We’ve previously discussed two vital qualities in a custom stationer: professionalism and knowledge of etiquette. Today, we’re talking about the value of knowing print techniques and design standards.
When I first started designing stationery, which was a little over ten years ago, I was very “green” when it came to print methods and design standards. I remember designing an invitation, sending it to the printer, and then finding out that I hadn’t formatted it to properly fit inside the envelope I had chosen. It was too small, but given the timeline, I just moved forward. It is embarrassing to admit my oversight; however, it is important to remember! I cannot tell you how often I see ill-fitted inserts, subpar print methods for the chosen design, and poor usage of design elements.
I, like many stationers, have grown tremendously as I’ve gained more experience. Given where I was and how far I’ve come, I can easily tell you what to ask and look for relative to printing and design.
A custom stationer should have in-depth knowledge of print techniques. She should not only know what different print methods are, but what is required from a design stand point to print with each. For instance, letterpress printing is a more costly, time-intensive print method that generally uses polymer plates (created specifically for each individual job) to impress the chosen design into the chosen paper. Letterpress printing usually requires a certain type of paper, often a heavier stock formulated using cotton, which makes the impression cleaner and easier to imprint. Additionally, because each color is printed separately, letterpress jobs are often one- to three-color jobs (although, they can include more colors if the budget allows). Recommending a design with six or seven colors and on a type of paper that isn’t conducive to letterpress might give you some indication of your custom stationers experience with this particular print method.
But knowing about print techniques is only part of the equation. A custom stationer should be able to clearly communicate pricing about them as well. While a project might evolve if a client’s needs and/or preferences change throughout the project—having implications on the project’s pricing, this should be the exception, not the rule. Any reputable custom stationer can tell you, concretely, what you can expect to spend on the project she is completing. Working closely with print vendors, having an understanding of materials needed, and accurately estimating quantities and sizes can ensure that the proposal you receive at the beginning of the project is what you’ll pay when you get an invoice at a later date.
Finally, a custom stationer should show prowess for design standards. But, unless you are a designeror design lover yourself, how can you really know if she does? Look extensively at her portfolio and ask for samples. When you’re reviewing the portfolio and looking at samples, ask yourself the following:
- Is the work aesthetically pleasing? Or is it hard to look at?
- Do all the colors in the color palette complement each other? Or do the colors compete?
- Are unique, yet sophisticated typefaces used? Or do the typefaces look dated or inconsistent?
- Does the usage of the chosen typefaces look appealing and clean? Or is the usage cluttered?
- Are you eager to hold the stationery and feel it? Or is it bland and flat?
- Does the work look original and fresh? Or have you seen it or feel that it is a tired design?
Why are these factors important? Knowing about print techniques, being able to provide accurate pricing about those print techniques (and all the materials involved), and having an eye for design will give you greater peace of mind that your stationery project will be designed and delivered to your specifications and wishes.