PAPERLESS POST: Experiencing a new breed of e-card

 

They say that life is full of surprises and great things. And, indeed, you’ve just run into a whole bunch of them. Your sister has just had a baby boy, your friend has got his wedding date finally confirmed and the tinpot dictator of a manager at the office you have had to force yourself to be rictus grin nice to is leaving for a new position. Card buying season is making its presence felt but that same life of surprises usually consists of working all the hours thrown your way while juggling gym, hobbies, family time and all that jazz. You haven’t bought a greeting card since Take That split and running from pillar (box) to post (office) to buy stamps and envelopes just seems, well, tedious.

Even if you manage to get time to go out and actually do some shopping around, you will inevitably find yourself either stuck at the supermarket looking for an off-the-shelf card with a generic printed message and a pen that hopefully will not run out of ink halfway through writing in the blasted thing, or you’re at a stuffy printer’s shop trying to haggle a discount on a thousand wedding invites to be delivered ASAP. Because you procrastinated. And procrastination is a thing. You really need something more instant and fuss-free.

 

So send an E-card they said, it’ll be novel, cute and quick as a flash they said. But aren’t e-cards a bit tacky and cheap-looking? Surely good old card and paper seems like, well, you are actually even slightly bothered about this momentous and life-changing special occasion. Not forgetting that actual invitations and cards you can hold in your hand, keep and read at your leisure has a great permanency and intimacy that a few hundred pixels on a screen just cannot achieve. Well think again.

While in days gone by, e-cards were the height of gawdy electro-kitsch with their eye-bruising colours, goofy Clipart images and cat memes galore, a company based in the design capital of New York made the very smart decision a few years back to drag the much-maligned e-greetings industry kicking and screaming to the drawing board for a makeover fit for the 2010s.

Paperless Post is an online company that offers a wide selection of online invitations, ‘save-the-dates’, greetings e-cards and flyers to suit every occasion. Their stated ambition is to produce customisable online stationery that enables customers to create well-designed and personal items for that extra-special touch.

With their contemporary and inspiring creations worthy of a design gallery, not to mention their cute pigeon logo harking back to the days of carrier pigeon post and Yankee Doodle cartoons on a  Saturday morning, Paperless Post have become well-established enough to have scored collaborations with leading designers and lifestyle brands in the U.S., including Kate Spade New York, Oscar de la Renta, Jonathan Adler, and Rifle Paper Co. The company has generated more than 85 million cards to date, both in virtual and printed format, so even traditionalists and people who simply don’t have a computer or an internet connection that ever moved past dial-up can still receive an invite or card via Paperless.

I was invited by Paperless Post to try out their services for myself and had a go making a greetings card for the Hindu festival of Diwali – one of my favourite occasions, which you can see at the beginning of this review. The first thing that struck me about their website was just how amazingly appealing it was to my ‘inner designer’ ‘s eyes. With heaps of prominent imagery framed in soft pastels on just the home page, the site alone could win a design award or two.

While many websites that invest heavily in aesthetics end up neglecting the basics of good navigation, Paperless Post strikes a happy balance between the two. All of the company’s categories of offerings, such as graduation, birthday and festivals, are in a clear, minimalist and straightforward menu up top, so no need to go on an Livingstonian expedition around the site to find what you are looking for.

Like pretty much every e-tailer, you first need to sign up and create an account. You can go for the usual option of registering via an email address, but for the social-media-savvy, you can also sign up via Facebook or Google accounts too. Once done, it’s just the small matter of choosing a design and stationery item. Paperless offers both pre-designed customisable templates and an ‘upload your own’ option that enables you to upload photos and create something truly personal.

I chose to create a Diwali card. I was pleasantly surprised to find lots of designs which were culturally appropriate as well as gorgeous. I selected the ‘Under the Toran’ design with its array of flowers in a garland suspended on a luxurious white heavy paper background.

 

Once you have chosen your preferred style, it’s time to customise. There is a lot of flexibility in the choices, and you can adapt nearly everything from the typeface, colour and size of the card text, to the background behind the card when it’s opened and the colour and feel of the cyber-envelope to put your card in. The attention to detail offered by Paperless Post is such that you can add a vintage letterpress effect to your text and add the finishing touches of a cute little stamp and postmark to the front of the envelope upon completion. There’s the possibility too of choosing the pattern you prefer for the inside of the envelope, which Paperless Post dubs the ‘liner’ – very posh!

I found the user interface intuitive and offering a lot of wiggle room, although manipulating the text for the inside of the card was quite fiddly at first, but I soon got the hang of it, aided by the fact I had some experience designing graphics online using third-party websites. Although you don’t have to be a design expert, some technological prowess is helpful, although those who really struggle can get guidance from the ‘Help’ page.

 

To move between different stages you can click the ‘next’ and ‘back’ arrows (as seen in the image above) or on the menu to the left. The menu is also where you can find the patterns you need and you can play around with different combinations of design to see what fits and what looks great before you finalise everything.

Once the card or invite is complete, you can type in the recipients’ names and emails, and save them into a handy ‘address book’ for future use. The site also offers the option of reviewing the finished product by sending a test copy to yourself, as well as an RSVP facility for your loved ones to respond with messages or other details. You can also track the progress of your item once it’s sent, and even see if it has been opened yet, so no more barely believable claims about ‘the invitation must have got lost in the post’.

Paperless Post uses its own in-house virtual currency, simply called coins, which you will need to purchase before using the site. Coins can be spent on design elements and mailing out to recipients and it’s said to cost less to send an e-card en masse to, say, a hundred people, than if you went out to the local printers and ordered a bulk lot. You also save a bundle on postage and stationery costs too. Prices are not immediately clear when you choose designs, but you can see how many coins you have in your account via your dashboard.

The website was quite clear and helpful in leading me on my journey from template to sent email, with a varied range of different contemporary designs and styles to choose from. I really liked the concept of a card without the paper (and paper cuts). It is a cool and personal touch, and ideal for the environmentally conscious and those who like the instant nature and realistic feel of sending a Paperless Post e-card. It’s also money-saving (as in not having to go out and buy a card, envelope, stamps and all that malarkey) so making Paperless Post ideal for much convenience and less headaches. The sort of inner peace that you just can’t obtain from running around trying to get cards printed and posted before the party plans go up in ink and smoke.

The card I designed was so realistic and detailed, right down to the texture of the ‘paper’, that I had to honestly remind myself not to try and peel it off my laptop screen. The animation of the envelope appearing onscreen and opening to reveal the card emerging is a nice little gesture too, another sign of the attention to detail Paperless Post is famous for.

I guess the supermarket card display won’t miss me too much now I can get my cards straight from a cute website and its little pigeon.

Paperless Post

paperlesspost.com

 

DISCLOSURE: The author was sponsored by the company mentioned in this review and received an incentive in order to fully utilise the product, but opinions and experiences mentioned in the post are the author’s own.

SOURCES:

Helen Chuchak, Anagram Interactive

Paperless Post.

 

 

 

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PHOTO MOMENT: (Customisable road) signs of the times!!

A couple of months back, while completely bored out of my head and dealing with a set of itchy fingers, I decided to go on the Net and search for ‘do-it-yourself’ motorway (highway) signs that you could change the writing on to something of your choice. Not quite cute little kittens with balls of string, fair enough, but this was my inner trainspotter coming out to play…and nothing was stopping this old anorak!. Although I don’t and can’t drive myself, I’m often out and about in taxis, buses and the like, and often notice the road signs here in east London. For those of you based in the UK, you’ll know that we are crazy when it comes to filling our roads with signs of all sorts. We take safety…and not getting hopelessly lost….very seriously here.

One of the more unusual UK road signs, at the ...
One of the more unusual UK road signs, at the Magic roundabout in Swindon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the throes of my internet research, I stumbled across a few sites where you could churn out personalised signs at your pleasure, although disappointingly for me as a Brit, most of these signs were more oriented to the US side of things, and I couldn’t find much of the personalisable signage like the endless diagrams that grace the pages of your average driving theory book/Highway Code. It weren’t an issue though, and I soon began creating some cool signs, which are featured below in their original format. It’s a nice bit of fun for when you have nothing better to do and procrastination rears its ugly head. Find your way out of boredom, and remember, the destination is a whole bunch of laughs for you and your friends. Scroll down at the next sentence (satnav voice)…..

Make your own Highway Sign

(c) Atom Smasher
(c) Atom Smasher
Reading this while trapped in a traffic jam? Tailbacks for the next 10 miles?….hopefully the first of our recommended sign generators will switch all your happiness traffic lights to get-going green. Retro website Atom Smasher has a special adaptable widget where you can alter the message on this LED sign attached to a bridge over a U.S. motorway. You have four lines of space to enter text into, which is then re-imagined in little yellow lights that are the bane of every motorist. Delays…roadworks….overturned lorry…ah who cares?…I’m running for prime minister and giving old Davey Boy a run for his expenses. Even if your ambitions are more humble than mine, you can write a four-line message of your choice. Perhaps even email one to your boss to say you’re stuck in traffic. Check she has a sense of humour first though. I cannot accept any responsibility for anyone getting their ass fired.
The website runs under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License or similar attribution based licence which means you won’t get a lawsuit slapped on you if you decide to reproduce the picture on your site or blog. You have to download the picture though, so no hotlinking. While I’ve used the highway sign generator, there are a few others on the homepage to choose from to soup up your own petrol station, error message, and even Chinese restaurant and corporate office signs. Go wild!
http://atom.smasher.org/highway/

Road Traffic Signs

(c) Road Traffic Signs
(c) Road Traffic Signs
RTS is a website for DIY traffic signs using North American formats. Using the RTS custom traffic sign wizard, you can design your own traffic or warning signs with options for sign shapes, colours and sizes. Unlike the ‘Make a Highway Sign‘ featured above, this is an actual company that manufactures signs according to customers’ specs. They’ve been accredited by the US Better Business Bureau and were in the top 500 online commerce sites for the US and Canada in 2014. However you do not need to give any credit card details or buy anything in order to use the wizard.
I chose a warning sign with red striped border and lettering…and yes it is a warning….I can be a bit ‘unusual’ at times. Be warned haha!!. If you’re based in north America and want to make your virtual sign a reality as a cool thing to stick on a wall at home, you can order direct and securely after creating your sign with the wizard.
http://www.roadtrafficsigns.com/custom-road-signs

London Street Sign

(c) M. Kampf/MyFunStudio.com
(c) M. Kampf/MyFunStudio.com
Now for something from this side of the Pond. Web designer/developer Marijn Kampf runs a site called MyFunStudio.com, where you can create your own ironic London road name sign, just like those found in the touristy hotspots of the City of Westminster, Theatreland, and the like. The format for this sign has become as much of an icon representing London Town as our red buses, Beefeaters and the underground. Kampf’s site offers customisation using a choice of four popular fonts including the official ‘Streetsign‘ typeface used in the real deals ready to be teamed up with an overwhelming choice of colours. You can download the finished product as a standalone PDF or PNG file or go further and have your design transferred to all kinds of items from baby dummies and skateboards to leggings and doodle speakers. MyFunStudio also do a side range in Keep Calm posters and bored punters writing their names using elements from the periodic table. Very interesting and unique site, which is a good slice of the creativity my city is renowned for. These signs are highly recommended for blogs and sites on or operating from London as a way of showing some civic pride. North…South…East…..West London. The Half-Eaten Mind has got it covered!.
P.S. This website was originally used to create our new logo. Here I’ve gone somewhat narcissistic and named a major London throughfare after myself…well I’ve been in London virtually my entire life so surely naming rights are due. Anyone want to sign my Change.org petition?…Anyone?….*sad face*
http://www.myfunstudio.com/

Image Chef

(c) ImageChef Inc.
(c) ImageChef Inc.
While this is not strictly a road sign, it does give you an idea of how versatile the sign customisation technology found online can be. Image Chef, run by the company CyberLink, offers an option where you can take over a cinema’s backlit  entrance sign for your own star-studded premiere. Declare your love for your favourite movie star, name-check some friends or beg some popcorn off the VIP guests, this silver screen’s all yours buddy.
The Half-Eaten Mind is the star of the red carpet round here, but you can add your own blog’s name for that special 9 pm blockbuster post.
In keeping with the theme of this article, Image Chef also offers road signs, including one template that allows you to add text to an image to an artsy montage of Swiss signage and a standalone sign in the Midwestern desert. Check out my interpretations below. From my blog office to my world, you’re in for an interesting journey. Don’t feed the scorpions.
(c) Image Chef
(c) Image Chef
(c) Image Chef
(c) Image Chef
This fun site offers several images beyond flat metal pavement furniture that you can doctor easily to your heart’s delight. All look realistic with no stray pixels or shoddy resolution in the final image. Very useful for blogs, forum signatures and the like.
http://www.imagechef.com/

Homer Simpson Sign Generator 2015

(c) images-graphics-pics.com
(c) images-graphics-pics.com
From signs in the real world to signs in the animated world. The next pitstop in this road trip of virtual signage takes us to Springfield, U.S.A and the home of Homer J. Simpson and his merry band of yellow-skinned townsfolk. When not irritating the hell out of Mr. Burns in his day job of safety inspector at the nuclear power plant, our favourite donut-muncher likes to roam and pose with rictus grin around the streets of Springfield, scrawling over road signs in much the same way as his son writes lines on the board in the opening credits of every episode of hit cartoon The Simpsons.
More “woo-hoo!” than “d’oh!”, the sign generator at images-graphics-pics.com lets fans of America’s favourite dysfunctional family add a message to one of Springfield’s famous, if bland, signs. Just enter some text, choose your typeface style and size and then push the button to change the sign. Just like El Barto, you can make your mark on one of the world’s favourite mythical animated small towns. Just don’t let Chief Wiggum catch you.
http://www.images-graphics-pics.com/signs/signs/homer-simpson/

Good Fortune Cookie Generator

After our long journey you’re bound to be feeling a bit peckish. All that altering of road signs on the Information Superhighway certainly leaves a hole in the stomach. Why not head to your local Chinese takeaway for a slap-up meal of chicken chow mein and steaming dumplings? When the plates are cleared away and the bill’s paid, help yourself to a fortune cookie and find out what the future holds for you….
(c) images-graphics-pics.com
(c) images-graphics-pics.com
Well, for once, a fortune cookie that gives some decent advice. Want to create your own crunchy yet insightful snacks?. images-graphics-pics.com also offer a good fortune cookie generator, using the same principles as their Homer Simpson generator featured above. Simply choose a suitable font and colour and your message will be faithfully reproduced unscrolled on a platter of the finest produce this side of the Yangtze. Ideal for takeaway-loving couch potatos or for the Chinese New Year.
http://www.images-graphics-pics.com/

All these websites make great pictures for blogs and personal websites, and are perfect for emailing to work colleagues and friends for a bit of a laugh. Give one or two a try and see for yourself. Completely free of charge and very amusing to boot.

Thanks for reading this special Half-Eaten Mind presentation.

(c) V. Shah/M. Kampf/MyFunStudio

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IMAGE CREDITS:
“File:Magic Roundabout Schild db.jpg” – Dickbauch, Wikimedia Commons (20 February 2005) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Magic_Roundabout_Schild_db.jpg
“Make your own Highway Sign” – Atom Smasher http://atom.smasher.org/highway/
“Custom Road Signs – Design Yours in a Minute!” – Road Traffic Signs http://www.roadtrafficsigns.com/custom-road-signs
“London Street Sign” – Marijn Kampf, MyFunStudio.com http://www.myfunstudio.com/designs/lss/make?t=LONDON+STREET%0D%0ASIGN&tp=wc2&tl=Leading+to&tb=CITY+OF+WESTMINSTER
“Signs / Movie Theater Marquee” – image chef/ImageChef Inc./CyberLink http://www.imagechef.com/t/n8lf/Movie-Theater-Marquee
“Signs / Road Signs” – image chef/ImageChef Inc./CyberLink http://www.imagechef.com/t/j65a/Road-Signs
“Signs / Freeway Sign Blue” – image chef/ImageChef Inc./CyberLink http://www.imagechef.com/t/as06/Freeway-Sign-Blue
“Homer Simpson Sign Generator 2015:” – www.images-graphics-pics.com http://www.images-graphics-pics.com/signs/signs/homer-simpson/
“Good Fortune Cookie Generator (Change The Text)” – http://www.images-graphics-pics.com http://www.images-graphics-pics.com/signs/sign-generator/simple.asp?text=Confucius+says%3A%0D%0AYou+eat+too+many+cookies%21&align=Left&align2=Middle&fontsize=18&font=typewrtr&color=black&parody=Fortune+Cookie+Is+A+Cookie+That+Is+Baked+Around+A+Fortune+%28piece+of+paper+with+words+of+prophecy%29&rotate=-20&pic=good-fortune-cookie&x=-25&y=346&w=357&h=63
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