Making the Grade

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. 

You can get your desired color of paper (and weight, for that matter) custom made by a paper mill. Just for you. Just the way you (or your client) likes it. In fact, most mills have always offered this as an option, yet not many printers or designers that I’ve met seem to know it.

Let’s take our collective heads out of the sand and face the fact that our work is never done. There are always print jobs to be saved and awarenesses to be raised. It’s our job to leave those creatives saying one thing, and one thing only: "Wow. And I mean, wow."

While everyone else still zigs, these artists zag. They are renegades who defy the "people-only-buy-based-on-price" theory and produce stunning, handmade wares. And their business cards zag right along with them.

I know that most PSPs are more than reluctant to outsource any value-added production. Yes, it is more of a hassle. Yes, it requires that extra step. But is it not worth it to get a specific project or make a good client really happy?

If your swatchbook is 2+ years old, make sure to check and see if a newer version is available; your clients are relying on you to be the well-prepared professional we both know you are.

Designers are always hungry for new ideas. They are eager for you to tell them about unique possibilities—new inks, binding trends, unusual combinations of paper and binding options. Don’t tell them about the latest printing equipment you bought—sorry but quite frankly designers (I am one, I should know) aren’t interested.

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