June 9, 2023 • Sarah Schwartz
Small but mighty: Q&A with Crown Point Graphics

Crown Point Graphics

From one humble house of design, several vibrant stationery brands flow

All photos courtesy of Crown Point Graphics.
All photos courtesy of Crown Point Graphics.

Walk any trade show that showcases stationery, and it’s easy to conclude that our community is primarily comprised of small makers trying to secure coveted shelf space in independent card and gift shops. But that is just a small glimpse of the bigger stationery picture; many publishers take a vastly different approach.

Witness Crown Point Graphics (CPG), for example. It was founded in 1994 by Mike Bursaw, a former Target buyer who saw a need for high-quality art on a boxed product. In November of 2019, Mike Smith acquired CPG; in the spring of 2020, he launched a web storefront to sell direct to consumer, augmenting that by selling wholesale on Faire and Tundra. While CPG’s focus is primarily great artwork on stationery, its design team develops several lines to specifically appeal to different consumer segments. Stationery Trends interviewed Smith to learn more.

Q. Can you take Stationery Trends readers through your different brands?

Crown Point GraphicsMS. Crown Point Graphics is our main offering. We produce a variety of different Christmas styles, from religious to humorous, and in assorted sizes. Cards can be ink on paper or have special treatments like foil, glitter, embossed and raised elements. These products feature licensed art, a full-color interior and often a full-color envelope. In everyday product, we offer a boxed notecard with full-color interiors, packaged in a printed setup tray and lid that is a collector box. We also offer individual cards. The Crown Point Graphics brand appeals to a broad range of card lovers who want a value.

Driftwood Designs is our everyday assortment brand featuring a Velcro box. The cards are 5×5 with white envelopes, designed so special postage is unnecessary. Driftwood Designs is for the consumer who wants to have the right cards on hand when the occasion calls. If you are looking for a quirkier assortment for birthdays, thank you notes, sympathy or just blank cards, Driftwood products allow the customer to have a card on hand, packaged in a sturdy box.

Crown Point GraphicsHighStreet Stationery is our premium brand. These cards are for the consumer looking for something more special. We focus on tactile and visual appeal for these cards. We have boxed Christmas cards with embellishments such as pompoms and jewels. Our special finish notecards feature printed envelopes and communicate elegance. Our larger card features multiple layers of lifted elements and special treatments with white envelopes. In our individual card line, we feature elegant, premium-grade stocks with special treatments. All these cards provide a rich tactile and visual experience (for) when your customer wants to send something a bit more special.

Crown Point GraphicsShared Blessings is our faith-based brand. These designs are for a more budget-conscious consumer and are all assortments. Each card has full color interiors and a religious verse from the Bible. It has been one of our fastest growing segments.

That’s Life looks to the millennial buyer. We wanted to offer an individual line that features snarky verse. We are introducing more designs each year as we develop a better feel for the market. We wanted to differentiate this line to be humorous but (also) recognize those moments when plans do not go as expected or you want a more sarcastic message.

Q. Can you share design preferences between boomers and millennials?

A. We know that the boomers and millennials have different buying preferences, and I would not want to overgeneralize, as the customer has different preferences within each group. Your religious buyer is different than your secular, for example. We take the time to understand our key account customer’s buying habits. That way, we can produce trend savvy product for our retail customers ahead of the curve.

But as an overall generalization, both groups prefer different art. For the millennial, we may use more trend-forward, contemporary art vs. a more traditional scene for the boomer. They are at different stages, so the boomer may be more focused on sympathy and thinking-of-you messaging, while the millennial is celebrating birthdays and weddings. The boomer might go for a double-entendre message, but the millennial prefers a more direct, edgier message.

Q. What types of clients do you provide private label services for, and what have you developed for them?

Crown Point GraphicsA. We provide both curated and private label services for retail chains and distributors. Our strength is both in our design team and in our art catalog that goes back 28 years. We have developed strong relationships with the artists and licensors that we use around the world, and it shows in the catalog we use when creating lines for our customers. Our extensive art collection allows us to put together a product mix that you will not find at another retailer down the street who also might be a CPG customer. We have chains as small as thirty-eight rooftops that take advantage of this program. We can work with both small regional retailers all the way up to national accounts.

With another customer, we create an individual card program. We sit down each year and build a line just for them by understanding the buyer’s desire and the end consumers’ preferences.

This is the heart of our company and brand: sitting down with retail chain buyers and creating something unique. We’ve done it with puzzles, cards, stationery and other products. If it involves art on paper or other substrates, we can design and produce a successful program. Many of our customers have been with us for 10 or more years because we focus on understanding who their customer is and what they want, then designing a program that meets the end user’s desire.

Q. In which market segment you see the most growth?

A. Currently, we are experiencing robust growth in faith-based products. There has been attrition in this market since the large customers like Lifeway and Family Christian bookstores declared bankruptcy. This has opened opportunities for the independent bookstore and online store. We recently signed Noble Marketing in late 2022 to call on the independent faith-based stores nationally. Before that, we only really sold to distributors. We now have representation in all 50 states and have been focused on expanding our offerings in our Shared Blessings line. We found the buyer did not go away, they just shifted their buying patterns. So instead of going to Family Christian, they now go online to places like Christianbooks.com, Walmart and Amazon, or buy locally from church bookstores and independents.

Crown Point Graphics

Q. Can you provide a peek of any ‘23 releases across brands?

A. Based on the success of our special finish Christmas assortments, we are adding special finish everyday assortments to our Shared Blessings line this spring.

We are adding New International Versed (NIV) cards to our Shared Blessings line. While KJV (King James Version) is strong, we realized that about 20% of the market prefers NIV, and we are expanding the line to meet that need later this summer.

We are reimagining the special-finish offerings in the Crown Point Graphics brand. It was due for a refresh, and we plan to bring that out towards the end of this year. We are thinking about entering the children’s puzzle market this year as we continue to grow our puzzle presence. Finally, we will continue to do what we do best, which is innovate by finding and licensing new designs within our curated/private label program for chain retail.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to share?

A. For a team of eight people, I am amazed at how many different beautiful items we can create. We believe that stationery is more than just ink on paper, but foundational to building a connection, whether to your ideas and thoughts with a planner, or with another person with a card. Art should bring a smile — and when it does, it lifts the spirit and connects the soul.

Featured image: Cards from Crown Point Graphics blend value and style into one enticing form with engaging licensed art, fun messaging and full-color interiors — but they represent just a tiny taste of product from this Indianapolis house of design. 

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