“May I Have the Envelope Please?”
by Brittany Willes, editor
“It’s not only about focusing on what the customer wants to buy,” remarked Steve Laethem, president of Creative Coatings, a postpress finishing company headquartered in San Diego, California. “It’s about focusing on what the customers need to have done. What are their end goals? What are they trying to achieve with their products?”
For one of Creative Coating’s customers, the need was to emulate a high-quality, leather and canvas gusset-style folder. “The customer brought us a sample gusset folder made out of actual leather and canvas,” Laethem explained. “The customer needed to make several of these for approximately 1,000 high-end clients; however, each gussets cost around $100 each – too expensive to give out to all of its clients. The company decided to buy a limited amount of the original leather gussets made for the higher-ranking clients, but still wanted something nice for the rest of the clients that would emulate the real gusset at a much lower price. The customer asked us what we could do.”
For Creative Coatings, the first thing to be done was to work closely with the printer and duplicate the look of the actual leather used in the original gusset. The original leather was scanned, and artwork was created to resemble real leather. A canvas pattern was also selected, scanned and made into artwork for printing. Next, a film positive for the screen coating of the texture on the canvas was made. Looking closely at the envelope, it is possible to see that the canvas texture actually registers to the printing. “That is my OCD kicking in,” Laethem joked.
The printer printed the two-sided job – orange on the inside with the leather and canvas look on the outside. Creative Coatings then applied a soft-touch film lamination on one side of the press sheet to cover the entire outside of the gusset folder. Next, the texture was spot-UV coated over the canvas printed areas, reversing out and leaving exposed the leather areas to have the soft-touch feel not only on the top but also on the logo on the front. “During the manufacturing stages, we made some internal adjustments to ensure the product would hold up and last longer for the client,” explained Laethem. Creative Coatings reversed out the textured coating on the score lines, diecut areas and glue tabs where the envelope is folded and glued. This eliminated any coating from cracking during the diecutting and folding process, alleviating any wear-points and assuring good adhesion while gluing and assembling the product. “These minor adjustments assisted in ensuring the long-lasting wear and appearance of the final product,” he stated.
After the diecutting was finished, a silver eyelet was installed using a semiautomatic eyeleting machine. Creative Coatings then searched out the correct stretch-bead tie to attach to the flap. The gusset then was hand-folded and assembled before being poly-bagged and shipped to the customer. “Instead of the usual shrink wrapping for shipping, we decided to leave the actual gusset folder open and poly-bag the product for the client. That way, they could easily insert the collateral inside the gusset, fold it and reinsert it back into the poly-bag for the end client,” said Laethem. This type of user-friendly production is fairly typical for Creative Coatings. “We want to know what happens to the piece after it leaves us so that we can build something that will be user-friendly for the customer and the next person or vendor who touches it.”
“Price was the biggest challenge,” stated Laethem. “It became a question of how to come up with something that would hit the customer’s price point and still achieve the goals. Our goal was to not sacrifice performance or quality due to trying to match a price point.” Several meetings and prototypes of the product were necessary prior to the manufacturing stages. What size the finished gusset should be, thickness of paper to use, which textures to emulate the real leather and canvas, what kind of fasteners to keep the folder closed and what capacity was needed to hold the collateral were some of many decisions to be made when manufacturing the product. Without going over budget, a custom 10x7" gusset folder on 18pt, C1S, with a 6¼" stretch bead-tie fastener was eventually produced with great success.
“On special projects like this, we try to start at the end and work our way back. What is the end goal?” said Laethem. “What has to happen at the end of the project?” Complementing the look of real leather and canvas on paper without the high price tag may have sounded like a tall order, but Creative Coatings managed to do so with resounding success. “Rather than have customers tell us what they want us to do, we try to determine what they need the project to achieve,” Laethem affirmed, “and then we build what it takes.”