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The Custom Process & Trends for 2022

Hi, my name is Zoe! I have been working at Noteworthy Paper & Press for the last five months, and I am so excited to take you all with me as we chat with Raven Streissguth, our Custom Projects Manager, and deep dive into all things custom!

If you’ve ever been in our Missoula shop you've likely seen the amount of work happening behind the counter; the 1950s Original Heidelberg presses going, staff buzzing about the shop. You might have seen far back to our wholesale department, where they’re busy packaging orders for you and other retailers. You’ve probably even heard someone ask for Raven or inquire about a custom order. Raven manages all custom projects from beginning to end, meets with clients and collaborates with our designers to deliver personalized stationery projects that reflect the client's needs and personality. With her in-depth knowledge, she's the person to talk to when it comes to the custom process and the current trends in the stationery world.

When you start thinking about that personalized, custom stationery project, it can feel overwhelming to sift through all the options and design possibilities for your project. But our custom staff are pros at breaking down that process for our clients, keeping the project feeling manageable and fun. I asked Raven to explain a little bit about the process of creating a custom project, from initial idea, to production and completion. According to her, the steps to completing a custom project here at Noteworthy look like this:

Step 1: Consultation & Quoting
We start every project with a consultation, either in person, by phone, or video call. We want to get to know you, your style, and your vision for your project or event (or both!). We will happily provide our expert guidance and design ideas to find the direction that works for you and your budget. Once we have the details, we will build an initial quote for your order. We suggest a follow-up conversation to make adjustments to the details and to chat through any questions you might have. 

Step 2: Deposit & Contract
Once the quote is approved, we request a 50% non-refundable retainer on your project. For your convenience, you will be emailed a payment link along with a contract outlining the terms of our agreement, our process, and procedures. 

Step 3: Design, Proofing & Production (This is where it gets exciting!)
Depending on the scope of your custom project and/or if there is additional information that we need to move forward, we will send you our Details Questionnaire, which provides us with the text necessary for your design. Once complete, we will work up a Design Board* for your review which includes inspiration images, colorways, font suggestions, and initial sketches. This is your opportunity to make amendments to the visual direction of the suite. From here, we move into the initial proofing phase! There are three proofing rounds built into your order, and while proofing rounds beyond that accrue additional cost, we rarely go beyond three proofs because of all the work we’ve done upfront! After the design process is complete, and you’ve signed off on the final proof, we begin the production of your order. The timing for completion depends on the scope of the project, type of printing, vendor timelines and more.  But rest assured, your timelines are managed and communicated clearly along the way! (*some processes may vary) 

Step 4: Payment & Delivery 

When the order is complete, we will inform you of completion, request final payment, and prep the complete order for shipping or pick up in person. We also offer guest addressing, assembly and mailing services if a client chooses. 

Along with questions about the process of creating a custom design, another frequently asked question is “Can I bring my own design to get printed?”... Raven’s answer: "Absolutely! We are happy to produce original designs that you, or someone you know, has created. After reviewing the print-ready status of your files, as well as any formatting work required, we will quote a setup and production fee for the project." 

And as important as it is to know how the custom team works, it’s also important to know just how much they can do. In addition to wedding invitations and day-of materials, the custom team works on personal and business stationery, business cards, packaging, baby announcements, event invitations, holiday cards, rubber stamps, stickers, and more. Throughout the year, we see upticks in various project types, as we move through the annual calendar of events: wedding season begins in earnest in January, then come graduation announcements in spring and early summer, followed by holiday cards and invitations in the fall.

Raven explains the diversity of the custom project queue: "Our project queue is usually pretty varied, but we absolutely have “seasons.” The first five to six months of the year are very wedding focused, as we work with clients on wedding invitations, day-of materials and all other wedding related needs. The last four months of the year, we work on a lot of holiday related materials, including custom holiday cards, stationery as gifts and New Year cards. But we also start seeing a lot of engagement announcements and save-the-dates for next year’s weddings. We have less of a season per se, for business and personal stationery, as those projects are pretty continuous throughout the year.” 

Now that we know what the Custom Department can do, and a bit more detail about what the overall process looks like, let's talk about timelines. It’s valuable to note that there is not an absolute or definite timeline for how long a given project will take from consultation to completion. 

According to Raven, “Turnaround times vary depending on the scope of the project, fluid communication, printing method, and season. It is typical for clients to have their first round of proofs within five to ten business days after placing the deposit. Projects that include custom maps, portraits, or venue illustrations typically take longer. For letterpress printing, we require three to four weeks for production after proof approval. Flat/Digitally printed projects allow for a potentially quicker timeline – closer to two weeks, depending on the number of items being ordered and required assembly. We always provide estimated timelines for your specific project once we iron out the design and production specifics!” 

Something I have been incredibly curious about since I first started working at Noteworthy, is whether or not there is a favorite type of custom project that Raven and her team like to work on? When I asked, she responded with “It sounds cliché, but we really do love all of our custom projects! It’s super fun to collaborate with our clients and to bring their visions to life! We work with our wedding clients for the most amount of time, so our level of involvement in the design and creation of those projects ends up being more than others, which makes completion and the actualization of the initial concept that much more exciting!”  

I also wanted to know if there were any big changes to the department over the last year and as we've seen pandemic regulations ease. Raven says they are “thrilled to be seeing their clients in person again!” If you’ve been into the shop lately, you may have noticed we have expanded our retail shop into what was once our custom consultation area. But don’t fret! We just moved the consultation room into a larger, more private area of the building. Raven is loving the energy of the new space and how it's helped us to better showcase our custom work to clients. However, virtual meetings are still an option if it is more convenient or comfortable. “The biggest change at Noteworthy in the last year, and as we move into this new normal, is that we are all back in the shop and meeting with clients in person again. Which we love! During the pandemic, all client communications were done via phone, email or video call, which just isn’t the same. We love our client relationships, and we know the value of being able to sit down with someone to explain your vision. In this industry it’s so important to touch and experience the products. It is a tactile industry and we’re very happy to have the opportunity to be IN PERSON again, with our local clientele. But that said, the pandemic helped us hone our skills for meeting with clients virtually and still give them the same hands on, personalized experience we provide in store.” 

In closing, I asked Raven about new and emerging trends she’s seeing so far in 2022. Some of the big trends she’s seeing are “arches (both die-cut and in design application), terracotta and earth tones, greenery motifs, colored papers, embossing, and texted-based designs. And so far this spring, the Custom Team has seen them all and is excited about exploring further possibilities! Here at Noteworthy, we can’t wait to see how all the trends will continue to develop and change over the year ahead, and we certainly can’t wait to help you with your next project! What trends are you inspired by?