The Stationery Designer’s Guide to Using Instagram

There’s no doubt that Instagram has exploded as a way for stationery designers, paper aficionados, and retail shop owners to connect and share their work with one another. With business page posts having less visibility on Facebook these days, many designers I know have transitioned the bulk of their social media efforts to Instagram. I personally use it as a place to promote my own brand, connect with the people who buy and support my goods, and keep up with industry colleagues (you can find me over @happycactusdesigns). Below are some tips, tricks, and best practices I’ve picked up along the way. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you use Instagram – please share in the comments below!


A great shot from Thimblepress of their NSS mailers. // @thimblepress

Post high quality photographs.

The photo is first and foremost what Instagram is about, so you want to show off your work in its best light (literally and figuratively). Use Instagram’s in-app photo editing software or other apps (Afterlight for iPhone is my personal favorite) to lighten and brighten your snaps. I avoid using filters because I want the true colors of my paper goods to shine. I’ve also found that having a Dropbox folder full of your best product images and styled shots makes it easy to have photos at the ready.


A beautiful snap of Antiquaria’s painting process. // @antiquariadesign

Be authentic and be you.

Yes, you are representing your brand, but let’s not forget that there is a person or team behind that brand name. Your followers may like your products, but they will also love hearing the story behind your products. I’ve found that the accounts I love following the most have the perfect balance between sharing various aspects of business life – new products being released, behind-the-scenes peeks at the artistic process, announcements – and snippets of personal life and interests. In other words, I like learning more about other designers and their stories rather than feeling like I’m constantly being sold something.


Lots of eye candy from Jenipher of Nighly Doodles. // @jenipherlyn

Use appropriate hashtags.

Hashtags are a great way for Instagram users to discover you or to aggregate images under a particular theme or event. Many companies these days hashtag Instagram pics with a company hashtag. For example, I use #happycactusdesigns on my posts. By doing so, these photos and those tagged by other users are pulled and published on my website. Someone looking at your feed can also quickly tap on the hashtag to see all of the related photos.

Some of the more popular hashtags in the paper category include: #stationery, #greetingcards, #sendmoremail, #snailmail

I also love searching hashtags by method of production: #letterpress, #foilstamped, #handdrawn, #screenprint

Search #NSS2015 for a bunch of eye candy from this year’s National Stationery Show.


A behind-the-scenes shot from me of a recent painting. This one will be making its way to a card design later this summer. // @happycactusdesigns

Embrace the community and makes connections.

Don’t be afraid to comment on others’ posts! For me, Instagram has not only been a medium for staying connected to paper peeps I may rarely get to see, but also a place to connect with other likeminded paper folk. It’s a wonderful way to casually connect with retailers, bloggers, and others who love paper.

Engage your followers. I’ve seen designers use Instagram to poll their followers about different versions of cards – I think this is a great idea and one I should probably try. Nothing like a little free market research from your most dedicated followers!


Gia from Betsywhite Stationery used this post to poll followers on color choices. // @shopbetsywhite

Overcome counting likes and followers.

This is a hard one. Who doesn’t love opening the Instagram app and seeing how many people have double-tapped your photo? I’m definitely guilty of this one. As designers, we can feel quite vulnerable sharing new work and awaiting reactions (or lack thereof). But at the end of the day, what truly matters is quality over quantity and to not take reception of your photos too personally.


Wild Ink Press offers a peek into her studio. // @wildinkpress

I’d love to hear about your experience using Instagram. Comment below with your favorite tip or piece of advice!

Guest Post: Thoughts for Other Moms Running a Business

I’ve asked some of my favorite creative mamas to help out while I’m away with our new baby. Today, the wonderful Erin Austen Abbott of Amelia shares some thoughts on running a business as a mom! Thanks Erin! –Nole

As moms, we always have to think two steps ahead. What will my child need when we leave the house? Will they need to eat while we are out and about? Etc… You are always thinking about the next step. I apply the same thought process to running my business AND raising a small child. –Erin


I organize my life as I would a diaper bag, as silly as that sounds. Each pocket, filled with what will be needed next. I plan my days around my son’s schedule and I got him on a schedule so that we would all know what was coming next. He knows what his day entails therefore we have less meltdowns. Being two is probably a bit scary I imagine, but he pretty much always knows what’s coming next, which means he doesn’t have to worry. This means that I can work in the most time with him and also be the most productive for my business.

I write it all down… I make to do lists daily and I also make a weekly list, so that I always know what is coming next, then I move those things to my daily list as they need to happen. I stay away from weekly calendars and only use a monthly calendar, so I can see what’s coming in two weeks, three weeks, etc… I don’t let things sneak up on me, just like my two year old always knowing his schedule…. less meltdowns to fix.

I get to school drop off and pick up a little early so that I can send emails or look over what I need to do for the next few days. If you stay ahead, then you never feel frantic and if you do get behind, you aren’t really getting behind…. just in line with where you need to be.

People ask me all the time how do you juggle so much and my answer is always the same… organization. Always thinking ahead to what you will need next and planning accordingly. In business, you know what you will need next, just plan for it. If you work with fabrics, have a spot in the roll that tells you when you need to reorder. Work with paper? Have a sheet in the stack that tells you when to reorder, rather then running out and then reordering and getting behind in your turn around to your customers. That’s why I package up online orders the day they come in and mail out them just as quickly. I don’t want to get behind.

Staying organized allows me to take off on Saturday and Sunday and just spend it with my family. If I need to do some work on those days, I save it for when my son is napping. I don’t pretend to have it all together and get it all done, all the time. Email is a black hole to me, but I’m trying to get better about answering faster. Like with a child, you pick your battles.

For those of you that work from home while juggling a child (kudos by the way), I can’t stress this enough… have your own space. Have an office space that isn’t a catch all, but an actual real space. Convert a closet if you have to, but have a place that you sit and work daily, that is all yours. I don’t think you will be as productive if you just have a little pile of work here and more stashed there.

Create office hours for yourself, even if it’s an hour here, four hours there. Do what you need to do during those office hours so that you can play with your family the rest of the time. Maybe you have a helper come watch your children two days a week and you pack it all in to those two days. It all counts, but set those hours. You and your business will be glad you did.

Getting Started in the Stationery Industry

image 3.1 Post 3 Banner

When I was first starting out with my business, I would frequent different design blogs for inspiration and guidance on the industry. I’m lucky to be in Brooklyn with so many other talented designers. Being part of that community was amazing but it’s still tough going solo! I thought it’d be fun to share some tips on getting started in the stationery industry today. Now, I’m certainly no expert and am always learning more and more as each day passes, but below are a few things I’ve picked up over the last few years that might help inspire some of the young talent out there! – Courtney of Swiss Cottage Designs

image 3.2 Swiss Cottage Stationary

1. Have a plan: I know this sounds pretty basic and obvious but it’s surprisingly challenging. Decide what your end game is and how you want to get there. It’s so easy to get distracted and quickly drawn off course which is why it’s important to identify your strengths that set you apart and then really make them work for you. Once you’ve established the big picture of where you’re headed, you can start to hone in on smaller details and little side projects. It’s certainly easy to get overwhelmed by everything, but I’ve found having a solid plan and really sticking to it helped me greatly in the early days.

2. Reach out & ask for help: Don’t feel like you have to do it all on your own. When I made the decision to go out on my own, I reached out to other designers in the area who were all were so incredibly helpful and supportive. Their amazing work and kind words inspired me even more to pursue my goal. A community is key! I’ve met some great friends this way. It’s fun to chat with people who understand what you’re going through and who have been there themselves. Also, ask for help! I used to think staying up late and trying to do everything myself was me hustling, when in fact it was the exact opposite! I was tired all the time and burning out at a rapid pace. Have friends and family help you in the beginning and when you get more established, hire help! It makes everything so much better.

image 3.4

3. Have the resources: Nailing down vendors and resources ahead of time is big. It’s important to have vendors who you can trust and that you work well with. With the paper industry, your printer becomes your best friend. Also, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify and have different vendors for different items and timelines. I find that keeping my options open helps alleviate stress! I really love working with local vendors which is why we get most of our goods right here in New York City. Any extra bits and bobs we try to source off small Etsy shops.

4. Expect to make mistakes: As much as we all wish we were perfect, we ain’t. Believe me you when I say, expect to make mistakes! Nothing makes your stomach drop like seeing a typo on your final printed pieces. Oye! But it happens. It’s how you handle the mistake that will make you better. Take a deep breath and then focus on the solution. There’s no going back in time, so it’s best to keep your eye on the prize and keep moving forward.

image 3.5

5. Know Your Audience: You can’t appeal to everyone, it’s just not possible. Know the kind of clients and customers you want to appeal to and cater to them. I’m not very traditional, so I know requests for a more classic style of work aren’t always in my wheelhouse. Every time I try to create work like that, I always come up short. That’s why it’s best to know what you do well, stick to it, and trust that the rest will fall into place.

Photo Credits: Swiss Cottage Designs

9TH LETTER PRESS: Trade Show Lessons Learned from a Rookie Exhibitor

Hello, all. Today’s guest post consists of all the “ah ha!” moments Sheli and I had while exhibiting at the 2013 National Stationery Show. If you’re planning on exhibiting or are just curious in general, this post is for you. –Isabel of 9th Letter Press

9th Letter Press at the 2013 National Stationery Show by Oh So Beautiful Paper

The 9th Letter Press booth at the 2013 National Stationery Show

I tend to think in “lists” (which is the extent of my organization talents) so I thought I’d provide one for you all with the most important lessons worth sharing:

  1. Absolutely research, prep, and plan for the show. The best resources available come from Trade Show Bootcamp, Show Time and Pushing the Envelope. Grab a highlighter and take lots of notes. I can’t tell you how useful these resources were!
  2. Excited to fill out order forms at the show? Get equally excited about printing inventory before you leave. You’ll be so happy doing the legwork beforehand and not afterward. Make your best educated guesses of what your bestsellers might be and have those printed, packaged and ready to go for when you come back. If you letterpress print your products, I would suggest having twice as much of everything printed before hand, because you may be surprised what gets ordered. We were shocked by how much more we needed to print once we got home! We will certainly be printing more inventory ahead of time in the future!
  3. Make sure you have a good selection for the most popular card-giving occasions. Ex: birthday, thank you, sympathy, etc.
  4. Make sure to bring extras! By the end of the show your cards will not be in the pristine shape that you brought them in. It will give you peace of mind knowing you can switch out a card that has suffered from being dropped, stolen or gotten dirty in some way throughout the show.
  5. Ship and pack a set: we ended up shipping a set of our products directly to our hotel and also packing two carry ons full of our products. If something happened to either set, we figured we’d be covered. (We were).
  6. Don’t forget to decorate your booth! Adding little touches of your brand throughout your display will go a long way.
  7. No matter how cute they are, leave your wedges and heels at home. Your feet will thank you.
  8. Make sure to have something to send to your retailers before and after the show. The first should arrive somewhere between two to three weeks before the show. We opted to do a more elaborate mailer to a smaller group of retailers so that we could focus on stores that we knew were a good fit for us. I also liked the idea of the mailer being personal with lots of detail and an accurate representation of our brand. Doing a mass run can limit just how creative you can be.
  9. You might consider getting an app like Handshake that will consolidate orders, information and reports to help with turnaround time after the show.

Here are a few pictures of our booth building out in New York, which was an adventure in of itself:

Sheli posing with 9th letter press wrapped pallet

Meet Sheli, the left brain of 9th Letter Press. She’s the person who puts into motion my big ideas. Without her, I’m not sure how anything would have come together, let alone have gotten to New York. We packed up our booth on an 8 foot pallet, which we packed with lots of care in the studio parking lot. When the freight company came to pick up our wrapped up pallet, we said goodbye, and crossed our fingers it would arrive safely in New York — it did!

Isabel putting together 9th Letter Press sign

That’s me working on our signage! I wanted the booth to match the look of our studio in Winter Park, Florida, which has a very old New York meets the industrial revolution feel. In order to keep with that aesthetic, we built a super tall bar complete with purse hooks and a brass rail, added dark walnut shelves, and found foam “wood” floors.

9th letter press booth at NSS

And here’s the end result! Sheli and I were thrilled with how everything turned out. We did spend a few late nights at the convention center to get it done, but it was well worth it. I really hope all or at least part of that was helpful!

Our mailers were travel themed so we included an old fashioned train ticket, a packing list, gold foil pressed luggage tags, and a gold pen to write down their information on the tag. After the show, we followed up with sending sweet little cards with an illustrated lady liberty on them.

NSS booth mailer letterpress

letter press mailer

letter press mailer from NSS

Photo Credits: 9th Letter Press Team

Hand-Lettering with Ladyfingers Letterpress

Greetings! It is an honor and a pleasure to be guest blogging on our most favoritest blog in the world for the next few days! We were thrilled when we were asked to create Sophie’s birth announcements, and are psyched to share with you more unique and curious work from the minds and hands of Ladyfingers Letterpress! –Arley-Rose and Morgan of Ladyfingers Letterpress

Ladyfingers Letterpress via Oh So Beautiful Paper

If you are familiar with our work, you know that we are all about blurring the lines between stationery and “whoaa!?”. We’re a bit crazy about coming up with new and exciting ways in which your guests receive your big announcement. When the right clients come along who are as excited about doing something different as we are, get ready for the unexpected. Piñatas stuffed with an invitation? Sure! Little cutouts of the couple who can dance and move on top of a record player? Why not! Full letterpress rainbow roll knocked-out flats? It can be done! There is no task to large nor too complex for our inquisitive brains. Challenges keep us going. Conformity kills our spirit. And ice cream is always on our minds.

Ladyfingers Letterpress via Oh So Beautiful Paper

Another thing you may recognize about our work is the abundance of hand-lettering. Our obsession began back in the early 2000s when Arley-Rose was using it to rebel against the rigidity of the type world that was prevalent during her time studying at Parsons. Now, its easier and faster for her to draw letters than use design programs to create a layout, and her trademark handiwork has become one of the most identifying features about our work.

Ladyfingers Letterpress via Oh So Beautiful Paper

In our first post as guest bloggers, we’d like to introduce ourselves in this short clip where we give you a short and informal tour of our studio, and take you along as we hand-letter a real life invitation! (Pardon the absence of Morgan, the other mastermind behind Ladyfingers. She was out running errands when we recorded this!)

Interested in getting started with hand-lettering? Here are some tips to create your own illustrative voice using the most valuable design software ever: your hands, your brain, and a pen & paper:

• Materials: I like using Micron .08 or .05 pens and standard sketchbook paper. I don’t usually do a pencil sketch first, since I find that I lose the initial gesture of the design if I am tracing over existing line work. (If you feel more comfortable creating a layout in pencil and tracing in ink, be sure to draw lightly or your ink lines may become compromised when you’re erasing your pencil lines. Feel free to also use a lightbox to trace!)

Hand Lettering Ladyfingers Letterpress

• How does your message sound? Before you start, consider the tone or the voice of your piece. Is it formal? Fun and exciting? Remember that when people read text, they put it in a voice. (Or maybe that’s just me?) Do you want your lettering to sound like its being spoken by Vincent Price or a little kid on a trampoline? Or maybe just you, being really excited, and happy to share your joyful message with your most favorite people in the world? Don’t be ashamed to show how psyched you are! Your excitement will translate into a beautiful piece.

Ladyfingers Letterpress Hand Lettering

• Put some music on! I find that music and lettering have a lot in common. Not only do they both share a rhythm that can inspire people to keep reading/listening, but in the same way that you don’t have to listen to a song very long to know if its a somber song or a happy song, a nice piece of hand lettering should hit you with an expression as soon as you see it. You don’t wait till the last note to understand the essence of a song, so why should you have to wait til the last word to understand the message of a design?

Ladyfingers Letterpress Hand Lettering

• Practice, practice, practice! There is no app for this. There is no photoshop filter that will make your lettering look better. If you want to truly get better at hand-lettering, do it every day and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Your hand and arm muscles will get used to drawing letters and it will become easier. Start with mastering one lettering style, whether its Roman, Script or Sans Serif. Need inspiration? Check out the different type styles on Once you have your favorite lettering style down pat, introduce a contrasting style. For example, I love combining script with a serif face.

Ladyfingers Letterpress Hand Lettering

• Draw other things, too! We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for a lifetime of drawing. To be a good letterer, you need to be comfortable with your pen enough to be free with it. Gotta know the rules before you can break ’em! Controlled chaos, that’s really what lettering is!

Ladyfingers Letterpress Hand Lettering

Once my drawings are finished, I scan them into the computer at high resolution. Sometimes I’ll clean up little errors in Photoshop and then drop them into Illustrator. I have a specific profile set up under Live Trace  so that my drawings come out crisp and un-live-tracey. Once they’ve been vectorized, I can move letters around and play with the design a little. Sometimes if I am drawing and I don’t like a letter or word that I just drew, I’ll draw another off to the side and move it in when I’m in Illustrator. The key is to have fun! Cuz if it ain’t fun, why do it?

Photo Credits: Ladyfingers Letterpress