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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. 


Stop Stabbing Creatives in the Paper Back


It happens every day all over North America—all over the world for that matter, I am sure. But last week it happened to me—and you know how things change when they happen to us, when they hit home. Now it was personal. Very personal.

I was helping out a friend in need and designed her brochure in a matter of days—and over the weekend at that. Yep, I am a good friend.

I knew the printer she wanted to work with; I had worked with him before. There was no doubt in my mind that once I got the files to the prepress person in time, all would be well.

Well—and you saw this one coming—all was not well:

  1. I never heard back from the printer. At all. Nada. Did they get my files? Was anything missing? This was a last-minute rush job, so I at least expected an “everything is fine.” Nothing.
  2. When I finally called the printer I heard that my friend had already been in for a press check and all was well. (I love it when people who cannot tell CMY from K do press checks, but that is a rant for another day. But my sigh of relief was—shall we say—premature...
  3. When I finally got my hands on a finished piece, I was stunned. Nope, I was more than stunned.

The paper I had painstakingly spec’d had been tossed aside. Instead of the smooth uncoated sheet that would give my design the soft and inviting feel I had envisioned, I was staring at the shiny reflection of a coated stock.

I know it happens all over the world. Clients want to save a bit of money—or in their mind a lot of money—and do their own print buying. How hard can it be, they think...And as designers there is often nothing—NOTHING—we can do.

It might be hard for you to relate to, but I was hurt. I had spent a whole weekend creating this brochure with a clear vision in mind: This type and these images on a white uncoated stock.

If the paper I had selected was too expensive for my friend, OK, I had to live with that. Offer her a less expensive alternative—within the same realm. A less expensive stock would have been preferable to a completely different one. Let’s face it, uncoated and coated are worlds apart.

So my dear printer friends, please do not alienate designers by stabbing them in the proverbial paper back. Give our fabulous designs a chance to see the light of day the way they were intended: coated, uncoated or...

And if need be, talk to us. We are on your side. We want to print as many pieces as we can—we promise.

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