My wife brought home a Planning Guide/Calendar from a local business. It’s a smart idea to provide your customers and prospects with something useful that they can use all year. With a custom design of local art, this makes the piece have a local connection. However, the main problem with this piece is the paper it was printed on. If you are unfamiliar with paper choices, you generally choose between gloss, dull, matte, and uncoated. If you want people to be able to write on and use a marketing piece like this, do not pick glossy. This piece was printed on glossy paper which renders it completely useless, as you can’t effectively write on it. This mistake was made by a company with an annual revenue of $170 million.

With so many amateurs & DIY-ers designing, mistakes like this are common. Corporations are laying of senior staff, and junior designers often don’t have anyone to mentor them. I was fortunate to be mentored by two really great designers or otherwise I’d just be an “old” “junior designer.” User Experience Design is a focus in the web space, but it makes sense to also think about a user’s experience with a physical piece.

A printer came to my office to pitch his services. He brought really low-end print pieces in to show me. In contrast, I showed him pieces I’ve designed with debossing, gloss and dull varnishes, and UV inks. He said, “Yeah, I used to show my shop’s high-end capabilities, but everyone wants the cheapest price, so I don’t bother showing quality pieces any more.” Now is a better time than ever to use print as a differentiator, but not with ill-conceived, poorly printed pieces on the cheap.

In 2014, CD sales are neck and neck with digital download sales. A band that gets CD packaging is Chickenfoot. Their first album looked completely black with white type. However, if you touch the cover, the heat from your hand reveals a photograph for a brief moment.


Chickenfoot’s second album included 3D glasses with some amazing photography inside. These are the kind of things that bring surprise and delight to a user. Fans bought the CD for the music recorded digitally onto a disc, but they got so much more. This packaging was nominated for a Grammy for Best Recorded Packaging. Here’s a link I found of the packaging of the second album along with some other nice packaging.

I’m not saying print is going to make an amazing come-back. I’m just saying, if you are going to bother to print it, make sure it’s well-designed and you’ve thought through the purpose of the piece. What tactile feel do you want the piece to have? What does the quality of the piece say about your company? Can a printed piece add to your marketing mix? Enhance the message? The answer may be that your customers appreciate having a physical piece to use, collect, or remind them. Sometimes a digital magazine for tablets or a targeted email might work better. It depends on your market, your audience, and your message. In any of these scenarios, remember the user.