toolguyIn their continuing efforts to streamline automated mail processing, the Post Office is implementing new guidelines for addressing “Flat” mail. (See my last post, Postal regulation changes coming in May?)

Flat mail is anything larger than the post office “Letter” mail size (up to 6.125″ x 11.5″) up to a maximum of 12″ x 15″. These changes apply to items like catalogs, newsletter and magazines for both First Class and Standard Mail. They don’t apply to items like letters and postcards

I have posted pdf downloads of the new standards below. If you ignore these changes, you are likely to lose presort discounts and drive up the cost of your mailing. (more…)

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How hard would you work for $.47?

What can you do for $.47?

Since I posted my last blog on catalog redesign, my colleague Christine Erna forwarded me information on proposed changes from the Post Office that could mean that Top It Off Accessories may need to update their format again to maintain the postage savings from their recent catalog update. If you are a graphic designer or marketer who creates materials for the mail, you should know about these new regulations, too.

Some of the changes to booklet and catalog (defined as pieces with multiple pages) requirements being discussed for possible implementation in May 2009 include: (more…)

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A new format helped Top IT Off impress their retailers

A new format helped Top It Off impress their retailers

I hear from graphic designers that they learned little in school about how to create artwork that can be printed. That learning comes either in an internship or in their first real job when a mentor teaches them requirements of a print-ready file.

The bigger issue is they were never taught the standard sizes available for paper and printing presses, or how to create artwork that fits efficiently within those sizes. That oversight costs clients a lot of money.

I’ve worked with fashion company Top It Off Accessories for years helping them produce their biannual wholesale catalog for boutique retailers. Partners Elizabeth Hoensheid and Karena Rasser asked me to help cut expenses for their upcoming Spring/Summer edition. We were able to slash the costs by more than 50%. Here’s what we did. (more…)

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As a graphic designer, do you design for the client or for yourself?

In the January 2009 edition of Wired Magazine, the Rants section has an item entitled “Sarcastic Letter of the Month.” Here is the excerpt:


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On New Year’s Day I sat down to watch a YouTube video entitled “Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer a month before he gave this lecture on September 18, 2007. His doctors had given him three to six months before his health would begin to fail. Pausch passed away on July 25, 2008.

In my blog I try to write about and celebrate creativity, and Pausch’s lecture absolutely meets that criteria. This video is over an hour long, yet it has been viewed over eight million times on YouTube, and has over 340,000 web sites like this one that have links back to it. The iTunes store now offers it as an audiobook and Hyperion has published it in book form.

Here are a few of the creative ideas Pausch puts forward, along with the video: (more…)

In the current economic climate, companies are looking carefully at promotional spending. There’s a temptation to shave budgets by curtailing marketing. In the November issue of Entrepreneur Magazine, Robert Kiyosaki writes how that could be a big mistake for your business.

According to Kiyosaki, author of the RichDad book series, “Promotion is a six week cycle. That means if I promote today, business increases six weeks later.” If you are worried about business slowing in January and February, that means you need to be sending out promotions in December. It can be something as simple as a holiday card, or you can go high end with elaborate food baskets and gifts. Just make sure your clients are hearing from you.

Here’s a list of ideas to consider for your December promotions and gifts for clients that give back to your company all year long. (more…)

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Bloodbags ready to mail

Handle with care - blood bags ready to mail

UPDATE: This post was voted part of a “Best Answer” to a question posed on LinkedIn. (See it HERE)

Mark Gallagher and Laura Savard of Blackcoffee, a brand expression consultancy in Boston, asked Sophwell to help produce a promotion that would excite and arouse both clients and prospects. The color red and the sight of blood certainly offered that potential.

Their concept was a “blood bag” promotion to be mailed for Halloween, with a label mimicking the real thing, and the phrase “B Positive” to both tie in to the theme and offer an upbeat message in a slowing economy. They brought me in early in the design process to ensure that the mailer could be produced AND that the post office would mail it. I offered three recommendations: (more…)

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Merriam Webster has recently added the word “mondegreen” to its pages with the definition “a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung.” The word was coined by author Sylvia Wright in 1954 when she discovered that she had long misunderstood the lyrics to an old Scottish ballad, “They have slain the Earl Amurray, And Lady Mondegreen.” The true ending of the stanza is “And laid him on the green.”

There are other more contemporary examples such as Jimi Hendrix’ “’scuse me while I kiss this guy” (‘scuse me while I kiss the sky) or Macy Gray’s “I wore goggles when you are not here” (My world crumbles when you are not here). Columnist Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle has long catalogued more examples on his web site at the link listed below. One of my favorites is (more…)

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My first job when I started out in the graphics field was pasting up ads (actually, we used melted wax) for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian at UMass Amherst in 1977. It was a 36-page daily newspaper that was published on weekdays and distributed for free around the campus.

Student sales reps would go out to the local businesses in town (liquor stores were big advertisers since the drinking age was 18) and bring back a ratty piece of notebook paper with some scribbled text and a couple of crudely drawn shapes. My job was to translate it into artwork that would (more…)

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