Hello Brick & Mortar: Packaging for Retail

I judge books by their covers, wine by its label and brands by their logos. I know the good stuff is on the inside, but I could ogle good packaging all day and have been known to buy things for reasons far divorced from utility. (I’d guess I’m not alone in this crowd.) Packaging may not seem like the sexiest topic, but good packaging is an invitation to purchase, and that’s an invitation we want to extend. –Emily of Clementine

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Illustration by Emily McDowell for Oh So Beautiful Paper

First, the golden rule of retail packaging: They’re going to try to open it anyway. I know, you wrote “blank inside.” Customers will still look at me and ask “is it blank inside?” while opening the cellophane. I know, it’s sealed with a sticker. They will carefully peal back the sticker and reach for the card. I know, you labeled what’s inside and drew a little picture on the back showing the 6 different cards in a card set. Maybe they’ll ask me to open it. Why? I think it’s human nature. If you close something, people want to open it. Especially if it’s pretty. But let’s see if we can make your packaging something customers want to open, but instead choose to purchase and wait until they get home to break into. How? 90% of it is simple show & tell.

1. Tell them what’s inside. Pretty basic, but I receive a lot of beautiful, poorly labeled stationery. Is it a flat card? Is it blank inside? Is it a card set? How many card are in the set? Are they all the same or different? How big is that print? Is it a sticker or a mini-note? What’s it for….? I watch customers fumble through unclear packaging every day. Often, I can interrupt a quizzical look to explain what’s inside, but if I don’t, she’s stranded and will put it back down. If you don’t know what to include, try calling a friend and describing what the product looks like. Then find a well designed way to say the same thing. (Where? My vote is usually on the back. Unless you can make it work with the image.)

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J. Falkner’s Perfect Little Notes use paper bands to tell what’s inside without interfering with the product. The bands are a slight deterrent for customers to open the box and allow retailers to slip the band off for a photo, and put it back on for customers. Win/win!

2. Show them what’s inside. In your online shops, you can clearly photograph and explain. In person, your packaging must speak for the contents. Unless you are packaging a single card or print that is clearly visible, you need to show what’s inside (with a photo, a great good drawing or innovative packaging). Every time customers pick up a box of cards, they’re asking “what’s inside? Answering this clearly increases the likelihood that your product will sell. (Where should you put this information? My vote is for the back if it’s a card/set/calendar or smack in the middle if it’s a tube.)

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The Albertine Press letterpress library is one of the few products, I (happily) display without cellophane. The spine tells what’s inside and a quick flip open reveals the cards. The packaging itself feels like a gift and looks beautiful displayed in multiples.

3. Extend your branding. The cost of packaging increases the price of your products, but don’t make it a throwaway purchase. Good packaging makes your product feel like a gift, and if done well, can make an indelible mark that the customer returns to.

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Scout’s Honor Paper packages her prints in stiff craft sleeves with a strong branded stamp on the front and back that tells the print name and size. Though she totally breaks my rule of showing what’s inside, I can easily take one print out to display and house the extras behind. 

4. Packaging should keep it together and look great. Do you want the parade of horribles? I’ve had cello sleeves crumple or split as customers shove cards back in; stiff cello boxes that pop open; sealed small notes that aren’t affixed within the package so they jumble, but I can’t adjust them without damaging the package; prints with crumpled corners after being dropped; boxes that obscure the card design; gorgeous prints, postcards and tea towels that no one buys because they have no idea what’s inside; closure stickers that pop open more than they stick; belly bands that come unstuck and end up all over the floor; twine that frays and looks frumpy; calendars and prints with no backing that slide to the floor; products that fade in the window; and (through fault of my own) a cello box or two melted each winter due to radiator proximity. Those horribles are not so horrible, but these are costs that retailers absorb, if a product remains poorly packaged we won’t take the risk. You can’t always avoid these pitfalls, but you can mitigate by simply using the packaging yourself: pack your product up, throw the box around, unpack it and leave it on a table for a few weeks. See which of your items still shine, and adjust the rest.

5. There’s no right answer. When in doubt, reach out to a retailer you trust or hop into your favorite store and see what’s working. You should decide on the packaging you want, but here are some considerations:

  • Single Cards – Cellophane sleeves are a must. I’m torn on whether a sleeve with the fold over seal is preferable. A little sticker on the back can tell the customer if the card is flat or folded, how big it is and whether the card is blank inside.
  • Card Sets – Card sets are the slowest sellers. I think they’re also the most vaguely labeled. You can only show one card on the front, but you can show and tell on the back of the box. How many cards are in there? Are they all the same (if not, please include a label with a photo or drawing), what color is the envelope? Tying it with twine can look pretty or obstruct your image. Stickers can make a pretty seal but the occasional customer that ignores the sticker’s purpose and opens it, leaves me with a damaged product.

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Moglea’s vibrant packaging shows both envelope and note, while the sticker draws your eye from the front to the back of the box where you learn the details of what’s inside!

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The cute peephole on the back of this card set from Blackbird Letterpress invites the customer to look closer while communicating basic info about this card set.

  • Tiny notes, gift tags, book plates, recipe cards  These things don’t often get much respect in a retail setting because they’re little and often confuse the customer. They benefit from super clear packaging, and a bit of personality to invite the customer to pick them up.

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Emily McDowell draws people in with words alone. By the time customers read what her notes say, they’re already sold on the sentiment, with little need to even know the function.


  • Pads of paper, journals & notebooks – You guys, wars could be started over whether a notebook should have lined or unlined pages. Let the customer know upfront. Also, let them know how many pages are in there. Cello sleeves help keep the corners neat and the pages clean.
  • Prints – Customers often buy prints for gifts or quick decor, so including the dimensions is crucial. A sturdy piece of cardboard lets retailers display the print safely. Prints packaged in tubes are the most difficult to sell. I often have large prints professionally framed, but if the framed print sells, we’re back to the tube. A large color sticker is the best way to show what’s inside.
  • Calendars – Customers who are on a calendar hunt want the days to be in boxes, customers who fall in love with your designs don’t care! Either way, it’s nice to show the customer whether or not there are boxes and display each month on the back (customers want to see their birth month, it’s often what sells them.) Like prints, a sturdy piece of cardboard is helpful for display and protection. I see a lot of dual purpose calendars these days (eg, once used, each month can be a print!) I love this idea, but make sure it’s clear so the customer knows they’re getting two uses for the price.
  • Coasters – Coasters are one item where the packaging might be saved for storage, so this can be a great chance to extend your brand into a customer’s home.

RPCcoasterset e1412023835244 600x461 Hello Brick & Mortar: Packaging for RetailRifle Paper Co’s coasters are packaged in boxes that make adorable storage for any other little thing. It’s a perfect extension of branding and makes the packing bridge into extended use.

  • Tea Towels – Tea towels are almost always displayed folded. To prevent constant unfolding, a nice wide belly band with an image of the opened towel can help. (Bonus: offer to send a sample to display if your retailer buys a certain quantity.)
  • Temporary tattoos – Temporary tattoos are often shared, or used as party favors, so people want to know how many they’re getting. I also think they look better on the body, so a photo of them in action is a super plus.

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Tattly’s packing shows the products on (uh, adorable) models, then the back manages to be fun while describing exactly what’s inside.

  • All other beauties – You makers are so darn prolific, I can’t even keep up with all of the areas that you’re branching into, so I’ll leave you with something simple: let the product speak for itself. Let it guide the packaging and be ok with being simple. Sometimes, that’s the best approach.

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I’m utterly blown away by the beauty created by mixing the talents of Angela Liguori and Maybelle Imasa Stukuls. All I want to know is more about this ribbon, and Angela’s simple spool and clear font on a card give me just that. 

The final golden rule of packaging is this: if you have an innovative idea, go for it. All of this is open to your interpretation. I don’t like cello sleeves, but I’m pimping them out here because it’s the current best solution to selling cards. If you have a better idea, please, go on. As long as your packaging shows and tells what’s inside, you’re meeting your retailers’ needs. If you can make it inventive and even more fun, you’re taking a step further to extend your brand and build a relationship with your retailers and customers.

Search outside of the stationery world for ideas. When I need a bit of inspiration (like how to finish up this post) I pull a collection of items from Clementine to see where themes emerge. I love the packaging below for all kinds of reasons: font, color, utility. Mostly, because it draws you a step closer to the product, making the customer one step closer to falling in love and taking it home.

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Just another day in the shop, lost down a rabbit-hole of the beauty you all make via my Instagram.

I can’t wait to see what you pack up next! xoxoxo – Emily

Wedding Stationery Inspiration: Camping in the Woods

Fall, to me, always brings thoughts of camping, roasting marshmallows, and rustic details. You might not think of planning your wedding around a theme that involves getting dirty and functioning with just the essentials. But that is what can make it so fun! Surprise your guests with simple pleasures that they enjoyed as kids or still do with their families. Take a cue from the treats, the crafting, and the quirky details from your own camping adventures. And if you just love the idea – but need a little inspiration – I rounded up some of my favorite stationery pieces to get you started! – Lauren

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S’mores kits with fun tags for the reception. Image by Fondly Forever Photography via Wedding Chicks.

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Create tags with stamps for roasting your marshmallows. Attach your escort cards to dream catchers. Left image by Tom Balazs Photography LLC via Wedding Wire, right image by Erin Kunkel Photography via Martha Stewart Weddings.

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Style your program like a camp guide. Image by :ANNE SCHMIDT PHOTOGRAPHY via Ruffled.

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Send guests hope with s’more favors in to-go bags with a fun quote taped on the front. Image via The Flair Exchange.

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Display your the seating chart on kraft with sticks. Create simple paintings as table numbers or as decor. Left image by Erin Kate Photography via Style Me Pretty, right image by Stevie B Photography via Emmaline Bride.

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Add simple woodsy elements to your menus. Image via Written In Detail.

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Display your schedule in a simple hand painted style. Pack treats in lunch bags with your wedding logo or initials. Left image by Christina Richards Weddings via A Practical Wedding, right image by Ariel Renae Photography via Ruffled.

 {images via their respective sources}

Party Paper: A Mint + Orange Halloween

Whoever said Halloween had to be black, orange, and scary all over was totally wrong, if you ask me! I prefer cute little pumpkins, sweet mini treats, and a happy color palette with a hint of mint! If you agree, here’s a few party paper goodies to get you started for this non-traditional Halloween bash!

Party Paper Mint Orange Halloween Party Paper: A Mint + Orange Halloween

No. 1 Tassel Garland from Studio Mucci, No. 2 Pinwheels from Meri Meri, No. 3 Treat Bag Printables from Studio DIY for eHow, No. 4 Honeycombs from Shop Sweet Lulu, No. 5 Scalloped Tape from Oh, Hello Friend, No. 6 Mint Party Cups from Urbanic

{images via their respective sources}

Guest Post: Eva of Sycamore Street Press

I’ve asked some of my favorite creative mamas to help out while I’m away with our new baby. Today, the talented Eva from Sycamore Street Press is sharing some thoughts on motherhood! And p.s. to any new or aspiring stationers out there: check out Eva’s new online class: Stationery Business 101! –Nole

5 Things That Surprised Me About Motherhood – Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Street Press

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1) It’s not always easy to get pregnant and have a baby.

Of course, I knew that things like infertility and miscarriages existed in the world… I just never thought they would happen to me. And then they did. And then I began to see that they happen to a lot of other people, too. Now I know, of course, that they are frightfully common. Yet they are still frustrating and heartbreaking every time.

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It took me over 3 years to have Ingrid. During that time, I couldn’t talk about it. It felt too close – too personal. Once in a while, I might open up to a close friend or family member – or more likely – another woman who had struggled with something similar. I feel incredibly fortunate that I have my two children now. I think the wait made having them that much sweeter for me. But I know it could have been much worse. My heart goes out to everyone who is struggling with the desire to grow their family, but for whatever reason, is unable to.

2) Giving birth makes you a superhero.

Both times, giving birth has felt like an incredible athletic event to me – an extreme sport! (This article explains it so well.). Afterwards, I felt so proud of myself. And I felt in awe of all the millions of mothers who have gone before me and given birth to children of their own. I remember after I left the hospital with Ingrid, I looked at every mother I met with new eyes. I was in awe of them. I still am.

3) Feeding babies isn’t always as simple as it seems.

I’m the oldest of 4 children, and have worked as a nanny in the past, so I didn’t think I’d be in for much of a surprise when I took my first baby home from the hospital. And I especially didn’t think I’d have any surprises when I took my second baby home – after all, I’d gone through it before!

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But you guessed it – both babies were full of surprises. Ingrid wasn’t thriving and didn’t get back to her birth weight for 6 weeks after she was born, despite all of our efforts and frequent visits to the pediatrician. It turns out she had a tongue tie – the kind that’s not easy to diagnose – and her mouth simply didn’t work the way it was supposed to. Once a lactation consultant figured it out for us, it was a simple fix. But I still feel so bad for baby Ingrid when I think back on that time.

Lars had the exact same tongue tie. We figured that out right away, of course. What we didn’t count on was that he would also be colicky, have acid reflux, and multiple food intolerances. We were grateful that he always seemed to gain weight just fine, but the poor little guy just cried and cried around the clock, no matter how hard I tried to comfort him. We eventually figured out ways to lessen his discomfort, but it was mainly a waiting game until he grew out of it. (And thankfully he did.)

4) Kids have a mind of their own (starting at a very young age).

Ingrid is 3 1/2 years old now. Since the age of 2, she’s been very opinionated about her own appearance. She insists on wearing “braided pigtails” every single day. She picks out her own outfits, shoes, and accessories every single day. She even gets upset if we can’t find the right coordinating pajama top and bottom. I get a kick out of it, but on the other hand, I’ll admit that I had visions of dressing my little girl up until junior high — ha! And Lars – at 15 months, he doesn’t talk much yet, but he is still very clear about his likes and dislikes. I know just which books, toys, and foods are his favorites.

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It’s so fun to see their little personalities emerge.

5) As much as I love my career, I would give it up if I thought that was the best thing for our family.

Having a family was always a dream of mine. And I always knew that my life would revolve around family. However, I also love Sycamore Street Press and have put my heart and soul into it for 7 years now. I never thought that I would ever be willing to give it up. But now that I have these two beautiful little miracles in my life – I would do it. I would give up my career if that was in my family’s best interest.

Sycamore Street Press Family Guest Post: Eva of Sycamore Street Press

Luckily, I don’t have to make that decision, though! Sycamore Street Press provides for our family. It allows my husband, Kirk, and I work together, from home, and on a flexible schedule. It’s a blessing in our lives. (So don’t worry about it going away anytime soon, ha ha.)

Photo Credits: Jessica Peterson