Industry Profiles

September 23, 2016 •
Editor’s Letter: Brilliant by Design

Sarah Schwartze, editor-in-chief, Stationery Trends


We are a nation drowning in stuff. According to the LA Times, there are 300,000 items cluttering up the average American home. And I, for one, am on a quest to make sure that each new one brought into the mix is not only necessary and useful but serves a bigger purpose by design.

By this measure, it’s almost not enough to be wonderfully designed these days — although that in and of itself can be a steep order. To me, great design means every element of a product must be stellar — as Charles Eames said: “The details are not the details. They make the design.”

This criteria is subjective to a degree, but whether a product serves a greater purpose is decidedly less so. If it is made of paper, is that paper recycled, or perhaps made with wind energy? Does the product have reclaimed or upcycled elements to it? Does a customer’s purchase help support a small business, or a woman- and minority-owned enterprise? And, do the vendors you carry pay it forward by donating a portion of profits to yet another great cause?

It’s been said that there are a million stories in the big city — well, there should be a million stories in your store that you and your staffers are ready to tell your customers. Attaching a narrative to a product immediately makes it come to life and feel more enticing, and putting a face to an inanimate object gives clients a sense of the bigger picture.

This is the same thing that Etsy does in its own way; to stay competitive in today’s climate, you should be playing the same game, with the edge of immediacy no less. Try creating some fun signage, maybe in a dedicated section that tells the stories behind do-gooder product or the small businesses you have partnered with. Don’t forget to emphasize this element of your business in your own ads and promotions, too.

But don’t stop there. Perhaps there is a local cause you can align yourself with? Maybe you are passionate about dogs — there is always a local shelter to support, and several rescue organizations to boot. And most local schools or charities can use any boost they can get.

It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, maybe it takes a network to sustain a village. So, how can you support others — and, by extension, support yourself?

Until next issue,


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