Archive for the ‘General’ Category

What turns you away from a website, advertisement, or a company?

Perhaps it’s the message itself or the way a brand is presented. Sometimes the information is just too scattered, time-consuming, or confusing! Today’s consumers face a barrage of competing messages, so each intersection between a customer and your business is critical.

These points of contact, or touchpoints, represent points of interaction with a customer or a prospect at any stage of their customer journey. Touchpoints provide you critical opportunities to engage leads, build brand awareness, address concerns, market products or services, or to tell your story.

Building an End-to-End Customer Experience

Grouping touchpoints chronologically can be helpful as it allows you to see things from an outside perspective.

Here are just a handful of touchpoints:

  • Social Media Campaigns
  • Print Advertisements
  • Company Events
  • Product Catalogs
  • Conversations with Company Representatives
  • Landing Pages
  • Professional Website
  • Point of Sale Displays
  • Cross-Sales Promotions
  • Thank You Letters or Post-Purchase Surveys
  • Customer Support Services
  • Newsletter Subscriptions
  • Loyalty Programs

Are you looking for creative options for your customer touchpoints? This is where things can get really fun! Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

  • One bicycle shop printed metal business cards that doubled as a pedal wrench.
  • One cosmetics company found that engaging online shoppers with a chat box boosted sales by 20 percent.
  • One home builder sent direct-mail testimonials from satisfied clients to leads who had inquired through digital channels.
  • For one promotion, Nike packaged its Nike Air Max shoes in clear plastic wrapping that made it appear as if the shoes were floating inside a bubble.
  • To highlight the space-saving benefits of home organization, one Ikea store painted its main staircase as a chest of drawers, with objects inside each “step” perfectly organized.

Evaluating and Improving Your Touchpoints

Many businesses overlook the power of coordinated touchpoints.

But put yourself in a client’s shoes. When you are engaging with a business, you enter each interaction with the assumption you can ask questions, receive support, or weigh costs and benefits for a potential purchase. As you take progressive steps, you are met with intentional, friendly, and helpful responses. Does this increase your chance of making a commitment? Absolutely!

Simply having a touchpoint in place is no longer an option. Rather, each touchpoint must perfectly represent your brand, offering a cohesive, captivating message. How can you be sure each point optimizes, satisfies, or invites? Here are three steps to consider:

1. LIST

List all your current touchpoints, including websites, e-mails, customer service, direct mail, etc.

2. EVALUATE

Use objective observers to give an unbiased review of each touchpoint.

This process of discovery enables you to find “weak links” and make necessary corrections.

3. TAKE ACTION

Overcome deficits by viewing weak touchpoints as opportunities for growth.

After listing and evaluating touchpoints, now take a customer-centered understanding of what’s working and what’s not. Excellent touchpoints should be relevant to customer needs, endearing in a way that builds emotional connection or increases interest, and appropriate to the greater context of the interaction.

Evaluating and enhancing your touchpoints will sharpen communication and help move people seamlessly toward a point of purchase. Build an end-to-end customer experience that unifies your brand message and optimizes every customer experience!

Design is a process that turns an idea or a requirement into a finished product.

While many people believe designs just “happen,” that isn’t the case. Some designs may come together quickly, but generally, there are many stages along the way. Whether you need full-service graphic design or collaboration together along the way, it can be helpful to approach the design process in stages.

Want to produce more inspiring designs? Approach the process in a strategic, focused way. Here are four key stages:

1. Define & Research

At this stage, the design problem and the target audience should be clearly defined.

Preparation reviews information such as the demographics of the target market, the key concepts or language that connect with these people, and the focal message you want to share. The more precise you are in this pre-planning, the more targeted your design solutions will be. Here’s one inspiring example:

Three is a British mobile communications company that used its award-winning “Holiday Spam” campaign to feature travelers sending a flood of cliched holiday photos to people back home. The company appealed to new customers by offering free data services during holiday travel abroad.

Tracking mobile data of customers traveling abroad, Three’s research found that, during holidays, people used 71 times more data than they would have used if they had to pay extra (and this was mostly generated from holiday snaps on social media!). By featuring travelers “spamming” their friends with holiday snaps, Three successfully tapped into audience desires while driving awareness for free data services. This brought a 90% increase in their social conversation volume, higher brand metrics, and increased customer savings as people signed on for new service.

2. Ideate and Prototype

Ideation involves the generation of ideas through creative thinking and prototypes.

Idea generation may come through brainstorming, sketching ideas, adapting previous ads or designs, or by using creative design exercises. While many people rush through the brainstorming stage, ideation strategies are paramount because they allow designers to flow in a life-giving, streamlined environment, releasing ideas that are imaginative, strategy-driven, and smart.

From here, prototyping offers a workup of designs for interested clients. Prototypes give clients the ability to visualize and vet ideas before they are formally produced. The ideation and prototype stages are a critical juncture for printers and clients to collaborate, so the best possible outcome is achieved.

3. Select

During the selection phase, proposed solutions are measured against the original design objective.

Some solutions initially seem practical, but when compared to the original benchmark, you see that they aren’t a good fit. Once a concept gets closer to completion, cost, time, and media formats will sharpen focus and help you choose the most effective design.

4. Implement

At this stage, partners collaborate to bring ideas to life and to generate final delivery.

In print production, finishing techniques are imperative for beautifying your design. This stage includes the application of print finishing processes like folding, die-cutting, binding, varnishing, embossing, or foil accents. Finish techniques are a beautiful way to support and enhance your message and are best considered during the ideation stage so they can be efficiently melded into final print runs.

The Best Possible Product

Different jobs require the use of different techniques, but the strategic design process is generally the same.

This focused approach ensures your design will serve both economic and creative goals. The ultimate aim is to present information in the best possible way for your readers while equipping designers to unleash tremendous creativity in the process.

As COVID-19 shakes businesses around the country, today is a great time to reflect on the victories of those who’ve survived previous financial struggles.

In particular, the 2008 recession offers valuable lessons from entrepreneurs who shifted to either a “prevention” or a “promotion” focus. Here are two real-life success stories, with takeaways for your team.

Prevention Focus: The Montgomery Group

Ernest Montgomery is an NYU grad who launched a creative agency that produces advertising campaigns and manages its talent (photographers, stylists, makeup artists) in-house.

In 2008, Montgomery enjoyed modest success, booking clients like American Airlines and Pepsi. He rented a beautiful office on 7th Avenue in Manhattan, expanded his staff to 15 artists, and grew revenue to around $800k/year. But when the recession hit, he was forced to make some difficult decisions.

Choosing a primarily defensive strategy, Montgomery cut every expense he could think of. He abandoned offices and made his entire staff remote. He axed his web design budget and learned to build sites himself. And most dramatically, he permanently relocated to the Dominican Republic.

Why?

“A campaign that costs $100k to produce in Miami can be made for $65k in the Dominican Republic,” said Montgomery. “A location that costs $10k in Miami costs $500 here — and there is so much less red tape — street permits, blocking off traffic, all that.”

To this day, when Montgomery meets with clients he hops a three-hour flight into New York City, spends the whole day in the U.S., and takes the last flight home. To survive financial hardship, he advises companies to ask their clients, employees, and associate three questions:

  • “What can we do to make things feel better?”
  • “How can we survive this as a group?”
  • “What are we going to do differently once this is over?”

With a leaner overhead, companies are more nimble, with greater flexibility to follow the market and its new demands. And that defensive maneuver can give you an offensive advantage.

Promotion Focus: The Baker Hasseldenz Studio

Scott Baker and Mary Ann Hesseldenz are known for making custom luxury furniture for wealthy clients.

Before the 2008 recession, their Arizona studio catered to clients who were building new homes and wanted matching $17,000 couches or $5000 cocktail tables. But when the housing market tanked, they had to recalibrate.

The couple says they survived the 2008 crash by paying attention to trends and making quick adjustments. While wealthy people weren’t building new homes, they noticed there was still a thriving remodeling market. Their studio quickly shifted focus from high-end furniture to millwork and cabinets.

During the recession, the couple kept overhead low by hiring independent contractors and keeping workshop space minimal. Due to their quick thinking, the couple later noted that their income during the recession actually went up! A decade later, they’re up to $1 million in gross revenue: $500,000 in millwork, $300,000 in furniture sales, and $180,000 in interior design fees.

A promotion focus will look different for everyone, but it requires offensive moves. This may include diversifying your client pool, forging strategic partnerships with other companies, pivoting to a different product focus, doubling inventory where you find strategic buyer’s markets, or rolling out a creative new ad campaign.

A Time to Showcase Your Brand

Whether you take a prevention or a promotion focus, it’s important not to hide!

Today is the best day to showcase your brand and maintain relevancy. Take advantage of this season to build new systems and amplify name recognition. The objective during a crisis is to go beyond survival and to come out stronger.

In the weeks surrounding the onset of COVID-19, businesses worldwide have pivoted quickly.

Many have juggled shifting expectations by establishing remote work arrangements, securing supply chains, reducing employee workload, cutting costs, or applying for government support.

Now it’s time to move forward with a proactive business plan and to consider new opportunities. What will this look like for your business? Here are three strategies.

Strategy 1: Same Products, Different Channel

If the majority of your business takes place on-site, now a promotion focus through a different channel may be helpful.

In what ways can you offer the same (or similar) products and services through an online channel? Can you digitize any of your physical products? Can you offer webinars, online consultation, or build a technology-mediated delivery solution? From curbside pick-up to livestream shopping events, ramped up digital options are a low-hanging fruit every business should explore.

One florist facing delivery bans sold “virtual” bouquets for $70-$400 dollars. The recipient got a photo of their bouquet over email with the promise of a live delivery once businesses re-opened. When Chinese cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan was forced to close 40% of its stores, the company redeployed its beauty advisers as online influencers, and digital tools like WeChat engaged customers virtually. One large-scale livestream shopping event featuring 100 beauty advisers, helping Lin Quingxuan’s February sales climb 120% over 2019 sales.

Strategy 2: Same Infrastructure, Different Products

During a crisis, leaders must recognize opportunities and make the most of them. 

The COVID-19 season is a crucial time to consider new opportunities. While the need for some products and services has fallen, demand for others is high and even growing. Can your business deploy existing infrastructure to produce different products or offer new services?

In the spring of 2020, companies such as LVMH (perfumes) and Skyroro (rockets) switched to producing hand sanitizer within a few days. Manufacturers like GM, Ford, and My Pillow modified idle production lines to manufacture medical devices and face masks.

If people today see increased value in e-learning, improved individual health, or meaningful networking, how can your business identify and fill these needs? Disruptors often come from the bottom of the market to upend traditional retailers, or they create new markets and appeal to customers who have previously gone without a product.

Strategy 3: Same Products, Different Infrastructure

Perhaps your challenge is an increased demand for a particular product or service.

In this season, some companies may need to quickly augment physical systems, communication networks, or staffing to increase production or delivery capacity. And building new infrastructure often requires collaboration with external partners.

Employee sharing is one example of companies shifting infrastructure to meet needs. In Germany, McDonald’s staff have been permitted to work at Aldi stores while on-site dining is shuttered, and groceries are swamped. On the physical side, an adapted retail model may mean offer smaller stores (or “nodes” within large spaces) rather than crowd-based facilities.

Monitoring needs and forecasting future behavior are critical to adapting your infrastructure and remaining nimble.

Creativity Fuels Innovation

During a crisis, many things are out of your control.

But that’s ok because you can still shape your response! Focus solely on what you can control. Look for creative ways to adapt, and you will come out stronger in the years to come.  

 

Mike Turner founded the Front Street Brokers real estate firm in 2005, with a desire to offer distinctive client experiences, to equip agents for the maximum efficiency and profitability, and to devote significant firm resources to a local, philanthropic focus.

After three years, Turner’s firm experienced a significant slowdown during the 2008 financial crisis. This was a time of immense strain, especially when scheduled closings dried up before his eyes:

“In that time period, we had 10 real estate transactions scheduled to close, and nine of them fell through for unforeseeable reasons,” Turner said. “All of a sudden, $100,000 worth of business income that we were dependent upon [was] gone.” 

Turner faced difficult choices in this season, and many of us are facing similar decisions in today’s COVID-19 crisis. Today, Turner says that while change is inevitable, he knows we still have a choice. Will we allow unforeseen challenges to drag us downstream, or will we improvise to find a way across the river?

Five Strategies to Use Your “Quaran-TIME” Effectively

Anyone can become a victim when change comes fast and forcefully.

Sudden change is scary, and though we may not be able to swim upstream, we can still strategize and seek active growth. What are some ways your business can grow during this difficult period?

Use Social Media to Connect with Customers

Try a more animated touch through social media. If subscribers are opening your emails, they are expressing genuine interest. Take these customer relationships to the next level by including embedded videos or links to caring content you’ve posted on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Answer Questions or Position Yourself as a Helper

As you reach out to subscribers, ask if they have any questions or respond to challenges you know they have. Take an interest in the content they post as well – comment on it, share it with your followers, or start real conversations. Connecting to clients now will form a personal bond that lasts longer than the COVID-19 crisis.

Stretch Your Team’s Skills

When activity wanes, morale often follows. Invigorate employees by offering on-going education tools, professional mentoring within your team, or problem-solving workshops that mobilize groups to tackle some of your most ambitious goals. If your company lacks online meeting capabilities, this is a great chance to preview options like Zoom or Google Hangouts.

Do Some Spring Cleaning

While the pace is reduced, give focused attention to your internal atmosphere. Whether you need to spruce up workspaces or sort through old files, redeem the time by getting organized. This may also be a great time to refresh decor, business cards, or your website, or to involve your team in designing new content for newsletters and videos.

Express Gratitude

In hard times, a warm word goes a long way, and this can shift your own perspective from negativity to hope. Take time to say thanks to customers with handwritten notes, personal videos, or future discount options. Whether you plan a summer reunion party or make appreciation phone calls, prioritizing gratitude will make you a better entrepreneur in the long run.

Change Course, but Don’t Quit!

They say that genius is just persistence in disguise.

In tough times it’s ok to be discouraged, but it’s not ok to quit. Be proactive in this season, and keep taking the steps you can to inch ahead. New paths are, by definition, uncleared. But persistence and positivity are your most valuable assets as you journey toward hope.

When Ruben Dario Villa started his car air freshener company, Fúchila Fresheners, he had a clear idea of who he was and how he wanted to communicate.

As a Mexican American, Villa wanted his Chicano heritage to be instantly recognizable to people from his community:

“Fúchila in Spanish is slang for when something smells bad,” Villa said. “So calling [our brand] Fúchila Fresheners is ironic, and people thought it was funny.”

Fúchila’s products aren’t your typical tree-shaped fresheners. Instead, they include pop-art images of the late singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez and renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The fresheners use simple, punchy colors that reflect Chicano heritage, and it works. While Villa started Fúchila from the trunk of his car, now the fresheners are carried in over 100 stores from coast to coast.

 “The [visual] identity has been crucial to Fúchila’s growth,” said Villa. “It has a graphical element. It’s been attractive to people; I use very bright colors. It really is being authentic to me—it’s what I like to see and what I feel my community likes to see, so that’s what I gravitated towards.”

Why Consistency Counts

If you put five pieces of your marketing materials in front of you, what would you see?

Would you find a streamlined, consistent theme? Or would you see a confusing jumble of chaotic imagery, colors, and text?

In today’s visually-focused age, a strong visual brand identity is crucial. Visual identities offer a framework for clients to connect with companies in a reassuring, cohesive way, so when you engage prospects across different platforms, they know who you are and the personality you represent.

Visual branding includes logos, colors, typography, imagery, composition styles, photography, videos, and more. Just as Villa chose images relevant to Chicanos, your target audience should shape the theme of your brand. When you resonate with the desires of your audience, it will be easier to attract people.

3 Keys to Sharpen Your Visual Identity

Looking to sharpen your visual identity? Here are three keys.

1. Define Your Audience

Defining your audience can influence the tone you use.

Outline your target markets using demographics (age, gender, income, etc.) and psychographics (personality, interests, lifestyles, or desired solutions). Once you identify their values or concerns, you can appeal to their needs and wants.

2. Outline Your Mission and Voice

Your business probably has a clear vision, but can you communicate this to your audience?

Why do you provide your products or services? How do you hope to change your clients or bring benefit to their lives? Once you clarify your mission, identify the voice that matches this position. Whether this voice is authoritative, rebellious, or compassionate, seek to communicate in a consistent tone. 

3. Use a Cohesive Style Guide

To build a strong visual identity, maintain a style guide to keep visuals cohesive across mediums.

Use color psychology to pick shades that match your voice. Define imagery that complements your message: is it pastel landscapes? Bright animations? Personable faces? Even shapes communicate: round and organic forms signal warmth and softness, while geometric or angular shapes signal innovation, prestige, or power.

According to John Du, a Los Angeles-based designer and art director, even typography is significant:

“Typography is just as emotional as anything else—when you look at different fonts, they have different personalities,” Du said. “If you want to showcase your business as something very traditional or respectable, you might consider a serif typeface. If you want people to see your business as something more modern, something more grounded, maybe you’ll choose a sans serif typeface.”

It’s All About the Image

Studies show that visuals increase a desire to read content by 80 percent.

When you create articulate, strong visuals, your business will gain momentum and grow strong relationships with customers and clients.

Want to sculpt an eye-catching identity and bring your print projects to life?

You dream it; we’ll print it! With today’s technology, you can print concepts as varied as your ideas and as rich as your imagination. Ready to toss the template and try something a little different? Here are a few ideas to push the boundaries in your next design.

Foil Postcards

Time to rise and sparkle!

Raised gold or silver foil will take any printing to the next level. With a tactile, metallic shine, foil postcards bring a “wow” factor that can’t be matched. Foil can be added to logos, lettering, die-cut shapes, outlines, borders, and more. You can foil on one of both sides of your postcard, or combine your foil with velvety coated paper to make your product shine.

Whether you want eye-grabbing handouts or incredible invitations, foil postcards are guaranteed to make a stunning impression.

Pearlescent Flyers

Looking for a quality that suits your style?

Add an extravagant touch with metallic, pearlized, and pearlescent papers for your next flyer. With a smooth feel and a glittery finish, pearlescent print pieces bring a modern, pristine look your customers can’t miss. Thick, shiny, and metallic, these paper stocks offer a gorgeous option for announcements, service menus, invites, and more.

For a rich, warm finish, go for antique gold, champagne cream, copper, or flaming reds and oranges. Or, for a refreshing and royal tone, try aqua tropics, blue vistas, botanical greens, and deep violets. And remember, pearlescent and metallic coatings require larger fonts and extra white space in your design.

Super Business Cards

Looking for something super impressive and super fun?

Super business cards are for you! Cut from premium paper that’s durable (yet lightweight), these non-bendy business cards bring a bold impression that LASTS. Customize them to your preferences, with round corners, shiny finishes, raised spot gloss lettering, and more.

Whether you want a muted matte feel or a sleek sparkly vibe, super business cards are guaranteed to be as unique as you.

Creative Rip Cards

Want to keep them thinking of you after they walk away?

With posters or publicly displayed marketing materials, prospects may quickly see you . . . and forget you. Rip card printing offers an effective tool for marketing that sticks.

Did you know you can attach rip cards to posters, flyers, and mounted displays? Like a long-lasting calling card, rip cards offer your clients a point of contact they can follow up with later. Many businesses combine rip cards with discounts and incentives, whether it’s a “Buy One Get One” offer or a 10 percent discount on an upcoming service or treatment.

Whether you attach rip cards to rack cards, displays, or door hangers, this creative option ensures you’ll be seen, remembered, and contacted.

The One and Only You

You’re not like anyone else, so brand yourself with a unique voice and creative marketing options.

When you print locally, design and print come to life in ways that can’t be matched elsewhere. Ready to own YOUR niche through our collaborative design process? Visit our website to get started today!

How will the economy affect your business this year?

Economic conditions impact all businesses, but small businesses often feel the effect of changes sooner. Upswings in the economy mean more disposable income, which can provide a rush of new or expanded business opportunities for your firm. But dips in the economy may make it harder for you to break even, to cover payroll, or to qualify for loans that will increase your growth opportunities.

While you can’t control the economy, you can take steps to ready your small business for unexpected changes. One simple tool to consider is a stress test.

Ways to Stress Test Your Business

A stress test is a simulation to gauge your financial risk under different economic scenarios. The results can aid your financial planning and let you know where your business is at the greatest risk in the event of economic hard times.

Here are three ways to stress-test your business to stabilize it during unwanted slowdowns.

1. Solicit advice from others

Do you have an advisory board or a brain trust of reliable partners? 

SCORE, a nonprofit that is a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, offers a network of volunteers, including retired C-suite executives, who can help mentor. You can search for a SCORE mentor online or through a local chapter.

2. Plan for worst-case scenarios

One of the more effective ways to prepare for change is to make projections.

Look at what a dramatic budget crunch might do to your business or what would happen if you lost a major client or product. Evaluate how this loss would affect your business and decide how you could trim expenses or diversify your client base before this happens.

3. Review your financial cushioning

What kind of cash cushion does your business have?

While experts recommend a six-month reserve, you can probably be more specific. Look at your net “burn rate” on expenditures to identify the rate at which you spend cash holdings. Then look at your monthly budget and estimate how much money you plan to use over the next 12-15 months.

From here, you can project what kind of cushion is necessary and how long it might take you to obtain a loan or solicit an investor if money was extremely tight. Even in a worst-case scenario, having a plan in place can alleviate fear.

A Road Map For the Future

While it is wise to conduct a stress test at any time, analysts say the best seasons are typically the spring and summer because larger market crashes tend to occur in the fall.

By planning ahead now, you can make informed decisions about decreasing inventory, consolidating debt, cutting payroll, or connecting with new investors. By stress testing your business’s finances and proactively plan, you can mitigate future problems and sleep better each night.

Steve Wanner is a highly respected 37-year-old partner at Ernst & Young, married with four young children.

When Wanner started working with “The Energy Project,” a consulting company focused on sustainable performance, he was working 12- to 14-hour days. Wanner was overweight, perpetually exhausted, and felt guilty about his family life. He was distracted, slept poorly, and made no time to exercise. Like many professionals, daily demands were pushing him to the limit.

Time is a limited resource, and often people recognize that better time management could make a huge difference. Many leaders think they can excel by working harder or being more organized, but simply working harder almost always leads to anxiety and a difficulty disconnecting at night.

A Better Way

Proponents of energy management say there is a better way.

Energy management is a science and an art. Most people understand the science: if you exercise, eat, and sleep well, you’re likely to create more energy. But energy management is also an art. What energizes one person may not energize another. Conversely, what sucks the life out of someone might be a motivator for another.

While time is unrenewable, energy is not. When we are more energized we are more creative, efficient, and powerful. That’s why it is imperative to practice strategic energy management.

How to Conduct an “Energy Audit”

As you conduct an “energy audit” on your life, here are two questions to consider:

  1. What drains me? (What am I “bad at” or miserable doing? What sucks large amounts of energy and leaves me feeling lifeless?)
  2. What sustains me? (What am I good at or fills me with pleasure, adrenaline, or a can-do spirit?)

With this perspective, evaluate your schedule in three ways:

1. Rate your daily tasks

As you list regular responsibilities and decisions, assign negative number values (-1 or -2) to things that drain you, and positive values (+1 or +2) to things that motivate you.

2. Delegate, automate, and designate

When possible, delegate or automate things that consume energy, and designate more time for things that give you energy.

Schedule your days so that energy-draining tasks are followed by mini “resets,” or by tasks that you enjoy. Pay attention to the times of the day or week that you have the least energy, and plan positive value tasks (+1 or +2) for those time periods.

3. Address energy-depleting habits in your professional and personal life

Whether it is a lack of sleep, eating at your desk, or not enough solitude, ask yourself where “joy suckers” could be changed into solutions.

Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project, gives several examples of options for proactive energy management:

  • Sitting down to eat breakfast
  • Leaving your desk for 5-10 minutes every 90 minutes
  • Checking e-mail only twice a day
  • Prioritizing energy-draining tasks early in the day, or working on them in a different physical space than your normal office
  • Taking deep abdominal breaths in stressful moments
  • Recruiting a gifted team member for tasks you find mentally exhausting
  • Requesting to do more of what you’re “good” at
  • Writing gratitude notes to others once a week
  • Disconnecting from work calls 15 minutes before reaching your driveway
  • Putting a hobby that you love on your calendar

Unlock Potential and Create Lasting Change

After Steve Wanner took a hard look at his habits, he began drinking less, going to bed earlier, taking short afternoon walks, and leaving his desk frequently. Wanner lost 15 pounds and says he feels more relaxed and connected to his family.

By creating and managing your energy budget, you will be better equipped to create change, make a difference and get results. Give it a try!

Paper is essential in the design and cost of your publications.

And while paper seems like a basic element, often the print terminology and project specs can be confusing. That’s ok! You don’t have to be an expert to make smart decisions, because we’re here to guide you.

Perhaps a peek at these frequently asked questions can help you understand materials, compare costs, and weigh options for your next project.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Paper

1. How does the “grade” of a paper affect its appearance?

Coated paper is categorized by grade levels, with a premium being at the top. Grade levels are determined by brightness, and here are several basic grades (or types) of commercial printing papers:

BOND OR WRITING = Typically used for letterheads, business forms, and copiers. Typical base weights are 16# for forms, 20# for copying, and 24# for stationery.

BOOK = The most commonly used coated and uncoated papers for printing. Ranging between 30#-110# depending on coatings.

TEXT = High-quality sheets in a variety of surfaces and colors. Used for quality printings with a lot of surface texture.

COVER = Used when greater bulk/thickness is required, such as book covers, postcards, business cards, or inserts. Available in a wide variety of surfaces and colors, typically ranging from 60# to 100#.

TAG, BRISTOL, AND INDEX = Smooth surface papers mostly uncoated, except for bristols. Often used for displays, file folders, and tickets.

Remember, paper products come with three specifications: brightness, gloss, and opacity. Typically, the higher the grade level, the higher the brightness and gloss will be.

2. Why does the paper “weight” matter?

The higher the weight, the heavier the paper.

In general, heavier papers are bulkier and sturdier, allowing fewer pages per inch. They also have greater opacity (i.e., less show-through), which offers a higher quality but also an increased mailing expense.  

3. When is lighter weight helpful?

Publications with larger page count (like magazines, booklets, or projects using a significant amount of paper) can use lightweight stocks to reduce bulk, weight, and cost.

Lighter weights can also bring a more playful, casual feel to your brochure or booklet.

4. What is the difference between coated and uncoated paper?

Uncoated paper is porous, cost-effective, and is typically used for such applications as newspaper print and basic black-and-white copying.

Coated stock paper, by contrast, is made of higher-quality paper with a smooth, glossy finish. Coated paper works well for reproducing sharp text and vivid colors. 

5. What finishing options are available for my project?

A paper’s finish can have a considerable impact on the final appearance of your printing.

Gloss finishes are sophisticated and eye-catching, with a smooth surface that allows for more precise reproduction. Matte (or dull) papers have a softer, subtle feel, and can be easier to read. Spot or foil varnishes are also available if you want to highlight some aspects on your page.

How to Choose the Right Paper for Your Next Printing

Print is beautiful, tactile, and memorable.

More than just ink on a page, the weight, texture, and sheen of your printing can tell an emotional story. Paper plays a significant role in the tone you want to communicate, but also in your bottom line. When you increase the grade or weight, you will improve quality but increase expense, so choosing between paper selections is a delicate balance between image, functionality, and cost.

Want to chat more? Give us a call to see some paper examples or discuss your options today!