History of the Printing Press–The Dawn of Inexpensive Printing

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In thinking about the history of printing, it might be fun to take a look at the history of the machine that puts it all together: the printing press.  We’ll adopt a pretty liberal definition of “printing press” here; for purposes of this blog, any device that copies patterns of ink in an easily reproducible fashion counts.  With that in mind, we’ll start in ancient China, where the first ever “prints” were made sometime before 220 CE.  These prints were made by woodblock on which patterns (the first prints were floral) were engraved, then dipped or rolled in ink, then applied to any of various materials by pressure.  The first prints were made on clothing not paper, and indeed, the earliest printed book discovered thus far came about 600 years after the first prints on textiles.  That book was the Diamond Sutra, a Buddhist text translated into Chinese and printed under the Tang Dynasty (the earliest copy dates to 868 CE).  In some sense, the spread of Buddhism from India throughout East Asia may have prompted woodblock printing: this development made it necessary to keep religious texts consistent through time and place.

This technology gradually spread westward to Europe, where block printing was common on cloth by 1300 and paper by 1400.  At the same time, China was beginning to develop the next great advance in printing: movable type.  Usually, we think of movable type as stemming from Johannes Gutenberg in the 1400’s, but in fact, the Chinese inventor Bi Sheng invented a moveable type system much earlier, around 1040.  However, this system never became terribly popular, mostly because the Chinese character system is too large for a moveable type set to be practical.  However, when adapted to the Roman alphabet, this system worked extraordinarily well.  This development gave rise to the now-famous Gutenberg printing press and Gutenberg Bible, which truly can be called the forerunner to the modern printed document.

Much has changed in printing from Gutenberg to the present day, but that is another story….  Needless to say, we use only modern technology at ZoePrint.com.  You won’t find any woodblock printing presses at our facility!  Nonetheless, the printing press is what transformed communication and made inexpensive printing a reality.

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The Evolution of Paper and Cheaper Printing

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In  thinking about printing, it is interesting to take a look at the history of some of raw materials we now use at ZoePrint.com.  First up is the paper we now use for everything from printed brochures to posters and business cards.  As detailed in a previous blog post, the first written documents arose in ancient Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and were imprinted on clay, which was then baked for preservation and durability.  While this approach had its upsides, clay is extremely cumbersome, fragile, and difficult to move from place to place in significant quantities.  Fortunately, a more convenient medium for recording information was developed in Egypt during roughly the same time period.  This was the now famous material papyrus, a material made from plant stems remarkably similar to modern paper.  It was light, easily written on, and didn’t require the baking process that clay tablets did.  However, papyrus had its problems as well: it’s a rather brittle material, and in humid climates, it quickly rotted.  By the first century BCE, papyrus faced serious competition across the Mediterranean world from another writing material: parchment.  Parchment could be prepared from a variety of different animal skins, though sheepskin was most common.  Primary advantages included durability and portability, but parchment was not waterproof and had to be kept at a relatively stable temperature to keep writing clear.  Little did our European and North African forebears know that at around the same time, another material was being developed in a far-off place that would eventually come to replace both papyrus and parchment.
That material, of course, was paper, and the far-off land was China, ruled at the time by the Han Dynasty.  The modern method of papermaking usually is attributed to a Chinese official named Cai Lun, who lived around the year 100 CE.  He used rags, tree bark, leftover hemp, and other miscellaneous materials to make a pulp that could then be pressed together and dried into sheets of paper.  The first sheets of paper were actually used not for writing but as packaging to protect glass and other fragile materials.  Gradually, though, more and more uses were found for the new material, including writing and even as toilet tissue by the 6th century CE.  The art of papermaking slowly spread beyond the Chinese empire as well, with other East Asian cultures learning the technique first, followed by the Islamic world―some stories say that papermaking spread to this part of the world only after two Chinese prisoners taken in battle shared the secret―and finally to Europe around the year 1000.  As rulers and scholars discovered the many advantages of this new material, it gradually came to replace parchment, and paper mills were set up across the world so that paper could be produced in large quantities.
However, despite these paper mills, paper remained a very expensive material throughout the Middle Ages and Early Modern period, and not until the 19th century did paper become the readily available, less costly material we know it as today.  This happened due to a series of Industrial Revolution era technological advances, beginning with the steam driven papermaking machine, which was invented at least as early as 1799.   Other advances included a shift from rag-based pulp to wood-based pulp, as well as the bleaching of pulp that gave paper the white color to which we are now accustomed.  Around the mid 19th century, paper truly began to resemble the modern material we now use so often, and its convenience and widespread availability led to an explosion in newspapers and books and thus the spread of new ideas.
In a very real sense, the evolution of paper has aided the evolution of human communication.  As paper became more widespread and easier and less expensive to produce, the cost of communicating on paper also came down.  We at ZoePrint.com are proud to be a part of the latest chapter in the book (pun somewhat intended) of writing, printing, and paper-based communication.  We not only offer paper, but we also provide a variety of paper options, including lots of paper with recycled content.  At ZoePrint.com, we offer cheap printing, from business cards to newsletters and brochures, all produced in vibrant color or black and white.   Stop compromising…your printing will look great and save you time and money!

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Japanese Business Cards Are Not Cheap Business Cards!

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Although most Americans have very inexpensive printed business cards, we, at ZoePrint.com, decided it would be fun to share a few more outlandish examples of Japanese business cards, which, as discussed in another blog post, are intended to convey the personality and status of the owner as much as his/her specific contact information.  Depending on the industry, the cards can quickly become very exotic, so the model kit manufacturing company Tamiya’s business card becomes:  http://www.markwu.info/img/uploads-miniblog/tamiya.jpg
As you can see from the link, the business card itself is a model, or rather, three models, all of which can be assembled solely from the snap out letters and numbers featured on the card.  Clearly, the holder of this card is serious about model making; virtually any potential client would be quite impressed by this exotic card.
Of course, creative business cards can be designed on more normal materials as well, as in this example, which we’ll call the “Google Me Card.”  http://www.cherryflava.com/cherryflava/2009/04/our-new-business-card.html
The idea is simple, straightforward, and fun, while conveying at least some degree of brand name popularity to the receiver.  Whether or not Google would take offense to this use of its name is another matter, one we can’t answer here.
Of course, with such creative business cards, the market for business card holders has taken off as well, with exotic options ranging from wood to carbon fiber to this video game controller themed aluminum option:

http://en.gigazine.net/news/20090910_nes_business_card_case/

Clearly, business cards and all their accoutrements are made to impress in Japan, but an elegant, creatively designed card can make a great impression wherever you are doing business.  We at ZoePrint.com would love to help you create a unique business card so you can start all your business relationships on the right foot.  Whether you need cheap business card printing or something much more exotic, we will make your business cards look great!

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Printed Business Cards–Cultural Differences Around the World

 

Cheap Business Card Printing

Presenting a Business Card!

 

Although the exchanging of business cards is merely a convenience to most Americans, done as quickly as possible as a reminder of the other party’s contact details, other cultures have attached a great deal of significance to business cards and the manner in which they are exchanged.  What follows is a brief description of the ways in which business cards are used and perceived in a few cultures worldwide.  For a frame of reference (assuming you are from the US, though the UK, Australia, and several other countries perceive business cards very similarly), let’s start with America.  In the US, business cards are typically seen as just that, cards which contain a person’s name, contact information, and place of employment (if applicable).  They are exchanged casually but carefully; usually, a person who hands his card out to everyone he meets is seen as insincere or even a bit self-aggrandizing.  Only when an exchange of contact details is genuinely necessary are cards exchanged, and even then, not too much attention is paid to the form of the card itself.  Putting another’s card in one’s pocket immediately after accepting it is perfectly acceptable; it is commonly understood that the card can be studied later.
The situation could not possibly be more different in Japan, where business cards are taken much more seriously than in America.  Even minute details, from the texture of the card to the shape to designs printed on the reverse side, are taken into account during production―the card is seen as an envoy, a little piece of its owner meant to convey not only contact information but also subtle details about the owner’s status, personality, and creativity.  Interesting configurations such as waterproof cards, pop-up cards with scenes on the interior, or even cards that can be reassembled into other objects are used in Japan, and the start of virtually any successful business relationship is the successful exchange of cards.  There is a full etiquette surrounding this as well: in an exchange, the person of lower status must bow and offer his card first, and both parties typically study their opposite’s card intently after receiving it and then leave it face-up in front of them for the duration of the meeting that typically follows a card exchange.  It’s a very difficult process for the uninitiated, but it’s nonetheless a crucial one to understand to conduct business successfully in Japan.
 Other countries around the globe have still different norms surrounding business cards.  While there’s not space here to go into a great deal of detail, a few examples are below.
-In Germany, some business card holders are very particular about the academic and professional titles listed on the card: when addressing someone, the title on the card should typically be used unless otherwise stated.
-In Israel, engraved business cards are seen as superior to printed ones.
-In China, cards are both offered and accepted with two hands.  Using only one hand is not considered to be appropriately respectful to the other party.
When conducting business abroad or at home with individuals of a different culture, understanding how to properly use a business card can show respect and understanding  and lay the foundation for a successful business relationship.  At ZoePrint.com, we produce cheap, high quality business cards and other business printing every day.  We have high quality standards and quality checking to ensure the business card meets your needs.  Using your business cards will be easy most of the time;  however, in the rare instance where you may be dealing with a different culture, try to find out how to make the best use of your cards before using them!

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Green Printing v. Electronic Communication–Environmental Impact

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In today’s increasingly electronics-dependent world, printed newsletters, snail mail, postcards, and essentially anything else on paper may get a bad reputation as environmentally unfriendly.  However, in considering the arguments both for an against printing, it is important to consider all of the facts.  We recently found an article which sheds some light on this subject.

Here’s the link: http://www.printing.org/node/5955
On the website, scroll down to “Publications” and click the first link, “The Truth About Print Versus Electronic Communication.”
Or, if you’d rather not look at the report directly, here are a few highlights (to give credit where credit is due, all statistics, arguments, etc. are drawn from the above report):

-Printing in fact may be more eco-friendly than electronic communication.
-This is due to paper’s status as an entirely renewable resource (the private landowners that sell the most paper actually tend to plant more trees than they harvest).  This is in stark contrast to electronic devices, which are typically made from non-renewable resources, including various rare metals and fossil fuels.
-About 63.5% of all paper in America is recycled, as opposed to only 13.6% of electronic waste.
-The environmental cost of storing information in the “global cloud” is also quite high and increasing, as the servers that form the cloud require a constant stream of electricity, much of which comes from “dirty” sources such as coal.

Basically, all this is to say that the common wisdom that electronics are more eco-friendly than paper is somewhat misleading and doesn’t necessarily take the full story into account.  While this report is very broad and more comprehensive study is definitely required to determine the most sustainable way for us to transmit and store information, printing on paper should not be discounted easily for environmental reasons.  We, at ZoePrint.com, also do our part to keep our production processes as “green” as possible.  We recycle all possible paper waste, we use modern equipment with low power requirements and the toner we utilize is biodegradable.  We also offer paper with recycled content for most of the printing we offer.  Finally, producing printed materials which are shipped to you via common carrier is almost certainly better for the environment than driving to a printshop to order and pickup the final product.

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When Business Cards Go Beyond Contact Info

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For many people, business cards are objects to be acquired inexpensively that convey personal and company contact information. But this isn’t the case for all customers, especially the ultra-wealthy or ultra-famous. In these cases, a business card would seem to be a formality or even unnecessary, but some elite clients take their business cards very seriously indeed. Their goal is typically not so much to distribute contact information as to send a message, to pass out a reminder of their elite status in card form.

There are several ways of going about this both for individuals and for large companies. I recently stumbled upon an interesting example in Paris at a Mercedes-Benz dealership and showroom on the Champs Elysees, an upscale shopping street. After staring in amazement at a line of fantastically high-performing cars, the business card holder near the door caught my eye. The business card inside was simple: just a thin slip of cardstock with a Mercedes logo and the name “Mercedes-Benz” printed at the bottom. No address, no phone number, just “Mercedes-Benz.” The card also had a blind embossed image of what appeared to be the outline of a car. The intent here was clear: through a minimalist business card, this company conveyed confidence that their brand image was enough to convince a customer to seek them out; no contact information, slogans, or other sales pitch was necessary. However, should anyone actually be interested in calling a specific salesperson or store, someone could easily write their contact information on the card. In that way, the card did retain some practical value as well as aesthetic.

For extremely wealthy individuals, the situation is somewhat different. Much as high net-worth individuals tend to drive luxury cars, live in luxury homes, and wear luxury clothing, so too can they exchange information through luxury business cards. In fact, British firm Black Astrum specifically caters to these clients through their customized signature card line, the most expensive type of business card in the world. Cards are made out of metal or carbon fiber depending on customer preference, and they feature diamond studs. Costs vary by client but typically hover around $1,500 for one card, or $75,000 for a pack of 50. Suffice it to say that those willing to purchase and exchange such valuable business cards must be among the world’s elite.

If these are the business cards you’re looking for, I regret to inform you that Black Astrum sells them by invitation only—even celebrities who call asking for them have on occasion been denied. However, for a less pricey option that still does an excellent job of conveying information about you, your company, and even your contact information, ZoePrint’s cheap, professionally designed and printed business cards will serve your needs very well. Even better, next time you exchange cards with a client, your paper and ink card should prove significantly easier to leave behind than a card made of carbon fibers and diamond studs.

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The Evolution of Printing

History of Communication

Let’s turn away from the details of modern printing for this blog post and look at a more basic question: when did we as a human race first get the idea of using written or printed communication to express, share, and record ideas? From our vantage point today, the advantages are clear: writing removes much of the ambiguity from communication, allows that communication to be shared with other parties and enables information to be anywhere the writing is, even in many places at once. Still, though, we have to wonder: whose idea was “writing” anyways? What finally became so important that someone felt the need to record it on paper (or papyrus, clay, stone, etc.)?

The answer depends on what we decide to count as “writing.” There are several options here, of which the oldest would be cave paintings found in several sites across the world. The oldest of these date back about 35,000 years and mainly depict hunts with groups of humans taking down massive animal prey. However, nobody is quite certain why these were drawn—some say the drawings were religious, others contend that they were messages to other groups—and there are, of course, no words with the paintings for explanation. The “written word” as we know it didn’t come about until much later, between 4000 and 3000 years ago. This development happened in a few places independently throughout history, but all occurrences have one thing in common: before the written word came the written number. Strokes imprinted on clay tablets, notches in wood, or even systems of tied knots representing numbers have been in use for thousands of years as a method of keeping accounts. It was these strokes that in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) evolved into cuneiform, typically acknowledged today as the world’s oldest system of writing. Of course, the ancients were concerned with the security of their records, too, and so clay pieces containing number strokes and later full exchanges were baked after writing to make them both durable and unalterable, almost like a precursor to printing.

So, it seems that our ancient forebears believed that writing and “printing” gave their agreements a permanence that other forms of communication simply could not match. Even after writing expanded from numbers to words, many of the earliest written documents worldwide were business agreements. That spirit persists to this day in printed contracts, checks, and even advertisements, which present customers with an offer that the business can’t easily take back. Clearly, the impact of writing and printing on people is nothing new, and we at ZoePrint are proud to carry that tradition forward, though hopefully our flyers, posters, newsletters and business cards are a bit lighter and cleaner than baked clay. We also believe our cheap printing is not only less costly than cuneiform tablets, but a lot more convenient too!

Make an Impact that lasts

As a business leader or the head of an organization, you are looking at how to make the most impact for the money on a daily basis. You may be looking for cheap printing, high quality printing or printing that will impact your bottom line, but before you order printing, you need to decide what you are trying to accomplish.

After all, in the Digital Age we live in, why are you going to print? For most people, printing offers something often lost in the internet era…an impact. Digital messages, whether delivered on the internet, by text or by email, are frequently forgotten as soon as the computer delivering them is turned off. Printing has an impact that usually survives longer. Readers of printed materials, whether they are newsletters, flyers, posters or something else, frequently read the printed pieces again or save them for future reference. Yes, “cheap printing” still costs money; there are production expenses in any printed piece. The key is to get the most for your money and to make sure the consumer of the printed piece wants to take action.

ZoePrint.com is dedicated to the notion that printing is worth a lot in the Internet Age. Whether it is cheap flyer printing or cheap poster printing, your printed piece needs to be effective, professional looking and high quality. It needs to be produced quickly and exceed your expectations. Make it work at ZoePrint.com!

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Marketing in the Great Recession—The case study of a fraternity

Recently, my son, a sophomore in college, called and asked if we could help him do some marketing to increase his fraternity’s membership. You see, “rush” was fast approaching after Winter Break, and the fraternity really wanted to increase the brotherhood. Remember, the year is 2012, and the students in the fraternity, along with the rest of the University, are part of the Millennial Generation. These kids have been wired since a very young age, and grew up with MySpace, Facebook, texting and all the rest.

So what kind of marketing did the fraternity have in mind? Well, the fraternity had decided to do a little old fashioned marketing. They were in need of a straightforward letter to be mailed to the entire population of male freshman at the University during Winter Break. They composed a well written two sided letter explaining what was unique about their fraternity and fraternity house and sent out the mailing.

Well, lo and behold, the mailing produced results. To be honest, the fraternity paired the mailing with a new and more proactive approach to the “rush” process to improve the size of the rush class. Although the mailing itself isn’t responsible for all of the credit, the fraternity had a fantastic “rush” period in January, and signed up 22 pledges versus 11 the previous year. Many of the prospects mentioned the mailing when coming to the house to check it out. The bottom line is that the fraternity exceeded their expectations and is on a better growth path than before.

What are the lessons here for today’s marketers? There are several valid conclusions that can be drawn from this experience. First off, it makes sense to employ marketing to improve your growth, membership or what have you. Doing something beats doing nothing most of the time, so long as the strategy chosen is affordable and makes sense. Second, good paper based marketing is still effective, even with the Millennial Generation. It is fairly easy to execute and may be less expensive at times than electronic alternatives, so long as the marketing is targeted properly. Finally, when possible marketing should always be done from several angles simultaneously. This multifaceted approach usually works best.

You may not be responsible for increasing fraternity membership, but the importance of marketing in the Great Recession is not to be taken lightly.

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