What NOT to Do When Designing Your Self-Promotion

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Hand bound promotional booklet, cover.

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Hand bound promotional booklet, 1st page.

From the desk of the woman who literally wrote the book on engraved stationery: The most beautiful promotional mailing piece I ever designed ended up being the world’s most foolish use of time and materials attempted by any intelligent designer, ever.

16 Reasons why re-purposing materials is not always smart. Or, what NOT to do when designing your self-promotion. 

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Vintage boxed reams of Strathmore parchment.

As with many designers who like working with paper, I end up with a lot of leftover paper stock. About a year ago, I took inventory and decided to do something with it. The collection I had amassed was eclectic: Beautiful ream-size boxes of Strathmore parchment from the middle of the last century; cartons of Esleeck onion skin that has not been produced in more than 20 years; 100% cotton card stocks in many weights and finishes; colorful bits of specialty papers; and short stacks of 100% cotton envelopes in various sizes, weights, and configurations from client jobs. With the exception of the onion skin and parchment, quantities were small, 66 of one envelope, 55 of another, and etc. 

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Inventory list of card and paper stock to repurpose.

I decided to make a self-promotional piece with all this great paper. However, what began as an attempt to utilize a surplus of great paper stock, and display the virtues of my core business—commercial engraving (intaglio)—turned into a labyrinthine production. The concept was to engrave a little booklette, hand bind it with antique silk buttonhole twist I’d purchased in undergraduate school, ca. early 1970s, and send this out with one-each example of four kinds of commercial engraving the whole package was designed to illustrate: Hand engraved banknote script, hand engraved copy of Sweet® Fancy Script by MVB Fonts inspired by an old stationery engraver’s style, pantograph engraving using the Cronite Masterplate system, and photo-engraving (etching).

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Working samples of the four engraving methods on the various size cards required for the re-purposed envelopes.

Although using up old envelopes was a lovely notion, it proved to be wholly impractical because it necessitated customizing another major component: The four loose cards explaining the different engraving methods. My design was that the cards would be cut to fit properly in each size envelope. This meant four imprints on four different size cards or 16 different imprints. Making matters worse for the pressman was that all the card stock was different; exponentially compounding the number of units he had to handle.

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The envelopes collated for re-purposing.

In total, there were…

  • 12 engraving press runs
  • 16 different papers (from #13 Parchment to 4-ply—60pt—Rising Mill Museum Board) in 4 different sizes
  • 17 letterpress press runs
  • Four different sizes of card stock
  • Four different sized envelopes from a total of 11 different converters.
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Stacks of engraved cards for collating and letterpress.

Accomplishing the project entailed extraordinary diligence and painstaking craftsmanship from artisans spanning all four cardinal directions across the country: San Francisco bay area, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Milwaukee, and New Orleans, employing the talents of:

  • Two pressmen (Brian Hart, Hart Engraving, and Cordell Louviere, letterpressman)
  • Two banknote engravers (Will Fleishell, engraver at Bureau of Engraving and Printing and Sam Alexander, retired from the BEP)
  • One pantograph engraver (Ron Hilton)
  • One photo-engraver (Rick Doby, now retired from Beaver Creek Engraving)
  • One book arts artist (Yuka Petz, Studio Ipiki).
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Collating the prototype.

The finished promotional piece is exquisite and garnished lucrative public relations: It is a seven-page, 6.25 X 3.5″ booklet engraved on two weights of antique Strathmore parchment hand bound in silk mailed in vintage envelopes, with four individual 100% cotton cards, each a different weight and color (from fluorescent white to pale blue and gray) emphasizing the four kinds of engraving. The only ink other than black is a small caption printed letterpress in red on each card corresponding to the explanatory text about the engraving methods explained in the booklet.

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Components of the entire project, or, perfect illustration of what not to do for your own self-promotion.

In the final analysis, re-purposing materials stretched production limits and the patience of amazing crafts persons, myself included. While the product of everyone’s efforts is extraordinarily beautiful (you can buy one from my website), and got me editorial coverage in Veranda, Garden & Gun, and Martha Stewart Wedding, this project proves the adage: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.


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