The Rebirth of Brutalism – Graphic Design’s Edgy Experiment

Virgile Flores, Art direction, Graphic design

Playful or angry? Radical or bland reproduction? Utilitarian or chaotic? Brutalism in graphic design thrives on uncertainties.

A common goal of design, especially in a print marketing or web commerce environment, is to stand out from the crowd – to grab attention. As a result, the current or hottest trends in the design world are often reactionary… an effort to gain notice by their difference, unique nature or even shock value. While this may not be a good fit for everyone’s brand message, it can convey the spirit of innovation, freshness and creativity that just following the norms can never accomplish.


The latest trend, according to many experts in the design world, is a current reimagination of the genre of Brutalism. Brutalism is based in the modernist architecture movement of the 1940s-1970s, closely associated with the work of Le Corbusier. The word itself is from the French for “raw,” as in the raw exposed concrete used on much of the buildings’ facades. Think stark, rugged, cold, institutional – much like the architecture that comes to mind when you think of gray cities in eastern Europe during the Cold War era. The structure and utility of the object is shown, not hidden. There is little room for ornamentation. Perhaps the best way to describe Brutalism is to define what it is not: the goal of a brutalist approach is not to appear easy or comfortable. It is not light, fun or friendly.

Brutalism - WildTurtles

Brutalism web design

A great place to get a feel for the range and style of a brutalist aesthetic is the Washington Post’s gallery of Brutalist Websites. The Post describes the genre in this way: “In its ruggedness and lack of concern to look comfortable or easy, Brutalism can be seen as a reaction by a younger generation to the lightness, optimism, and frivolity of today’s web design.” Brutalism - retroOften it bears a resemblance to the images of the early days of digital graphic design and the internet – pixellation, jarring color combos and clunky typography – a partial nod to the retro or nostalgic approach.

Check out the creative work all over the internet now and see if your brand or marketing might benefit. It will mean breaking a lot of rules design school taught you never to attempt – in color choice, font selection, imagery, content and even the coding of webpage development.

(For a humorous take, look at for their idea of what an imaginary framework for what a brutalist design process might look like.)

Brutalism - roTopo


Vitelli website


Call us at 828.684.4512 for any marketing needs. As a printer, we understand communication and design. Your printer should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmentally responsible printing. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is now partnered with Extreme Awards & Personalization – our in-house partner providing custom engraved trophies and awards for employee recognition programs, sporting events, and promotional needs. With our new sister company, we will be sharing space, resources and expertise in a collaboration designed to further provide you with one place to meet all of your marketing needs… Under One Roof! Visit them online at or call direct at 828.684.4538.



Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Career Path Tips for Creative Designers


Creative Paths for Web Designers

As technology continues to advance and people use the internet more and more for everything from shopping and research to staying in touch with friends and family, careers in graphic design – and especially web design – seem certain to remain in high demand for the foreseeable future and beyond. For highly creative people who dream of designing eye-catching, successful marketing and web pages for businesses and individuals, the following tips can help them achieve the career of their dreams.

Learn all you can… and learn how to code

Yes, you are brimming with creative ideas, but you also have to know how to properly create them on the back end. Employers are often wary of the learning gap between the creative skills gained in school and the practical, industry-savvy skills needed to successfully perform many jobs in the graphics and web design marketplace. Learn all you can about the software and technical procedures of graphic design, printing, mobile apps, SEO, direct mail and integrated marketing. Strive to continually familiarize yourself with the latest news and developments through creative, cutting-edge blogs, publications and relevant trade associations. More specifically, for all designers with an eye on the future, learn as much about coding as you can, including CSS, JavaScript, HTML, WordPress and more. As Rasmussen College says, web designers need to learn how to create sites that are universally device-friendly, so educate yourself by taking classes or spending time to research how to design a site that will look just as good on a smartphone screen as it will on a mid-sized tablet or laptop.

Create an amazing portfolio

Before you even think about applying for a job or even an internship, you need an incredible portfolio that shows off your skills. Besides including your best projects from college, you should also add examples of design that you’re interested in. For example, if you dream of designing web pages that are full of emotion-evoking graphics and videos, look into stock video websites that feature all kinds of footage from clouds moving across the sky to kids running through idyllic fields. In addition to supplying potential employers a printed out portfolio of screen shots and other projects, make a digital version of the portfolio that features links to your design work as well as your resume and contact information.

Get an internship

Although you might feel ready to start working for a major company right away, one of the best ways to get a feel of what to expect is to nail down an internship. If possible, find an internship while you’re still in school–or you can apply for one after graduation. While the concept of an unpaid internship might sound unappealing to you and your pile of monthly bills, remember that the professional, in-house experience will provide you with priceless real world know-how that most new designers don’t have.

Start out as a freelancer

Consider freelancing before going for a permanent position. This will give you the opportunity to work for a bunch of clients at once, rather than just one. You can also start out slow with one or two projects and—as the word gets out about your skills in design—you can take on more and more. If you decide to go the freelance route, hire an experienced accountant who knows how to handle 1099 info and other specialized tax forms; working from home can be difficult, but freelancing has a ton of benefits when it comes to tax write-offs.


Rely on your local printer for support whether you direct a company’s marketing budget or freelance. They should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmental responsible printing. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

5 Innovative Tech Tools for Small Business Owners


Tech Tools for small businesses

The advancement in digital communication technology tools has made it easier for companies to reach their target audiences and beyond, with small businesses and startups gaining the ability to impact the public at a minimal cost. While you may have a team of tech gurus, or may be one yourself, you’re still likely to be overwhelmed by the range of available technologies to help grow your business. From apps for your smart device to safe virtual file exchanging services, there are numerous tech tools designed for the small business owner on a tight budget. Here are five essential tech tools that every company like yours can benefit from.

Appy Pie

Mobile applications are a dominant force within every industry, leading many tech-savvy business owners to believe that signing on to the mobile app phenomenon is a must. Imploring the assistance of a mobile application may be unnecessary for the advancement of your company. And before you hire developers, or you attempt this endeavor yourself, don’t invest in an expensive mobile app before you investigate more affordable options. Appy Pie is a mobile app maker that allows individuals without much technical expertise to create custom apps for their businesses. It also provides small businesses with a test run before they spend money on a full mobile application. Ranging from $12 to $40 in price, this cloud-based service enables you to do everything from viewing your app stats through Google Analytics to helping you design and publish custom apps that your customers can download on iTunes and Google Play.


Promote your business with this app that enables you to construct a simple, one-page website detailing information about your business then sharing it with potential customers and clients through email or on social media. For less than $10 a month, users can create custom-made pitches based on their desired outcome, whether it be promoting a specific product/service or reaching out to a certain segment of your customer base. Crushpath sites are also viewable by anyone who searches for your company online, which helps you generate and keep track of leads even when you’re not actively promoting your business.


With customized business solutions for professionals in over 30 different industries, ShareFile offers companies solutions for transferring and sharing files safely and securely in a custom-branded, password-protected space. Send large files via email, arrange secure file transfers, and coordinate a collaborative arena for project-related files by using tools like the Virtual Data Room. ShareFile’s best attribute is that it can be used on smartphones and tablets on Apple iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows mobile applications. What’s more, ShareFile users can download and use these mobile apps for free.

small business tech tools

Maximize your social media presence with an app that will grab the public’s attention visually. With you can create unique slideshows and share them on popular social media sites. Simply choose your photos from your Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, or Google Images account, pick some theme music, add special effects, and then share your slideshow on your company’s social media pages. is a free and easy way to promote products and services and engage with customers and clients.


Create, manage, and track everything from sales documents to your company’s marketing strategy with this web-based proposal writing program. TinderBox helps keep your employees on the same page and provides you with the ability to streamline contracts, proposals, and other significant company documents in order to ensure that you’re sending a uniform message to clients and customers. You’ll be able to write, make edits, organize, approve, and disseminate your documents no matter where you are.

Author bio: Greg Richards is a tech blogger who writes posts on the latest news and reviews products in the industry.



ImageSmith is proud to be a printer in an exciting era of digital communication. Your printer should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmental responsible printing. They should also be able to work with you to solve any difficult prepress issues with your files. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Design by committee – what do you think?

A camel is a horse designed by a committee

Old adage: a camel is a horse designed by a committee. And it’s true – good design struggles to survive the committee. In the art world, creativity is generally under the direction of one artist or auteur, occasionally it’s a collaboration or the work of a highly skilled, carefully chosen team. But in the world of graphic and commercial design, when a new product, print project or website is presented, generally a committee of people unfamiliar with design is brought together or asked for input. The result, not surprisingly, is less that it could have been. The challenge… to recognize where the committee approach lacks effectiveness and direct the project with a clear focus.

When presented with design, the committee approach starts on the wrong foot by asking the wrong question: “What do you think?” Can you imagine the financial forecast of a business being placed in front of people unskilled in finance and asking them for an off-the-cuff gut reaction at first glance? What this solicits is a round of strange, subjective reactions: “I don’t like blue.” “Why is it so busy.” “Can we put more ‘oompf’ into it?” “I want it to look more modern, but with an old-fashioned flavor.” All reactions may have some truth to them, but are unfocused, random impressions that are not guided by a sense of the overall purpose of the project.

Misstep 2 follows in the wake of these comments when the committee doesn’t really know how to process their own critique or trust their spoken and unspoken reactions. Typically, any real decision gets tabled. “Hmmmm. Let’s think about this for a while. I want to show it to a few folks.”

Now the committee expands. People go home and show the design to their spouse, their kids, their dog. They stop people at the checkout line, email it to Aunt Gladys in Pensacola, post it on Facebook. Again, the question: “What do you think?” And all of that feedback, whether pro or con, begins to color their decision on the design. It’s like crowdsourcing an opinion rather than relying on the skill and aesthetic of a design/marketing team who have worked through the process of why a design is what it is.

In this process, I often struggle with what I would call “invalid” feedback. Yes, everyone can have an opinion on how a design project “looks.” But unless they have some insight into what their reaction means, how the project can be improved, why a certain aspect fails while another succeeds, then their input is what I must deem invalid. For example, I once worked on a committee where someone’s first response to design proposals was: “I don’t like them. I can’t really tell you why I don’t like them, but I think we need to see other choices.” That is not valid feedback. It serves no purpose in furthering the work. Someone has to take the initiative and have the vision to say what they want and why.

Also, some people think the “perfect” design concept will leap out at them if they only see it. It follows that same line of thought that designers dread: “I can’t tell you what I want until I see it, I’m a very visual person.” I once encountered a client who requested a design by saying “Show us 25 or so examples and we’ll pick which ones we prefer.” 25? If only they had agreed to an unlimited budget to create that scenario.

Committees often tend to pick and pull at details rather than controlling the overall vision. They rarely see the entire picture or have all the information necessary to evaluate decisions about function and form, and the process suffers. Feedback can often be colored by the inherent power sturcture: the need to impress superiors or establish authority, to appear knowledgeable rather than uninformed, to contribute something… anything rather than be perceived as not participating. In such a situation, who is accountable if the project fails? Everyone chipped in an opinion but no one claimed to be in charge. This “anonymous” or leaderless decision making leaves no one accountable. The result? Bad design, failed projects… and another committee meeting.

So it’s clear I have no solutions here. The committee approach isn’t going away. Facing the pitfalls of the “design by committee” approach can be a good start however. Good design decisions are unique, informed “leaps of faith” that rely on an understanding of the desired aesthetic, full knowledge of a project and ultimately the bravery of making the call on what the design will be. For some great analysis of the topic check out Smashing Mag’s article “Why Design by Committee Should Die”, or another great one from Boag called “Death to Design-by-Committee.”

For help? Rely on your printer for advice and direction in making branding and design decisions. They should have years of experience to share with you. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Print, Globalization & A Little Green Bug from China

A little green bug and a global print market

A little green bug from China really got me thinking about small business and the new globalization of marketing.

Wide format printing of banners, signs, floor murals, POP displays, outdoor signage, wall decor and other graphic displays keeps our Mutoh printer very busy. Rush orders are no problem, and we often rely on overnight shipping to get the media delivered to the shop on time for an order. One such material that was overnighted recently was a vinyl banner material that is great for outdoor displays. The original manufacturer of the material is, according to the product descriptions, in China. While I’m sure the matierial is usually sitting in a middle-man’s warehouse somewhere, theoretically it could come directly from China to our shop floor in a matter of days.

This material is wound onto a core and comes in 150 yard lengths. But the factory in China must lack screens on its windows, because we’ve noticed that on the back side of this material there is often the occansional squashed little green bug that got caught up in the material as it was wound onto the core. With close inspection you can make out the bright green body, mosquito-like wings and huge round eyes that still seem to be putting the brakes on mid-flight.

Now my first thought on seeing the bug is that it’s no surprise how quickly a mosquito-born disease could potentially travel worldwide. But outside the worries of public health, this little Chinese bug points out the interconnectedness of the entire world in a business relationship. That global connection effects each of us as consumers and in business. Today, the market for all of us, just like for the factory with no screens in China, is worldwide. The internet and global communications have increased your potential market to any extent you can imagine. As a printer, out next job could come just as easily from across the street as across the globe.

Integrating your marketing to include web-based and mobile outreach as well as mail, print, and signage in a coordinated effort can open up that new world of potential customers for you. It is a daunting task for an already busy small business owner.  The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER! They are the experts at introducing you to marketing innovations and working with you to direct your brand and reach to more people, locally or globally.


ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

White Space – Minimalism in Graphic and Web Design

White space in design

Why Less Can Be More

They say nature abhors a vaccum… apparently so do graphic design clients. For many, the impulse to fill up every available space with type or artwork can clutter or completely derail a project. A staple of good design, the wise use of white space can lend an air of sophistication to a layout, and should always be a consideration in any style of design. But when a specific minimalist look is desired, editing and balance are crucial in order to maintain the open real estate needed to create an effective version of this classic look. Its usually helpful to agree upon that basic style at the onset – otherwise the need to “fill in” generally takes over.

White space - minimalism
Great use of white space in design

Many years ago in my first contact with graphic design, I was on the “annual staff” at my high school, creating the page layouts for the yearbook. Now this was the late 70s and well before computers or software. Page elements were sketched out on actual size graph paper in blue pencil. Measurements for the printer were done in picas. Photos and text were given corresponding numbers for placement, and the photos were “cropped” by marking the actual desired size on the developed photo with a grease pencil. Wow – seems primitive now. Anyway, my point is one of the ideas we were presented with as students was a page layout they called “isolated element” – one side of the layout might have a collage of pictures or text with the other side having one single photo. Clearly, the isolated photo was the focus of attention. We were told to use this design idea sparingly, if at all. Minimalism –they thought it was a little bit radical I guess.

minimalist design of
Minimalist design of

What I did not understand at the time was that the space in between the photos was an element as well. An essential point in this creative process is seeing that the “empty” space is really not empty at all. It exists in contrast to the other elements on the page as well as being defined by them – it has “weight” and structure. Similarly, it does not even have to be white. Minimalist design can use black or any color as its base. The open areas exist visually in the design as powerfully as any other element.

Generally employed when a more upscale or luxury approach is desired, minimalist design relies on structure, great typography and an understanding of balance. Some white space is considered passive – such as the space between the lines of type or the border area of a page. By contrast, active white space would be the territory left open on purpose between design elements. Both passive and active white space are planned and controlled in a well-designed piece of work. Though not a solution for every project, minimalist design with an effective use of white space is a powerful technique.

One good habit you will develop as you explore a minimalist approach is the necessity to prioritize and condense. The design itself requires you to decide what information is essential, and what is fluff – a good practice on any project. It reminds me of an episode of “Absolutely Fabulous” where Edina is running around her apartment knocking things off of counters saying “Surfaces! I must have surfaces!” Or even better, when she flashes back to her college days where her minimalist friends had an apartment totally white with nothing in it but a tiny picture hanging by a thread.


A successful minimalist design is:

Confident. Clean. Structured. Stable. Elegant. Fresh. Pure. Cogent.


Minimalism can also convey attributes that are less desirable. Without a proper focus and balance, minimalism can be:

Mysterious. Cold. Obscure. Vacant. Deserted. Uninviting. Unhelpful.


The first step toward effective use of white space in design is to see that open space as an element itself. Great articles are easy to find online about the use and theory behind white space in design, as well as inspiring galleries to convince you of the beauty and functionality of this style of design.


ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

An Easy Buy Now / Donate Button: Securely Accept Credit Card Orders on your Website

Small businesses face so many challenges in moving their sales and marketing efforts into the digital age. Watching the big dogs incorporate the latest techonology and software into their online sites, distribution networks, marketing or production can be as inspiring as it is intimidating. You want to take advantage of the latest advances, but how do you find the time and money to learn which is right for you? For a small business with limited capital and time to explore these options, it is great to find a simple, low cost solution to a problem. PayPal has a great one: a way to accept credit card payments on your website with no setup charge and no hidden fees. You can truly be up and running with a fully functional “BUY NOW” or “DONATE” button in fifteen minutes.

Easy creation of pay now buttons

This blog has no connection to PayPal – we simply want to pass along a great idea for the small business owner. We know that to create a large e-commerce website for your business is expensive. Until you are ready to invest in that sort of structure and have the time and manpower to administrate it, PayPal has created a secure and easy to install way to turn your basic website into an ecommerce portal right now. It’s called Website Payments Standard. You of course need a PayPal account into which payments from credit card customers will be deposited. PayPal gives you a choice of buttons that allow customers to select products from a drop down menu and pay by credit card. They do not need to have a PayPal account themselves. PayPal assesses a fee (see fee schedule by clicking here) and the payment is credited to your account. It really could not be simpler. You create the button you want, copy and paste the code to your website, and you are ready to go. New to html coding? No problem – they have a short demo video on the website to help. Demo Video for creating Buy Now or Donate Buttons

If you want a more advanced system of payment, Website Payments Pro is available for a monthly $30 fee. It allows credit applications, monthly payments and other advanced features that will probably require the assitance of a web developer to fully integrate into your site. It is a step up from managing your own content fully. If you are new to managing your own website, read about DotNetNuke as a content management system. In fifteen minutes your web page just became an online storefront.


ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

15 Years of Rapid Change for the World of Print

Today ImageSmith surprised me with a little celebration for my 15th anniversary with the company and a very generous gift of a brand new iPad. Our discussion at the gathering centered around the changes in our business over the past 15 years and the vast differences technology has created in that relatively brief span of time. Back in 1997, hardly anyone at work had a mobile phone; few used the internet or even had a home computer.

Oddly enough, I had been reading online this very morning about the new issue of Newsweek that highlights the return of the show “Mad Men” with a retro 60s issue and an amazing recreation of retro print advertising from that era. The rate of change in this industry from then to now has exponentially increased. Print quickly adapted to new computer technology in the ’80s, drastically altering the way graphics are created, business is done and ultimately the very heart of what the printing industry is today. From my own experience here at ImageSmith, I could see the major ways technology has created this rapid change:


In the 90s, the art department was completely a Mac platform (Mac certainly led the way with graphics software and innovation) and the only other computers were PCs used for the front office and accounting. Files were transferred on floppy disks or zip disks. Proofs were faxed or hand delivered. The idea of communication or doing business via the internet seemed fanciful.

TODAY: communication inside and beyond the company is via the internet. Computers network through a wifi connection and a central server. Orders are placed online, files transferred, deliveries scheduled and tracked… to do otherwise would seem painfully slow and unprofitable.


The change in graphics software is always rapid and amazing. In 1997, we were using Adobe PageMaker for our layout (it had only recently been acquired by Adobe from Aldus). PhotoShop and Illustrator were used for photo and graphics manipulation, but only minimally integrated with the actual desktop layout duties of PageMaker. Many clients created their jobs in QuarkXpress, Microsoft Word, Corel Draw – and the confusing task of the art department was to try to handle and image these files cross platform from PC to Mac without disastrous font conflicts and software glitches. The idea of a “portable document format” or pdf was on the horizon.

TODAY: Adobe Creative Suite provides virtually flawless integration of PhotoShop, Illustrator, Acrobat and InDesign. A totally pdf workflow moves client jobs seamlessly from desktop to press or web. Print design can be cross-purposed to web pages, mobile apps, e-books, etc.


Many jobs were still created physically on paper and then photographed. “Paste-up” was the means of gluing into position different page elements. It all seems very primitive now. The process of making plates for offset printing also relied on photography. Negatives were imaged, stripped into position, manually color separated, and burned onto plates.

TODAY: Computer-to-plate and computer-to-press techonology completely removes the photographic element in printing. Digital layouts are rasterized and imaged onto plates for the press in exact position. Increasingly, digital presses are replacing the offset process to meet the growing demand for short run, full color print.


In 1997, a typical print job would fit easily onto a standard 3.5 inch, 1.44MB floppy disk. Artwork and client jobs were archived onto floppies. These were replaced by SyQuests – able to hold 44 or 88 MB or data, and then Zip Disks from iOmega with the amazing capacity to hold 100 MB. In the late 90s, most all computers, PC and Mac, came with a built-in floppy and Zip drive. Over the years, the Zip yielded to the CD and then the DVD for removable storage options.

TODAY: File sizes for some print jobs today dwarf the capacity of all of these removable data storage devices. High capacity servers and cloud-based storage solutions manage files and the process of archiving data.

With all of these changes has come a core redefinition of what small and mid-sized print operations are about. Printers have expanded to become multi-media specialists, marketing consultants and e-commerce solution providers to meet the equally drastic changing needs of their clients. Integrated marketing techniques combine the realms of print with mobile, email, wide format printing, signage, printwear, branded merchandise and social media. Looking ahead to the landscape of the NEXT fifteen years is exciting and daunting. Mobile and cloud-based technology will continue to drive the marketing into the world of augmented reality, 3-D printing, conductive ink and other as-yet unknown innovations.


ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

There’s Something About Paper. Or, about that pdf diploma…

We love technology, but paper is still important

We love technology – the instantaneous flow of information and data, the interconnectedness of people who would never otherwise meet, the crowd-sourcing of digital solutions. In our line of work, we have marveled at the seismic shift in the ease and innovation of creating graphics and images, the global opportunities that opened when file transfers and commerce moved online, and the digital transition from plates and darkroom photo processing to computerized pdf workflows. It all makes for an exciting age in which to live. Technology has quickly, and not always painlessly, transformed the print industry from one about ink and paper into one of interactive communication, new media and data interpretation. And yet…. there’s just something about paper.

At the heart of this human love for paper is the physical, solid, stackable nature of the thing. It is organic. It has weight. You can hold it in your hand and point to the truth – “See? It’s right there in black and white.” Or color. Whether it is centuries of reliance on the physicality of having the “written word” in your hand, or whether it is something more primal, paper and printing hold a powerful place in our psyche. Think about it: your birth certificate, your child’s first crayon drawings from school, report cards, your ticket stub from a favorite concert, a treasured valentine or love letter, a “welcome home” sign, a sketch of a great idea, an autograph of your hero. At all the important, memorable moments of your life, paper has played a central role. It is usually the means by which you remember and treasure those events – unplugged.

Today, technology is clearly altering some of that relationship. The recent bankruptcy of Kodak seems to many of us who grew up in the last half of the twentieth century to be unthinkable. Yet they have announced they are going out of the film business. The woes of the USPS are a result of email and digital communications usurping the role of snail mail. Newpapers and magazines are struggling with the transition from paper to online versions. But paper still carries the word and image of our culture in ways that electronic media is not yet able to – by its very physical nature and our historic appreciation for its reliable, tactile properties. It is still capable of putting your message right into someone’s hands regardless of internet providers or the accessibility of a wifi signal.

Still not convinced? Watch this great video from Domtar’s “Paper because…” initiative that spotlights the contradiction between students who at first say they want to live in a paperless world – until they are told their diplomas will be handed out in pdf format.

An electronic diploma would convince most all students that paper has a clear place in our lives and futures. Maybe the tech future will gradually change this romantic attachment we have to the beauty and functionality of paper, but I doubt it will erase it anytime soon.

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

If You Have The Right Printer, You Have Your Marketing Consultant

Printers are Communications and Marketing Experts

Running a small business demands expertise in many, many divergent fields. You must excel at finance, employee relations, marketing, sales, and of course the specifics of the type of business you went into in the first place. In a large corporation, each duty or specialty is handled by an expert in that profession – or an entire heirarchy of experts: production, sales, marketing, human resources, R & D. As a small business owner, that’s all on you. Technology is only making that landscape even more challenging, daily.

To bring in help or advice on any of these areas is costly and risky. When it comes to marketing, however, your best resource is right at hand. And – this is by far the best part – it is FREE! If you have the right printer, you already have a highly trained marketing consultant who knows print, branding, direct mail, web strategies, social media and has years of experience in both high and low tech marketing approaches that work for businesses just like yours. The most assuring part of this partnership for you is that the print/communications company only succeeds when your marketing succeeds! Start taking advantage of this asset – the print industry itself has had to reinvent itself in this new high tech economy. They know what works.

Even if you have a background in marketing, the rules of the game over the past 10 years have changed DRASTICALLY. (Check out this amazing and exhaustive infographic on the History of Marketing.) The marketing success that got you and your small business to where it is today will most likely not take you to future success in the emerging economy and IT world. Do you have the time and resources to become an expert in web design, SEO (search engine optimization), interactive online marketing, web metrics or analytics, to position your operation to embrace the new and as yet unknown technoligies that are right over the horizon? In most cases, the answer is no – and unless your business IS marketing, you should not have to. Turn to your printer for help.

The term “printer” is misleading. Today, printers do far more than put ink on paper. They have become marketing and communications specialists, and they are your closest and most knowledgeable sources for consulting with you on your overall marketing strategy. A good printer will understand your budget, your marketing goals and be able to suggest many options for creating results: integrated marketing strategies, direct mail, targeted variable data printing, promotional products, signage, branding, website development and e-commerce, social media marketing techniques, and unique design ideas. Discuss with them your target audience, who your consumer is, what your mission and specific goals are for the year. These are the facts your sales rep needs to recommend specific marketing strategies that you can use to translate into profit and customer recognition of your brand and your work. So the question is: why drain your energy trying to learn the new world of marketing on TOP of running your business when you already have a marketing consultant waiting to talk with you?

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.