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    Quick Tips on Preparing Files for Die-cutting, Embossing and Foil-stamping

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    Special effects such as embossing, foiling or die cutting are terrific ways to add style and interest to your printed piece. While each one brings a different appeal, setting up your artwork so your piece prints successfully is the same for all three.

    The primary goal when setting up your artwork is to make sure your print partner can easily identify the area on your piece that is being embossed, foiled or cut. This is best done by making the special effect you’re using stand out in your print file.

    As a first piece of advice, only use professional desktop layout programs such as InDesign or Illustrator to create projects with special effects. Using these programs will allow you to create your file as vector art. This is a must since the machines and presses that read your file to create special effects can only read vector information.

    To get started, create a new swatch from the swatches panel in InDesign or Illustrator and give it a name like “foil,” or “emboss,” or “die line” depending on what effect you’re setting up.

    Make this swatch’s type Spot Color, then pick a highly noticeable color like magenta and make it 100%. To ensure this spot color does not knock out other print elements, set it to overprint.

    You can then go about creating the die line, emboss or foil area on a separate layer in your artwork. This will let you toggle the effect’s visibility on and off as needed.

    For foiling and embossing, make the area to be embossed or foiled 100% of your spot color. Only the areas covered by this “spot color” will get embossed or be printed with foil.

    If doing a die cut, make sure you create some space between text or any design elements and the die line. You don’t want to have anything important cut off by the die.

    When submitting your file to your printer you can submit all your artwork in one file if you have the special effect set up on its own layer.

    However, if you want to be extra careful, you can submit two files—one with your complete artwork including the effect layer, and one with just your special effect layer.

    pocket folder design

    How Can You Simplify Pocket Folder Design?

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    Pocket folder design can be one of the more bothersome tasks for a graphic designer if they have not created one before. Since the pocket folder will be produced with a series of cuts and folds, setting up the design file correctly can be challenging, but it is vitally important.

    There are quite a few details to consider in pocket folder design, such as the number of pockets to include, how large the pockets can be, and whether to make the pockets straight, angled or curved. This says nothing of details such as whether business cards slits are required or if the folder will need some capacity to hold large or numerous materials. Then there are technical considerations, such as how large to make the tabs for folding.

    At Perfect, we produce a number of custom pocket folders for various uses. One way to simplify pocket folder design is to use one of our print templates as a starting point. Using one of our folder templates can help eliminate the time of creating a new folder from scratch, as well as remove many of the variables that can be at play. Among the templates we have available for pocket folder design are one-pocket and two-pocket folders.

    What is FSC® Certified Paper?

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    FSC® certified paper is paper that has been harvested in a responsible manner. Although FSC certified paper often contains recycled paper, it does not have to contain it to be certified. The primary requirement for certification is being harvested and produced in a responsible manner.

    FSC is an acronym for the Forest Stewardship Council®, which is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization that was established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. The FSC system provides an assurance that products such as wood and paper have been harvested in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. The FSC’s Chain of Custody certification provides a way in which the material can be tracked from the certified initial source through the manufacturing process to the end user.

    For marketers and organizations that include environmental sustainability as an important part of their vendor selection process, the FSC designation is a great way to ensure that they are performing green printing.

    Perfect is Forest Stewardship Council certified. This means we can acquire and print on paper stocks that are FSC certified. When we use a certified stock to produce a customer’s project, we can print the FSC logo on the piece to indicate that it was produced responsibly.

    Print buyers need to be aware that any printer can print on paper that is FSC certified. However, only certified printers that are subject to annual audits and strict procedures may put the FSC logo on printed pieces. Frequently, customers specify a need for FSC paper but fail to ask for the logo to appear on their printed material. If the piece is printed by a printer that is not FSC certified, the customer has no way of knowing if the stock that was used was purchased and ultimately harvested from reliable sources.

    4 Reasons Why Toner Still Beats Inkjet In Commercial Printing

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    by Joe Olivo


    Yes, inkjet is gaining ground. According to Smither Pira, inkjet will overtake toner as the primary digital printing process by 2019. Advances in inkjet technology are making it suitable for more and more commercial digital printing applications. Inkjet already is the process of choice in high-volume digital printing and book printing. But several factors are keeping it from reaching its full potential in the broader commercial printing market.

    This was confirmed for me during my recent attendance at Dscoop, or the “Digital Solutions Cooperative.” Dscoop is a community of users of HP’s graphic arts technology. HP currently owns majority share in the digital press market with its Indigo presses.

    Dscoop is a significant source of information to predict how and when future printing technologies will be deployed. While HP supports the conference, the users group is independent of HP; its focus is helping members share knowledge to stay abreast of movements in digital printing so they can successfully manage their businesses. Not only does my attendance at Dscoop allow me to see cutting-edge print and finishing technologies, it gives me the opportunity to chat with other attendees about printing business trends.

    Based on my talks with fellow attendees, and on the equipment demonstrations I saw while at Dscoop, I believe the more mature toner process will continue to be the leader in the commercial digital print market for at least a few more years. Inkjet presses still need a little more time before they will be able to provide the quality necessary for commercial printing and fulfill the promise of faster production speeds and lower consumable costs.

    Coverage – Toner printers consistently produce medium-to-heavy areas of coverage better than inkjet. Inkjet’s quality has not yet reached a level acceptable to the graphic designers, print production personnel and marketing professionals who purchase most commercial printing.

    Substrate Variety – Toner can be used on a wider variety of substrates than inkjet at this point. While no production process can print on every substrate, there is a limit in the types of paper available for use with inkjet. Many papers used for inkjet require a special coating to treat the stock prior to printing.

    Advanced Finishing – Toner equipment manufacturers have enhanced their presses to provide digital finishing processes. Both Kodak and HP have digital presses that offer dimensional (raised) printing, while the HP Indigo can produce an embossed effect in line.

    Cost – Inkjet press costs make it hard to have a profitable business model in the short-to-medium run market. Toner presses still allow printers to have a more cost-effective model at this time.

    Drupa 2016 is the next watershed moment for inkjet printing. Drupa, the world’s largest graphic arts tradeshow, is where vendors traditionally debut new technology. I expect to see lots of news and announcements about inkjet at Drupa. Funny enough, the last Drupa, held in 2012, was billed as the “Inkjet Drupa” as inkjet was supposed to emerge from Drupa and take over the commercial digital printing market. While the 2016 Drupa will undoubtedly feature significant improvements in inkjet technology, the question remains whether these improvements will be enough to make it more widely accepted in the short-to-medium run market.

    5 Insights from the Return of the Print Catalog

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    We recently came across an article published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) that highlighted how the print catalog is in style again with major retailers. Once a staple of product marketing, print catalogs seemed to disappear after the recession of 2008. Companies were forced to slash marketing budgets and print was an easy target. As this HBR article points out, however, retailers like JC Penney, Anthropologie, J. Crew and Restoration Hardware are either re-launching their print catalog or enhancing the catalogs they’ve always mailed. Even online-only retailers like Bonobos and Birchbox have started mailing a print catalog.

    This HBR article points out that Direct Marketing Association (DMA) data indicates catalog mailings grew to 11.9 billion in 2013. This was up from 2012, when catalog mailings dropped to their lowest point since the DMA started collecting catalog data in 2001.

    As a company with a 30-year history in print and direct mail, this trend was interesting to us. However, not all of our clients are large retailers doing mass catalog mailings. And not all of the companies and non-profit organizations we interact with have “product” to sell. So, what does this trend mean for us and customers not in retail? The uptick in catalog mailings tells us a few important things we need to keep in mind when marketing:

    Print is Alive

    Print has not gone away. In fact, print is experiencing a resurgence in value as a key part of the marketing mix.

    We Must Differentiate Our Brands

    Being able to differentiate your brand is becoming more important, while simultaneously growing more difficult to accomplish. It is getting tougher to stand out against the noise. Print can help differentiate your brand and sustain relationships. High-touch, high-quality print pieces are a great way to express your brand, make connections and spur customers to action. We’ve recently seen clients spend more on creative finishing techniques (coatings, embossing, stamping, diecuts) to enhance their printed pieces.

    Segment, Segment, Segment

    Segmenting customers in all marketing efforts is critical. We must identify and understand our customer segments. We have to appeal directly to their wants and needs when communicating with them.

    Provide Value

    Any marketing effort, especially direct marketing, must provide the customer with something of value to be effective. Like the recipes in the Williams Sonoma catalog that the HBR article mentions, the best marketing communications provide customers content they can use.

    It Has to be Integrated

    The best marketing is integrated. It leverages and relies on multiple channels to reach customers—print, e-mail, online, social media. Each channel supports the other in our quest to achieve our marketing objectives.

    Top 3 Design Trends for 2015

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    By Chris Buoni

    Has digital taken over the design world? Results of a quick Google search for “2015 graphic design trends” would seem to indicate it has.

    In researching our list of the top design trends for 2015 one thing was clear: digital design, especially for the web, is setting the standard for current design trends. This is not new for 2015. The impact of digital on graphic design trends has been evident for at least the past year.

    One of the more popular digital trends that emerged in late 2013 and continued through 2014 was flat design. This aesthetic, adopted several years ago by Microsoft, was catapulted to the top of the design world by Apple with its launch of IOS7 in September 2013. IOS7 abandoned Apple’s long-standing use of skeuomorphic design in favor of flat. During 2014, the move towards flat influenced the design of foundational graphic elements like logos. Several prominent American brands, including Hershey’s and Pizza Hut, redesigned their logos in the flat style, which was a departure from the more realistic logos that served some of these companies for as long as we can remember.

    So the question today is not will digital continue to impact graphic design? The question is which trend will impact it the most?

    See below for some possibilities.

    Material Design

    Similarly to how flat design had a champion in Apple, another technology giant is behind the newest trend in digital—material design. Google has created its own visual language that attempts to marry the classic elements of good design with the innovation that technology and science offer. According to Google, their new design language is influenced by the interaction of paper and ink. Google’s material design has three main principles: material is the metaphor; design is bold, graphic and intentional; motion provides meaning. Much of the recent commentary says material design is a slight shift back towards skeuomorphic design. Shadow and depth are being added in moderation to the popular elements of flat design like simplicity and bold color.

    Emphasis on Large Type

    When working with type in 2015 think BIG. And while you’re at it, think imperfectly handwritten too. Large type continues to be in for 2015; scripty, handwritten fonts are popular as well. It’s all about making an impression and complementing the simplicity of the flat movement. Some other trends in type this year will include letter stacking and type intersecting with objects.

    Full-width Background Images

    More commonly known as hero images, full-width photos prominently placed in the background above the fold on websites will continue to be prevalent in 2015. This was a huge trend during 2014 that is expected to continue this year. The big, bold image is usually accompanied by sparse yet large type that communicates a simple message or call to action. This growing digital trend actually relies on a principle that graphic designers have known for ages: humans are better visual communicators. Most people more easily connect with images than text. Advances in processing speed, bandwith and HTML coding now allow web designers to take advantage of a style that has a long-standing place in print. But one twist on the hero image that is taking hold is the use of video in the background instead of a still image. It will be interesting to see how movement can be translated to static formats. We have to wonder about how else future designers will merge design thinking with the array of attributes each individual medium brings.

    4 Essential Traits for the Communications Firm of Tomorrow

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    by Joe Olivo

    Having reached the noteworthy milestone of being in business for 35 years, I’ve spent some time recently reflecting on all that I’ve witnessed, firsthand, over that period. The prevailing theme in what I’ve seen through the years is a breathtaking pace of change in the way organizations communicate.

    As a business owner, I’ve had the opportunity to witness these changes from multiple perspectives. I’ve participated in the different strategies and tactics our clients’ have rolled out to achieve success in outbound marketing. Our involvement in their outbound efforts has given me a glimpse of their growing embrace of inbound marketing as well. As a full-service communications provider, we’re now working with our clients at an earlier stage in the process for both inbound and outbound efforts. We get to observe and impact strategy and planning, not just tactical execution downstream.

    The cumulative effect of all of the changes I’ve seen in the way organizations communicate is the emergence of a need for a new type of communications firm. Much like our own company, public relation firms, and traditional advertising and marketing agencies, are transitioning into a new form to continue providing relevant solutions to their clients. The communications firm of tomorrow surely will not look like the traditional providers of yesterday.  While I’m sure each will have their own differentiator, firms that succeed will have these attributes at their core:

    Ability to Leverage Predictive Analytics

    As organizations continue to gather more and more customer data, it will be imperative for firms to be able to help mine the data to predict future customer actions and results with high probability.

    A Foundation Built on Good Design

    Whether in digital or printed communications, the importance of design cannot be underestimated. With the dizzying array of messages pulsing through multiple channels, it is imperative that good communication design help capture the audience’s attention. A recent study from Missouri University of Science and Technology indicated that two-tenths of a second is the maximum amount of time it takes for a viewer to form an impression. Conveying your message quickly through good design is a must.

    Holistic Application of Creative Thinking

    For a period, ad agencies were considered a creative execution arm of corporate marketing departments.  While effective creative execution will always be important, being able to broadly apply creative thinking to help solve business problems and offer original solutions will differentiate the firms of the future.

    Have a Niche

    Because of the vast amount of information available today, and the fast pace of change, it is nearly impossible to effectively understand and serve multiple industries at once. It will be incredibly rare for a firm to survive in the future by applying a broad, shallow approach that spans multiple vertical markets. The most adept firms will provide their core offerings in the industries and markets they understand the best.


    While the future is always murky and hard to predict, one thing is certain: the current pace of change in communications will continue well into the future. The companies that continue to evolve, and convince their clients that it is in their best interest to evolve too, will prove to be the successful firms of the future.

    My Top Takeaways from the HOW Interactive Design Conference

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    by Chris Buoni

    Let’s get this disclaimer out of the way right up front – I still love print.

    I’ve worked in print for years, I deal with print every day, and I spend a great deal of my time helping my customers with print. I believe there is, and always will be, value in the printed word. So professing how enlightening and fun my time was at the most recent HOW Interactive Design Conference in Washington, D.C., might sound a little awkward to some. A print guy talking about interactive? No way.

    Attending sounded awkward to me at first too. But after spending two days immersed in interactive design discussions, surrounded by interactive design professionals 24/7, I don’t feel awkward talking about interactive at all. I actually feel energized. I’m excited about the professional possibilities interactive presents for me and for Perfect.

    Yes, early on during the conference I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Information architecture, UX, transformative technology, usability—all terms I have learned and discussed, but never in such concentration and proximity of so many experts. It was a landslide of fresh concepts. The theory and discussion, while informative, had the potential to overwhelm.

    But then a funny thing happened. The more sessions I attended, the more comfortable I felt with all of the new information. And, the more the interactive designers talked, the more their wisdom sounded like the conversations I’ve been having with my print design colleagues for years. Once again, I was reminded that no matter the medium, good design is built on research, planning and a clear understanding of audience. Empathy, hard work and of course, natural talent, are still the best ingredients for memorable design and a positive user experience.

    Some universal design principles cross over presentation channels:

    • Success lies at the intersection of audience (user), copy (content) and creative (Development)
    • We should focus only on the necessary content (message)
    • You must challenge assumptions—every element must have a reason for inclusion
    • Structure is vital—order never arises from chaos
    • Design conveys and supports tone
    • Great design can simply express complex ideas
    • Your design must have intent

    Feeling much more at ease after my realization, I was able to absorb and appreciate all of the great information the speakers delivered at the conference. I got to know familiar concepts at a deeper level and learned about emerging topics that are critical to successful interactive design.

    For all of my colleagues—both print and interactive—who could not attend, here are some of my favorite takeaways from the HOW Interactive Design Conference:

    • We are getting increasingly closer to replacing front-end coding with a stable platform (see Macaw).
    • Therefore, back-end structures that can move data through complex exchanges will become the more important Development need.
    • Create a system for building your websites that maximizes thought equity and leverages MEAs (Minimum Effective Artifact)—great thinking by Chris Cashdollar!
    • Great tools are available for selecting and measuring font usage in digital space (Google, Typekit and others have tools to measure the impact of font choice).
    • Contrast ratio for a website should be 4.5 to 1.
    • Mobile first Information Architecture (IA) not only places a primary emphasis on user experience (UX) but it necessitates the importance of content hierarchy and simplicity.
    • Optimum line length should be 45-75 characters for interactive.
    • PDFs are futile in the digital space because they are non-responsive. They are like paper in a digital universe.
    • Moore’s Law will eventually meet physical limits. The pursuit of new technology may soon give way to improving existing platforms for usability.

    Getting Reacquainted with the Importance of Great Design

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    by Joe Olivo


    Steve Jobs was a quirky and incredibly demanding titan of business. He could at times be rude and almost belligerent to those who he believed weren’t measuring up to his standards of performance. I learned this while recently reading Walter Isaacson’s excellent biography of Jobs.

    Isaacson’s book does a great job of detailing Jobs’ life and the innovation he brought to the computer, mobile phone and music industries. The book takes you through the history of the personal computer through the lens of one of the individuals most responsible for bringing it to the masses. What I also gathered from the book was that Jobs was a brilliant visionary and an ardent supporter of great design. Jobs placed top priority on Apple products being well designed both in function and style.

    I purchased my first personal computer in 1984 upon entering Drexel University, as all incoming freshman were required to own a Macintosh. I have a vivid memory of turning on the computer for the first time and experimenting with different programs like MacPaint and MacWrite. I remember being amazed at all of the different typefaces and colors you could use to create a document. While I was by no means a designer, it gave me a sense of the importance of creativity in design. This was not an accident. Sometimes forgotten in Jobs’ creation of the Macintosh computer was the value it placed on typography. This was not a machine created solely for data processing; the attention Apple paid to typography was driven by Jobs’ near obsession with the beauty of type. He treasured creativity and realized its significance on many different levels.

    In our current information-glutted, media-saturated world, visual creativity in both traditional and new media can get lost. With so many forms of media, and the speed at which information moves, the importance that should be placed on quality graphic design is often forgotten. High quality content deserves high quality design. Good design will engage the viewer, visually translate what is being communicated, and inspire people like I was inspired by the Macintosh.

    At Perfect, we have gained a newfound respect for quality graphic design during the past year. As a company who operates on both sides of the marketing equation (we market our own organization while simultaneously providing marketing services for our clients) we hold ourselves to a high standard in all of our communication efforts. Creative design is an important part of this.

    With the commoditization of print and the templates that are available for use with digital media, it has become easy to try to “automate” design. We have not done that. Our additional investment in original creative design has allowed us to enhance our brand. From branding elements, to collateral marketing materials, to social media iconography, original creative design has helped us achieve an increased return on investment in our communications efforts.

    In today’s environment, tight budgets can tempt business owners and marketing professionals to limit their spending on graphic design. This is a mistake. Those who look beyond the cost and realize that an investment in quality graphic design will yield greater dividends are the ones who will have their message stand out in this media-saturated world.