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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

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:

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 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 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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