Author Archives: Trish Witkowski

About Trish Witkowski

Trish Witkowski is Chief Folding Fanatic at the online community She holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design and a master of science degree in Graphic Arts Publishing from RIT. An award-winning designer, she held the position of creative director for a Baltimore-based agency for six years, and has taught design and desktop publishing at the college level. Trish has a specialized expertise in the area of folding and is the creator of the FOLDRite™ system, and the template-building software plug-in FOLDRite Template Master. Trish frequently writes and blogs on the topic of folding and finishing and hosts a popular weekly e-video, the “60-second Super-cool FOLD of the WEEK.” She has written three books on the topic of folding: A Field Guide to Folding, Folding for the Graphic Arts: A Teacher’s Handbook, and FOLD: The Professional's Guide to Folding.

FoldWOW! Another 60 Second Super Cool Fold of the Week


This week’s 60 Second Super Cool Fold of the Week was designed for The Clarrett Group and printed by Cedar Graphics inRonkonkoma,NY. From the outside, it looks like a briefcase with a handle but when you use that handle to open piece… it reveals a large format poster detailing the Clarett Group’s ambitious plans. The gate into closed-gate fold first revels a quad-fold, then a tri-fold until the poster is fully unraveled. Watch the video below to find out more about the Brooklyner Briefcase Brochure!

Looking for more innovative ideas like this? Look no further! Check out OceWOW for more tips for digital print providers.

Would you like a fold with that?


Check out the latest 60 Second Super Cool Fold of the Week. This fold comes from ITP inElizabethtown,Pennsylvaniaand is a piece they created for Global Business travel Association. It is a self-mailing piece that uses an open gate fold format with an interesting tweak. Watch the video to learn more!


Another 60 Second Super Cool Fold of the Week


Here is the 112th Super Cool Fold of the Week from Trish at FoldFactory. Watch as she teaches you how to create the fun Assymetrical Gate Fold piece with a perfed postcard. It was originally designed by Cayenne Creative Group for International Paper to promote their Elements line.

Here’s another Super Cool Fold of the Week!


Direct mailers seem to get more and more innovative every week and create digitally printed pieces that I couldn’t even fathom on my own. This week’s fold is no exception. It is a hexagon-shaped fold that unfolds to a larger hexagon. The catch to successfully recreating this piece is to ensure that each mini hexagon is slightly smaller than the one before it. Check it out!

This week’s fold comes from Capital Printing Company in Austin, TX and was created for Texas State.

Folding for Digital Print


Digital print used to be a fairly restrictive process. It was great for short runs, smaller formats and simple folding styles. Quality was good but not as good as offset, paper choice was limited and the glossy look of the toner was unmistakable. Times have changed, however.

The line between digital and conventional print has blurred and digital is better than ever. Not only has the quality become almost indistinguishable from offset print, the color is amazing, the variety of digitally-qualified papers has exploded, small format digital is moving to larger formats, and the technology of print finishing has caught up as well. High-speed automated folding machines can execute challenging folding configurations at the push of a button. Even highly complex direct mail pieces can be executed inline, taking them from a preprinted web to cut, fold, glue and conversion to a finished product in a single pass.

As a matter of fact, I was in Boston recently to check out some of the latest and greatest in automated finishing equipment at the Standard Finishing Systems National Demonstration Center. Click here to watch the video.

The technology of digital is its strength, as is the ability to create individualized print materials. There is tremendous value in using customer data to customize targeted mailings. This technique, one that many of us know as Variable Data Publishing (VDP) uses various software technologies to pull information from a database to customize the message or graphics in a printed piece. Combine VDP with other technologies such as Personalized URLs (PURLs) or QR codes and behold—the power of print!

From a print finishing perspective, the biggest challenges with digital print are static between the sheets, toner buildup on the rollers of the folding machine, and cracking at the fold. Your printer or print finisher will utilize industry-proven techniques to avoid these common issues, however if you have heavy coverage across folds, you should bring up the topic of scoring because the decision at times is subjective.

One important note: Not all printers have the same equipment, so it pays not to make assumptions. Just because machines exist that can automate an entire complex mailpiece inline, that doesn’t mean your printer has access to it. Some printers have limitations of size and folding style, so ask a lot of questions. Below is a list of questions to ask your printer before your next digitally-printed project.

Questions to ask your printer:

What is the maximum printable area of the sheet?

Are you offering any technology services that might enhance my project, such as variable data, PURLs or QR codes?

Can my project (and budget) benefit from any inline finishing processes that you offer?

Are there any limitations from a folding perspective?

Should I consider a varnish or coating to reduce the likelihood of scuffing?

At what quantity would my project be better suited to offset printing?

60 Second Super Cool Fold of the Week


Are you looking for a new idea for a tradeshow leave-behind? Look no further than the 60 Second Super Cool Fold of the Week for the Long Triangle Fold. This collateral piece was designed by The Whitmore Print Group from Baltimore Maryland and created for Edge Technologies in Fairfax, Virgina.


Super Cool Fold of the Week


Join Trish on her 100th episode as she shows us how to create a super cool direct mail piece from Hyundai. This is another good example of how direct mail can be powerful and innovative and can help your customers impress their target audience.

Direct Mail Savings are in the Finishing


Trish WitkowskiEven though the USPS is struggling, and digital and social media are all the rage, direct mail is seeing renewed interest and technological advancement—for good reason. Printed material in the mailbox, done right, is still the preferred and most effective way to reach a customer. The key to whether or not the opportunity is a wasted one comes down to format and technique. I’ll give you an example:

Recently, I was involved in a collaboration with Sappi Fine Paper. I provided content for their highly acclaimed educational publication series The Standard Volume 4: Scoring & Folding (you can obtain a free copy of the publication by clicking here).

To launch the project, we did a seven-city speaking tour, which included myself and world-famous designer Kit Hinrichs, who was responsible for the design of the piece. Sappi sent out a save the date email blast in each city, which received some response. They followed it up with an exotic “Twist Fold” direct mailpiece in a brightly colored envelope, and the RSVPs skyrocketed the day that piece hit mailboxes. Hundreds showed up at each venue for the events. Print can be powerful.

For this instance, the concept was on target, the design was great, the fold was interesting, and the envelope was attention-grabbing. This was a special piece mailed to a targeted audience and they got the response they were looking for. So, is the moral of the story that you have to spend a lot of money, use a funky fold and an envelope that screams to get good results these days? Of course not. The lesson here is that email alone won’t cut it. Print alone may not cut it, either, but good design and smart decisions along the way can save money, while getting you the response that justifies the expenditure.

Here are a few tips:

  • If you want to use an interesting folding style, go for it—but do your research first. Some folds that are generally hand-folded can in many cases be finished by machine if the quantity is high enough. There are specialty binderies that can do this kind of work. On the flip side, if your quantity is low, the expense of hand folding isn’t a very big deal.
  •  The Sappi piece finished to a square format, which we all know is more expensive from a mailing perspective, but there are many, many interesting folding configurations that can finish to rectangular formats that fit within USPS aspect ratio. Why spend an extra $.20 per piece if you don’t have to? This tip seems like common sense, but I have samples in my folding collection that miss aspect ratio by 1/8 inch. What a careless and costly mistake.
  •  Make sure your list is clean. It sounds obvious, but if your mailing list isn’t current or targeted, then you’re wasting money. The goal should be to spend an appropriate amount of money on a quality piece that is sent to a clean list of targeted customers.  
  • For self-mailing pieces, watch fold placement. If the folds are vertical, the lead edge (the edge to the right of the mailing address) must be closed. Other edges must be closed or tabbed. If the fold is on the horizontal, the fold should be below the mailing address. Also, mailing address should always be parallel to the longest dimension. Defy these rules and you can kiss your ROI goodbye to the tune of an additional $.20 per piece non-machinable surcharge.
  • Utilize as much automation as possible. Ask your printer how you can maximize the efficiency of your direct mail projects. Many have invested in inline finishing equipment that can score, perf, slit, glue and fold inline. Any time you can automate the process, you can save money. And automation doesn’t necessarily mean limited creativity, either. There are some very sophisticated computerized folding machines that can blow through gate folds, stepped accordions, and lots of other interesting configurations. If you’re printing digitally, various forms of customization can be very effective and efficient with some advanced planning. 
  • Don’t forget about the envelope. A great printed piece can be overlooked in a boring envelope. Consider full color printing, personalization, custom windows or pulls—do something to get attention and motivate the recipient. 
  • Spend money to make money. If you’re going to put in the effort and expense to produce and mail a piece, shouldn’t it represent your best efforts? Maybe you saved money with a cheap sheet, a tri-fold format, and a #10 envelope, but if nobody noticed, didn’t you ultimately lose a lot more than you saved? 
  • Lastly, don’t get caught up in gimmicks. It can be tempting to go in the other direction and pull out all the stops, but there must be balance. A really cool folding style with a confusing message will just end up in somebody’s “cool idea file” or maybe even their “circular file.” A successful direct mailer involves many components and those components must work together to send the right message and provoke a call to action. For best results, resist the urge to get sidetracked solely on “wow-factor” and focus on the objectives and the quality presentation of your content.

For Direct Mail, Don’t Forget About the Fold


By leveraging current technology, marketers can use print as a way to create a dialogue in B2C communications. Send an email, then a targeted print piece with a PURL, a microsite or QR code to increase points of contact and gather more information about the customer’s interests. In doing this, they’re saying goodbye to the old-school “spray and pray” direct mail methodology and choosing to spend more on the piece to ensure its visibility and return on investment. So what does folding have to do with it? Successful direct mail involves the alignment of several variables, and choice of folding style is one of these variables, however so is color palette, text and imagery, paper choice, layout, format and even schedule. Below is a list of questions addressing machinability for direct mail. I’ll be posting in the future about envelope choice, tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the most out of your DM investment.

Is one fold better than another at getting the most into a standard letter envelope?

Not really. There are always different configurations for folding paper that can get a very large amount of information into a compact size. When designing for folded materials, what is most important is to focus on the organization and reveal of the content so that it does not confuse the recipient, and the placement of critical marketing messages. I always suggest that you mock up your layout and hand it to a few people to make sure the message is properly communicated. If your small test group doesn’t get it, your mailing audience won’t get it, either, and you should rework your layout and test again.

What are the most effective machinable folds for direct mail?

The key to successful machine production for direct mail is closed edges. Perfect example – the accordion fold is notoriously problematic for both self-mailing and for auto-inserting. The trouble is caused by the format—accordions don’t have a closed edge. The open sides make it very difficult, if not impossible, to auto insert, and if it’s self-mailing it’ll need four tabs to seal both sides. Expensive and unattractive. However, if you choose a wrapped accordion (see illustration), you get the accordion experience you’re looking for with its pull-out panels, but you also get a closed edge, which changes the tab requirement and offers a closed edge for inserting. So, sometimes you can get what you want with a little creativity.

How important is machinability for direct mail?

I’ll answer a question with a question: How important is it that you don’t throw money away? I see it all the time—a really great design built in a format that instantly adds a .20 per piece non-machinable surcharge to the mailing budget. Why???? I have samples in my collection that miss USPS aspect ratio by 1/8 inch. It’s silly. What a mindless and costly mistake. In my opinion, there are two things to consider when talking about machine production—machinability of the fold and machinability for mailing. Unless you don’t care at all about the budget, ideally, you should aim for a maximum of one of the two options, but never both. For example, if you’re printing a fairly short run, you may choose a unique folding style that has to be hand folded, but you should try to produce it in a format that is within USPS aspect ratio. Or, similar scenario, design a machinable fold in a square format if you must, however, your most efficient solution will always be machinable fold in a machinable mail format.


Editors Note:  You can find more ideas from Trish at the foldfactory 3-D sample library and watch short videos of hundreds of folding ideas that will be sure to add some variety to the everyday.