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Sexy Design Isn’t Enough

by | Apr 13, 2017 | Corporate Stationery

It’s easy to talk about the race to the bottom. Peter Shankman asserts that all you have to do is suck less than the competition to get ahead. And if you’ve encountered a bank or airline in the last year, you likely agree.

But there’s a counter to that.

Thanks to the ubiquity of resources (thanks, internet), the bar is been raised (practically through the roof) for things like quality entry-level creative work. Not being able to afford the education or necessary tools is no longer an obstacle for most aspiring designers, writers, developers, etc.

That means there’s a glut of “good” graphic design out there. And it doesn’t take engaging a huge Madison Ave. firm to get it.

So, when (almost) everyone’s logo and marketing materials are designed well, how do you stand out?

Appeal to the other senses

A Mercedes doesn’t just look like luxury. It sounds like it, too.

And what greets you the minute you enter the Gramercy Park Hotel? A signature scent that will tickle the pleasure receptors in your brain.

In order to stand out,

your stationery needs to engage multiple senses.


Texture is key here. Glossy is only sexy when it’s paired with a “toothier” texture. There are papers meant to mimic the textures of leather, rubber, and suede, among others. Shoot, why not go ahead and use leather or wood?

But texture doesn’t end with the paper (or lack thereof). Traditional printing methods like engraving, embossing, and letterpress give a tactility to your stationery that standard methods lack. Not to mention laser-cutting/engraving and 3D printing.

Your customer’s sense of touch can also be engaged through the thickness, weight, and shape of your stationery. A business card as thick as your money clip may not be convenient, but will hardly be forgotten.


Did you ever stop to think that the cards employed to capture a scent aren’t far removed from a traditional business card? If you have a signature scent, why doesn’t it go everywhere with you?

Your materials and methods may lend their own scents as well. From copper to leather to wood – each has its own sense of sense. And the campfire warmth of laser-cut paper is a perennial favorite around here.


It’s elusive, but impactful. The way a business card taps on the table or the sound a thank you note makes as it slides from its envelope.

Well-produced stationery emits sounds of substance that indicate your care of details. And if you sweat the small stuff, people know they can trust you with the rest.


It’s inevitable. Every time someone receives a business card made of sugar cane pulp, their immediate response is to lick it. And, no, it doesn’t taste sweet. But this reveals a peculiar potential in the realm of flavored stationery. And, while it may be little more than a gimmick for most, if your business is taste, why would you squander an opportunity to engage people on your home field?

Printing on food isn’t science fiction. It’s a viable method of creating stationery that will have an impact lasting far longer than the card itself.

Baby Steps

I recommend that, just like Bob Wiley, you take baby steps. Your goal isn’t an assault on the senses, but an impactful engagement and lasting token of an encounter.

At a minimum, every piece of stationery you order should be considered for its appeal to the senses of sight and touch. If you can engage one more sense, you’re more than a step ahead of most.

If you want to explore ways to engage your clients’ senses, email me. I live for this stuff!

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