Category Archives: Printing

Photo Retouching and Restoration


Before after 2

Our experienced graphic designers are happy to clean up, smooth blemishes, color correct, and alter backgrounds for digital photographs so your ads and print pieces look beautiful.  However, we can also do creative work to restore and retouch antique photos.

Collective Design Works will carefully scan your old or damaged photo and digitally repair wrinkles, rips, and time damage so you can have a fully restored memory.  If you prefer, you can purchase the new digital file, or we create custom sized prints for you to take home and frame immediately.

We recently completed this photo restoration of a treasured family photograph.  Now the original can be kept safely and family members can all have their own copy of the photograph as it was originally meant to be seen.

Are QR codes still a thing?

hands-1167612_1920In 2010 you may have downloaded a QR code reader to your smart phone and determinedly read codes on mailers, coffee shop flyers, and any place you could find one. But was 2010 also the last time you bothered to scan one?

Still, QR codes are more prevalent than ever, even appearing on fast food wrappers, offering direct links to nutritional guides.   The question remains, is anyone actually using them?

Developed in 1994, QR codes began as specialty barcodes for Japanese car manufacturers.  By the early 2010’s they filtered into marketing and everyday life as an easy way to link from the real world to online – long urls, videos, even interactive games.

Today, marketers love to use QR codes, and the vast majority rank QR codes as “very effective” or “effective.” Yet a 2013 study found that only 21% of American smartphone users have EVER scanned a QR code.  So, what does this mean?  Not many people use QR codes, but there is a reason marketers love them – it is really effective for those who do use them, and the majority of marketers feel that the level of engagement is worth the effort.

The majority of those who regularly use QR codes are either tech-obsessed or young adults in the 22-35 age range. Our advice – if neither of these groups are in your primary target audience, don’t ever bother.  If they are, consider trying some simple A/B testing with your next direct mail piece – one piece with a url to a landing page, and one piece with a QR code linking to a separate landing page, and then watch your analytics to see what happens!

If you do choose to experiment with QR codes, do keep some best practices in mind:

  1. Strategically place the code so the customer can easily see it, recognize it, and have no issues scanning it. (This may seem obvious, but do NOT place it on a TV ad, or even a t-shirt where it is impossible to scan)
  2. Ensure the linked content is mobile optimized as it will only be accessed via mobile devices.
  3. Link to content specifically created for and related to the in-progress marketing campaign, not a generic landing page.
  4. Provide motivation for scanning! Do not place a QR code in a vacuum.  Instead offer a reward – a coupon code, a special recipe, an exclusive video, some form of immediate gratification.

Locally Printing Your Online Wedding Invitation

IMG_5172While our graphic design team here at Collective Design Works is happy to create a completely custom wedding invitation set, we know many of you have already fallen in love with one of the thousands of stunning online invitation design available in online stores like Etsy.  We are delighted you have found the perfect invitation for your wedding!

Often the most cost effective option is to purchase the design from the online store and have the invitation printed locally, completely circumventing shipping costs.  Not only is this option cost efficient, but it also allows you the opportunity carefully select the perfect paper and to review and approve a printed proof in person.

Contact Collective Design Works for personal assistance with your wedding or special event invitation. Call (423) 591-8656.

How to Stand Out in a World of Pocket Folders – A Case Study

Hickory Valley Senior Living Community approached Collective Design Works about updating their pocket folders.  Like most of the senior living communities and apartment communities in the region, Hickory Valley has always depended on a pocket folder with several inserts detailing different amenities and rates.  Linda Shriver-Buckner, the Hickory Valley Sales Director, was searching for a new look that would create a lasting impression.


Our design team had an idea – get rid of the pocket folder!  Instead, we will design and print a book to encompass all of your marketing material in a high end yet cost-efficient format.  The book format would also allow more personalization and  more photos.  It also addresses a common complaint from the community about the pocket folders that , “many times the inserts from the pocket folder would fall out or get lost.”  After discussion, one compromise was made to the book format.  The book itself would contain an interior pocket to hold rate cards.  This way the books could be ordered confidently in large quantities as a permanent piece, and yet still allow for rate changes.


The end result is a spiral bound book with a luxurious feel due to the linen textured cover.  The colorful pages full of pictures highlight the community.  Sales director Linda Buckner adds, “The books have been a creative alternative to the standard pocket folders used by other communities.  They balance our need to stand out and share important information about our community to our prospective residents. ”



Marketing SHOWDOWN: Print v. Digital Advertising

While an online presence is mandatory in modern marketing, it can be presumptive to assume ONLY an online presence is necessary.  Research from the Temple University Center for Neural Decision making shows that print still wins against Internet marketing in many categories.

In the study, participants were shown a mix of 40 email and postcard ads, and monitored using eye tracking, heart rate, respiration, sweating, and MRIs.  End results showed that postcards were superior to digital ads in 5 out of 9 categories, equivalent in 3, and only lost out in one. The MRI scans found that the postcards triggered the ventral striatum of the brain, the center of desirability and value. On that evidence, Temple researchers concluded that physical ads have a deeper and longer-lasting effect than digital ads on instilling desire for products and services.

  1. Attention – A customer’s focused attention for a sustained period of time on key components of the ad. Winner: Email.
  2. Review Time – the amount of time a customer spends with an ad. Winner: Postcard.
  3. Engagement – the amount of information the customer processes or absorbs from an ad. Winner: Tied.
  4. Stimulation – an emotional reaction to an ad. Winner:  Postcard.
  5. Memory Retrieval Accuracy – accurately remembering the advertising source and content. Winner: Tied.
  6. Memory Speed and Confidence – quickly and confidently remember advertising source and content. Winner: Postcard.
  7. Purchase and Willingness to pay – whether and how much the customer is willing to pay for a product. Winner: Tied.
  8. Desirability – a subconscious desire for the product or service. Winner: Postcard.
  9. Valuation – the subconscious value a participant places on the product or service. Winner: Postcard.

Direct Mail 102: Bulk Mailing Rates and Indicias

Not everyone pays the same postage rate for postcards and newsletters, it is possible to get a bulk mailing rate if you are sending more than 200 items.  However, to do this you need a Permit Imprint, known as an Indicia by the US Postal Service.  An Indicia means you have an account with USPS, and whenever you send out a bulk mailing, the cost of postage is deducted from the account.

To get an Indicia, you have to pay an annual fee to USPS, fill out paperwork, create an account, and follow very specific postal regulations when delivering the mail to your local post office.  The Indicia must be printed on every piece of mail.

The most economical way to take advantage of the USPS bulk mailing service is through the use of a printing company.  Collective Design Works can print your mail pieces and send them out the door using our Indicia, no need to pay a deposit or fill out forms. If you want, Collective Design Works can handle everything – designing, printing, addressing, delivering to the post office, and have your pieces mailed to a list we helped you build and purchase.

Direct Mail 101: Mailing Lists v. EDDM

The classic rule of direct-mail-marketing states that 40 percent of the success of your direct mail campaign hinges on the quality of your mailing list.  To have a successful campaign, you need a great mailing list-comprised of individuals and businesses that are likely to buy from you.

If you are looking to bring back in customers who have bought from you in the past, it’s a great idea to maintain an in-house list to mail to.  However, if you are looking to bring in new customers, then there are two options – renting or purchasing a mailing list or using Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM).

When you rent or purchase a mailing list you determine your own demographics.  You can ask for a mailing list based on geographic location, gender, income bracket, education, marital status, age, and more.   This allows you to carefully target the audience best suited to your product and message , making every piece of mail sent more likely to be effective.

EDDM is a service offered through the postal service.  You don’t create a mailing list based on demographics, instead, USPS delivers a mail piece to every single resident or business within a defined geographic region.  You get a little bit of a price break as well, since it is not necessary to sort the mail pieces.  Businesses that do well with EDDM tend to be those who provide a product or service that is near universal, which almost everyone needs. Gas stations, mechanics, clothing stores, and pharmacies are perfect candidates for this service.

Color Systems in Design

When using color in digital design the first decision that must be made is what color system to use.  Are you going to use RGB (Red, Green, Blue), CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black), or PMS (Pantone Matching System)?  The easy answer is that when designing for digital such as websites or television ads then RGB is the preferred choice, you should ideally design in CMYK  for digital printing, and Pantone is often the first choice to achieve true-color in offset printing. The reasoning behind this is, of course, complex.

The RGB color system is based on the emission of red, blue, and green colors through a screen.  Like in traditional color theory the absence of color would be black and the full emission of all colors is white.  While it might seem as if RGB should always be used when designing on a computer so you can accurately judge while designing on a screen, it’s important to choose the color method that will work best with your final product, which is why CMYK is often the color system of choice for anything printed.

CMYK is based off of pigments instead of colors.  Pigments work by “subtracting” or absorbing light instead of emitting it.  A complete lack of pigment is the white paper, and full layering of pigments is black.  Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow are the building block primary colors of pigments and the digital printing process.  While 100% CMY will produce black, it is difficult to achieve and so black toner is added, standing for the K (key) in the CMYK name.    While CMYK does produce an incredible number of color options, it is more limited than the full RGB spectrum. Digital printers, whether they are your home desk printer or an industrial sized machine, use CMYK in their printing process, so digitally printed material should be designed in CMYK.  It is always a good idea to look at a final printed proof of a project designed in CMYK before printing as the color may appear different than on the screen. Not only can computer monitors be calibrated differently, but the screen is simply showing an RGB interpretation of CMYK, it can get close, but not perfect.

PMS stands for the Pantone Matching System, which is an industry wide color standard produced and monitored by Pantone.  Pantone has created thousands of colors, named them, and produced swatch books showing how those colors should appear on different types of paper.  When using an offset printer the Pantone ink is mixed per Pantone’s instructions to match the desired color and the final product can be compared to a swatch for perfection. Pantone even requires printers to submit color samples to ensure they are producing colors correctly. This enables printers around the world to achieve the exact same end color results from the same files.  Whereas printing using CMYK on an off-set printer will produce good results through multiple different printers, you will never get you the EXACT same results across machines.  Because of its reliability, it is often used in logos and across industries as a definitive color guide.

Comprehending Paper Weights

Before reading this post, check out our previous blog post “A Guide to Paper Terms,” it will provide some helpful vocabulary and explanations.

When ordering a marketing piece it can be surprisingly difficult to understand how “heavy” a piece of paper you will be getting, made even more difficult because comparing different papers is not always helpful.  Sometimes a paper with a higher indicated weight feels lighter in your hand, this is because the basis of the way we measure paper is quite literally medieval.

The weight of paper is based off how much 500 sheets of paper weigh.   Different sized sheets are used for basis weights across paper types, meaning an 80# text, bond, and cover are all completely different weights.  For example, the paper industry uses 25”x38” for text weights and 20”x26” for cover weights.

Because paper is made with different formulations and densities, how much paper weighs is completely independent of how thick paper is.  However thickness is very important in practical every day applications which is why we have another measurement for thickness. Caliper, or thickness, is indicated in points or mils (1/1000”).  So, 8 point paper is paper that is 8 thousandths of an inch thick.  Unfortunately using thickness and weight together can be extremely confusing, the caliper of 50# text paper is actually equivalent to 20# bond paper.

If you are as lost as I was when first learning all of these terms and definitions then you are probably thinking “There has got to be a better way!” (use infomercial emphasis when reading).  The worst part is, there already is a better way.  Our European counterparts have ditched this archaic system and now categorize all paper in grams per square meter (GSM).  This categorization is much easier to understand, unfortunately North America has rejected the metric system thoroughly and will not change anytime in the near future.  For now, when trying to get a feel for how papers convert across weight, caliper, and type, you can reference this handy dandy chart.

Paper Weights

A Guide to Paper Terms

An essential component to any printed piece is the paper choice.  Unfortunately it can be overwhelming when offered a list of paper choices, confused even more by industry-specific terminology.  Learning the meaning behind the most commonly used terms can help you make a better-informed decision.


When talking about paper, brightness is a quantifiable attribute.  What is measured is the reflection of light across a wavelength of blue light. The standard used in North America is based on a scale of 0-100. The higher the brightness value, the more light is reflected by the sheet of paper.


It is a growing trend to replace the measure of brightness with measure of whiteness, although very related, the two terms are not measured the same way. Whiteness is considered by many to be slightly more relevant as it measures the paper as your eye perceives it.  Measurements are made under D65 illumination, which is a standard representation of outdoor daylight. For a perfect reflecting, nonfluorescent white material, the Whiteness value would be 100.


Shade is also related to brightness and whiteness as refers to the actual color of the paper.  Shade influences how accurately colors are reproduced, the “whiter” paper is, the more accurate the representation of the original image will be.


Opacity refers to how see-through a piece of paper is.  It affects how likely you are to be able to see printed text and images on the other side of the paper.


A coated paper stock has a surface sealant and often contains clay. Coating papers reduce dot gain by restricting ink from absorbing into the surface of the paper. This sealant allows for crisper printing, particularly photos, gradients and fine detailed images. Different coatings can achieve different textures and finishes.


An uncoated paper stock has not been coated with surface sealants. Inks dry by absorbing into the paper.


Final paper products come in a variety of finishes or surfaces.  The most common are matte and gloss although there are a lot of in-between terms like silk, satin, dull gloss, etc.


Gloss refers to a specific type of finish achieved in coated paper.  Gloss creates a highly shiny and reflective finish, think pages of a magazine.  Gloss creates the ultimate in reproduction detail.


A matte finish reflects an absolute minimum of light, making it much easier on the eyes, and therefore easier to read.


Bond, or writing is the categorization for your basic multi-purpose general paper.  It ranges from copier paper, all the way up to watermarked linen resume paper.


Text is a thicker grade of paper that is often used for books, newsletters, flyers, etc.


Cover is a catchall term that refers to most cardstock papers such as used in a business card, postcard, or report cover.  Cardstock can actually be subdivided into Bristol, Index, Cover, and Board but Cover is the most often used category.  Cover is made to match companion text weights.


Weight refers to the “basis weight” which is how much 500 sheets of paper weigh.  If 500 sheets of paper weighed 80 lbs, it would be 80 lbs. text, but in printing that would be written as 80# text instead of writing out lbs.  To introduce some extra confusion, the sheet dimensions used to determine that weight are different depending on whether you are using text or cover.  This is actually just the beginning, stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on understanding paper weights and thicknesses. (Edit:  Go here for blog post on  paper weights.)


Caliper refers to the thickness of a single sheet of paper.  Weight and thickness are completely different measurements.  Caliper is the actual measured thickness measured in mils (1/1000”), also referred to as points.


The Essentials of Newsletters

Newsletters can be an effective marketing tool, establishing your business’ reputation and opening up a stream of regular communication between you and your customers.  They can also be junky, obnoxious pieces of self-promotion that customers throw in their trash or delete from their email as soon as the newsletter is received.  Try out these Dos and Don’ts for a successful newsletter that your clients and customers will actually value.


  1. Include Relevant and Informative Content

Talk about what’s coming up at your business, recent successes, highlight your employees, discuss implications of industry news, and offer helpful tips.

  1. Use a General Template

Your newsletter, as representation of your brand, should be professionally designed and follow a general template so it is easy to read every issue. Your logo, slogan, and business information should be clearly identifiable so there is no doubt who sent the newsletter.

  1. Focus on Visual Appeal

The average person’s inbox is full of junk mail as is their physical mailbox, you only have a few seconds to make sure your newsletter is not ignored. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, use this.  Integrate beautiful pictures and infographics, on your e-newsletter, don’t be afraid to include video.  Have a definable personality and use visual elements to make it pop.

  1. Allow People to Unsubscribe

Include links or instructions to unsubscribe from your newsletter.  Don’t force people who don’t want your content to receive it, that is the fastest way to make a bad impression.

  1. Provide a Copy on Your Website

After spending time to make beautiful and informative content, don’t restrict it to the select few.  Have an easily accessible copy available on your business website, always post it in the same location.


  1. Use it as a Sales Piece

A newsletter is not a distribution of coupons or upcoming sales.  To create brand loyal customers who trust you as a source of industry information, you must first prove that you are after more than just the next sale, don’t waste this opportunity.

  1. Require More Steps

Do not make your readers go to your website for more information or fill out forms to get what they need.  It’s okay to provide links or further resources, but your newsletter should be able to function as a standalone piece.

  1. Focus on Me, Me, Me!

It’s not bad to talk about yourself or highlight your employees, it is bad to talk ONLY about yourself.

  1. Include Irrelevant Content

It does not make your newsletter look clever and fun or even caring, it makes it look unprofessional.

  1. Have a Long Newsletter

You have competition, there are other newsletters, emails, and flyers out there.  People don’t have time to read everything.  If you want people to return and open your NEXT issue, keep your newsletter short.

The Ecology of Print

The print industry has often been vilified as a destroyer of natural resources, however that cannot be further from the truth.  Paper is made from a resource that is not only natural, but renewable.  Because the future of the industry depends on a strong supply of wood, the industry responsibly promotes the practice of sustainable forest management.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says that “sustainable forest management is commonly viewed as one of the most important contributions that the forestry sector can make to sustainable development.”

In the United States we continually grow more trees than we cut down, in fact the amount of forestland has remained constant at about 750 million acres for the last 100 years.  Future predicted losses of forestland are specifically tied to development rather than wood harvesting. Furthermore, the forest products industry is a global leader in recycling.  Paper is recycled more than any other material in this country, in 2012 over 65% of the paper we used was recycled.

Even taking into consideration the carbon footprint of factories and distribution, paper is as environmentally responsible as possible.  Almost 2/3rd of all energy used by domestic paper mills is self-generated.  In fact, some paper mills are so efficient at energy production that they supply excess energy to the power grid, reducing local use of carbon fuels.  The IT and Communications industry is responsible for an estimated 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions while the global print and paper industry is responsible for only 1% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

“Paper is made from renewable resources, and responsibly produced and used paper has many advantages over other, nonrenewable alternative material.” – World Willdlife Fund

The Reign of Print in the Digital Age

It seems trendy to discuss the ever growing reign of websites and eReaders and the dying art of print.  Many seem to despair that soon there will be no newspapers, magazines, or bookstores, only stores to buy Kindles, Nooks, and iPads.  But despite these doomsayers’ pronouncements, print is not only alive, but flourishing.


Book sales are not only not stagnating but they are growing, as much as 5% in the last quarter of 2014. 70% of survey respondents say they feel it is unlikely they will ever abandon print books, which is further shown in the fact that ebook sales have finally started to slow. Consumer fondness for physical print extends past books and into marketing and advertising.  While the Internet may be at our fingertips, 67% of online searches are driven by offline messaging.   Research from the Printing Industries of America shows that websites associated with a distributed physical catalogue brought in 164% greater revenue than those without.

Consumers rank printed advertising as their most trusted medium, ahead of both television and internet advertising.  In this modern age, with the opportunities that digital printing provides, print can be used in a more personalized and effective manner, cutting through all of the clutter of the digital world.  By using personalized copy, pictures, even QR codes and personalized URLs, print advertising now has the opportunity to create the customizable experience of digital advertising backed by the trustworthiness and familiarity of print.

What is Digital Printing?

A digital press is similar to a much larger version of a home or office printer. While an offset press uses specialty printing plates and many mechanical steps, a digital press is able to print directly from a computer file onto paper. Four different colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Blue) are simultaneously injected creating layers of tiny dots in each color to create an image and producing a full color print after one pass thought the printer, unlike with a traditional offset press.

ricoh printerBecause no plates are needed and the set up is much less complex, it is a considerably cheaper and quicker process. Instead of having to print large, pre-determined runs, requests can be made for as little as one print. While in the past digital printing was looked down upon as creating “inferior” prints, the technology in modern digital printers allows crisp and clean prints with beautiful color reproduction.
There are still some limitations to digital printing. Paper choice is more limited than with offset printing – the paper must be able to withstand high heat and be run quickly through curved paths meaning there are some limits on paper weight and thickness. Metallic inks and embossing are also not available through digital printing which is why many wedding invitations are printed using an offset press. However, for the majority or projects, digital printing is the perfect solution.