Communication these days often consists of 140 characters, abbreviations, and quick emails fired off from your smartphone, but it wasn’t that long ago that snail mail was the favored form of keeping in touch with loved ones. Hand-written letters and thoughtful cards were the way to show someone you cared and were thinking of them.
Even though it seems sometimes that the Internet is discouraging us from expressing ourselves in written form or taking the time to send real mail, it is simultaneously helping grow the industry that you might think would be harmed the most by it: the stationery industry. As blogs for brides, graphic designers, and paper lovers pop up and gain popularity, stationery designers are benefiting from the renewed interest in paper goods.
Stationery designer Lisa Wong Jackson has been working in the industry for seven years and got most of her exposure when she exhibited at the National Stationery Show in New York. Today, though, she says the Internet can provide the big break for many designers who otherwise may never get national attention.
“The Internet has been one of the largest means of exposure to stationery designers. I think blogs and other social media have played a key role in contributing to the availability of paper goods,” Jackson says. “With thousands of readers, one blog could basically launch a small company.”
Etsy, which has provided a place for many creative small businesses to sell their wares, has also expanded the opportunities for designers to get their work in front of the public. Dozens upon dozens of stationery shops can be found on the site.
Beyond blogs and the handmade-goods giant, Etsy, dozens of sites and services for stationery lovers and designers are springing up across the Internet. Minted.com hosts design competitions for different types of cards and then lets fans vote for which ones to sell on the site. Designers have the chance to have their work seen by hundreds of people (and earn some money, to boot) and consumers get to influence the styles being sold.
Wedding Paper Divas has become a household name for brides as they consider how to make an impression with their save-the-dates and invitations. The emphasis on beautiful announcements like these is growing as beautiful, unique options become more available and brides see the possibilities through photos online.
“There are so many wedding magazines and blogs that feature hip wedding couples and all the details of their special day. Invitations are the first sneak peek at what the rest of the wedding is going to be like so people want them to be beautiful,” Jackson says.
Monthly subscription boxes for paper lovers are also gaining steam. Nicely Noted, Tota Press, and Olive Box all send members a monthly mystery box of paper goods and cards. They range in price from $10 to $25 a month – a small price for consumers who are coming to increasingly appreciate high-quality cards.
“I think people really appreciate the art of a handmade card or something printed by hand rather than a mass-produced card found at the drugstore,” Jackson says. “People are willing to pay a little more for something unique.”
New to the stationery and printing world? Knowing just a few things about paper products can help you make the best choices for every occasion, whether you’re buying a pre-made product or requesting a custom design. Paper weight tells you how thick your paper will be and is often measured in pounds. Higher pound weights mean thicker paper, which is considered to be higher quality. A gloss finish or special coating might be added to a paper product, which can also give it a more expensive look. Earth-conscious consumers might also look for designers like Jackson who use only eco-friendly papers and inks.
The printing method also makes a difference in the final appearance. Many paper lovers, including Jackson, swoon over letterpress printing, where type is pressed into the page during printing leaving an impression in the paper.
“I love the tactile quality of letterpress printed cards and invitations,” Jackson says. “It has a certain look and feel you can’t get with flat printing and just takes the event to the next level.”
If you don’t know where to start when looking for your next thank-you card, birth announcement, or wedding invitation, Jackson suggests going to a specialty paper store near you. Or if you’re into the online paper-business boom, some of her favorite online sources are Paper Source, Etsy, Egg Press, Hello! Lucky, and Snow & Graham.
Don’t overlook Jackson’s own work on her website, Good on Paper Design.