Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Envelopes: Begin With The End In Mind

All too often, a project is conceived, designed, and printed before any thought goes into how it will be mailed. When we say begin with the end in mind, we’re suggesting that early in the planning process thought should be given to what type and size envelope will be used.

If you intend to mail your brochure, invitation, or thank you card, it’s a good idea to size it to fit in a standard envelope. Although custom size envelopes are possible, it’s an expensive and lengthy process.

Common Business Envelopes

Envelopes are made for many purposes, so it’s useful to categorize them according to use.

Commercial envelopes are used for business purposes such as correspondence, direct mail, and billing. They’re made of 24# basis weight paper in these popular sizes:
 
  • #10 – the most common business size; an 8.5 x 11 sheet that is trifolded fits perfectly inside.
     
  • #9 – slightly smaller than a #10; also holds a tri-folded 8.5 x 11 sheet, but will fit inside a #10. Often used as a remittance envelope.
     
  • 6 ¾ – also fits inside a #10; often used as a remittance envelope.
     
These three sizes are all available with or without a standard window and with or without security tint inside.

Large envelopes are used for mailing bulkier material, like booklets, or contracts where folding is undesirable. The two styles of large envelopes are catalog and booklet. A catalog envelope has the flap on the shorter side, while a booklet envelope has the flap on the longer side. Large envelopes are made of 24# or 28# stock in either white or manila. The most popular sizes are:

  • 6x9: holds 8.5 x 11 sheets folded in half.
  • 9x12: holds 8.5 x 11 sheets without folding.
  • 10x13: holds 8.5 x 11 sheets without folding or a standard size 9x12 folder.
     
Specialty envelopes are used for social correspondence and invitations. A good rule of thumb when choosing the size of a specialty envelope is to have at least 0.25 inch more in height and width than the piece being inserted. Common specialty envelopes include:

Baronial: referred to with “Bar” after the size; they are typically available in white or ivory stock. This envelope has diagonal seams and a pointed flap. Used for formal announcements, invitations, greeting cards, and sometimes personal stationery.

The most popular sizes are:

  • 5 ½ Bar – fits a 4.25” x 5.5” response or reply card or a small thank you card.
  • 6 Bar – fits a 4.5” x 6.25” response or reply card or a folded thank you note.
  • 7 Bar or Lee – fits a 5” x 7” folded invitation or announcement card.
     
Each size baronial envelope will fit into the next largest size. However, because of the pointed flap, baronial envelopes cannot be sealed by machine. They must be sealed by hand.

Announcement: referred to as A-style; these envelopes have side seams and a square flap. They’re available in more colors and kinds of stock than a baronial. Used for invitations and personal stationery, the most popular sizes are:

  • A-2 – fits a 4.25” x 5.5” response or reply card or a small thank you card.
  • A-6 – fits a 4.5” x 6.25” response or reply card or a folded thank you note.
  • A-7 – fits a 5” x 7” folded invitation or announcement card.
     
Each size announcement envelope will fit into the next largest size.

Sealing Methods

Envelopes offer a variety of sealing methods:

  • Moisture Activated (also known as “lick and stick”) has gum applied to the flap.
     
  • Press and Seal has two flaps, each with a strip of latex gum that adheres when pressed together.
     
  • Peel and Seal has a paper strip over a strip of latex gum. Remove the strip and press the flap to seal.
     
  • Metal fasteners are sometimes used on large envelopes, particularly those made of manila stock.
     
  • String and button, a metal or paper button with a string that wraps around the button, are common on interoffice envelopes that will be opened and closed frequently.
     
  • Tamper-evident has a perforated strip on the top flap; once opened, it cannot be resealed.
     

Design Considerations When Printing Envelopes

Envelopes can present some unique printing challenges. When printing an envelope, a bleed is any printed element that extends beyond the edge. A full bleed means the printed elements extend beyond all four edges. Since it is not practical to print right to the edge of an envelope, typically the image needs to be printed first and then converted into an envelope. This may not add much expense if a large number of envelopes are being printed, but can add quite a bit on smaller quantities.

Let Us Help

Envelopes play an important role in business communications and transactions as well as direct mail marketing. We can guide you through the choice of envelopes to find the perfect match for your project. To discuss options, call Jason or Marya at 215-923-2679.

Storing Envelopes

Like all paper products, envelopes perform best if stored correctly. Here are our recommendations to prolong the shelf life of your envelopes:
  • Store envelopes in dry, well-ventilated areas. Humidity can affect the glue on the flap, causing it to prematurely react where the flap sticks the envelope closed.
  • Ideal storage conditions are temperatures of 65-85 degrees and 35-65 percent relative humidity. Your typical climate controlled office environment works well.
  • Place boxes and cartons on a shelf or raised surface to prevent moisture from the floor getting into the boxes.
  • Keep boxes and cartons closed to guard against damage from moisture.
  • Store envelopes resting on the side, not lying flat.

Fun Envelope Facts

  • In the Victorian Era, the placement of a stamp was used as coded messages between young lovers whose parents censored their mail. For instance, an upside down stamp meant “I love you” a diagonal stamp means “I miss you”.
     
  •  When creating printed wedding invitation envelopes, it is proper to spell out house numbers under 20.
     
  • In 19th Century England, the recipient would pay the postage of the envelope. Correspondents figured out a scheme to transmit brief messages through prearranged envelope marking. The recipient would decode the message, then hand it back to the postman, refusing payment. Postage stamps were created in order to put an end to this.
     
  • America’s First Envelopes were handmade. In fact, the West & Berlin factory in New York employed about 100 hand folders in 1855, that produced 200,000 to 250,000 envelopes per day.
     
  • When someone says you are “pushing the envelope”, you are going up to or beyond the boundaries that have been set by engineering limits, or perhaps by social norms and conventions.

Q&A: I’m planning a direct mail campaign. Will the envelope size affect the postage rate?

This is an excellent question to ask now, in the planning stage. The answer is yes. Envelope size does affect postage.

The USPS divides mail into four basic categories: cards, letters, large envelopes (called flats), and packages. Envelopes are usually in the letter or large envelope category. Mailing houses, and the USPS, call large envelopes flats.

The best postage rate for presorted bulk mail (either first class or standard mail), is letter size mail. In this category, the envelope must be rectangular in shape – that is, the length must be greater than the width, and the address block must be parallel to the length. The envelope dimensions can range from 5” to 11.5” in length and from 3.5” to 6.125” in width. The aspect ratio – the length divided by the height – must always be between 1.3 and 2.5. If it is not, the USPS considers this non-standard and will add additional postage. One example is square envelopes which always have an aspect ratio of 1 and require more postage than a standard envelope.

Finally, the envelope with all its contents cannot exceed ¼” in thickness and must be flexible enough to make the turns in USPS high speed mail processing equipment. Of course, you are free to design and use any size and shape of envelope you feel is needed for your direct mail campaign. Just be aware of the postage costs for non-standard envelopes.  It may be much higher than you expect. Another example of non-standard envelopes costing more is envelopes in dark colors. Dark colors, especially those without much contrast between addresses, postal indicia and the rest of the envelope, may not be readable by automated USPS equipment. They can still be mailed, but require processing by hand, so the postage cost is higher.

First Impressions

There’s a lot more to envelopes than you might think. In fact, it’s easy to take the envelope for granted, but it definitely deserves more thought. The envelope is the first thing your audience sees, so its appearance says so much about your business. You are communicating a non-verbal, visual and tactile message through the envelope, so keep in mind the impression you hope to make. Your envelope should reflect both your business brand and its personality.

For instance, I once had a client who recycled their envelopes when they moved. Instead of printing new ones, they simply stuck a return address label on top of what was printed there. That may be fine for paying bills, but not for client correspondence. The impression that would make on a potential client is not the kind of impression you want someone to have about your business.

We’re experts at envelopes! We will help you select envelopes that reflect well on your business and carry your documents safely to their destinations. Just give us a call at 215-923-2679.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Note from Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute

I subscribe to a weekly email from Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute. It has lots of neat tips for online content marketing and each email includes a "Note from Joe Pulizzi". This particular "Note from Joe Pulizzi" caught my attention. I am glad to see that online marketing proponents like Joe Pulizzi have thier eyes wide open, as you will see in the Note from Joe Pulizzi below. This was so good I had to put it on out blog for all to see. 
A Note from Joe Pulizzi
Brexit, the Cavs and the Value of Print
A few weeks back, I spent some time in London with my family and, naturally, we stopped at various museums. During a stop at the Museum of London, I discovered a special display of the first issue of the London Gazette (London’s first newspaper), from September 11, 1673. As I looked at it, I thought about the things that, as human beings, we value and keep. It would seem challenging to go to a museum in 100 years and view the first native advertising placement online – it just wouldn't have staying power.
Later that week, the family and I were sitting at breakfast when the Brexit results were announced, followed by the resignation of the U.K.'s Prime Minister David Cameron. It was amazing to see the emotion on the faces of the others in the restaurant... it was as if something tangible was being taken away from them.
As we headed back to the hotel via the Tube (London’s subway system), we saw many people distributing copies of the London Evening Standard with Cameron on the cover saying, "We’re Out." There were way more than the typical number of people going after that paper. Sure, they had all the same information on their digital devices; but having the newspaper made it real.
Then, when I got home from the trip, I was showered with copies of the Plain Dealer (Cleveland’s newspaper), which multiple friends had sent to me to commemorate the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the NBA Championship. I also received a number of other commemorative editions, as well as two Sports Illustrated special editions. All in all, I think I now have over 20 print copies of various Cavs-focused editions.
Lastly, as I went through the mail that had piled up while I was away, I discovered my copy of Contently Quarterly, a quarterly magazine from Contently (one of CMI's sponsors). It’s 164 beautifully designed pages of innovative journalism covering the practice of content marketing. Would I have reviewed that content if it wasn’t in print? Sadly, I don’t think I would have.
What I’m getting at is that print continues to be perceived as more valuable than digital (at least, in my mind).
My take is this: We live in a digital society – there's no doubt about it. But, I feel that the majority of brands are missing out on a huge opportunity by not delivering valuable, consistent experiences in the printed form. Now may be the best time in history to invest in print, as it is getting increasingly more difficult to break through the clutter online.
But to do this right, it can’t be a one-time effort. You must follow the same practices of any great content marketing approach – targeting one audience, in one particular content niche, and delivering the content consistently, over time.
If I were to make a prediction (as I love doing), I would expect to see a number of print launches announced by large brands over the next 12-18 months.
So, all we are saying, is give print a chance.
Yours in content,
Joe Pulizzi
Founder
Content Marketing Institute

This article from Joe is available only in this newsletter for you, the newsletter subscriber. If you have friends that would see value in Joe's weekly updates, please have them subscribe here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Rules of Good Design

Design and rules are two things that don’t seem to go together, but there are some basic principles everyone should follow. They can help you create appealing layouts that are both effective and pleasing to the eye. They can better communicate your message to your target audience.

They can also help you understand why your design works – or why it doesn’t. The next time you’re feeling like your design doesn’t look quite right, try adjusting it to fall in-line with some of the four basic graphic design principles.

Do you have enough white space? Is there alignment between elements? Is there a consistent, underlying organization? Asking yourself these questions can help make your design better. Try applying these principles to your next graphic design project. And if you need help, we’re just a phone call or email away.

Q&A: I need to plan a design. Can you give me any tips to get started?

Begin with the end in mind – decide whom you want to reach and what you want them to learn or do. Try using these questions to organize your thoughts.
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What must this creative design accomplish?
  • Are there any perceptions of the target audience that must be created or overcome?
  • What is the single, most important, message the target audience should take away from this design?
  • What is the overall or primary benefit to the target audience?
  • What tone should be conveyed to the target audience?
  • What elements or information must be included in this design?
Today people with no background in graphic design are creating a wide variety of printed marketing tools. There are, of course, many projects that definitely deserve the investment in professional design. Give us a call at (215) 923-2679 if you’d like us to assist you with a project, or if you would like us to create a template for you to use.

Design Challenges

When your task is to fit a lot of text into a small amount of space, or if your project consists entirely of text, you face some significant design challenges. Over the years, we have developed some tricks for organizing text to improve readability. Try some of these techniques.
  • Add contrast to large blocks of text by using headlines, subheads, headers, footers, pull quotes, sidebars, and bulleted lists.
  • Make headlines larger and use a different font than the body copy.
  • Add a one-point rule above and below a subhead and make it span two columns of text.
  • Base your design on a grid and use white space for balance.
  • Create a drop-cap 3-6 times larger than the body copy.
Good design does not come easily. It is a result of studying and applying good design principles, understanding how to analyze design problems, knowing your audience, developing a sensitivity for good design, and lots of trial and error. If you think your layout or design may have a problem, but you’re just not sure – we can help. Just email info@creativecharacters.com or give Brigid a call at 215-923-2679.

Four Principles of Graphic Design

Whether your task is to design a sales brochure, a magazine ad, or a newsletter, the purpose is the same: to communicate a message to the audience that will produce the desired response. What this means is that the design you develop is not just about appearance – it is also about performance. Thus, good design is measured equally by form and function. According to Robin Williams in her book, Non-Designer’s Design Book, she sites four principles of design that underlie every design project – alignment, proximity, contrast, and repetition.

Alignment
Alignment refers to how text and graphics are placed on the page. Alignment creates order, organizes page elements, indicates groups of items, and emphasizes visual connection. Interestingly, good alignment is rarely noticed by the reader, while misalignment is immediately detected. There are two basic types of alignment: edge and center. Edges can be aligned along the top, bottom, left, or right. Center alignment can be either horizontal or vertical. When designing a page, be sure that each element (text, graphics, photographs) has a visual alignment with another item.

Proximity
Proximity describes the distance between individual design elements. Close proximity implies a relationship between the elements; conversely, lack of proximity separates them. Like alignment, proximity is a visual organization tool. Placing elements in close proximity unifies them and communicates a sense of order and organization to the reader. When it isn’t possible to group items proximately, unity between two elements can be achieved by using a third element to connect them.

Contrast
Contrast adds interest as well as organization to the page and is created when two elements are different. Common ways to create contrast include varying size, color, thickness, shape, style, or space. The greater the difference between elements, the greater the contrast. Besides adding interest to the page, contrast can be used to direct the reader around the page and to emphasize importance or differences. Contrast is only effective when it is obvious.

Repetition
Repetition brings visual consistency to page design. When the same design elements – such as uniform size and weight of headline fonts or use of initial caps to begin a chapter – are used, it becomes clear that the pages are related to each other and therefore part of the same document. In this way, repetition creates unity. Some examples of repetition are using the same style of headlines, the same style of initial capitals, or repeating the same basic layout from one page to another.
The four principles of design are interconnected and work together to communicate the message. Contrast is often the most important visual attraction on a page. If the page elements are not the same, then make them very different, instead of making them similar. Repetition helps develop the organization and strengthens the unity of a page. Repeating visual elements develops the design. Every element should have some visual connection with another element on the page, creating a consistent and sophisticated alignment.

Basis of Good Design
There are five steps that form the basis of good design:

Step 1: Set the Goal Every design task begins by defining
the end to be achieved – in other words, the goal of the design project. The goal is most often related to the action desired by the target audience. Is the purpose to invite an inquiry? To generate a purchase? To persuade the reader to a new point of view? Keep the goal in mind and allow it to determine the design.

Step 2: Compose the Message The message is the most important element of any marketing piece because it states the benefits of the reader taking action. Affecting behavior is the result of explaining to the reader what to expect from the product or service; or stated differently, answering the reader’s question, “What’s in it for me?”.

If you have a limited amount of space, devote most of it to benefits. Leave the list of features and the company story off altogether, or abbreviate it. The reader cares a lot more about what’s in it for them, than they do about your company story. Make the message reader-centered, and clearly describe the enjoyment the reader will experience or the pain that will be relieved.

Step 3: Choose the Medium The project’s purpose and message both determine the layout. Sometimes the layout will be obvious – a business card, for example, or a magazine ad. Other times the choices will be broader. A postcard or a brochure are both viable marketing pieces; the medium of the message might be determined by the method of delivery to the target audience – for example, via direct mail, at a trade show, or mailed in response to an inquiry.

Step 4: Select a Design To achieve maximum effectiveness, a design must take into account a myriad of elements related to the target audience such as age, education, language skills, visual preferences, cultural expectations, level of knowledge, and desires. These and other factors affect the selection of color palette, fonts, illustrations, and photographs.

Step 5: Illustrate the Message Photographs and illustrations work the hardest when they reiterate and reinforce the message, or show what can’t be said. Secondarily, they set the tone or draw attention to a specific element of the design. It is always desirable when a photograph or illustration can do both simultaneously.

More Tips for Good Design
  • Be sparse and simple. Carefully select the design elements so a few will convey your message. A design cluttered with too many elements may confuse or overwhelm the reader. For example, use one large photograph or graphic on a page rather than several smaller ones. And use lots of white space – studies show that designs with significant white space are more pleasant to read and attract more attention.
  • Use color sparingly. As a design element, color is very important, but too much color can be counterproductive. Use a consistent color palette. Use contrasting color sparingly so that its impact is increased.
  • Limit fonts. Select one typeface and size for body copy and one typeface for headlines, then use these throughout your design. Using too many fonts can be distracting and may interfere with page organization. 
  • Write clear, comprehensible copy. Remember that a good design effectively conveys a message. Write in short rather than long sentences. Avoid jargon and clich├ęs. Use a vocabulary level appropriate for your audience.
By paying close attention to the four basic principles of design, the five steps that form the basis of good design, and the additional tips, you will ensure that your design communicates effectively.

Reach Out for Help
We know you want the best possible design and layout.  We will be happy to look at your preliminary layout and make suggestions. Email a PDF of your design to info@creativecharacters.com, with your name and phone number. We’ll apply our extensive graphic design knowledge to let you know whether your design is compelling or could use modification.