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Sabine Lenz Sees the Future of Print With PaperSpecs

Thursday, September 6, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rachel Moore
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NPTA performs quarterly interviews with thought leaders; articles such as the one below are included in Paper Merchant Insider, NPTA's members-only newsletter designed to keep members connected with industry events, each other and all things NPTA. Learn more about NPTA member benefits and join our community today.

Sabine Lenz Sees the Future of Print With PaperSpecs
By Teddy Durgin

 

On her company's website, her main support staff is not given such stodgy titles as chief information officer or vice president of this or that. They're known as "Techno Genie," "Troop Leader," and "The Fixer." Her title? "The Paper Queen!" OK, but for business purposes Sabine Lenz is better known as President and CEO of PaperSpecs, a California-based company she founded in 2003 as an innovative resource for highly committed creative types who remain in love with the "tactile experience provided by paper and print."

Through videos, webinars, blog posts, and more, PaperSpecs has been providing insights, inspiration, and access to hands-on tools and resources to help designers create print pieces that both dazzle and impress. For its members, the company provides access to current swatchbooks and promotions from more than 50 paper and print providers, along with the latest trends insider tips, an in-depth knowledge library, and even a personal paper concierge.  We sat down with Lenz recently to discuss her company, its mission, how to make paper an appealing option for the younger generation, and what we can expect to see from PaperSpecs' as an exhibitor at the upcoming Adobe MAX conference.

What follows is our chat:

 

National Paper Trade Association (NPTA): You are the founder of PaperSpecs. As such, can you give our readers a brief history?

Sabine Lenz (SL): I like to say “One bad day gave birth to a great 15 years and counting.” Back in my agency days, I had just spent the afternoon finding the absolute perfect paper for a beautiful brochure I was working on. Seriously, this was going to be amazing! Suddenly, at the last minute, the printer called to tell me that the paper I’d spent so much time choosing had actually been discontinued six months ago! Oh, but not to worry. Because they had a nice substitute sheet that would do the job just fine. Needless to say, it was nowhere near as perfect as I had planned. Then and there, I promised myself that I was never going to find myself in this position again and, if I could help it, neither would any other designer.

 

NPTA: What makes PaperSpecs unique and beneficial in today's paper trade industry?

SL: A quick leap down the Google rabbit hole reveals that there’s a lot of information out there about paper and printing – but rarely do you find the right information. It’s usually either outdated or outright wrong. I created PaperSpecs to be THE hub for all things paper and printing – the website of record for designers to come to when they have any paper or printing questions.

 

NPTA: What are the advantages and pluses of a PRO membership?

SL: We enable designers to do what they do best – design. Our PRO members can easily order the latest paper mill swatchbooks and promos from our website, all delivered to their door free of charge. They can also find text and video information about tried-and-true printing and finishing methods, as well as emerging aspects of paper, printing, finishing, and binding techniques all in one place. And if they still have questions, all they have to do is contact our Paper Concierge, Veronica, who gets them the answers they need ASAP.

 We also offer a VIP membership that delivers the services above as well as a quarterly curated box brimming with inspiring, hard-to-find print pieces hand-selected by me from all over the world. I like to think that when you have that level of knowledge and assistance behind you as a designer, you can’t help but do your very best work.

 

NPTA: How have you managed to work with the National Paper Trade Association in furthering your business and championing our industry?

SL: Working with NPTA is a great collaboration. While we come from different backgrounds, our goal is the same: To empower designers and brand owners by letting them know what is possible in paper and print through our short weekly videos – which have a large, devoted following – and engaging sessions at design conferences. We have collaborated at the HOW Design Live conference several times now. Each time, several hundred designers attended leading to standing-room-only sessions. This has shown us just how much designers are eager to learn more about paper and the amazing things they can do with it. And the more we can share that message, the better it will be for our industry.

 

NPTA: You will have a presence at NPTA's exhibit booth at the Adobe MAX Conference in October, yes?  What are you most looking forward to about that event?

SL: The biggest kick I get out of Adobe MAX is seeing the faces of Millennials – whom we’re told care nothing about print – when they actually get the opportunity to see a well done print creation. I think when you’ve been brought up in a world where most of your experiences are ephemeral, online ones, there’s something particularly awe-inspiring about a piece of design you can hold in your hands. Heck, I feel that way, too!

 

NPTA: In your opinion, what are some of the things that impact graphic designers’ decisions on paper choice?

SL: It’s all about inspiration and knowing what’s possible. I think most designers are so busy today just getting their projects designed and printing arrangements made, they end up relying heavily on their print service providers when it comes to paper selection. There’s a feeling of “Hey, this place works with print all the time, they must know what they’re talking about.” In most cases, they do. But a printer isn’t a designer. They look at every job from a technical standpoint. Only a designer can strategically choose a sheet that will work with their graphic design to bring about a particular feeling or reaction. Your doctor knows how your body works, but you probably wouldn’t let him or her choose your wardrobe.

Also, if you don’t keep up with the latest swatchbooks or see print pieces that feature papers that are new to you, how will you ever know what to ask for besides the same few sheets you’ve always used? If your paper choices don’t progress over time, how can your work?

 

NPTA: What are the key selling points of paper when marketing to such designers?

SL: First and foremost, designers are artists, and the one thing that artists can’t stand is boredom. To feel creative and to maintain a sense of excitement about what they do, they need to be exposed to art that makes them see things differently and papers that inspire. Hand a designer a sheet with a wood grain or one that feels like rubber or chrome or even skin, and watch their eyes light up as they awaken to the possibilities. Want to get them even more inspired? Show them all the beautiful papers available for digital printing with its smaller print runs and enhancement options. They’ll instantly understand just how creative they can be, even on a tight budget.

 

NPTA: Any tips on appealing to Millennials and Generation Z?

SL: With the generous support of NPTA, PaperSpecs has cultivated a dedicated and ever-growing following for our weekly Paper Inspiration videos (http://bit.ly/vidnpta): short bursts of creativity from around the world demonstrating just what is possible in the versatile medium of print. And many of the people watching these are young people – they’re actually binge watching them in design and art schools! This is a great way to get them excited about print through a medium that is already so much a part of their everyday lives. The next step is getting printed pieces in their hands. We are working on a series of quarterly pop-up events targeted at Millennials and Gen Z’ers.

 

NPTA: Was there some business advice given to you early on that has really stuck with you?

SL: Stay curious and never ever be afraid to ask questions.

 

NPTA: If we were to chat a year from now, what would constitute success for you and for PaperSpecs?

SL: We currently reach more than 18,000 print designers nationwide through our newsletter, webinars, videos, etc. So, success for us would be having the chance to share our knowledge and passion with an even greater number of creatives … and to have them bombard us with questions about paper and print. In a recent webinar, we had more than 100 questions from attendees, which shows me just how interested designers are in paper, print, and the technologies available to create pieces that “Wow!”

I would also like to see an even greater number of people take advantage of our quarterly VIP Box full of amazing print creations. When you really love something, your first instinct is to share it with others, and the VIP Box allows us to do just that. I’m never happier than when I’m winding up the shooting of a Paper Inspiration video, and I can say, “Did you love this piece? Well, if you’re a PaperSpecs VIP Member, you’ll find it in your next VIP Box.” It’s like being able to play Santa Claus all year round.


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