nss prep school :: booth details

Posted in NSS national stationery show tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:15 pm by meant to be sent

more trade show talk today…i’m trying super hard to catch up with some nss detail posts, so here’s one i’ve been meaning to do for a loooonnngg time (pretty much since after nss 2011!).

so without further ado…

this goes along with a post you may have seen last week with a fun infographic about something not so fun — budgets. the infographic made it more fun, but now it’s time to get serious. well, not really. but we’ll at least talk specifics and get into a bit more detail about costs and options for saving money etc. first lets, talk about the booth… (and please excuse the not so great iphone pics!)

meant to be sent nss booth

your booth is pretty much your storefront for the 4 days you’re doing a tradeshow like NSS. your booth should represent your brand and be designed to showcase your line. it’s not so important whether you use curtains or foam or hard walls as it is that the space is well constructed and styled to reflect your brand and line…and is of course cohesive with everything else from your show mailer to your website…


depending on your budget and style, there are lots of options for the walls of your booth…let’s start with the most basic…

CURTAINS: these actually come with your booth (yay for that!) but they are not anything particularly special…they may work for you if you have a more earthy or vintage brand since they’re a neutral color and what i believe is a cotton of some kind. (maybe?) most people don’t use the provided curtains, but that doesn’t mean curtains are not a viable option…. you can certainly bring your own curtains that are a perfect reflection of your brand — maybe in a bold color, silk finish or zigzag pattern…whatever goes with your look.


above : the curtains and sign that come with the booth.

budget wise, curtains are the least expensive option. the cost is pretty much whatever curtains cost….so, like anything, you can go economical and grab some from a store like ikea or you can splurge at store like restoration hardware! it just depends on your budget and the look your brand calls for.

FOAM WALLS: these are probably the most popular type of booth walls at the show, especially for smaller companies and first-timers. why? they look great (like real walls!) and are fairly inexpensive, again, depending on the look you’re after, budget and booth size you have. one thing that’s for sure is that these go up right in front of the existing curtains and are typically zip-tied to the pole frame. but there’s a variety of ways to go about getting foam walls…

  1. DIY: if you just want plain (white or solid color) walls, and are the DIY type, you’re in luck! because you can by your own large sheets of foam board at an art supply or set design shop or other similar stores and have it delivered to javits (buy local and save on freight!)… just make sure they’re flame retardant! a SUPER important show rule.
  2. HIRE OUT: if you’re not the DIY type, you can use an exhibit company for your walls (and lots of other stuff!). they can do them in white or even pms colors so you can match your branding…they are more expensive than the other options mentioned here, but include installation and provide peace of mind knowing that it’s all set when you arrive at your booth. several exhibitors go this route.
  3. SORT OF DIY: somewhere between DIY and using an exhibit company to do it for you, is the option to source your own foam walls and hire union guys to help you set them up (or set up yourself). this is what i did my first year…i used foam walls but wanted an all-over printed pattern. despite originally planning to go with option 2 above where it was all set up when i got there, it was not in my budget given the wall printing i needed. so i found my own source to order printed foam walls from (they even flame proofed for me) and had them shipped direct to javits. the cost was less, but somewhat close to doing the plain, installed, solid colored walls mentioned above. BUT, i got the look i wanted for my brand. it was perfect! though, not really re-usable. so while foam is great and fairly cheap for a really pulled together look, it doesn’t get you further than one show.


above: my printed foam walls and carpet, mid set-up.

HARD WALLS: ahhh, the “real” walls :) these are the most pricey OR most time consuming option depending on how you go about it. hard walls are typically made with a base of plywood or other hard material (maybe even actual drywall for some of the huge companies??)…and then painted or finished in another way (people get super creative!) so the cost varies widely. but this option gives you the opportunity to really do some unique finishes. (adrienne from dingbat press is AMAZING at this! check out her blog to see her booth form the last couple years and more planning info!) and also are more durable so these are typically reusable for future shows. here are some ways to go about it…

  1. HIRE OUT: using an exhibit company to do hardwalls for you is going to cost you…more than having them do foam walls for sure, however, the price can vary depending on many factors. there is an option (a somewhat strange concept) to RENT your hardwall booth. basically, the exhibit company will create the booth from your design, but you don’t really own it. and also therefore do not have to worry about storing or shipping or installation of said booth. you just show up and it’s set up for you! (like the installed foam walls above). but in this case you would contact the exhibit company prior to the next show and discuss using the booth again and modifications you might need to make, if any. an easy-breezy-peace-of-mind option, but a pricey one.
  2. DIY: again, if you are the DIY type, you can create an entire booth at home and use a freight company to ship it to the show. or drive it there yourself! driving there is the (possibly) cheaper option but depends of course where you are driving from vs the cost of flying + freight…and parking in NYC…but, this point spills over into travel, so more on that in a bit!but if you price out the materials at the hardware store needed to DIY, you’ll quickly start to see the savings for creating your own hardwall booth. HUGE savings. so much so, we’re talking possibly less than foam (installed walls option)! BUT, enter lots of hard work, mega planning (and carpentry skills!) and freight cost. however, with great planning you could use this fabulous creation year after year! yay MORE savings! plus, going this route you can still request union help to set up/tear down and pack up your booth to take back home OR, choose to store the booth in a warehouse near the convention center. this is a good option if you want to use the same exact booth year after year and only plan on doing shows in that area. BUT, it does make it difficult to modify it if needed, since it’s not in your possession or being stored with a company that can modify it for you. but LOTS of people do this.

……………………furniture + fixtures……………………

like the walls, there are lots of ways to go about this, and all depends on the look and budget you have. but one thing is for sure — every booth seems to have furniture of some kind…whether a seating area with couches or a counter area or even just a chair or two. (psst…chairs are key —you’re likely going to want something. even just to sneak a quick rest — it’s a looooonnng day of standing and buyers appreciate the break too when they’re in your booth!) here are some options to consider…

  1. USE YOUR OWN: lots of people bring things they may already own, or will invest in pieces they can see reusing at future shows or in their home or studio. doing this is an awesome way to save some cash in the long run (and get some fun new stuff for your house!) especially if you are planning to ship freight anyway.
  2. BUY IT: an alternative to using existing pieces is to purchase new items (of course), but consider having them shipped directly to your booth. you can also ship stuff to most hotels (check with yours to make sure). but, don’t forget you have to get said items to javits from your hotel. that’ll be tricky if they’re bulky like a chair or table! then, you’ll of course need to ship them back home or store them with your booth if you go that route. or, depending on the items, some people just leave them behind if it’s not worth the cost of return shipping (or they’ll sell items to passers by at the end of the show!)
  3. RENT IT: another route is to rent furniture…a great way to get some unique pieces without breaking the bank! while there are tons of things available through exhibit companies, don’t forget about local event companies too! it’s NYC after all so there are TONS of neat places with really unique stuff if you are looking to go a different route.i loved renting and will likely do it again. especially for things like ghost chairs (just $15 each to rent!) that are a pretty penny to purchase…and when i first exhibited i was not psyched about the idea of shipping larger items back and forth. i don’t know why but it just scared me :) i think just because it required a pallet or crate and i just thought whoa. was just another thing that i’d not done before and was my way of eliminating one unknown. but this year, i will likely take the plunge and go with a freight shipment. stay tuned :)


above: the ghost chairs i rented


fixtures are completely based on your products and how large your line is.

  1. BUY IT: lots of exhibitors will buy their own shelves or cabinets and reuse year after year. this may be what i do this year, at least in part. ikea is an awesome place for this. their products are pretty durable, inexpensive and usually pretty lightweight (makes for cheaper shipping!) in particular the picture ledge shelves and billy bookcases and expedit shelving units are popular items…as are many others! again, depends on your look, but there are lots of basic items there that you can finish or modify to fit what you need (again, check out adrienne’s booth!) there’s even an ikea delivery service in the NYC area! people use it for last minute/emergency items or just as a way to skip the chaos and shipping. a great way to save is to go in with a group at the show and split the fee for delivery.
  2. RENT IT: another route is renting fixtures and display units. either existing pieces or, you can even design something yourself and have it built! (see below) yep, a custom designed piece that you can rent! crazy! that was the route i went my first year…i launched a collection of wedding albums and a small line of boxed imprintable invitations and wanted a piece that would showcase the albums. so i used my walls to display pieces from each of the four collections and the cabinet i designed (below) to hold the actual books and boxed invitations. this worked out really well for me. and though it was pricey, it was the centerpiece of my booth and really helped to highlight my collection and gave buyers a comfortable spot to peruse the heavy albums. plus it was the main fixture/furniture in my booth, so i felt ok to splurge on it :) and i can reuse if i want and don’t have to worry about storing/shipping because it’s owned by the exhibit company. win win!

below: snaps of the cabinet i designed and had built by manny stone


above: my cabinet in the aisle before making it into the booth, and a bit of dingbat’s booth with hard walls in the background :) she silverleafed the walls! so neat.






……………………lighting, flooring and signage…………………...

once you’ve got your walls and furniture set, it’s all about the finishing (but super important) touches. things like lighting, flooring and signage. the reason i say they’re finishing touches is because while they’re important decisions they didn’t seem AS monumental as the walls and furniture decisions. maybe just me though! :)


there are tons of ways to go here too. initially, one might think that a huge convention center would provide enough overhead lighting. not true! you really want your work to shine (no pun intended!) and the best way to do that is to make sure it is properly and adequately lit…not just so people can see it, but so that it photographs well too! especially for when bloggers and other members of the press come by and want to take some snaps!




above: a peek at the clip-on lights

  1. BUY IT: an easy, effective and inexpensive option is to use clip-on lights. mine were from home depot and were $10 each. much, much cheaper than going through an exhibit company and there are similar options at stores like ikea, lowes, target and wherever else sells these kind of lamps! but like everything else, depends on what you’re looking for! also, consider a chandelier, tabletop or floor lamps to highlight products if those work with your booth design. a note: chandeliers may require approval to be hung or will need to be installed by the union workers if it needs to actually hang from the convention center ceiling. (something i had to eliminate last show due to the huge installation fee. sigh.)
  2. RENT IT: alternatively, you can rent lighting from an exhibit company who works with javits and the union to complete installation. or can request lighting directly from javits…they can provide you with a parcan — a big spotlight — that is hung in the rafters and positioned to highlight your booth. they are on the pricey side but give off great light. i added one at the last minute (on site at the show) and it cost much more (somewhere around $400 instead of about $300!!) than if i had ordered early. lesson=learned!

ELECTRICITY & INSTALLATION: this is a separate fee and a must for having any lighting  in your booth (other than a parcan). and this fee is pretty minimal in the grand scheme of things.  just make sure to bring some extension cords and a power strip to plug your lights into along with any electronics you may have (cell phone, laptop etc).


another item that has a lot of possibilites is flooring. carpet, or wood or masonite or??? the sky’s the limit. one big thing to consider though…COMFORT! it is a loooonnggg day of standing and buyers definitely appreciate stepping into a cushy booth floor! :)


above: jon and our union guy working on the carpet tiles.

  1. BUY IT: again, this is an area that you can easily buy and repurpose for future shows. even if you end up changing booth sizes it might be possible to add on to your existing flooring if that product is still available. this is the route i went with. i bought interlocking carpet tiles from an online store and had them shipped directly to my booth. (i ordered sample swatches first to pick a color) and after the show, i packed them up and shipped them home. easy breezy and not a huge package to deal with.
  2. RENT IT: yes, you can even rent flooring! an exhibit company is probably your best bet here. they’ll provide you with options for carpet or laminate flooring and install and remove for you. of course, this is then an ongoing cost but is not TOO bad.

whatever flooring you go with, consider adding padding of some kind underneath. some carpet tiles are available in various grades — think economy, standard, premium — but you can still add extra padding. if you do, your floor will be raised a bit but it’s worth the comfort!


signage is so SUPER important! it’s how buyers know who you are and which booth they’re in and which products they’re looking at. you can help too by making sure all your work is grouped / displayed / organized in a way that makes sense and is clearly labeled (with product name and/or item number if applicable). so it’s as easy as possible for buyers to order your awesome stuff!


above: my walls with signage and booth number printed on the walls (lighting actually was much brighter than this pic shows!)

my signage was part of my printed walls, which made things really easy with nothing extra to worry about there. (except sticking my designs all nice and straight on the walls!) a super important part of signage is to make sure you include your booth number and make sure it’s very visible! it’s like your “address” for the show and how buyers find you. so make it crystal clear!

there are of course tons of ways to go about creating signage for your booth but sooo much depends on your branding regarding materials used and what it looks like. dimensional signs made of acrylic, metal, wood etc are great options and look super professional. as do decals, which can be adhered right onto the walls (foam or hard walls) and are fairly economical. printed/mounted foam board signs or words stenciled onto your (hard) walls work well too. if using curtains, you’ll most likely need to create separate signage that you’ll hang from the poles in front of your curtains. 


well, that about does it for the booth details! let’s recap…



  • curtains
    they come with your booth but bring your own to coordinate with your brand. cost: $200-250. (based on ikea curtains)
  • foam walls
    DIY with foam board from an art store or flame retardant boards from set shop ($300-400). does not include labor or shipping. if buying regular, non flame retardant foam board make sure to buy flame retardant spray and keep the empty bottles and certificate as proof in case anybody asks during setup!
    – installed foam board walls white ($1000) or in pantone color ($1800). these are early bird rates!! price goes up after a certain date!
    printed foam walls $1400 + freight from mega print. they’re in new hampshire so not TOO far from the show. though i got hit with extra freight charge for delivery to a “tradeshow zone”. something to keep in mind!
    – union labor cost for setup $200-300 (based on 1 person for 1 hour on weekday or weekend day at the higher end)
  • hard walls
    DIY painted plywood walls starting at $200-300 (cost of plywood) + hardware + freight
    – use an exhibit company…(price varies) peace of mind and convenience but lots more than DIY


  • use your own pieces (FREE!) + freight
  • buy new ones! sky’s the limit, but use ikea or target for inexpensive pieces you can reuse or discard if shipping back isn’t worth it
  • rent it! either from an exhibit company or local NYC prop houses or event companies.
    – in my booth i rented. ghost chairs + table ($350 total, including delivery and pickup. table was too much in my opinion but was convenient!)
    -rent from manny stoneprops for today or ruth fischl to name a few.


  • BUY/DIY get ’em yourself and save! you can install lighting in your own booth if you have a booth under 100sqft and 6 or fewer lights. BUT check the manual because this seems to be unclear from year to year!
    – clipon lights: $60 for six.
    – buy from home depot, target, lowes, ikea etc.
  • RENT clip on lights: from an exhibit company: $99 each, installed. (this is the early bird rate. price goes up from there!)
  • RENT from javits: parcan spotlight, approx $300 (pre-show pricing)


  • DIY: buy picture ledges, shelves, bookcases and cabinets from stores like ikea or target. cost varies. toss after or ship back to reuse each year.
  • RENT from exhibit company or prop houses listed above. (my custom cabinet: $600 + tax)


  • carpet
    DIY: buy interlocking carpet tiles ($350) at coco mats and more.  or FLOR which is super popular too. both reusable!
    – RENT from an exhibit company…similar pricing to above, but pay each year.


  • PRINT ON WALLS included in printed foam price above
  • DIY jut the cost of materials if you have access to a large format printer or a way to create decals!
  • OUTSOURCE there are lots of places for dimensional signs, decals, etc…. even etsy!

well, that does it for the booth details! hope you find this helpful and will use this as a starting point for your own booth prep research.

want more? for tons more candid info and real show experiences, be sure to sign up for tradeshow bootcamp! you’ve probably seen me rave about it before….that’s because it’s a must going into your first show! (or your second or third or….) i’m a HUGE fan and highly recommend it. :)

happy planning!


happy new year + an update

Posted in NSS national stationery show, wholesale tagged , , , , , , at 11:20 pm by meant to be sent


oh, hello! sorry i’ve been a little quiet over here! the end of the year was crazy!! and have been spending the beginning of 2013 wrapping up a few projects and planning and organizing for the year ahead.

but wanted to pop in to wish every one a big huge super HAPPY new year! i hope your holidays were amazing and that your year is off to a great start!

i thought about doing a year-in-review post like i’ve done the last couple years, but instead i thought it’d be fun to focus on the NEW year and what’s next! it IS after all a shiny new year! :)

so what’s new? well, one of the big things i’m working on is planning for my return to the national stationery show in nyc in may! and i’m SO excited to go back!!! i took last year off from exhibiting but did a virtual booth to mix things up a bit and allow me to focus on a whole new line of paper goodness….appropriately called paper goodies! i’m so excited about it!!! it’s been a big project thats been in development since last spring/summer!! i cannot wait to launch it at NSS this year! eeeek!!

also in development, my brand new shop! where you’ll find allll the paper goodies and all sorts of other new stuff! including the line of wedding invitations i launched at nss in 2011!

and, another exciting announcement coming next week…just can’t share quite yet! so check back in sooooooon!!!

also, one of my goals for this year is to blog more, so i am super hoping i can stick to that and get my new blog design launched too. nothing like a new space to inspire new posts!!

in the meantime, if you’d like to be the first to hear about the shop launch, you can sign up for the shop announcement email and get a fun surprise deal after the launch!



NSS 2012

Posted in meant to be sent, NSS national stationery show, wholesale tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:26 pm by meant to be sent

it’s that time of year again…time for the biggest paper party around — the national stationery show! the party’s in NYC but this year, we’re doing something a little different…a VIRTUAL BOOTH! (a little preview of the site above!) we couldn’t make it to the show this year, but we  have a ton of fun things in the works and still wanted a way to for retailers, press, reps and the like to be able to see what we’re up to! the result: a virtual booth you can check out right from your computer!!

we’re working on a whole new line of paper goodies — sweet treats for your paper cravings — that includes notebooks, notepads, matchbook notes, giftwrap sheets + tags, and flat and folded notecards and greeting cards! the booth is just a preview of the new goodies that are shipping this fall, but you can pre-order now to be the first to carry these in your shop!

we’re really sad to miss the big show, but super excited about all that’s shiny and new at mtbs and hope you’ll check out our virtual booth! you need a password, so if you didn’t get our mailer and are a retailer, member of the press or rep, contact us to get the secret password!

also, launching in just a few days…the brand new meanttobesent.com!

stay tuned…so much going on around here! :D



Posted in business, NSS national stationery show, wholesale tagged , , , at 11:07 pm by meant to be sent

it’s that time of year again…time to get ready for the national stationery show!!

this year, i’ll be writing a series of posts sharing lots of tips as well as chronicling my adventures as i get ready for the show this may. i’d planned to do this last year but time definitely got away from me while getting ready for my first show. hopefully things will be much less crazy this time around! stay tuned to find out!


2011 :: what. a. year!

Posted in meant to be sent, NSS national stationery show tagged , , , , , at 12:06 am by meant to be sent

ahhh! i can’t believe the new year is here! 2011 just flew by. and what a year it was…a crazy-amazing-beyond busy-scary-stressful-super exciting-fun-full-of-new-things year!

i had some big plans for mtbs this year, which took up pretty much every minute of every day of the first half of the year! from january til about june i was busy re-branding, designing a new line of invitations and getting ready for my very first national stationery show. pure insanity, but somehow it all came together and i went to new york in may with a collection of four new wedding albums filled with over 500 paper goodies, a small line of boxed invites…and a shiny new brand that evolved out of a super-fun collaboration with the kendra at hi design…just in time for the show!

me in my booth with one of my albums


my booth!

the show was awesome. a total whirlwind and an amazingly-exciting (and stressful!) experience that i learned SO much from…best of all, i made great connections and lots of new friends!!

chandra greer’s nss party! so fun!

whew. a quick sigh of relief after nss…then the epic assembly line began for most (ok, all) of my summer. at the end of summer, i had made 16 books from thousands of pieces and sent them off to their new homes at stores around the country. (eeeek!)

a look behind the scenes…

stacks of pages ready to have tons of invites stuck to ’em!


teeny tiny paper swatches stuck on a style board


16 feet of tables with stacks of collated pages ready to go in the binders!


the amelia collection pages in the binder and ready to go!


in the midst of that i was working on a super exciting project — my first celebrity wedding!!! specifically, deanna pappas from the bachelor and bachelorette!! i was SO thrilled to get to work with deanna and stephen on their wedding stationery—it is my favorite design to date! i did her save the dates, invites, escort cards, table numbers, treat bags, and thank you notes. i just looooved the way it all came together! (below are some behind the scenes pics…a big post on all the details coming soon!)

as if that wasn’t exciting enough, we were invited to the wedding!!!  it. was. awesome. such an neat experience and a truly amazing wedding. deanna and stephen are such fun and genuine people…as were all of the guests! really just a great crowd…i mean, how could it not be with the likes of leslie and earl (“mr frostings”) from fantasy frostings who made the cake (seriously amazing cake, you guys) and my twitter pal kelly! SUCH a fun girl!

to top it off, deanna wrote the sweetest post for wedzilla about working with me. you can see the inspiration board there that started it all! the wedding was shot by callaway gable and covered exclusively in Us Weekly (where you could kinda see the table numbers i did!) and is going to be on green wedding shoes in january! can’t wait!


and lastly, meant to be creative (my branding + design biz) was buzzing this year too! i plan to grow that more in 2012 and can’t wait to show the new brands and websites i’ve been working on as soon as my new site launches in january!

oh! speaking of which, the new site and shop where you can buy—and customize!! — all of the new collection and some old faves— has been another big project that has taken up a good part of the year. seeing as there are just not enough hours in the day (or year!) i’ve been working on the site in another fun design collaboration—this time with aeolidia!  they were a huge help. it’s almost ready…just designing away and putting the finishing touches on for the big launch! after that, this ol’ blog will get a facelift too!

such a great and eventful year that wouldn’t have been possible without the support from my friends and family. a huge thank you to all of them and especially to my boyfriend jon for all of his support and help thru all the craziness!  i’m so proud and grateful for all i’ve been able to do this year and can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store…
hopefully a vacation! :) oooo maybe here? that would do :)

i hope you all had a great year! here’s to an even better 2012! have a safe and super happy new year!
cheers! xo


NSS recap…the inside scoop coming soon…

Posted in wedding invites tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 2:14 pm by meant to be sent

my next installment of the NSS recap mega post will focus on behind the scenes details, do’s and don’ts and must have tips. let me know any questions you have that you would like to see covered in the the inside scoop post!

comment below or shoot me an email!


NSS recap :: part 5…pulling it all together

Posted in meant to be sent, NSS national stationery show, wholesale tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 10:58 pm by meant to be sent

though the researching phase never realllllly ended, (actually is STILL going on for a few minor things) i did finally get to a point where i had gathered a ton of info, vendors and ideas (TOO much!) and it was time to make some decisions and begin to pull it all together.

like i mentioned, my branding was TBD for most of the planning process…which made it a bit more difficult to decide on anything, but it finally started coming together just in time to pick out and finalize all the fun stuff!

also, i had been testing several printers to use for my new collection, but had pretty much narrowed it down…and just in time because the it was finally coming together plus i had some super fun ideas for my catalog/mailer (one piece would double as both) and press kits to do. so now, to just execute it all and make some FINAL DECISIONS. but honestly, making decisions and moving on was one of the hardest parts…because every decision feels so monumental. but, once they are made…it is the. best. feeling. ever!

there was a ton to pull together, so where to start…lets see…how about…

the line…
as my line started to come together, the concept for the collection did too and it was feeling more like a real line. i had decided on four styles (perfectly preppy, completely classic, well traveled and very vintage) to launch with and the designs were really starting to feel like a cohesive collection. so i finally got everything together (all four books!) and sent it off to the printer (which i finally picked too!!)…and a few days later i had a TON of paper goodness delivered to my door!!! this made it all so real…i actually screamed out loud (and may have jumped up and down) when opened it! eeeek! it was like christmas at my house for a good week or two with everything arriving…

below :: the shipment of alllllllll my new designs :D

SO. with the designs all figured out, i was super excited, but felt like i still was missing just a little something for my line…

the basic premise of my collection is “something for everyone”…hence the different styles…soooo to build on that even more, i decided to offer several types of printing —digital, offset/thermography, letterpress—for all of the designs in all books. this worked well since most designs lend themselves to all types of printing, so it seemed like a plan! and something for every budget too! and that was the missing little something…check!

even tho my designs were all printed, i was still having a zillion convos with my printer about using special papers to help set my line apart even more, at least for digital printing (actually STILL finalizing this, but should know this week!). so along with the different printing came different pricing…to help keep it super simple, i decided to offer pricing based on printing and type of piece across the board instead of different pricing per suite. easy-breezy.

to even further expand on the something for everyone idea, i took six designs from the preppy collection and turned them into a line of boxed imprintables…those REALLY came together at the last minute as there was a printing mistake and had to have them redone and shipped to my HOTEL! ahhh! so i literally packaged them up in our hotel room right before the show started! yep. that’s them below in a horrible iphone picture on the bed at the hotel! :)

while i was finalizing the collection, i started to realize that i was essentially creating a library of style books…so i started referring to it as the “style library”…and bam! it all started to fall into place. (well, at least conceptually :D)

along with my new style library concept came all sorts of fun ways to tie everything together and really have things feel cohesive. i was SO excited to have a bigger idea to wrap everything around…

and it all started with…

the albums
even before the name came to me (and maybe this actually sparked the whole idea!) i knew i loved the idea of a library spine on my books, as well as the idea of a thick chipboard cover….just something about the mix of the textures that spoke to my aesthetic and what i typically do with my custom work (i.e. tons of layers and texture whenever possible!!)

so i asked some of the album vendors i had found to price these out, and ultimately, i picked a vendor that had awesome fabrics and allowed me to do just the number of albums i needed to do for the show. (that was a HUGE relief since a lot of places require you to do 50 or 100 as a minimum and couldn’t fathom that at the time)

at one point, i thought i might want to do a different color spine per book…but i couldn’t decide which colors!! i had gotten hung up on enough of these kind of decisions and was running out of time…plus it felt right to keep them consistent, airy and neutral like the booth, and let my designs bring in the bold colors and pop out of the books. so i found an awesome shimmery whitish cream color that was perfect against the greyish chipboard. yay!

i decided to add a pocket to the inside to hold “style boards” that would show all of my colors, papers and fonts for easy viewing while looking at a design in the book (rather than having to flip back and forth with these on pages in the binder). all about keeping it simple ;) oh and the pocket was also made of the shimmer fabric..it turned out sooooo neat!

below :: a picture of the chipboard and fabric swatch from my album vendor and the sketch of the pocket i added.

i got it all finalized and ordered soon after…the books came in and they were SO stinkin’ cool! it made it feel like everything was finally coming together…except you’ll notice the books are blank!

below :: the books when they arrived!

for the outside of the books, i had to improvise at the last minute because my original plan to screenprint each book title and my logo on each book was astronomical at such a small quantity. so, i had to kick researching into overdrive again and thought i had found a local vendor to pull it off (and for a great price), only for them to bail on me the week before the show. NICE. so i tried to think of any way i could to salvage the plan…i considered doing decals, iron ons, rub-off transfers, you name it. but ultimately i ended up doing a sticker on the spine and a raised plaque on the front with my chevron pattern and logo, both printed on shimmery paper to match the look of the spine. it turned out great and will be keeping the cover plaque but screenprinting the spines for the albums that were ordered at the show!

here’s how they turned out

{ tip: it is SUPER important, and might seem like a no-brainer…but you need to make sure that everything is consistent…from your website to your biz cards to your mailer to your products and booth to your catalog and press kits. it just makes everything feel like you have a strong brand and a solid business as well as a professional and pulled-together look. definitely something you want! :) }

to keep with the neutral, high-end look, i decided to use chipboard pages in the same greyish color. they seemed perfect since they were super substantial (1/16″ thick!) and of course matched perfectly with the books since it was chipboard. but to my surprise, even the super-thick board still tore during the show from all of the turning of the pages! which i guess is good because that meant a lot of traffic! but i was so not happy that happened…so i have since found another route that is super similar and even stronger, since it is not as soft as chipboard. more on that later….

the rest was in the details…
coming up with terms, pricing and process for ordering. finalizing the color palette (SO not easy if you heart color like me!) and font list for my style boards along with the paper swatch board…and finally laying out and sticking the printed samples to the chipboard pages. it was amazing how everything really came together when i added the fun envelope colors.

below :: pictures of the madness in progress!

this is the process of making the swatch boards. i xyroned my paper colors and used my handy-dandy accucut to cut out sticky-backed squares for the boards! brilliant! (or so it seemed at 2 am two nights before i left for the show!)

doesn’t this shot remind you of candyland!?

more candyland…and as you can see a big ol mess…running out of space too!

album pages in progress!

the booth…
for the walls, as my branding was finalized, i knew i wanted to use the all-over chevron pattern and i had a pretty solid idea of how i would layout the whole booth. from the start i knew i wanted frames of some kind (real, printed or decals) on the walls to represent each collection and that i would fill them with the different designs. and i knew i wanted the whole thing to be pretty neutral (so i could let the work stand out against what could be a crazy pattern!). though i felt really good about it, it just seemed SO scary to send the art over to be printed on a BIG scale and not see it first! yikes!

so i had asked the vendor i was almost positive i would use… A. if i could get a test print (aka chunk proof) so i could at least see the how the colors and pattern would print on the material and on their printer. and B. when is the last possible date i can get you the artwork (crucial to know this!!!) so i would know how much time i had to tweak.

they were AWESOME to work with and more than happy to send chunk proofs (and fast!).

so i did a quick mini mockup of one wall and some swatches of color and my logo to see how it would all print. i did a couple different navys and tested some different tints of the chevron pattern and frames. they came back and looked great, so i easily narrowed it down, but still somehow kept tweaking the design ever so slightly up until the last possible day i could send the art. ha!

below :: the chunk proof with swatches of materials for my albums

i had a few vendors in mind for the walls…but the pricing pretty much decided for me! so at least that part was easy and proved to be the right decision all around!!!

whew! what a RELIEF that was settled!!

on to the rest of the booth.

like i mentioned with the furniture, i had all sorts of scenarios and combinations of pieces in mind…and only one thing was constant—the ghost chairs!  i knew almost right away (though i very seriously considered using some fabulous louis chairs in a cool pattern or bold pop of color) that these were perfect and would add to the airy feel i was after, and not feel heavy in a super small space. all of the rental places i looked into had the ghost chairs too, so that wasn’t an issue. but, i was on the fence about the table i would use with the two ghost chairs, and was still deciding if i would move forward with the cabinet i had designed (see below).

instead of the cabinet, i was considering a buffet/console type table but it was all dependent on how much product i would have and was waiting to see if i would need the extra space or not. in the end, i did not end up having the extra product ready in time, but i still went with the big display cabinet and was glad i did because it gave me lots of extra space and a lockable cabinet!

below :: initial sketches of booth and cabinet design

again, i asked this vendor to give me a “MUST ORDER BY” date to help me keep everything straight and on track. (i work better with deadlines!) i pretty much made the decision on the walls, the cabinet, and the furniture all at once. then i just prayed it all looked good together when i got there!!! (thank god it did! pictures of everything in the next post!)

so now, the only big thing that was outstanding for the booth was flooring. i had finally decided to use interlocking foam carpet tiles, A. for comfort and B. cost was not bad. and TONS of places sell these, so i was able to find a spot that had good prices and would send me sample swatches of the colors.

i knew i wanted grey to go with the rest of the look, but as you can imagine, its hard to tell from the swatches online, so i eventually got the samples i requested (after like a week of wondering if they were even sent despite my urgent request) only to find they did not even send the lightest grey color swatch, which of course was what i realllllllly wanted! i found out there was an error on their website and that the light grey color was not available in the cheaper tiles! UGH. more money! but luckily not TOO much more…but now the problem was, i was out of time and couldn’t wait for another sample. but they assured me the color was MUCH MUCH lighter grey than the two swatches i had…and so again, i ordered and prayed it was right! (and it was!! whew!)

carpet settled!

{tip: request samples (early if you can!)…even if you have to pay for them…and, have your final order shipped direct to your booth or hotel! most stores i ordered from seemed open to that…just beware of extra handling charges that javits applies for sorting anything that is not part of a freight delivery)

then there was lighting…i hemmed and hawed over that for a while too, but kinda decided somewhere along the line that clip-on lights from home depot were jussssst fine. especially when i found out that to have them provided by javits was $99 PER LIGHT to RENT! yikes! so i bought the home depot ones a couple weeks before the show and, to keep it easy, shipped them as part of a bigger shipment direct to my booth, despite the extra handling fee. which meant that WE were installing them, (which you are allowed to do in a small booth space up to a certain number of lights). it was not difficult and worked out fine. but this was one of the things i compromised on from my original just-have-it-all-done-for-me-no-matter-the-cost plan.

so the booth was pretty much set (but we were about three weeks away from the show so it better be!! )

now on to the mailing!

i had a super fun idea for my mailing and was on the fence about doing a catalog since they would be another huge expense and take lots of time to design… so, instead i had planned to do a dual-purpose piece that would be used as a mailing and a catalog type handout at the show! it was one large sheet that would be mailed out folded, but as it unfolded, each panel revealed more information about my line. and finally unfolded to a 17×22″ poster showing 3-4 designs from each of the style library collections! was a fab idea, and totally would have worked but i was cutting it a bit too close with time and budget to print enough to cover both the mailing and handout quantities i needed.

so, i ended up doing it but printing a smaller quantity of the poster and designed a simple postcard to mail out instead. saved big-time on postage and printing going this route! and being down to the wire, totally needed a little savings!

below :: the postcard mailing ready to go out the door!

{tip: postcards are only 29¢ to mail vs 48¢ for a letter rate/1oz size. even the bigger companies do postcards, so don’t sweat it! though, if your time and budget allow DEFINITELY consider a more unique approach that will stand out in the mail…i design a LOT of direct mail stuff at work, so trust me on this ;)

poster images coming soon!

press kits
next up, i had to tackle the press kit.

i was super excited about these and had a fun way to tie them into my style library concept. i handmade custom chipboard folders that mimicked the look of my albums and added a library pocket and custom library cards to the inside front cover with information about my business and my line…on the right hand side i created slit pocket to hold the poster and added slits for my shiny new business cards! i lined the inside front cover with printed shimmer paper with the chevron pattern and of course my booth number! (you will hear about your booth number A TON as you look into exhibiting. it is pretty much as important as your SS#!) i finished them off with a shimmery library spine and a wrap label with a circle sticker that had my booth number stuck at the end of the label. i was SO happy with how they turned out. one of my favorite parts and really glad i stuck to my plan and was able to pull it together.

below :: the kits in progress

the cover with library spine

the library cards (the top card was set up to look like books had been checked out and those books….were from the style library of course, with the date checked out being the date of the show :)

the second card was some info about meant to be sent and the last two were blank cards for taking style notes!

the inside spread with folded poster, biz card and chevron panel!

the final inside spread with the library pocket in place

the front cover with wrap label

back cover wrap label and circle sticker

lots of kits piled up and ready to ship to javits!

aside from those i had one other thing to put together…i had been nominated for the best new product competition in two categories! yippie! so i had to put boards together super quick before we left for the show…here is one from the perfectly preppy line, entered in the “all things wedding category”! sadly, i did not win, but it is AMAZING exposure just to be entered. your boards are prominently displayed at the main entrance for all to see. DEFINITELY enter if you choose to exhibit!

so i think that about covers most of the pulling it together part…all up until just hours before we hopped a plane to JFK!

up next: PART 6—showtime!


NSS recap :: part 4…finding the end of the internet (aka researching)

Posted in meant to be sent, NSS national stationery show, wholesale tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 10:05 pm by meant to be sent

once my collection got under way and i had signed on the dotted line for my booth contract, i kicked my researching into overdrive…

researching for my booth, researching for vendors/printers/products to use for my collection—an ongoing process that is a big task in itself—and researching the (many) rules for the show. i can tell you i have done a lot of research for my business, but never have i ever done so much research in a six month period. ever. ever.

after a certain point (probably starting in about december) i literally spent every ounce of time i had (that i wasn’t designing or working) researching. and boy did i learn a LOT—about what i wanted/needed for my products, what would work and what wouldn’t and who i could depend on.

{ sidebar :: during this time i also may have gotten a bit sidetracked by wanting to expand my product line for the launch at the show. i went back and forth about this for a while…going to add stuff…not going to add stuff…ultimately i did end up introducing a line of boxed imprintable designs! though i kept trying to add more! cA-raZy! that’s what sleep deprivation does i guess! }

though i researched what seemed like a million and one little things, the two main things i researched like crazy were: potential vendors (for printing, albums, paper, packaging etc) and stuff for my booth.

when i decided to do this new line, i knew i did not want be my own printer any more. the time and energy it takes to prep files and do the actual printing and fulfillment was just not something i wanted to deal with. and in the spirit of simplifying and streamlining (the premise behind my collection) it made a lot of sense to shift the production outside to allow me to simplify things and focus on designing.

so the search was on. i knew i needed a great digital printer. but i also wanted to offer letterpress, offset and thermography as options in my books. again, trying to be a bit different.

my goal: find a one stop shop that could do it all and at wholesale prices. i needed a place that understood wedding stationery but that was flexible enough to be open to other sizes, products and papers. this. was. DAUNTING. and i can tell you i pretty much found the end of the internet in all my searching. seriously. i even started a petition in hopes of alerting printers that there is a need for what i was looking for…as i suspected, there are lots of other designers looking for a one-stop-shop, too! (feel free to sign it if you want! :D )

i’ll tell ya…finding a good printer is not easy. and it’s even harder to find one that offers multiple types of printing, is good at what they do, will offer wholesale pricing and not require you to run 1000 pieces as a minimum.

so after TONS and TONS of researching, asking around, tweeting and networking, i found a handful of good options (that are actually all still in play) and have landed on two printers that cover it all, and will be my go-to’s.

below :: a look at the first test run from one of the digital printers

so why did i choose these printers?
because of these key things that were super important to me:

1. pricing: obviously had to offer wholesale pricing
2. quality: obviously had to be great quality
3. response + turnaround time: so important to feel important! so if it takes weeks to (or worse never!) hear back from someone, it’s just not going to work out.
4. flexibility: i am trying to be a bit different so it was key that i find a printer open to that as well…someone willing to testing papers that did not have limited sizes/products

{ tips }
on top of the things listed above, make sure you can get test prints from your printer. if it is digital printing, find out what kind of digital press they are using and (attempt to) understand the capabilities and limitations of their equipment. ask them to push the limits if that is what is best for your product…all they can do is say no! also, make sure you are working with pantone colors from the start. good digital printers can match pms colors! (initially in my sleepless haze, i was just using cmyk colors and had to backtrack! no fun!) but DO A TEST. pick your colors and send a swatch sheet to them to run. find out what settings you should use in your file to get the closest to PMS colors as possible. then match up the test swatches to a pantone book and marvel at the results! :D (FYI most colors are pretty dead on, but not all, hence the testing!) starting with pantone colors (even when printing digitally) just makes it that much easier to A. get more consistent color in your orders and B. transition to other print methods that use PMS inks.

if you are using an offset or letterpress printer, find out if they have a house PMS inks and/or paper options. understand what the fees are to use colors outside of their house inks/paper and if paper is included in the pricing they are giving you. also, keep in mind if you are supplying paper, make sure you know how much overage they require (extra paper) per color or run.

fulfillment is something to consider as well when selecting a printer—and i am still thinking on this. but there are some vendors who will not only fulfill for you (ship printed orders direct to your customer), but will package orders just how you want them! using tissue paper,  a logo sticker or clear bags and a nice gift box and ribbon etc. talk about streamlining! definitely something i am considering.

paper, paper and more paper
beyond printers, there are paper and envelopes to consider…if you are only going to offer white/ecru as options, then you are likely not going to get hung up on this…but for me, color is a HUGE part of my collection and my style. i heart color! :) so just white was not going to cut it in the new collection. another thing i got hung up on was wanting to use euro flap envelopes. ahhh euroflap envelopes. can i just say that EVERY envelope in every color should be available as a euroflap?!

below the beginnings of my vast paper swatch book library (it’s about double this now)

oddly enough, the envelope thing was another huge sticking point for me…and, like the color palette, took waaaaay longer to finalize than i anticipated. i just sooooo wanted that extra touch of style in using color and euroflaps…but was having a hard time A. finding a printer who had them as part of their standard line-up even just in white/ecru, and B. finding all of the colors i wanted to use with that flap style. loooooonnng story short, i did not find what i was looking for. BUT i did land on a color and paper palette with lots of colors available in euro and some in both square and euroflap…which ties right into wanting to offer lots of options in the books. yay!

finding an album vendor can feel somewhat elusive. trust me they are out there, you just have to master your google skills and network and ask around. one thing i found to be a great way to search (for multiple things) was doing an image search instead of or in addition to a regular web search. i am a visual person, so it was easier for me to spot what i was looking for that way and quickly see if it was at all what i was looking for. however, there is some great stuff hiding in regular web search too, so don’t discount that entirely!

one of the things that was super tough was finding someone to do just a few albums for the show, so i could launch the line without having to purchase 50-100 albums up front. this was not easy and i had to do some improvising to put the finishing touches on them myself (which will be slightly improved for the final albums in stores!) but, i ended up finding a great source that was able to do just the quantity i needed for a decent price and they turned out great!!! more details on those up next!

the booth
when i first set out to exhibit, i knew i wanted to do whatever i possibly could to make the whole booth process an easy-breezy one…even if that meant it was more expensive. that probably sounds a bit strange, but when faced with something so big and unknown, there was comfort in just knowing it would be taken care of. at the time, totally was worth the extra cash for a tiny bit of sanity. so while i pretty much stuck to that thinking, i did make some compromises and eliminate things as it got closer to the show and charges started to pile up. more details on where i landed and what was left out a bit later….

i am not gonna lie…there are a TON of things to consider and research regarding your booth. for me, on top of everything else, one HUGE thing was that i was re-branding during all of this, and my new look was not done until mid march! so a LOT was up in the air look-wise… BUT i knew the vibe i wanted for my new brand, so that helped steer me in a good direction from the start, even tho i had no idea what my logo would look like or the final color palette would be for most of the process! yikes!

i did know i was going for a preppy, modern, glam, sophisticated look. i picked out a handful of chairs/tables all with similar looks, some more glam than others, a FABULOUS chandelier (which i later found out due to my booth location and astronomical charges to install it, i could not do—but…maybe next year! :D) and a cabinet (i designed!) for product and albums.

below is a quick idea board i threw together with some of my finds that i was swooning over for my booth

really, i pretty much had the booth figured out very early on. however, i did not finalize and order it until the month before. yea, i know. crazy…started early again, but still so much to consider, plus things evolved along the way that made me reconsider a few things…like my product line for instance…i had hoped to have another new product ready for the show, but found out about a month before NSS that it wouldn’t be ready, so that was a big deciding factor on how much storage / display shelving etc i would need.

one thing i highly recommend when researching is pinterest. it. is. amazing! it is also a huge time sucker too, so beware of all the pretty pictures! :) but i used it a TON to gather inspiration for my line, my brand and my booth. follow me on pinterest to see more!

so it was ironic that the one thing i thought i had figured out way early on and just needed to “place the order” for, turned out to be just as chaotic as the rest of the preparation and still came down to the wire!

the furniture
like i said, i knew i wanted to keep things simple…with a glam, sophisticated look using stuff that would add to the booth, not overwhelm it or take away from the products. that coupled with the fact that the idea of freight terrified me with the cost and potentially having to assemble things on site and then having to store things after. don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine option and most people do that, but for me for the first go at it, simplicity felt better and just couldn’t wrap my head around the logistics of all that on top of everything else at that point.

so, very early on in my booth planning, it occurred to me to rent furniture…it was a perfect idea for me not only for simplicity’s sake but believe it or not, cost as well…at least given most of the furniture i was interested in. of course over time, it would eventually pay off to buy some bigger pieces and do the shipping, but i had a feeling i would also be changing things up from year to year and had already started racking up the bills for this year, so buying a pricey (though fabulous) statement piece was not on the table.

so i looked into lots and lots of boutique-y event rental spots around the city. of course, being in MI i had to rely on their websites for pictures and dimensions. some were super easy to work with and got back to me very quickly, others not so much. but most had pretty similar prices but, of course they get ya with the shipping/delivery charges too. and one of my favorite places that had SO much amazing stuff was way higher on the delivery charges.

so, i had to compromise a bit, but it all worked out and ended up with simple pieces that fit the booth perfectly and did not entirely break the bank.

FYI: with any shipping/delivery to a tradeshow they really get you on charges…more on that later.

the walls
i originally looked into both hard walls and foam…hard walls were thrown out the window pretty much right away…so i was considering foam walls with a flood of color and a wainscot along the bottom of the walls with one of my patterns. i still like the idea of this and just might go that route next year :) but i was having a tough time deciding on a color and pattern without my branding final.

but as my brand came to life, we decided to use a few signature patterns as part of my look…the main one was going to be a chevron pattern, and i had seen a tone-on-tone version on pinterest and fell in love. and so the quest began to find a way to get my chevron pattern on my walls.

again, i researched a TON…and just when i thought my dreams were crushed by the waaaay more expensive show recommended vendor, i found a source that was MUCH cheaper even though i had to have the walls freighted to javits. (lots of you asked about the walls so, more details on this later!)

below :: the inspiration for my booth walls that i was swoooooning over!
(click image for source)

and…all the other stuff
there are soooooooo many more things to look into…and for now, let’s just quickly skim the surface…
for the booth, as mentioned there’s of course the walls and furniture, then there’s lighting, flooring, shelving, electricity (yep, electricity is not included in your booth fee!), shipping/freight…and before the show (aside from any preparation for your products), there’s a preshow mailing (to design, print and mail) for which you need to gather a list of retailers (NSS supplies a list, but it is not targeted specifically for your audience, so you need to comb thru it for solid leads), and order forms, line sheets, catalogs, giveaways and best new product entries to prepare, as well as a press kit. then a bunch of general things like travel, hotel and planning for any kind of events or meet ups you might want to go to…

so if you are going to be exhibiting, or at all interested, research as much as possible. you’ll learn a ton and it is super important to do the leg work even if ultimately you get a great vendor referred to you…because only you can know what will work best for your brand and business PLUS you will stumble on some unexpected stuff and learn a lot along the way.

a great source was an amazing bootcamp put on by my pal katie from kelp designs along with other fabulous exhibitors, retailers and press peeps…you MUST check it out! NSS puts on seminars too, but there was something about the bootcamp that was so real and candid that really made a difference.

much much more details on the booth, albums and final collection coming up!

up next :: PART 5—pulling it all together

NSS recap :: part 3…what to show?

Posted in meant to be sent, NSS/national stationery show, wholesale tagged , , , , , at 9:17 pm by meant to be sent

so once i signed up, i turned my focus to my product line (between filling regular custom orders and working full time, that is!)

up until this point, i had been a custom designer…so whatever i was going to show was going to be pretty much brand spankin’ new…

i had actually started designing and concepting for my collection in late summer (before i officially signed up for NSS) but i still was not sure what i would debut with. so i started by designing patterns (I LOVE PATTERN!) and eventually started applying them to wedding designs but was also sprinkling in some holiday and baby stuff. that was fun, but i quickly turned my focus to just wedding for now. BUT i still wasn’t positive exactly what form these designs would take…a line of boxed designs? albums? both?

below: the very very early stages of the collection…wedding, holiday, baby including a few of the patterns
please excuse the horrible iphone pics!

now, to album or not to album?
that was the BIG question. honestly, i had the album idea in the back of my mind all along, but it was an overwhelming idea…even so, when i started designing, i got a little overzealous and wanted to launch with, well….a little of everything! luckily i reigned myself in and re-focused on one goal: launching a collection of wedding albums. (which i changed again later on!)

doing an album (or albumS) is no easy task. there are a million and one things that go into it, especially if you are starting from scratch with a whole new collection of designs, because you are not only designing the suites that go in the book, but you are designing the book itself…more on that later!

even though it seemed so overwhelming, i started leaning more and more toward a collection of albums (not just one) when i turned the focus to wedding.  given the customizable nature of albums + me coming from a custom design background, it seemed like a good way to go.

BUT i  knew it was a GINORMOUS undertaking and didn’t know how many albums i could get done or even how many designs would be in each…but i did know i wanted to take a different approach if i was going to do them, and for two reasons:

1. well, to be different and set myself apart!
2. to simplify what i found to be (i did a bunch of research!) a somewhat cumbersome and complicated process

that was settled. albums it is!

so once i got on board with the album idea, like i said, my idea was to create a collection of books that were simple yet full options. to accomplish that, i decided it might help if each book was based on its own style or theme. right away that felt right, so i started deciding on different styles to work with.

in my research, i considered what i had experienced with my own custom clients and what the trends and most popular styles were, i researched in stores and online to see what was already out there and also considered what i felt was lacking a presence in the marketplace.

maybe the most fun part in researching was snapping pics of stuff that inspired me! i took pictures of textures, patterns, clothes, furniture you name it! here are just a handful of the pics i took while out shopping, looking at houses etc.

even in this early stage, there were lots of ups and downs…a lot of maybe this or maybe that…a lot of things i thought i would for sure use were put on hold and some got nixed all together…some designs that i thought would be great for one style, were actually perfect for another…and so on. but i had a really good feeling about this idea of “books by style”, so it stuck. (though nothing was for sure until a few months later when i really solidified the concept for the collection…more on that later!)

so yay!  i had a direction to follow! now, to narrow down styles/themes to focus on for the initial launch at the show.

FYI: this development process literally went on until TWO WEEKS before the show!!! yikes!

to help me focus, once i had done a lot of researching, i made a big inspiration board (below) that hung in my studio area! this helped a lot to see what i was working toward every day.

the design process
after i decided to do albums and picked styles that i thought would be good to launch with, i started really designing. like i mentioned, i had some that i had started to mess around with over the summer, and a handful of patterns i had designed, but there was a TON more to do and hadn’t begun to scratch the surface of pulling it together.

to keep things as simple as possible (MUCH easier said than done!), i approached it much like i do my custom work—i always start with just the main invitation panel…and this was no different.

so to start out, i designed a bunch of random panels…just whatever came to me that seemed like it could fit somewhere, somehow in the collection. kinda like sketching and getting lots of ideas jotted down. this is a great exercise, by the way, and really helps to create lots of different approaches and design explorations that end up being really useful down the road!!

after i had a bunch (30-40) of these initial designs,  i started categorizing them by style and separated into different files named by style for that collection…and continued to create design after design all in one specific “style-file” so i could look at them all together as a collection, while i designed.

{TIP: indesign is GREAT for this. i know a lot of people design right in illustrator, but when you want to easily have multiple pages in a document, indesign is the way to go. plus it can do most things illustrator can do! though i use illustrator for lots of things, indesign is made for layout design)

above, printed designs spread out for review

i did this for each style i had in mind, noting where there were holes as i went, and going back to design more for those areas as i got new ideas. eventually, some designs made the cut, some did not. once i decided a particular design felt right, it was expanded on and more pieces were created based on that design (rsvp, details card, place card, save the date, thank you etc). the process was fairly smooth from here forward, but went on for MONTHS.

would you like fries with that?
another big thing to decide on for me was what add-ons to offer. so deciding what kind and how many pieces to include in each suite was another sticking point for me. i kept feeling like i had to offer everything under the sun…every accessory anyone could ever want. not true! it is so easy to get caught up in what other people are doing or the notion of what you think is the norm or standard for the industry…but while there might be a reason behind what is typically done with albums or other products, it is more important to design and produce your products how you want them to be. so, definitely ask around and research like crazy, but ultimately, you want your product to be a reflection of you. so take what you learn and put your own filter on it.

that being said, i got a bit hung up on that a lot with regard to how to structure my albums too…everything from pricing, to the order of the pages and number of designs, to the way swatches are shown. i realized though that my whole goal in this was to do something different and shake things up a bit. so the last thing i was going to do was to do it like all of the other books i had seen!

the collection was a true labor of love to create…and even though i started early, it still came down to the wire. no matter how early i thought i was starting, it is SO easy to get bogged down with details that will suck time out of your schedule…and in my case couple that with researching vendors, planning the booth, re-branding, redoing my site (still in progress) and working.

in hindsight, there are some things i could have finalized much sooner…and others things that took SO much time that i didn’t think would! (picking a color palette is hard!!!)

so one piece of advice to close out this post that really applies to the whole mega-post…i think the whole process is a little like planning a wedding. everything is an important detail that you will likely obsess over. BUT do your best to stay focused and pick your battles…figure out what you can do without, and what matters the most to you. make decisions and move on. you will get there and will realize that even regarding your products, some things can be finalized later on and even continue to evolve after the show. i.e. if you really want to add another shade of orange to your palette or switch out for a different PMS color for navy blue, you can totally do that after the show before the books ship. seriously.

next up :: PART 4 — finding the end of the internet (aka research)

NSS recap :: part 2…decision time!

Posted in meant to be sent, NSS national stationery show, wholesale tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 8:02 pm by meant to be sent

once i got back from my NSS whirlwind trip, i was SO excited and almost positive i was going to do it. i mean, i knew i wanted to, but it was a BIG decision both personally and financially…so i thought on it for pretty much the whole summer…

so how do you decide to exhibit?
for me, i knew i LOVED the custom work i had been doing, but the thing was, there is only one of me…and i can only do so many custom designs at a time. so i wanted a way to supplement that work with products that were turnkey and ready-to-order. this was originally sparked by my peacock and nautical invitations that i realized i was getting tons of orders for, pretty much just as they are. so i thought, what if i had a whole line of ready-to-order designs and maybe some boxed stuff?

i thought a LOT about what my line would be—probably the biggest thing i thought about! what would i debut with—an album? multiple albums? all wedding? mix in holiday and baby? just boxed stuff??

again, being a custom invitation designer up until this point, it wasn’t an easy decision…i took a lot of time thinking about it and once i felt like i had a good solid idea (though i waffled about it for a while still!!) that got me even more excited about the idea of exhibiting (more on this later)…so in early fall i contacted GLM and said sign me up! :D

side note : don’t hesitate to apply as soon as you decide you want to exhibit! i probably would have signed up a bit sooner, but part of the reason i didn’t was because when you apply, you submit your application and product photos…as i mentioned, i didn’t exactly HAVE products (yikes!)…so i kept holding off… BUT i knew i needed to sign up early to get a good/small space.

{ tip: corners and small spaces (6×10/8×10) go quick so sign up early!! }

so i finally contacted GLM in early fall and asked if i could apply even tho my new product line was not done so i didn’t miss out on the space i wanted…they said DEFINITELY! just send photos of the type of products you will be selling…i.e. photos of my custom work was fine. they just want to see what type of product you are selling/your style… so they can place you in the right area etc.

so, whew. that was a relief. i was in!

so what next?
after you apply and are accepted, they will send you a contract and at that time you provide the booth location you would like…now, they will try to accommodate you but it’s somewhat unlikely you will get exactly what you want….but you should definitely let GLM know where you prefer to be. i checked out the floorplan and tried to remember the flow of the show from walking it previously. plus i knew where some of my twitter pals were and tried to get near them! it worked :)

about booth space
when i originally requested my space, i tried to get the smallest space available (6×10), but even 8 months before the show those spaces were gone! so i ended up with an 8×10 booth, which worked out GREAT and was just a bit more than the smaller one, in the grand scheme of things!

originally, i was assigned a booth in the 1500 aisle, which is a fine space but had a feeling that i might want to move based on what i remembered from the layout of the show…so i requested to be moved

note: moving is based on availability, but you can move with no additional charge unless your booth size changes!! — and ended up pretty much right in the center of the show and next to a twitter pal, dingbat press! it was perfect!

now things were getting serious…i had a real space and my own address at NSS!! i actually pinned up the floorplan of the show on the wall in my office with my booth highlighted. total dork, i know, but it kept me motivated and focused as i designed and planned. keep your eye on the prize! ;)

here’s a quick run-down of the planning process so far…
1. first things first…consider exhibiting (is it right for you/your business?)
2. walk the show/network/gather information (i went twice, but i would at least try to go once to check it out)
3. check out the NSS website FAQs and exhibitor info and photos of past shows they have on the site—there is lots of info, but sometimes hard to navigate
4. make the decision to exhibit :: ask yourself…do i / will i have a product that can be sold wholesale and still make a profit without being way overpriced? what is that product? is it different from the competition? how? IMPORTANT :: set yourself apart one way or another!
5. research. research. research. (this will continue throughout the planning process! you will research until you have reached the end of the internet! )
6. sign up! contact one of the show reps listed on the NSS site prior to applying if you have any questions. they are SUPER helpful. kelly bristol was my rep, and she is fab!
7. decide on what size space you think you need. most first time exhibitors go with the smallest spaces. it makes sense financially and usually you are not debuting with a TON of products, so you don’t need a ton of space. but choose what is best for YOUR company and products. and keep in mind, that you are only paying for the space and need to fill this space with EVERYTHING ON YOUR OWN!!!
8. pay the deposit to reserve your space. yup. already time to fork over some cash! to give you an idea of the timing for payment…i reserved my space in mid october and my first payment (about 50% of the booth fee) was due about two weeks later. the final balance was due two months later. so be ready with the initial booth cost when you sign up!

one thing i will point out right from the get-go…if you are not sure about something…ASK. ask your rep, other exhibitors and designers (me if you want!)…most people are VERY willing to help! more on this later too…

next up :: PART 3 — what to show?

NSS recap…here we go!

Posted in meant to be sent, NSS national stationery show, wholesale tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 7:53 pm by meant to be sent

holy moly…it has been exactly 1 month since my last blog post…actually, anyone that’s been following along lately knows that in the last 3-4 months posts have been few and far between as i got ready to exhibit at my very first national stationery show.

but i’m back!! and ready for a tell-all, mega-post about the before, during and after…

so this is going to be an epic multi-part post because i had originally planned to do progress posts with lots of pics as i prepared for the show…but, um yea. that didn’t happen! so i am going to try to cover it all now…

i EVEN became pretty much twitter-less in the months leading up to the show…trying to minimize distractions and well, mostly just because it took pretty much every minute i had to get ready for this beast-of-a-show! it. was. pure. insanity. but i did it…and am SO excited with how it all turned out…

so read on for commentary, random tips and details, the nitty gritty and behind the scenes looks…and of course how it all came together at the show!

and PLEASE let me know if you have any questions you’d like answered…though i am planning to cover pretty much everything under the sun! :)

here goes!

this all started about a year ago…i decided last may (at least in my head) that i wanted to exhibit this year. so i took whirlwind, 36-hour trip to NSS 2010 to walk the show one more time before i officially decided to make my debut as an exhibitor. i HIGHLY recommend doing this if you are at all considering showing at NSS. definitely walk the show first! it is an invaluable experience to get to see first-hand not only what the show is all about but just how BIG it is.

this trip was way different for me than the year before when i went in 2009 with my pal kate from custom paper works. it was so amazing and i remember we were so overwhelmed  just looking around and taking in all the paper goodness! i mean, it. is. BIG. (and i heard it used to be WAY bigger!)

the three years i have been to the show (including this year) it has included about 800-1000 exhibitors….so there is a LOT to see and even more to consider if you are exhibiting.

last year when i took my quick jaunt to NYC, i had a much different goal than the year before…in 2009 we went for fun and to see what it was all about and just see all the amazing eye candy.

in 2010 i went to NSS on a mission…i knew i wanted to see the whole show again, but in a more focused way… from the perspective of a potential exhibitor, taking in as much as i could. i also wanted to look into some new vendors on the supply side (where all the paper people, printers and other suppliers hide out!)…as well as network and meet some of the awesome people i had met on twitter and in the lets talk stationery forum in the previous year. (i bring this up because networking is a HUGE part of attending and exhibiting at the show, plus the show last year is really where my NSS journey began!)

so, during my 36-hour trip….

i had a fab lunch and walked the show with some of the girls from LTS

i met some of my twitter pals…

found some awesome stuff, loads of ideas and new vendors

and did some mini site-seeing while in route to javits in the awesome spring weather we had!
(not so much this year tho…rain, rain and more rain! blah!)

all in all, it was an AWESOME trip that got me super excited and a little more prepared for the loooooong road ahead getting ready for my debut at the show…

next up :: PART 2 — decision time!


NSS update!

Posted in NSS national stationery show, wedding invites, wholesale tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:49 am by meant to be sent

whew. it sure has been a while! but i am still here :) just been working like crazy getting ready for the national stationery show (just over a month away!!!! ahhh!) there is SO much going on behind the scenes over here and hope to start posting some pics (if i remember to take them!) of all this stuff very soon! so what has kept me so busy you ask? i have been working on an entirely brand-spankin’-new line of wedding stationery (which i hope to debut ALL of at the show, but it is still TBD just how many will be completely polished and ready for the world…BUT i will tell you there are 60 designs in the works! and some of those designs will also (eventually) be offered as DIY imprintables, as well as notepads and some other fun items. i cannot wait to get this all done and ready to show you!

so, how about a little more detail on the new stuff?
this entire process of developing the new stationery line has been based on one main idea :: a fresh, simple approach to wedding stationery. not only in look and colors, but also in the shopping and ordering process. i wanted a new idea that i could wrap my collection around that wouldn’t feel as overwhelming and cumbersome as some of the giant albums out there. so i decided to shake things up and create a style library —you guessed it!— with books organized by style/theme! with the way weddings continue to evolve and become more and more personal, it just feels right and new and fresh…and a way to really focus on personal style when looking for the perfect wedding stationery. each book within the library will also be a bit streamlined (15-20 designs per book) with its own color palette, papers and fonts selected specifically for each style. pricing and options will be clear and simple too! all designs will be offered with flat printing with some available in letterpress and thermography. as i mentioned, the initial roll out at NSS is TBD as i polish them up but hope to initially include  four styles—perfectly preppy, completely classic, well traveled, and very vintage. and the line will continue to evolve into a full library of styles with something for everyone!! the books will be offered to retailers individually or as a set for a special rate.

the designs will be available for wholesale, thru retailers and on my new site. (eeeeek!) yes, that is what else has been going on—a complete rebranding, new site + blog are in the works! my new look along with my new line will debut at the show…and for the site, i will likely do a soft launch right before NSS and have the fully functioning, shiny new site ready just after!

so. that’s the scoop! stay tuned for more NSS updates and be sure to stop by my booth #2154 and checkout some books from the style library and my shiny new look! :)


a little math + a preview!

Posted in invitations, wedding invites, wholesale tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:43 pm by meant to be sent

wedding season + a new collection + new branding + new site and blog + national stationery show = a super busy girl!

that is going to be me for at least the next four months while i get my new collection, branding and site launch ready, all before the national stationery show in may.

it. is. a. LOT. of. work. and definitely going to be tough…but, i am so so so excited that it makes it all a little easier. i cannot wait to finish it all and show you guys! so stay tuned for updates and sneak peeks along the way! i am going to attempt to log my progress pulling this all together on my personal blog.

so. my new collection. well, it will definitely include a wedding album (of course!) with lots of fun, fresh new designs in four mini collections with something for everyone! in addition to the wedding invitations, i am planning holiday, baby, everyday and accessories albums in the near future.

though i am still doing some planning + tweaking + editing + deciding…below is a little update / quick sneak peek at a couple of the ensembles i am working on, just to give you a little taste :) these designs are from just a little part of one of the mini collections…hope you like them…i would love to hear what you think!

my new albums including these designs and lots more will be available for wholesale purchase for retailers, and on my new site as well!















Posted in tuesday shoesday, wedding invites tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 5:45 pm by meant to be sent

its time for my latest pick! for your tuesdayshoesday viewing pleasure, i have selected this nautical number from dune (a tuesdayshoesday fave of mine!) i just love the stripes and crisp colors. now if i could only find some paper like this— it would be just perfect for a version of the tying the knot invite i am working on! ooo and goes with the nautical glam design as well!

and a little extra shoe love inspired by my recent jaunt to new york for the national stationery show…FLATS (for ALL THAT WALKING!) in the same fresh nautical look by dune .

don’t forget to follow gwyneth paigelandlocked bridelife in the super burbssimply & forever and swatchbook weddings for more fabulous tuesdayshoesday finds!!

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