STEP THREE: HOW DO I MAKE IT?
We've made it to step three! At this point (as we discussed in step two) I had a few designs from previous projects that I could edit and turn into stationery. Next, I had to figure out how to make the physical stationery. The three largest issues I had to solve were the the type of paper I should use, how to print the stationery, and how to ship it. This post will be dedicated to these three questions.
The first issue was the paper. I had to figure out the size, color, and quality I needed for stationery. I researched paper and art supply stores in New York and visited a few before I decided to use Paper Presentation for my supplies. They carry a large selection of paper and have all the extra products I would need to bring my store to life. In addition to the paper that would eventually become Paper by JLee stationery, the store carries envelope liners, storage supplies, specialty paper, and all the craft supplies you would ever need. After spending hours (because it's so dreamy, not because it's difficult to navigate) in the store, I found the flat and folded cards I needed to make all my stationery designs come to life. Finding this store took a lot of time but the research I put into this decision has paid off and I am now able to create professional and affordable stationery.
The next question I tackled was the issue of printing. Out-sourcing printing would be cost-prohibitive so I needed to somehow print my own stationery sets at home. There are many ways to print stationery so I had more research to do. Some companies use letterpress printing (the text or graphics are pressed into thick paper and you can feel the impression), others use thermography or embossing (the text or graphics are raised from the paper with a plastic-like material). Since I don't have a printing press or a thermography machine lying around (bummer) I decided regular flat printing would do the trick. Flat printing (when the ink is level with the paper) is what your home printer does. It's a digital printer that transfers four ink colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) directly to paper simultaneously from a digital file on your computer. Ding! We have a winner. Next decision: inkjet or laser. I chose laser printing because I think it produces a more professional finish. Inkjet tends to leave banding behind where the ink cartridges have passed from one line to the next which isn't ideal for stationery. I did more research and found a good HP color laserjet printer I could buy from my local Staples store.
Phew. The two largest questions have been resolved and now I needed to figure out how to ship the stationery. FedEx? UPS? USPS? I've personally had issues getting FedEx and UPS to deliver to my non-doorman apartment in New York and the last thing I wanted was to give my customers a shipping headache. Priority shipping from USPS offers flat-rate shipping, includes tracking numbers, and the small flat rate boxes fit up to two stationery sets. Easy packaging and affordable prices? Yes, we'll go with USPS. Just drop them off in the mailbox and BOOM, you're done. Easy as pie.
These issues took a lot of time to figure out and admittedly aren't the most fun to spend time on (I would much rather paint than research printers) but spending time on these fundamental questions ensured I would have a professional final product. Boring perhaps, but worth it in the end!
We've made some real progress now. Next step? How do I brand it?