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Sabine Lenz

Making the Grade

By Sabine Lenz

About Sabine

Sabine Lenz is the founder of, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.

Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.

Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge. 


Is Print Dead? Why the Question Just Won't Die

Just when I thought it was safe to put December behind me—since the Mayan calendar proved to be wrong, and the holidays went off without too much stress—the next round of cliff dwellers and doom-and-gloomers emerged.

Have we reached the end of the print era?
At first, I dismissed the online discussion surrounding this question with a shoulder shrug and a “Really? Are we still talking about this?” attitude.

There were comments on how print works together with digital:

“I think it is because of those mobile apps that print design is still viable and valuable. They complement each other and drive creativity,” asserted Lorraine.

And one of my favorites: “Print what matters and put the rest on the Internet.”

Ninety more heated comments later, the discussion is still in full swing. Clearly, what might seem passé to you and me obviously continues to agitate the hearts and minds of designers and print buyers.

Here are two key aspects from the discussion that I think we should take to heart:

1) Educate your clients.

While the 90+ commenters agreed that print was here to stay, they also mentioned over and over again a need for education in all printed-related activities.

“I think that students coming out of school have the technical skills,” noted Carmit. “...I think schools should always teach you the basic theory from where you can grow and wear different hats once you are in the field.”

“We all love print,” agreed Barry, “but how many print reps do you know now vs. 20 years ago? When is the last time a paper rep called on you?”

And, of course, Barry has a point. We don’t live in a perfect world—if there ever was such a thing. Since there are so few paper reps today, it’s up to you and me to share our knowledge and passion for print and paper with newcomers to our industry. We should make sure that our clients understand print and its enormous potential.

2) The tactile experience.

“As long as human nature remains in our need to touch, hold and feel, print will also remain,” said a very wise Brent.

Digital may sing and dance, but when I hold a good printed piece, it communicates in tangible ways that tablets and smartphones can’t. Print can be smooth or rough, thin or super thick, have a gloss or even raised and textured varnish, smell of paper and ink or suntan lotion. The screen always feels (and smells) the same.

And it is that tactile experience—used wisely and correctly—that gives recipients the feeling they possess something special. Something important. Something that was worth putting on paper. Something that stands out among the digital clutter.

So where did this forum lead me? To a revised set of New Year’s resolutions. My list now includes this:

I will find new ways of making sure each of my clients understands print’s ongoing importance. I will show them, via the creative examples I see every day, that print is very much alive (STILL!).

Feel free to borrow it.

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