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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. 


Business Cards Are for the Birds

“Nobody needs business cards anymore.” At least that’s what I’ve heard from several printers lately. But there it was…in one of the least expected places! With that instantly recognizable little blue bird, lightly debossed on a rich, thick 100 percent cotton paper, “it” was a Twitter business card.

Old and new media collide
All in all, it’s a beautiful, classically designed card, with ample white space and only the necessary contact information. But what made it noteworthy was the choice of letterpress printing.

So why would Twitter produce business cards? And why, of all the printing processes available, did this social media icon opt for one of the oldest forms of printing known to man?

You can credit employee number 80, Elizabeth Bailey Weil, corporate design and culture at Twitter Inc., and her personal goal to make a big company feel small.

Case in point: as of Monday, 35 new people have joined the Twitter team. All 35 found a one-off letterpress printed card on their desks welcoming them to the company.

“I want people to feel like they matter,” explains Weil, “and give them the feeling that even if we are a big corporate entity, they are personally known.”

Making a big company feel small
From a small startup, Twitter has grown to more than 1,500 employees (make that 1,535 including those new hires ;-)) in 10 offices. It would probably be more economical to send a welcoming email to the newbies, or print out a “welcome to the team” letter on the office inkjet printer, but...

“Paper, especially thick paper, has a particular appeal for those who spend hours at a time in front of a screen,” says Weil. "You can pet it.”

Weil’s favorite is the thick, soft, buttery feel of 600 gsm (220-lb. double thick cover) cotton paper.

Love at first sight
While at a business lunch during her venture capitol years, Weil was handed a letterpress-printed business card and was immediately hooked on its texture and appearance.

“I took that card and secretly set out to discover everything I could about letterpress. I even took a day off and attended one of the classes at the San Francisco Center for the Book,” recounts Weil. “And I loved it.”

Weil went from knowing nothing about letterpress to becoming the proud owner of a 1923 Chandler and Price press and a letterpress printer and designer at Paperwheel Press.

After regular hours in the corporate world, her alter ego emerges, and she prints wedding invitations, social stationery, and those infamous welcome letters.

“I doubt anyone in the office could point out that the cards are letterpress printed, except they love it when they see it,” says Weil. “People still have them up on their walls and desks, so I can walk around the office here, and it feels crafty and more personal.”

Paper has a particular appeal
Never underestimate the appeal and power of a beautifully printed piece, a gorgeous business card and a handwritten note. It gives the recipient the feeling that he/she matters. And in this super digital age, who wouldn’t like that?

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