I've realized that the New Year isn't the only time to look hopefully toward the future and think about intentional changes. The start of my summer has me looking forward as well.

Today I return to being employed full-time outside of the home. I am hopeful that this chapter of my life is fulfilling and balanced.

So today I wish everyone a Happy Mid-Year! Your life is what your thoughts make it.

summer 2009

Happy Memorial Day!

This summer is filled with many places to go, things to see and playdates to coordinate. Though the studio blog will be on the quiet side I will continue to design and fill orders.

Enjoy the start of Summer!

a noteworthy idea for noteworthy ideas

In mid-March I was determined to log my ideas, creative inspirations and hopes for Thumbprint. This isn't about reinforcing big ideas. Those I can remember on my own. The documentation is meant to help me remember ideas that might fall to the wayside now but might eventually become a good idea with additional time and thought.

I take my notes electronically, which includes sending myself text messages. This is a good method for me so I was thrilled to learn about which will take this method from good to great.

Evernote allows you to capture what you want to remember using your computer, the web or your phone. Your information is run through their recognition technology, it syncs up the info from all the devices you use then lets you notate and organize your stuff. You can find things using their search and filter functions.

With Memorial Day around the corner to kick-off the summer season I'm sure I'll be out and about and making great use out of their mobile device platform. Snap. Tap. Send.

one-on-one interview | jack and molly

What would you like to tell us about yourself?
Jack and Molly is a creative business owned and operated by a Graphic Designer (Meredith) and a Writer/Artist (Henrietta)! We named our company after our sweetie pies- Jackson is 1 1/2 and Molly is only a few months young.

Is Jack and Molly a full-time job? What is your profession?
Jack and Molly is unfortunately only part-time fun. However, we are proud to say our response time for projects is pretty darn fast!

Where do you find inspiration?
Absolutely everywhere. Henrietta and I both are collectors of all things- driftwood, interesting scraps of paper, fabric, and, we aren’t ashamed to say, bits of things other might see as trash! Henrietta has a whole stash of wooden roof shingles she is using as canvas. We also do a good bit of photography and other hands-on art forms. We love nature, our families, color theory, typography, recycling, saving animals, vintage delights, and funny stuff.

What are you favorite professional resources?
The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst: Honestly, a book any designer should read and highlight cover to cover. A history of typography is necessary to know what you are doing!
History of Graphic Design by Philip Meggs: Again, a foundation of what has been successful and visually appealing in the past is a necessity. The images in this book are true eye candy.

Can you describe what types of design services Jack and Molly offers and/or how your artwork has been used in the past?
Oh, wow. Lots and lots of logos, business card designs, custom mixed media artwork, blog banners, mixed media art prints, wedding invitations, custom illustrations, posters, postcards, email blasts, tee shirt designs, and more! We are almost always interested in any kind of design work you throw our way. Jack and Molly is a creative outlet for us- so we enjoy it ALL.

How much of your time is spent exchanging ideas with clients, presenting your sketches, refining your sketches and producing the final artwork?
Every design process is entirely its own. We have many methods for gathering as much data in the initial phases of a project- cutting down on miscommunication. Ultimately, we work until we know our client is not only 100% happy but so excited they show all of their friends, family, co-workers, and clients.

What tips can you provide a potential client who would like to have a digital image illustrated?
Do as much research as possible. Look around. Save links online. Sketch. Keep your eyes open and gather everything into a “visual library”. The more you see what is out there, the better idea you’ll have for your own design.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
We also rescue animals- mostly dogs (maybe an occasional squirrel or cat!) We rescue dogs from euthanizing shelters and then foster them until we find permanent, loving homes. We also donate artwork and design services to animal rescue groups. We are definite animal LOVERS!

Overall, we just want to provide art and design services for reasonable prices to good people. We are constantly growing and changing and adding new services and products. We want to always be fresh, inspiring, kind, and resourceful.

So just how did I find the talented, professional and affordable services of Jack and Molly? I was looking to collaborate creatively with a graphic artist on a thumbprint logo that would mine. All mine!

It was important to me to work with someone who is removed from the everyday operations of Thumbprint. To work with someone who is differently inspired and, most importantly, works on logos a lot. A lot. A lot. A lot.

For those of you bloggers and small business owners who are feeling stuck (graphically), I have to tell you how happy I am with my new logo. You too can have one that is yours. All yours!

a sneak peak

This blog header is a sneak peak at my brand new logo. I'm still working on the final layout. More details to come on Monday.

What do you think?

that's a wrap!

I'm a sucker for product packaging.

I don't remember when I developed a love for merchandise presentations but it is a meaningful part of my professional career {outside of my Thumbprint world} and my personal consumer behavior.

The recessionista in me thinks long and hard about purchasing non-essential items but when the time came to buy an athletic jump rope, I spent twice as much money as I needed to. Why? I loved the quality of the item and the re-usable and inspirational shopping bag that came with the purchase.

{I love that little bag!} This is the power of good product packaging at work.

The environmentalist in me considers wasteful packaging when I make electronics purchases. Nothing irks me more than having to open a big, plastic bubble that is hermetically sealed and nearly impossible to open without a blade just to get to something the size of your thumb. I avoid purchasing things that are packaged like this.

{Ugh!} This is the power of bad product packaging at work.

When I was determining my own packaging for Thumbprint Trading Cards I had several considerations in mind:
  1. Showcase the product and brand
  2. Protect the product from physical damage {such as being crushed, creased or wet}
  3. Use recyclable and/or recycled materials as much as possible
Product Packaging
As I mentioned in a previous post, I put a lot of thought, time and design into this packaging. In thinking about the growth of my little design studio I wanted to ensure my packaging was appropriate for a retail display {either hanging from a peg or nestled in a small fixture}.

I hadn't realized just how versatile the packaging would end up being. I now use this template to package note and appointment cards, media kit samples and felt card holders.

For larger orders of Thumbprint Trading Cards, I package cards in a recycled 2" x 2" x 2" box only after I have audited and approved the order. Then the boxes are sealed with an approval sticker and prepared for shipping.

Shipment Packaging
Depending on what reusable shipping materials I have on hand and the size of the item I am shipping, the packaging changes. However there are several things that are constant.
  1. The product itself is protected with a layer of recyclable tissue paper or reused packaging materials such as unmarked cardstock inserts I have saved from personal packages
  2. The exterior of reused packages are unmarked by prior shipment details
  3. I include business cards and a brief thank you note or thank you sticker
Has all this talk got you thinking about lovely packages? Check out one of my favorite blogs. Luckily my inner-recessionista has pretty good self-control.

what a great idea!

Just how many creative ways can you use Thumbprint Trading Cards? The readers of Design {for} Baby generated 25 ideas. Thank you!
  1. kids invitations
  2. Valentine's Day cards
  3. birth announcements
  4. wedding announcements
  5. seasonal/holiday cards
  6. bbq/picnic invitations
  7. thank you cards
  8. blog cards
  9. love notes | for the grown ups
  10. business cards
  11. calling cards | address and phone number only
  12. photo inserts in wedding thank you card
  13. "meeting cards" | scouts, church groups, etc.
  14. pool parties
  15. neighborhood cookouts
  16. color coded for different ages and genders
  17. allergy notification cards
  18. information cards for babysitter
  19. "we've moved" or new address card
  20. party favor gift tags
  21. save the date cards
  22. back to school cards
  23. mini-stationary note cards
  24. gender neutral designs
  25. Victorian designs
This list sparked a few ideas of my own ideas:
  1. pet adoption annoucements
  2. new address cards that are mailing labels
  3. block party cards
  4. pregnancy announcement cards
  5. playdate availability | days and time available for playdates
  6. gift wish list for birthday or holidays | clothing and shoe sizes, favorite colors, etc.
  7. note cards from the Tooth Fairy, Santa, Easter Bunny, etc.
  8. gold star cards | for words of praise or encouragement
  9. goal cards | dot around the house, office and in your bag to keep you focused on your goal
  10. reward cards or coupons

design {for} baby giveaway

Thank you all so very much for participating in my giveaway in conjunction with Design {for} Baby. Your ideas are inspirational and creative!

I'll compile a list of the responses and will post it hear next week.

Thanks again. You rock!

resource | top ten display tips

Last November I made my off-line debut. I used a digital photo frame to display images of my custom designed cards and created retail packaging for my social appointment and note cards.
Watching other sellers set up their display tables made me feel woefully unprepared. While I spent hours and hours designing my packaging I was unwittingly ignoring the functionality of my table display.

Please excuse the quality of both the picture and the table.
Here is a link to some great table display tips courtesy of Etsy's adornedbyrobin.

Thanks to Indie Craft Shows for spreading the word about this great advice! You may also be interested in their post Beginners Guide to Craft Shows.

press | a mogul review from mogul baby

We are happy to announce a glowing review, with specific mention of our "green effort," from Mogul Baby.

"...What I love about these little square cards is that it makes socializing fun! They are small and convenient to keep in your bag or jacket pocket. These cards are also eco-friendly. Everything is printed out of recycled materials and manufactured in the U.S.A...."

You can read the full review by visit

the elevator pitch

You have only one chance to make a first impression.

Each time someone would ask me what I do this truth would pop into my mind, so I challenged myself to write an elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is an overview of a business or idea. It conveys the critical points while avoiding too much detail. A good elevator pitch leads to further conversation with a potential investor, partner or client.

I shouldn't have been surprised to find this challenging. Luckily, there are lots of resources on the subject!*

In my research I found several common concepts:
  1. Less is more - under 250 words or two minutes
  2. Focus on the W's (who, what, why) instead of the H (how)
  3. Memorize and practice your delivery
I wrote an elevator pitch. Want to hear it? Here is goes.

"Hi. My name is Chris Guillot, the founder of Thumbprint Trading Cards. What parent hasn't struggled to remember another parent's name or scrambled to exchange contact information? Thumbprint Trading Cards are custom photo calling cards, like this one (hand over card), that make it easy to put a face with the name. I'd be happy to send you product samples and a media kit if you give me your business card."

*Resource links:
Elevator Pitch Essentials | here and here
Models | here, here and here

product photography | part two

Taking the Picture

When I first started taking product photos, I left my point-and-shoot digital camera on auto mode. While I had a sense of how I wanted to style my photos I had no idea that my lack of basic photography knowledge was holding me back.
I used less than five percent of the pictures I took during that first session. To satisfy your curiosity, I took more than 300 photos over a six-hour period! It was a redundant, frustrating and amateur experience.

I set out to learned the fundamentals of photography and found this resource very helpful. It does a great job of explaining, verbally and visually, the different factors that contribute to a great photo.

I also did something that was long overdue - I read my owner's manual. If your manual isn't on hand, visit the manufacturer's website for the on-line version.

Armed with a better understanding of photo styling and camera fundamentals, I created a product photography light box using materials I had or was able to purchase inexpensively. This blog is one of many resources with instructions on how to create one for yourself.

Here is a photo of the light box I made.

The light box was very easy to make and helped yield photos that were a bit better, but the complete set up including lights was more involved than I wanted to manage given several important criteria, one of which is to get things out of Nicholas' reach quickly.
I had an Ah-ha moment when I realized I could take photos in the master bathroom! It has a sky light and large counter space.

Here are pictures of my make-shift studio set up that I took with my cell phone.

When I want to take product photos, these are the steps I follow:

  • Clean and dry countertop
  • Gather items to be photographed
  • Set up photo backdrop (white poster board or patterned paper)
  • Set camera to ISO mode
  • Adjust white balance as needed
  • Select macro mode
  • Set up tri-pod
  • Select two-second timer mode
I was able to take 37 hero shots in about 30 minutes and I'm going to upload more than 75% of these photos on my website. Now that is what I call successful amateur product photography.

Stay tuned for the third and final installment of the product photography series, which will discuss my experience with photo editing.

Here's a comparison of a raw image and an edited one.

studio spring cleaning

My studio spring cleaning took place in two phases: computer-related and collateral-related.

During the first phase my tasks included migrating my e-mail and calendar management to Google, freeing up memory by deleting unnecessary files and backing up the remaining files.

During the second phase I wrangled my tangible Thumbprint-related material into a main location.
I settled on carving out studio space in my living room instead of the study because my husband and I need separate areas when we're both working.

We happened to be in the market for an organization system to hold my son's toys so we decided to look for one that would work for me as well. Since I have a low inventory holding cost, I didn't need much space.

The top half of this Ikea shelf system holds most of my work material. The rest is display related and infrequently used.

I have also taken to using Nicholas' junior-sized table. It's a great space for assembly and other projects. I make sure to give the surface a thorough cleaning beforehand.

Though I may have added an unintended layer to the concept of live/work space, the result is a necessary mix of increased efficiency and decreased insanity!

media review + giveaway | design {for} baby

Our most recent media review comes from Design {for} Baby, a blog focused on finding and reviewing modern, eco-friendly and handmade products. With thorough product reviews, giveaways and even craft projects, this blog's following is growing by the day!

This makes them a great venue for us to contribute to the "economic stimulus package" with a contest giveaway valued at $122!

Design {for} Baby says:
What exactly is a Thumbprint Trading Card? Well, it's basically a mini business card for moms, although they are perfect for anyone to use--moms, dads, business owners... On the front of the cards is your personalized picture, and on the back is your contact info. During the design process YOU get to select the font, the colors, basically anything you want--you get! The designer, Christine Guillot, is incredibly talented & has an amazing sense of style. She's fantastic to work with & will make sure that your Thumbprint Trading Cards are just as you envisioned (and beyond)!...I am definitely impressed with the quality of work. I can't wait to pass these out at my next playdate!

Click here to review the contest details as well as a review of our entire product line.

creating a media kit | a look inside the process

This year I am focused on building my brand. This effort includes spreading the word about Thumbprint Trading Cards in as many high-impact outlets as possible, including blogs, on-line social networking sites and print media. It became clear that what I needed above and beyond my website, studio blog and product samples was a media kit.

I had heard about media kits and have read a few in the past but when it came down to creating one I didn't know where to start. What is a media kit? What should it communicate? What do I want it to say about me and my brand?

A media kit is a set of pre-packaged promotional materials. It is an organized and succinct way to communicate information about your business to the media. After reading Ingredients of a Press Kit and reviewing media kits from some of my favorite companies, including lululemon athletica, I got a better sense of how I would approach this project.

In addition to discussing the 5 W's (and one H), I wanted to make specific reference to the company's niche market, business culture and client demographic. I drafted an outline for my media kit and then reviewed all the copy I've ever written for Thumbprint from the current website to the draft document used to create my first flyer. I was able to piece together about 75% of the media kit from this material.

Aside from my business cards, this was my first marketing tool. It was also pre-website.

The most challenging section for me to write was the description of Thumbprint Trading Card's culture.

"During the design process we discover our clients' personalities, lifestyles, aspirations and ideals. This Client Filter guides our designs, business decisions, vendor relations, studio policies and future growth."

Thumbprint is not trying to be all things to all people. We are simply trying to reach out to our niche market and make sure they feel proud to trade our cards. To that end, I listen to what is important to my clients and make it important to the company.

My media kit
has two components: electronic files and product samples.

The electronic files include:
  • Information about company history, design services and products, Thumbprint culture, Principal biography, client reviews and press, quick facts and stats. This can be downloaded from the blog.
  • Images of media clips - links to press are in the blog while images are part of the mailed media kit package
  • Product Photos - high resolution images are saved in a public Picasa album that is accessible through the blog while compressed, web-ready images are part of the mailer package
The files for the mailer media kit are saved on a thumb drive. Not only is it an easy and reusable way to save and share files but it's also a bit clever - thumbprint : thumb drive.

The product samples include:

I packaged all of this material using my retail packaging, which is easy to customize.

I'm really happy with the final product. I hope it yields more press and, therefore, more orders!

"one moment, please."

This week I have shifted gears based on my deliverables. As a result the second installment of product photography is pushed out. On the plus side my media kit will be completed ahead of schedule!

Here is a sneak peek.
  • Introduction
  • Company History
  • Products and Design Services
  • Company Culture
  • Principal Biography
  • News and Reviews
  • Fun Facts
  • Media Images
If you have already signed-up to follow this blog or my Tweets, you will be notified when Product Photography Part Two is published.

Thanks for your flexibility!

one-on-one interview | jake olefsky

What would you like to tell us about yourself?

I never know how to answer open-ended questions like this. I’ll just let my answers to the following questions tell you about myself.

What is your profession?

This is a little hard to describe. Anytime I have to fill out my profession on a form I always end up writing something different. I have written: programmer, engineer, webmaster, website designer, website inventor, consultant. I wish there was one word that encompassed all of that, because whenever people ask me what I do, I never know what to say. In a sentence, I invent websites, build them and operate them.

What are the benefits and challenges of being self-employed?

The biggest benefit has got to be setting my own hours and not reporting to anyone. I get to work on what I want, when I want and I can take as much vacation as I want. I never enjoyed being told what to do, so working for myself has made “work” much more enjoyable. I actually enjoy work.

The thing I miss the most is collaboration with co-workers. It can get lonely working by yourself.

How do you stay current in your industry? What are you favorite professional resources?

I read all the daily tech news (techcrunch, slashdot, engadget, etc). Everything I do is documented on the web, so it’s pretty easy to stay up to date. I’ve always been a self-learner, so its easy for me to stay current.

Do you have a process for evaluating potential clients or projects?

I don’t take clients, so for me it’s just about what projects I want to work on. Whenever I get an idea, I put it into my logbook. When I want to do some work, I just scan through the list until something sounds fun, and then I do it. There are some things on the list that I will never do, and that’s ok. At least I captured the idea and can continue to evaluate it. Maybe someday it will sound like a fun thing to do. I try very hard to only work on things that are fun.

Can you describe your typical workday?

The first thing I do is answer all my messages. This includes emails, trouble tickets and messages posted on my websites. This takes several hours and is the most boring part of my day so I get it out of the way first. Then I read the tech news. Then I get to work. Hopefully this is before lunch. The rest of the day is spent working on my sites, programming in some way or another.

What tips can you give the Cyber Shy wanting to launch an on-line business or professional presence?

My two pieces of advice would be to do proper market research and know when to hire help. Often I see people trying to build an online business in a very crowded marketplace. If you have dozens of competitors before you even start, it’s going to be difficult. Try to find a niche that isn’t well served.

The other thing I see people doing is trying to do everything themselves without the proper training. Building a successful website takes a lot of different skills and years of experience. Instead of buying that “HTML in 11 Days” book, it would be better to hire a web designer.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Another open-ended question. Hmmm. I might as well shamelessly plug my websites. Visit for brain teasers, puzzles and game. Visit to organize your life with a powerful to-do list.

Jake's success is impressive and it's clear that he is doing something right. Here is what I am doing to follow suit.

I am logging my ideas for Thumbprint. I make notes of my ideas so that I can evaluate their feasibility immediately. [ Is there a customer for this service/product? Does bringing this idea to market line up with my brand values?] I know that, in the past, I have prematurely squashed ideas never to remember the initial inspiration again.

Being a power organizer in my professional life is something I am good at. However, striking out on my own has required me to put more thought into how I own and operate my small business. In order to maintain mobility and flexibility sans smart phone, I have begun migrating away from Microsoft Office for managing my e-mail account, calendar, contacts, projects, etc. To this end, I signed up for Toodledo. What's even better is that I was able to add Toodledo access to my Thumbprint iGoogle homepage. Organization, activate!

Thank you, Jake! We appreciate your time, all around web savviness and advice!

on-line networking | twitter

Last week, Jenny GG Photography revealed that Facebook is a tried and true venue for professional networking.

I signed up for Facebook in January but my on-line networking started to blossom after that interview. I also began posting information about Thumbprint. Jenny's right. Facebook is a great venue for marketing but my account will remain a personal one... for now.

Instead, I created a Twitter account titled ThumbprintCards to compliment the studio blog. This venue will provide more frequent visibility to what's brewing in the kitchen beyond what is shared here. I will also be using Twitter to post exclusive promotions and immediate notifications of any give-aways or sales.

You can follow my tweets on Twitter or subscribe to have them fed to your reader.

Please note: Twitter button is compliments of twittermysite.

product photography | part one

My Spring/Summer Project list has several whoppers on it. Among them is a pressing need for product photography. Jenny GG Photography was gracious enough to shoot my initial pictures, but as the business grows with additional designs and press inquiries so does my need for more photos.
Since I can ask a pal for only so many favors, I started researching how I might be able to create professional looking photos with my own point-and-shoot digital camera and a limited budget. To lend some structure to my research, and to help others get a jump start on this kind of project, I decided to write a three part series on product photography which will follow me as I learn, execute, learn some more and execute again.

As this is a journey, I can only hope for a good ending. Let's keep our fingers crossed!

part one | styling your photos

There are two types of product photos - alone or with props. These are also referred to as the hero shot and the styled shot respectively. A hero shot is clinical. What you see is what you get. A styled shot puts the product in context.

It can be a challenge figuring out how to style your products and rightfully so because it is a profession all on its own - Art Direction.

After reading this resource I started searching for inspiration by flipping through catalogs, clicking through on-line shops and reading blogs. Not the least of these was the vast photo database that is Flickr.

I created a list of hero shots that I wanted to take and brainstormed ideas for styled shots. Then I whipped out my camera to take a few concept photos to make sure my ideas were feasible or would look good. Here are a few test shots. (If you'd like to compare these with my past photos, you can visit my website and online boutique.)

After this exercise, I have walked away with several objectives:
1. Focus on my hero shots to showcase my portfolio of Trading Cards
2. Ensure this approach is easy enough to recreate numerous times
3. Group similar themed cards together for a few photos
4. Select a handful of Trading Cards and style each several different ways

My next step is to take all of these pictures. Part two of this series will discuss creating an in-home "studio" and will showcase my favorite product photos.

press | parenting nh march 2009 issue

As featured in Parenting NH's.

Can you give me your card?

Set yourself apart with Thumbprint Trading Cards. No need to write down information for a play date, just hand over a unique social appointment card that is customized with your choice of photo and information.

Thumbprint Trading Cards are printed and manufactured in the United States using recycled materials.

For more information, go to

[Click on the image for a closer look.]

one-on-one interview | jenny gg photography

What would you like to tell us about yourself?
I’m essentially a mama that is also a total camera geek.

What is your profession?
Full time mama and full time photog

Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration comes in the moment from the person I’m looking at through my lens. I like to spend a little time with them before I start shooting in the hopes of tapping into what connects us and to catch them in a more relaxed place. My muse is my daughter Lily – without a doubt.

What are you favorite professional resources?
I love my printing company, WHCC – they never let me down. I also adore Thumbprint Trading Cards!!

What are the most effective ways of marketing your business?
I love Facebook – it’s been a great networking tool and I’ve been reacquainted with old school friends too. Word of mouth has been the greatest marketing tool for me though.

How much of your time is spent preparing for a photo shoot, taking photos and processing photos?
Most of my sessions last about 2 hrs (I’m not a clock-watcher). For kids especially, I like to take the time necessary for diaper changes, snack breaks and the occasional “grumpy-break”. Weddings can range from four hours to a full day of coverage. I recently photographed a birth and was there for about 10 hours. It was such an amazing experience.

What tips can you give to novice photographers taking photos with a point-and-shoot camera?
Just shoot and shoot! Try also when outside to turn the flash off – your camera should be able to be set to do that and natural light is always so much prettier. Plus, you don’t get the "deer caught in the headlights" effect.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I want to say out loud how grateful I am that I’m doing what I love. Some times it’s tough, but it’s totally worth it.

I spent some time thinking about what I can learn from Jenny. Here's a list of my initial "take away-s" from this interview.

Jenny and I experience inspiration similarly - by connecting with the clients. I am revisiting the addition of a new product category for Thumbprint Trading Cards. Though I have been given lots of encouragement and feedback to go this route, I have resisted. I've been giving it so much thought and have distilled my hesitation to one point. Now I am asking myself, "How can I successfully incorporate my clients' individual personalities into this product category?"

Ah, Facebook! My prior work experience had me connecting with business partners across language barriers and international time lines. Though I am able to work beyond these barriers successfully, meeting these partners face-to-face solidifies the relationships. While Thumbprint is all about connecting with people face-to-face, there's a time and place for connecting on-line. I haven't ruled out Facebook for Thumbprint but it's not on the horizon yet. I prefer blogging for now. But, of course, only time will tell.

Thanks again, Jenny! We appreciate your time, answers and talent!

monday is open house day

We "open our doors" on a weekly basis to give you a peek into our studio. To share our inspirations, aspirations, projects, accomplishments, insights from fellow entrepreneurs and coffee break musings so that we can connect with you when we're on-line.

Thank you for joining our house warming party! We would appreciate it if you'd subscribe to our blog on your way out.

We look forward to seeing you back here on Mondays.