When designing stationery, every element, from font options to paper selection can greatly affect the final product. This is why I'm sharing with you today my latest find and my new favorite stock for digital printing.
The name of the stock is: Mohawk Superfine Eggshell i-Tone Ultrawhite, 270 GSM
It's an uncoated stock with the perfect shade of white and a slight texture that adds a touch of sophistication to your projects. Give it a try when you have a chance - I'm sure you'll be very pleased with the results.
Stationery Design Tips and Inspiration
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Over the last few weeks, some of my Stationery Bootcamp students and newsletter subscribers have been reaching out via email. In all of the emails I've received, there is one question they've all had in common:
"How do I get my work and business to the next level?"
This is a difficult question to answer in one email because everyone is at different stages in their career. If you're reading this, I'm assuming you have the same question as well.
There are many things that need to happen in order for growth to occur. Maybe you need to establish an easy on-boarding process. Maybe you need to find wholesale vendors for a variety of stocks and embellishments. Perhaps you have yet to find and establish a relationship with a print shop that best suits your needs.
Regardless of what stage you're in, the trick is not to drive yourself crazy by comparing your work to that of others who are more advanced in their careers than you are. It's great to browse around looking for inspiration, but don't spend hours doing so or you will start to feel hopeless and stuck. I tell you this because it used to happen to me as well, ALL. THE. TIME.
By now, I'm "ripe" enough to recognize that when I'm feeling stuck I just need to step away for a bit and focus on tasks that nurture my creativity and physical health. I know my way around this field (stationery design) well enough to proceed with certainty that creativity will undoubtedly strike when I least expect it.
You might not be so familiar with the territory yet, but that's not a bad thing. It keeps the journey exciting, as you have so much to discover along the way. The best part about familiarizing yourself with this territory as you complete one project after another, is the growth and sense of accomplishment you will be left with. You will, without a doubt, learn something new or finally master a skill that will make the next project you work on a lot easier to get through.
The pace of growth
Whether you want to become a high end stationery designer or focus on cute illustrated invitations for kid's parties - the journey is still very similar. It all starts with baby steps. You have to truly master the basics before you move on to the next phase in your career. To do this, you must work to the FULLEST capacity with the resources you have available. If you are just getting started with stationery design and you feel your work is still pretty basic, then master the basics! Produce the BEST basic stationery pieces out there, the type that makes people say "Wow! It's so simple, yet so pretty!" Polish up your typography skills (a topic I will cover soon), follow a few basic design principles (not too many fonts, create focal points, use colors appropriately, yada, yada, yada).
Once you've mastered the basics, you will naturally and easily gravitate to the next level as you gain more understanding of what each process entails and what needs to take place to achieve certain outcomes.
During this time, there are two things to always keep in mind:
Where are you and where do you want to go?
Take a close look at the work by other designers that you are drawn to. Which ones make you say "Gosh, I wish I would have designed that!"?
The next step is to study the work that inspires you and figure out what it takes to design work of that caliber. What resources do you already have available and which ones do you still need to discover in order to create similar work?
"Well that's the problem - I don't know!"
I swear I just heard you say that. Heehee.
For starters, EVERY designer needs a good print shop. That is the absolute most important business relationship you will make. If you don't have access to a high quality reliable print shop, then your beautiful designs will not come to life in the way you intended them to.
Even if you don't have access to wholesale paper suppliers, patterned stocks and rhinestones, when you have a professional printer you can turn to, you have access to their stock and special treatments. You just need to remember to use them.
Take the invitation below, for example:
This is a design by Paper Fresh Co, I found on Etsy. It's so simple yet beautiful. The hand lettered font used for their names creates a nice focal point and adds a bit of warmth and romance to this otherwise cold design.
Let's say you created this piece but you want to embellish it somehow. It's beautiful as it is, no doubt, but how can you take it to the next level if all you have access to is a print shop?
Below are some enhancement suggestions:
Above is a piece I created in 2013 for the McCallum Theatre's annual gala. This is their major fundraiser each year, which meant I had to create something elegant that would appeal to high-end donors, but it also had to be easy and inexpensive to produce considering we'd be printing about 5,000 invitations.
Here's what I did:
Whether you're a Bootcamp student or not, if you are serious about your stationery career, I ask that you to complete the following mission:
Take a look around and assess your current situation.
STUDENTS: If you log on you'll see I've added a Resources page where I share all the resources I use and recommend. Though the page is still under construction, my entire list is already there, which includes everything from wholesale paper suppliers to printers in the state of California. I just need to finish adding links and a blurb about each resource describing when and how I use them.
NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIBERS: If you have been wanting to join the course, but haven't done so, please send me a note and let me know what's holding you back. Perhaps you are not sure if this course is for you? Perhaps you're unclear as to how the course works?
In summary, Stationery Bootcamp is a password protected website where I share everything I know about the stationery business. I charge a one time membership fee which gives you access to all the lessons and all future updates at no additional cost. You can work at your own pace and access the lessons at any point in your career. The lessons currently included will prepare you to respond to customer inquiries quickly and effectively, give you insight on how to conduct consultations both by email and in person and guide you through everything that takes place in between, all the way through delivering the final product.
Registration opens at $229 on July 18th and closes on July 30th, 2016. I don't know if I'll reopen the course for enrollment again, until the spring of 2017. It just depends on how busy I get with work as fall approaches. I don't keep enrollment open at all times because I want to make sure I am available to answer student questions and I can't do that year round as my full time job requires much of me from September-March.
Registration will reopen in spring of 2017 at a rate of $300, so mark your calendars to ensure you are able to sign up this summer to enjoy the benefits at a lower rate!
Thanks for allowing me to be part of your stationery journey. I know my blog posts tend to be long-winded, but what can I possibly teach you in just a couple of paragraphs? I'd only leave you with more questions than answers. My goal is to pour on to you as much knowledge as I possibly can, because frankly, what else can I do with this knowledge that will truly make a difference? Make another pretty invitation?
I'd rather use my skills and knowledge to make a difference in YOUR career, because I remember what it was like to feel lost and overwhelmed. I remember reaching out to more experienced designers and never receiving a reply. In the end, I found my way around and it all turned out ok for me. I am certain that it will all turn out great for you as well, whether you decide to join Bootcamp or go solo. At least you have the option. I didn't.
I hope you found immense value in today's post. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me a note.
All the best, your stationery design coach,
Today I want to talk about a minor mistake I made when I first started my journey as a stationery designer.
I had this client I met through a local wedding mixer. She was an event planner who hired me to design her wedding invitations.
"Sweet!" I thought, knowing that if I did a great job on her wedding stationery she'd refer me to her clients, so I was very excited to begin on this particular project.
Her budget was $200 and she only needed 12 invitations. Yep, 12. She was was having a destination wedding in Ireland inviting only a few family members and close friends. She bought silk boxes before she hired me which were to enclose the invitations I would design.
I had a high quality laser printer which I used to print her invitations, allowing us to put most of the budget toward design, details and manual labor assembling layers of beautiful paper to create her one-of-a-kind stationery set.
Everything was perfect, except for one small detail. She specified she wanted brown metallic reply envelopes on which I had to print her mailing address. Since black ink from my laser printer wouldn't show on the brown envelopes, I printed the address on gold foil address labels and presented her with a proof. She LOVED everything in the mockups except for the envelopes. And I don't blame her...everything was beautiful except for that fancy foil "sticker" with her mailing address. She didn't approve the stationery for production and requested that the envelopes be printed in gold ink.
"The stickers are not acceptable" she said.
So I did as she requested and sent the envelopes to the print shop. They came back looking great with gold ink and a thermography finish. Her stationery set was now perfect and I couldn't wait to meet up with her so she could approve the entire ensemble for production.
The day came and I happily presented the mockups along with the price list. I was so used to having happy customers all the time, that I felt myself turn pale when she exclaimed "I am NOT going to pay $70 for 12 envelopes!!!"
Aaack! I felt like someone punched me in my stomach. I just took a deep breath and I explained that she had already declined to approve the previous option and in order to give her the gold ink she requested, the envelopes HAD to go to the print shop, which came along with print shop pricing. She still refused to approve the ensemble so we ended up switching to pearlized ivory envelopes which I ran through my laser printer and printed with brown ink.
I had a knot in my stomach for a week. Thing is, I included the reply envelopes on the estimate AT COST. I wasn't making any money on them, AND I had already paid the $70 for the envelopes and thermography printing. Now I had to eat that cost, which was really upsetting considering that was almost 50% of her original budget.
My mistake was that I focused so much on giving her exactly what she wanted that I proceeded to follow her instructions without further discussing the consequences of her request. A mistake I never made again because it helped me develop a process supported by a set of documents that I used on each and every project thereafter.
In the end, she was BEYOND satisfied with her stationery, and I was happy that she was happy, but I was also pretty darn disappointed in myself for not having known better.
And you know what? This was just ONE of the many mistakes I made at the beginning of my journey. But I must say, a $70 mistake is NOTHING compared to my $800 printer mistake. But I'll tell you about that one another time. I just know that both mistakes could have been avoided if I had some sort of mentor at the time, someone to introduce me to the tricks of the trade and guide me through the process. Instead, I had to discover things for my own, which is okay, but not as smooth of a ride as it could have been.
You on the other hand, HAVE that opportunity today. Along with the opportunity to save $20 on Stationery Boot Camp when you use your Early Bird coupon code: SBCFORLIFE2016
Coupon expires today (Saturday, March 19, 2016) at 11:59 p.m.
If you're still on the fence, I'm hoping the following questions will help you decide one way or the other.
I leave you with these words from one of my students who enrolled last summer:
"You have no idea how valuable this course has been to me. I was very very very lucky to have stumbled upon your website at the perfect time for me...
Thank you Kimberly for this wonderful testimonial, and a big thank you to those who have enrolled this week and are already devouring the content. I will be answering your questions soon and uploading those video tutorials I promised.
And thank you, my blog readers and email subscribers, for allowing me into your inbox to share with you every now and then a little bit of wisdom and knowledge gained from my 20 year long career. (Yikes! feeling old now...)
Join the mailing list to receive graphic design tips, guidance and inspiration that will help you excel in your new career as a custom stationery designer.
I came across this funny graphic today by Digital Synopsis, it make me chuckle because I can totally relate! When I see fonts that are stretched out beyond recognition for now apparent reason, I get so irritated that I'm pretty sure it messes with my blood pressure.
So here's a the tip for the day, and I'm not sharing this for the same of my personal health, for the sake of your graphic design portfolio. Don’t EVER stretch out your fonts to the point they are unrecognizable. It’s like shaving your eyebrows and drawing them in arched halfway up your forehead. You just don’t do it.
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If you're looking for a fun and affordable way to liven up and/or add more personality to your invitations, envelope liners will always do the trick! You can use anything to line them with such as maps, wrapping paper, comics, music paper, wall paper - any kind of paper that adds interest to the design and reinforces the mood or theme you are trying to bring forth through your design.
Just make sure there's enough contrast between the two. If you're using multi-colored or heavily patterned liners, opt for a minimalistic invitation design for best results. And if your invitation design is very intricate, then you'll be better off using a liner that is more subtle.
Sure, it might take a bit longer to sit there an manually line the envelopes, but if you're a true paper lover, you'll enjoy the working with the paper in your hands and transforming each individual individual invitation set into an individual piece of art.
Hi there! I was out on vacation since last Wednesday through Saturday. I had one day to settle in at home, and absolutely no time to settle in at the office. Within minutes after walking through the door, my boss asked me to join him, the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors in a meeting to discuss a Save the Date card I've been working on the last couple of weeks. In the 5 years that I've been employed at this place, I have NEVER been in the same room with these three gentlemen at once. I was nervous, but confident and excited for the opportunity to talk directly to the man who will ultimately approve the project I'm working on - the Chairman!
Every time I begin a project for my design studio, I start with a creative brief where I have an in-depth conversation with the client about the project and their vision. I ask questions like: What is the project for? Who is the target audience? What kind of event is it? What type of mood are you trying to evoke? What message are you trying to convey? And so on. The more information you obtain at the beginning of a project, the better! You'll save so much time in the proofing stages because you'll be able to start the project with a clear understanding of the client's vision, which will lead you to accurately translate it onto ink and paper.
THE CHAIN OF COMMAND IS SOMETIMES "NO BUENO"
Unfortunately, when you work for a company where you follow the chain of command, you're not always able to sit down and discuss the project with the one person who gets the final say. We designers get the watered-down version of whatever communication took place amongst department leaders, which will often keep the project in the revision phase for a few days - even weeks!
This is why I was excited to go into the meeting on Monday morning and get right to the point. I was nervous however, because I had been gone for a few days and I had no clue if anything had happened during my absence.
As it turns out, the issue with the layout was the performer's face. Yep, his face.
(You have my permission to "Lol") The Chairman made it very clear that he didn't like the performer's face because it looked like he'd had a lot of work done. "It doesn't even look like him!" he exclaimed. (YouTube showed me otherwise, but um, okay...)
Yes, it was a relief that my work wasn't being critiqued in a negative way, but the "issue" at hand struck me by surprise. Every performer sends us approved images to use in our marketing materials so there was no other image I could use. It was understood that the artist had to be featured on the cover, but not his face. Not as much of it, anyway.
I tried to gather more information from the Chairman as far as what he liked/disliked from the previous two layouts I had worked on to see what I can focus on instead. The first draft was too modern for him (our company caters mainly to senior citizens), and the second draft was not approved because of "the face" still being too dominant. I was asked to shrink the picture and to "just pick a color" to make the card more festive. There wasn't any more information to extract from him despite several of my attempts. Only vague directions to pick a color and shrink the performer's face. And just like that, I was back to square one.
A COMPLETE REDESIGN
Below are a couple of quick sketches illustrating how the layout changed from the 1st to the 2nd draft:
Here's what I hope you learn from my experience:
• THE CREATIVE BRIEF: Always, when possible, interview the client on many levels regarding the project. As you talk to your client you will begin to see images and designs forming in your mind. As these images enter your mind, ask more questions to see if your vision aligns with theirs. Remember, you are the expert. Even if it doesn't align 100%, take as much information from them as you can so that you can bring their vision to life, but use your expertise to enhance that vision. If you can't talk directly to the person who will be making the final decision, extract as much information as possible from the project manager.
• CRITIQUE: Never take a critique as a personal attack. A critique no matter how harsh or inappropriate, is never about you. It's about a communication gap. You are a visual communications architect. The client provides some tools and direction, but often times they are communications challenged. It will take patience and guidance from your part to extract their vision and goals in a clear and concise way that will allow you to transform the information into a kick-ass visual communications piece.
• YOU'RE AWESOME!: Many think of us as "simply" artists, but graphic/stationery designers are a pretty awesome breed! We bridge communication gaps, we are problem solvers, we make things look pretty, we are tech savvy - there is so much more to our job than just art! Even more so if you're planning on operating your own design studio. So don't become discouraged when you encounter a difficult client. I admit, I was a bit frustrated yesterday after my meeting. I came back to work after my vacation expecting to get approval on the save the date card, not to spend another day on a redesign. But guess what? Had it been approved, it would have meant nothing to me. But because I put so much effort into solving an issue I felt I had very little control over, I felt pretty good about myself when I figured out a way to please the Chairman without sacrificing design. Because at the end of the day, you have two main goals to achieve, #1) make the client happy, and #2) put out work that you are proud of.
Talk to you soon!
The previous two layouts featured the performer as the main focal point, but now I had to rethink everything and come up with an entirely new color scheme.
SO HERE'S WHAT I DID
I had recently purchased a set of gold style swatches from Creative Market that I was dying to use. Also, I've noticed that whenever I want to get anything approved around this place, all I have to do is use the color blue, so I searched Shutterstock for a blue and gold background and found the one shown below - it was perfect! The wreath hints at the holidays that will be soon approaching around the time of our gala and it also highlights the copy inside of it creating a new focal point – yay! I can't show you images of the approved save the date card, especially because the information hasn't been released to the public yet, but below is a rough sketch of the third and final proof that solved the "face" issue.
I used the Shutterstock background shown below on the left along with the wreath, and I applied the gold styles to the "Save the Date" wording on the left of the card so that it matches the gold wreath. The artist was still present on the cover, but because of his placement he was no longer dominant in the layout. I strategically placed his face over the wreath, so it blended-in even more, making his face less noticeable. It turned out perfect and I am proud to say that the card was approved within minutes after I submitted the redesign. Whew!
PS - I know you're busy, so I'll try to make it shorter next time ;)
Hi - I'm Dio!
You can read more about me and my background as a designer, in my about page.
Hey! You obviously have good taste...
and you obviously love stationery and hand lettering as much as I do! So join the mailing list to receive design tips, inspiration and guidance to help you excel in your craft!
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