Archive for the ‘Design and Type’ Category

Are You Printing Fewer Spot Colors Lately?

Monday, July 14th, 2014

As I have poked around the industry, gathering comments and insights regarding print quality from print buyers and designers based on the What They Think / Unisource “Digital Print Survey,” I received an interesting comment in a LinkedIn print buyer’s group.

The issue of spot colors in digital print isn’t as important as it used to be, he said, because fewer designers are specing spot colors, whether for digital or offset, based on cost.

Here is the comment, posted in the Print Buyers & Procurement Group, by a managing director of a design and print management firm:

To be honest Heidi, I have had very minimal use for printing spot colours on digital presses. . . Designers seem to shy away from spot colours these days, but I guess this is largely due to cost rather than design quality. It is a shame there are not more designers specifying really bright oranges, greens and deep blues which can look so good but are out of the 4-colour process colour gamut. It is about upselling the design and print I suppose and convincing a client the value of something different from the norm but again it comes back to getting over the price barrier.

Does this match your experience? Are you seeing fewer spot colors these days? If so, do you agree with this designer / buyer’s assessment of the situation?

Get Your (Augmented) Reality Check!

Friday, June 13th, 2014

You’ve heard about Google Glass(es) before, right? But have you seen those magazine advertisements that come to life on your smart phone? You might be thinking of QR codes, which isn’t too far off, but I’m referring specifically to a leading-edge technology that facilitates the most digitally enhanced communication pieces. The technology, Augmented Reality (AR), consists of software integrations to marketing pieces that add layers of digital content (photos, videos, sound effects, games) to a printed advertisement. With AR, a traditional print ad becomes an interactive communications tool that can be used to further inform consumers, gather consumer information, offer promotions, and create deeper brand experiences. At the end of the day, AR helps maximize ad shelf-life and foster consumer dialogue.

To get a better understanding of key applications and examples of AR, I encourage you to check out the recent webinar sponsored by Canon Solutions America titled “A Reality Check: Augmented Reality.” The webinar defines and exemplifies how AR interacts within both print and marketing communities. Barbara Pellow of Info Trends leads a conversation with Martin Ahe (Partnerships Manager at Layer) and Deborah Haskel (VP of Marketing at IWCO Direct) surrounding AR value and its implementation process.

Today, there are five critical trends associated with AR technology. The first involves an embedment of AR technology in ‘wearables’. Google Glass(es) are just one example, where the ‘wearer’ issues a verbal command to scan and perform a certain task. The second and third trends leverage AR to enhance the brand experience in retail and at live-events, like concerts. The fourth surrounds AR involvement in the educational space with do-it-yourself learning tools, like books and student projects. Lastly, AR has patterns of success in the automobile industry specifically. From sales brochures to owner’s manuals, brands like Ford, Volvo, Nissan, and Audi are using AR to interact, inform, educate, and strengthen relationships with their customers.

With AR growing in popularity in a variety of fields, you might be asking: “How do I start the implementation process today? And what does that process look like in conjunction with direct mail or printed communications pieces?” One way to start is by consulting the firm Layer, who is at the forefront of the AR industry. Ahe explains that the implementation process unfolds in a couple of simple, user-friendly steps:
1. In Layer Creator, upload a page that you wish to make interactive
2. Drag, drop and specify what you would like to link
3. Click publish

It’s important to remember, however, that the majority of customers are new AR technology. Thus, make sure to keep your blends simple, intuitive, and user-friendly. Haskel highlights: “In order to make effective use of AR, you have to help your clients understand the best way to use it. Think quality over quantity.” Content size (video, imaging, etc.) and the appropriate ‘call to action’ are two major components in creating a successful AR experience. And be sure to educate your audience. Many consumers are used to scanning QR codes where you only scan the small square with your smart phone. But with AR, you scan a larger area, usually the entire printed area, with your smart phone. Since this is a relatively new technology, it’s helpful to provide some direction on your printed piece for the consumer.

Get started today by checking out the webinar for classic examples and further details on the implementation process. It’s no wonder AR is here to stay when a brand can tell a story like this! Consider this your (augmented) reality check!

Raising the Standards with the Océ ImageStream 3500

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

The end of May marked a turning point in inkjet printing history with Canon’s announcement of the Océ ImageStream 3500. This continuous feed color inkjet press is the first of its kind with the ability to print on standard offset paper stocks. With both digital and offset capabilities, the technology of the Océ ImageStream 3500 removes the need for two different types of paper. Thus, high-quality inkjet printing is more streamline than ever before. Print Service Providers no longer need to rely on treated paper or add-ons to achieve high-quality print production. In coordination with paper mill partners, Canon has tested the print and image quality on a range of paper sources from uncoated to gloss. Notably, all have yielded positive results.

For commercial printers aiming to make the transition into digital printing, this could be your solution. With dual-functionality, the press handles a digital or conventional run up to 160m/min at 1200 x 600 dpi and features a flexible droptlet modulation for higher perceived image resolution. In terms of applications, the Océ ImageStream 3500 is fit for high-end book production, brochures, magazines, personalized catalogues, as well as direct mail pieces. The press itself is the most compact in its class: 10-50% smaller than other production system, which translates to a major save on floor space.

That transition from offset printing to digital, or even inkjet, printing… it just got a little bit more tempting.

All in all, the standards have been raised with the announcement of the Océ ImageStream 3500. We will just have to wait patiently until 2015 for its launch. For further details, check out the recent posts on WhatTheyThink? and InfoTrends.

All new Fold of the Week!

Thursday, May 15th, 2014
What should a company do when it wants to change its name? Throw a great party, of course! This week’s selection, designed by Prismatic (hellprismatic.com) and produced by Lawton Printers (lawtonprinters.com) of Orlando, offers a really fun modification to the always exciting and varied tulip fold format. By adding a reverse panel to the cover, the opening experience is entirely fresh. The piece is dramatic in scale and features holographic foil, too. It’s a real winner. Cheers!

Super-Cool Fold of the Week!

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Brace yourselves for the most amazing feat of direct mail and digital print. This week’s selection was a spectacular find from HP’s DScoop Conference in Orlando. From Motioncutter in Germany and printed on an HP Indigo press, this pop-up self-mailer has an exciting secret – high-speed variable laser-cutting with personalization! Yes, imagine a different, highly-detailed laser cut name in EVERY mailpiece, produced at speeds of up to 6,500 per hour. Skeptical? You can watch their demo video, too. Mind = blown.

 

PODi reviews PRISMAprepare

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

PODi recently independently reviewed the Canon Océ PRISMAprepare workflow suite and authored case studies and product briefings on these workflow solutions. The overview from PODi:

“Canon’s Oce PRISMAprepare simplifies and streamlines document make-ready processes to efficiently compile, correct, personalize and program print applications. This includes various layout and tab programming, spine printing, color splitting and releasing to production presses. While it can be integrated with other software packages, PRISMAprepare can also be used as a completely self-contained stand-alone make-ready solution.”

PODi completed their analysis by posting a series of podcasts reviewing PRISMAprepare capabilities including:
• Document Editing
• Page and Image Editing
• Personalization
• Make-ready Automation

For more information – visit PODi’s site here.

Stay Ahead of the Curve with Automated Web-to-Print Solutions

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Want to learn how to keep your print services on top within the fast-paced marketing community? If so, InfoTrends’ Kate Dunn offers insight and recommendations on how to adapt and automate print services for your clients. Sponsored by the PressGo program of Canon Solutions America, this webinar gives you the information needed to bolster your online business.

You might be asking, “What are some of the web-based market models out there?” For starters, there is the standard Ad-hoc Send-and-Print, which most printers already have in place. This allows the customer to upload a single file, receive a cost estimate, and send the file to print. The Catalog and Template based models mainly surround business communications, sales and marketing collateral, and direct mail, which are customizable to certain degrees. The holy grail of models is Process Automation, which integrates an enhanced supply chain with fully customizable print ordering.

OK, let’s apply a model to a real-life scenario. With an automated template process system, a realtor can sign-in online, choose a business card template, select copy that pertains to his property sales pitch, send the card to print, as well as have the business cards packaged, postmarked, and mailed to recipients. Accomplished all in a series of clicks without having to juggle communications with a number of service providers.

Let’s review: why are automated print services so important? Well, InfoTrends predicts that 40% of all printed materials will be procured over the Internet in the coming year. Customers are asking for automation services in order to streamline their supply-chain and maximize profits. In short, web-based automation adds value for both you and your clients. Today’s marketing supply chain consists of multiple, interconnected suppliers that an organization relies on to produce materials (print, promotional, and point-of-sale) to market their products and services. It’s astonishing, however, that 70% of businesses surveyed have no way to track or predict obsolescence within their supply chain. The last thing any client wants is a loss of control over their brand! That’s where a web-based approach is applied to fix the gap. Some of the benefits include: customer access 24/7, increased print accuracy, reduced customer service workloads, and enhanced volume production. Sounds like a nicely packaged offer to me.

If you want the complete list of benefits, the stats, and further insight into web-to-print solutions, view the webinar here:

Looking forward to 2014!

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Every year, I like to think of my trip to PRINT/Graph Expo as a preview of what the coming year will bring. This year, we asked Madison Advisors to jot down their notes about what PRINT indicates will be big in 2014. Here is what they offered:

According to Madison Advisors, expect to see growth in digital color continuing through 2014. The firm’s recent engagements have shown an increase in production color printers in both in-plants and service bureaus. Outsourced print providers without high volume color capabilities are reviewing the market for the best solution to meet the needs of existing and new client opportunities. Most understand the need to have the color devices in place when bidding on color jobs as the learning curve is too great to take an “if they come, we’ll build it” approach. Creative sales approaches are needed to get these placements so the service bureaus can control their capital expenses while building volume.

Madison Advisors is also forecasting growth for outsourced customer communications platforms. As the IT department at more than one large company has observed, it is increasingly difficult to hire, train, motivate, and retain skilled IT professionals in the area of document composition. When the guy next to you is working on a cool mobile application, it’s tough to get excited about putting dots on paper. As a result, we see an increasing number of companies outsourcing their document implementations and ongoing operation to external vendors.

Custom packaging and product labeling is a growth area for commercial printers and there were a number of products at PRINT 13 geared toward this, again, many inkjet-based. The opportunity here is two-fold. For the printer, digital packaging printing allows them to respond quickly to changes in labeling from their clients. Short runs can now be profitable as you can print fully customized single units. For the marketing manager, digital printing of packaging and product labeling allows them to customize the messaging on each product to a specific micro market or respond to an outside event with special packaging.

The message from PRINT 13 was that color digital print is the future and the industry is prepared to deliver solutions to streamline the production process. Printer vendors are investing in new print technology, software providers are taking what they have learned over the years and investing in new solutions that are more user-friendly and easier to support. 2014 will be an interesting year as these new print solutions get into the hands of users and we can see if they deliver on the hype.

Coloring inside the Lines – Designing Business Communications in Highly Regulated Industries

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
From Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

From Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

Most designers look at regulations the way that Don Quixote looked at windmills – as an adversary that must be defeated or circumvented.

In fact, regulations are just one of several boundaries on any designer of business communications. Designs are also restricted by:

  • Corporate Identity Guidelines
  • Postal Regulations
  • Production Processes

And just as windmills are not giants, boundaries don’t need to be the designer’s enemy. In fact, identifying these factors in advance can help to focus attention on the goals of the design and also apply a filter to the process of finding solutions. The ability to understand and design for these constraints can actually become a strategic advantage for the designer.

Do you need to be an expert on every regulation? Cam Shapansky, Partner at Canada-based marketing agency Blue ID says “I don’t think the designer should become the regulatory expert, but we’ve always tried to view the regulators as a friend.” At the end of the day, compliance departments and corporate counsel exist for a reason – they are the legal experts. What is critical is that designers understand when they are working with a communication that is subject to regulatory compliance and that they engage the appropriate experts as early in the process as possible. Some designers may be tempted to simply lift-out the regulatory language that is currently used. This is a problem for several reasons; first, the product or business changes that were the catalyst for redesign might have negated the need for specific disclosures. Second the regulations (or cited regulatory agencies) may have changed or be pending change – recent examples include the renamed FINRA (replacing NASD in the footnotes of your U.S. brokerage statements) and the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB. Third, the company’s “compliance culture” or interpretation of the regulations may have shifted since the last time the document was updated. Some companies take a very conservative approach, erring on the side of legal protection to the corporation at the cost of customer experience. This can have a major impact on the design process as well as the design itself.

Another way that companies differ in their interpretation of regulations is in the placement of compliance messaging according to Michael Ellison. As the president of Corporate Insight, an analyst firm that uses live accounts at leading financial firms to benchmark communications across all major channels, Ellison reviews a lot of statements. “Some firms dump several paragraphs of legalese onto one page in very small type, creating a dense, uninviting reading experience that adds no value to the relationship. Others sprinkle the required language throughout the document. While still dense legal-speak, the language is at least a little easier to understand since it’s presented in proper context. A third – and in our view, optimal – approach transforms regulatory disclosures into readable, plain language, presenting this required text in a way that is not distracting to the reader.”  .

Progressive companies combine “point of need” messaging with plain language disclosures to minimize complex legal language and make sure that key information is placed where it is most useful to the reader. Some language may still be clustered in one area of the statement if it is general information that is not frequently referenced. According to Shapansky, “We consider the meeting with corporate counsel to be one of the most important meetings we have with any client. You know within the first 30 seconds what type of regulatory interpretation the company is going to follow and whether they are progressive or not. “

Working directly with a firm’s compliance expert provides a much-needed opportunity to advocate for innovations that make the language and positioning more customer-friendly. Sometimes the boundaries need to be pushed and interpretations need to be challenged for the benefit of the customer – and ultimately the corporation as well. Often in challenging specific compliance “rules” it is determined that they are not rules at all but simply “guidelines” defined by some long-retired employee of years gone by.

In designing business communications, you must have a strategy for dealing with the boundary conditions you face. Will the design process be based on rigid instructions or will there be a dialogue? Will the process lean toward the customer or toward a bureaucratic norm? Will you color well within the lines or will you color right up to the outside edge of the line?

Keys to Success:

  • Understand the current interpretation. Why was the regulatory language handled in this particular way? Has the corporate or regulatory climate changed?
  • Understand the corporate culture. Do they take a conservative position or a progressive position? Do they actually have a position or are they just doing what they’ve always done?
  • Make your case for any requested changes. Will your approach have a significant positive impact on customer experience, cost or risk exposure? Can you back your claims up with competitive benchmarks or research?
  • Provide several options. There may be more than one way to make improvements. Don’t end up with the status quo, legalese interpretation because you weren’t willing to compromise.
  • Engage with compliance representatives in person (and have your corporate sponsor on board with your recommendations first.) Remember, it’s easy to say “no” in an email. It’s much harder face-to-face.
  • Document the discussions and factors that drove the decision to take a particular approach. This will help to make the decision stick and avoid revisiting issues multiple times when and if new people join the project.

Most importantly, remember that regulations are intended to inform and protect the customer.  They also protect the corporation from potential liability.  Regulations are not the enemy of design, they don’t need to be defeated or circumvented. They need to be understood and implemented in a way that serves the intended purpose – and the same could be said of any portion of content in any information design project. Once you learn enough to color inside the regulatory lines you’re much more likely to be able to influence where those lines are drawn.

 

Elizabeth GoodingElizabeth Gooding is the President of Gooding Communications Group and editor of the Insight Forums blog. She writes, presents and provides training on trends and opportunities for business communications professionals within regulated vertical industries.

Millennials, “The Greatest Generation” and Direct Marketing

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

I am (barely) a Millennial. Born in 1980, I rest on the cusp of what Time magazine recently profiled as the “Me Me Me” generation and described on the cover as “lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.”

Guess which magazine isn’t getting a Christmas card from me this year.

Overall, the article has received a great deal of exposure and backlash because of the attention-grabbing, slightly hyperbolic title and the overarching assumptions that Millennials crave less responsibility, still live at home and are obsessed with themselves. I’ve read many opinions on this feature that debate the statistics and accusations the article boasts, but the core of what separates the “Millennials” from prior generations is the advancement of technology during their (our) lifetimes.

AdAge makes a troubling assertion (for direct marketers, at least) that “Among other things, baby-boomer marketers need to accept the fact that Millennials have not inherited their parents’ love for the “touch” of paper.” There is some truth to this statement, but as a Millennial that checks his mailbox every day, there is also a major balancing act that every marketer must accept in marketing to Millennials – the same tricks don’t work anymore, they just work in different ways.

Millennials may not “crave” the touch of the physical printed piece, but still will interact with it given the right pairing with technology. Whether this comes in the form of augmented reality, near-field chips or smartphone-based apps and QR code scanning, ways that allow this connected generation to interact with their mail and magazines using a smartphone or tablet will be key in keeping direct mail relevant to this generation. For example, I LOVE to get coupons in the mail, but I’d like it even more if I could scan and save them to my iPhone. The ideals demonstrated by Google Glass also give insight to how this generation will consume information in the years to come. Whereas the newspaper or Yellow Pages may be less relevant to a younger generation, the information contained within will not be.

The past ten years have spawned the buzzword “multichannel”’ marketing, but Millennials are leaps and bounds ahead of the curve. They were raised on multichannel marketing. Television based off of their video games; magazines that point to websites; College acceptance letters that point to social media sites. This technology has never been new to them, so it has become an expectation in the way they do business and the way marketers HAVE to market to them. So there’s another way Millennials are here to save us, they will push companies to try harder and smarter and the best, data-driven messaging will rise to the top.

Marketers are taxed with using all of the data at their hands, especially from “Big Data” via social interactions and from employing advanced segmentation techniques in marketing to Millennials. Without these methodologies, messaging will be ignored, as it competes with the constant stream of stimuli coming from smartphones, emails, social networks, television, postal mail, video games and soon with augmented reality and wearable computing.

Super-cool Fold of the Week!

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

This week we highlight a mailer from GLS Companies in Brooklyn Park, MN. This is a great example of a creative self-mailer that fits within the realm of the newly created UPS self-mailer guidelines. Designed by Doug’s Creative in MN, this mailer presents as a postcard-sized booklet which opens sequentially in a “traveling snake” format. Each successive opening entices the reader with a snappy comment and then opens to reveal additional information. Very clever by both the designer and the printer!

Another Super-Cool Fold of the Week

Monday, April 1st, 2013

This week we look at the Awesome Spiral Accordion Mailer – it’s a must see mailer! Design by CSG Creative in Alexandria, VA. and produced by ITP in Elizabethtown, PA. This 2-part direct mail piece features a post card and circular piece that fits inside a mylar envelope, mailed first class. The circular piece unfolds in a spiral accordion patterns which opens to reveal a rectangular piece. The color and design accentuate the fold which highlights the expert nature of this piece. Scored and hand-folded – the final product is worth the effort.

Take a look for yourself!

 

Non-Laminated Mail Takes a Beating

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Years ago, I wrote about a study conducted by the Digital Printing Council on the lamination (or non-lamination) of direct mail and how the various toner-based presses fared in the mail stream. The topic is still around apparently, since it is kicking up quite a storm in one of the industry discussion groups.

The poster expressed frustration that the USPS had been “particularly cruel” to his non-laminated direct mail piece and was looking for advice on the best way to create scuff-resistant mail.

Here are a few interesting responses:

Well, being in the lamination business for 25 years, you know what I would suggest. Not sure what USPS did and not sure what type of DM you did, but coatings may still scuff. Lamination will certainly preserve the piece from tearing or the ink being scuffed. It will add to the cost, but so will coating or even bagging your piece.

(Chuck Thompson, Business Development Manager, Cosmo Films)

If you print digitally and mail, without coating or laminating, you will get scuffing and poor looking pieces. I see from your profile that you are from the manufacturing side of the industry. Welcome to the user side. Toner does not absorb into paper. It sits on top and is easily rubbed off by rollers . . .  Next mailer, budget for coating or laminating or have it run on old fashioned offset lithography.

(Ed Keenan, Owner, Document Depot [NYC])

Ryan’s dilemma may create an interesting opportunity for him. DM users are always searching for ways to improve response. It is possible that film lamination could add visual impact that would do just that. For the next mailing try laminating half of the pieces, then mail using an A-B split (every other name receives the laminated piece). Code the labels, address, or response piece to show which lot generated every response. You may be surprised at improved results.

(Mike Burrows, President and Owner at Burrows Consulting, Inc., Washington D.C.)

Other suggestions included printing on synthetic substrates, using offline UV, and to keep costs down, using a lighter weight stock and laminating only on the messaging side and leaving the address side uncoated.

What was interesting was that, once the suggestions were proffered, they solicited responses from other group members who found that, at least from the technical side (not the marketing response side), it didn’t seem to matter whether the prints were laminated or not or printed on synthetic stocks or not. It’s so nice to have a consensus, isn’t it?

What’s your experience?

Pushing the Envelope… Literally and Figuratively

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Creative direct mail can have a life far beyond the first recipient. In an Internet era, people go on Facebook and Reddit and Twitter to share the direct mail piece that turned their head. Here are some recent examples that I found particularly interesting, and that go to show that a little creativity can have a lasting effect in an increasingly digital world.

1. BMW “M-print”
I found this example extremely creative, in that it gave a new twist on variable print and personalization, as the car literally made thousands of unique impressions, and likely made exponentially more “impressions,” as 470,000 people have watched (on YouTube) the process that went into this direct mail campaign. Take a look:

Great campaign, great execution, and a lasting impression.

 

2. Mini (success from a glitch)
I found this earlier today on Reddit on the front page of “Funny,” and it shows that even in the face of a flub, there lies an opportunity. Take a look below, and see how a little creativity and humor can turn what could have felt like a disaster into having a customer that is “In on the joke.”

thqesvqh

 

Included in the mailing was, you guessed it, a chocolate rose, a roll of duct tape and a can of Spam. Wonderful execution combined with a personal touch from a company that is known for being lighthearted. Goes to show that each individual mail piece you send has the ability to impact the recipient greatly and turn some bad PR into some great PR.

 

3. Griffiths, Gibson and Ramsay Productions (GGRP)
Possibly my all-time favorite example of creative direct mail (being an avid record collector and fan of intuitive design). GGRP Sound Studio mailed out a “make-your-own” phonograph player with a 45 rpm record. The recipient is enticed to build this working record-player and learns more about the business in the meantime.

record-mailing

 

This mailing reinforces the ideal that direct mail is most impactful when it becomes a keepsake, something that the recipient will refer back to in the future. Creative agencies were calling the Sound Studio asking if they had additional mailpieces to share!

Several members of our blog team have shared their recent “WOW” moments with print, such as CineprintAugmented Reality and a Lexus mailing that hit all the right “channels.” What is your Direct Mail story? What mailings stood out to you? Leave your comments below.

Editor’s Note: Keep up with all of Matt’s blogs at the SourceLink blog

It was the best of folds…

Monday, March 4th, 2013

The recent USPS Folded Self-Mailer regulations mean big things for direct mailers – there are now more creative options available to the mailing industry. These new options capitalize on advances in technology and mail processing capabilities. If you are interested in learning more about these new regulations, you can click here to to read the summarized reference guide, which was created jointly by the USPS and mailing industry.

In this week’s 60 Second Super-Cool Fold of the Week we highlight a direct mail piece from American Express which is made possible through – you guessed it – these new Folded Self-Mailer regulations! In this piece, you’ll see an opening flap on the non-address side of the envelope used to highlight some of the most noteworthy information bits of the offer. The piece opens to reveal an additional self-contained pocket, glued on the sides, protecting smaller printed brochures, response card, and response envelope. This is a great example of a fully automated, inline finishing direct mail run that will stand out in your customers stack of mail, inviting them to open.

Enough from me – see for yourself!