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. 

If I had a dollar for every time the subject of variable data printing (VDP) came up over the last few weeks, I’d be a happy woman indeed. And never more so than at GRAPH EXPO, where vendors and PSPs alike were touting the possibilities of this powerful digital printing option. Still, I have yet to find a designer OUTSIDE GRAPH EXPO who knows what VDP is, and is eager to embrace it.

The landscape has changed dramatically over the last few years for sure, but visiting GRAPH EXPO must be every print-service provider’s dream come true: the latest and greatest printing technology as far as the eye can see. Unfortunately, if you were a designer, the chances of being able to have a chinwag with one of your peers were not good.

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?

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