the qualities in the paper work in tandem with the inks.

Have you seen any examples of paper stock enhancing or hindering the impact a printed project?

Every day. Why paint a sheet that isn’t designed to hold solids? You lose the true purpose of the sheet. It’s like putting A-1 on beef tenderloin. Some things are meant to be left to their natural state, and certain paper stocks are made exactly for this purpose.

Do you have a favorite stock that you love to work with?

I have two:

  1. Neenah Environment Ultra Bright White — it’s a great text/cover sheet that has a subtle texture and prints amazing on the HP. It’s very versatile and works great with solids, photos, or simply text.
  2. Ivolaser — it’s a relatively unheard of text/cover sheet from Gruppo Cordenons but it probably prints better than any other HP-approved sheet I’ve seen.

I like sheets that people don’t tend to think about. I feel that it makes our products a bit more unique compared to the competition. It’s part of our brand. You want to be able to immediately recognize your product instead of having a commoditized look.

Tell me a little about Fresh Press.

Fresh Press

Fresh Press (lovefreshpress.com) has been live since March, and in the works for about two years. It’s an online stationery site targeted towards 26-45 year old women that have a high perceived value of printed goods (personalized note cards, invitations, etc). It is also a direct reflection of my focus to find opportunities to sustain long-term growth in new areas of printing technologies. Printing companies have so much underutilized technology, and I wanted to find a way to start using some of our resources in a different way in hopes of creating new markets.

The current commercial printing market is broken. There’s a ton of capacity and too many people dropping prices to absurd levels just to keep business. So, with Fresh Press, I wanted to create an identity that drove digital printing volume without the traditional model — sales reps peddling for orders at low profit margins. It’s forced us to look at things as a retailer versus a manufacturer. I hired an intern two years ago to begin researching the industry and build a marketing plan. She is now in charge of running Fresh Press. It’s fun, and it gives us an opportunity to create demand and fill press time in a non-traditional manner. It’s also been an eye-opening experience learning the art of SEO and running an online business. We’re far from a Mark Zuckerberg Production, but maybe one day…

Which paper stock would you be and why?

I told this to my wife as a joke — Ikono because it’s still very attractive but no longer available on the market. This is how your life changes once you reach 30 and you’re married.

But being serious, I would say Classic Crest — I’m conservative and traditional…nothing too fancy but at least have a bit of color when I want to branch out.

What do you foresee as the biggest area for growth in the printing industry?

Online print management. We quickly realized where we had a niche, and combined this with our vision of making ordering print as easy as sending a file to a network printer. Many printing companies are achieving this by setting up retail sites (VistaPrint, etc). I don’t think that’s a good fit for us and I would prefer to avoid selling our product as a commodity. As a result, I want to push our model of online print management to help us be a better overall resource for a company. Rather than being a stand-alone website, we’re providing more of a service that helps organize business processes. It takes more effort, but it’s definitely better for our clients as well as Cockrell Enovation.

Printer's Loop

If you’d like to find out more about Cockrell Enovation, Fresh Press or reach out to John with any printing questions you can contact him at jk@cockrellenovation.com, or visit the websites at cockrellenovation.com or lovefreshpress.com. Be sure to follow Fresh Press and Cockrell Enovation on twitter @lovefreshpress and @printingenuity, and become fans on facebook of Fresh Press and Cockrell Enovation.

Check back next month when we talk to Portland logo design superstar Jeff Fisher for Part 3 in The Paper Cuts Series.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve helped clients add a touchy, feely side to their brands with paper.

Part 1 of The Paper Cuts Series

Clampitt Paper Wrap
Though the design industry has changed in many ways just since the 90′s, printing is still a thriving and vibrant source for connecting with consumers, and paper is the key. For this series, I’ve interviewed some of the best printers, paper reps, and designers to give their insights into how paper can strengthen your brand.

The first post in the Paper Cuts Series features my interview with Clampitt Paper Company rep extraodinaire, Lee Cockrell. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with her over the last 3 years, and she’s helped me rethink and revitalize my approach to visual identity with her wealth of paper knowledge. She’s like a paper ninja, and she’s about to drop some knowledge on you. So lookout.

Give us a little bit of background about yourself.

I have been at Clampitt Paper Company for 7 years as a specification rep. This is my first job out of college and has been quite an adventure and an amazing career.

A specification rep takes on a few roles at a paper company. First, we act as marketing and promotions for our company, being Clampitt Paper. I have the privilege of showing promotional pieces from our manufacturers giving printing tips and ideas on how to use their paper. I also get to act as a paper consultant for end users and the graphic design community helping them specify the best papers for the projects that they are working on.

What first drew you (bad pun, I know) to paper?

The mystery of it all. When I interviewed with Don Clampitt, we took a tour of the warehouse and I was so surprised to see all the different paper. There were cartons and rolls of paper — another world I never knew existed. I was very interested to learn about all the different kinds — as the only kind I knew was the lined paper we used in school.

What do you consider the most valuable asset of designers working directly with a paper rep?

Working with a paper rep gives you access to any and every kind of information you could ever dream about paper, printing, binding…anything. As a designer, there is the obvious working relationship with printers, photography reps, and copy writers, but as a paper specification rep there is access to it all! Also, the manufacturers are constantly putting out materials that are cutting edge for designers — fonts, layouts, bindery. So having access to that can be crucial to stay current for your clients.

How has your role changed over your career, and what’s affected that role the most?

My role has changed dramatically over the past 7 years, because the paper industry as a whole has really changed, much like many other industries. With the growth of sustainability the paper industry has made a lot of changes — the most important being marketing. Although they use a lot of fuel and water, paper companies are very sustainable. They have to be. There are more trees in North America today than there were 20 years ago.

The internet has done both good and bad things for paper. The bad part would be email and the lack of letters, faxes, etc. that use paper for correspondence. Even on-line billing has cut into the use of checks and statements sent in the mail. And access to information in a matter of seconds has hurt the magazine and newspaper industry. However, we have found ways in which it helps with paper and print. The internet is not a strong way to advertise alone. You need a printed piece to drive consumers to the internet and vice versa. Also, the internet has really made paper stand out. Before it was all just paper, now consumers pay a lot more attention to printed pieces.

Even “The Office” has done wonders for the paper industry. It has really helped people understand our industry and what “Paper People” do.

Can paper be used to define a brand, and in what way?

Paper is one of the best ways to define a brand. The sense of touch is much stronger than the sense of sight, especially when it comes to paper. Paper is a great way to stand out from the competition, or blend in, if you so choose. It could be a texture, a weight or a color, but there are many ways to use it for brand recognition.

What are some of the trends in the way agencies/designers are using paper?

The biggest trend right now in the paper industry is textures and tactiles. Designers are trying to help their clients stand out. Another trend is uncoated. Many companies don’t want to appear slick and glossy during this economic time, so uncoated paper allows them to represent a softer personality.

What are some common myths about paper that keep agencies/designers from specifying paper on print projects?

Specifying paper is just as important as specifying fonts, colors, illustration or photography. It can and will make or break the finished piece. There are many myths about specifying which deters designers from doing it. They think it will be too expensive. Well, you can get a $1.00 hamburger at McDonald’s or an $8.00 burger at Chili’s, but you STILL choose a burger. Paper is the same way. There are all sorts of papers that fit all sorts of price points. Take control of the paper, even if it’s on the dollar menu. Don’t let someone else pick your meal.

Designers also fear that if they specify the paper they will have to wait many days for it to come in. As a distributor, we try to carry many different papers to alleviate the wait. Sometimes we have to wait for the paper to come from a mill, but it’s a much faster process now. Back in the day, paper from the mill traveled by rail, and it would take many weeks. Now, it takes only a few days and is packaged in much smaller cartons.

Have you seen cases where a paper choice has either enhanced or destroyed a creative project?

Paper can and will make or break a design. Just as you would probably not use the color red to project a high end spa, you would not want to use a coated or uncoated sheet for the same reason. Paper has personality, and when used right, it can enhance the design product. Used wrong, and it can take away from the message.

Tell me a little bit about the Clampitt Paper School.

Lee Cockrell teaching at the Clampitt Paper SchoolClampitt Paper School has been around for more than 40 years. It is a great asset to the industry, and I recommend it to anyone in print, design, marketing, etc. It is a half day at our headquarters in Dallas, Texas and we teach all the paper basics. First we present paper making, next paper math, then business paper, text and cover papers, coated papers, and the role that paper plays in the environment.

How can someone find out about the line of papers that Clampitt Paper currently carries?

The line of paper that Clampitt currently carries is on our website: www.clampitt.com. It is a great resource for all your paper needs.

I know this is like asking a designer to pick a favorite color or font, but what’s your personal favorite paper stock and why?

My favorite paper stock is the Crane Lettra. I love the soft, plush feel of the stock and the colors that are available — all shades of white. I also love the 220# heavy weight cover! Another reason — 100% cotton!

I would consider myself anything from the French Paper line, because it’s more utilitarian, unassuming and a little rough around the edges. Which paper stock would you be and why?

The paper that I most resemble would be something from the Sundance line — it’s not too bold, but has enough color to get noticed, great subtle textures and a middle of the road price point.

When you get groceries do you spec paper or plastic?

I ALWAYS get paper when I am at the grocery store. PAPER is a sustainable resource, plastic is NOT.

Clampitt Paper Company LogoIf you’d like to find out more about Clampitt Paper or reach out to Lee with any paper questions you can contact her at lcockrell@clampitt.com, or visit the website at Clampitt Paper Company website. Be sure to follow Clampitt Paper Company on twitter @BarneyFiber.

Check back next month when we talk to one of Fort Worth’s premier digital printers for Part 2 in The Paper Cuts Series.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve helped clients add a touchy, feely side to their brands with paper.

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