iLetterpress? Apple’s New Letterpress Cards

Apple iPhone Letterpress CardsI never thought that I’d be discussing Apple and letterpress in the same sentence, but here I am, discussing Apple and letterpress in the same sentence. Last week, Apple unveiled iLife ’11, a software suite that includes iPhoto, an application that can be used to turn your digital photos into photo books, albums, and other physical items. What has the stationery world buzzing is the announcement that users will be able to create letterpress cards using the latest version of iPhoto. Letterpress cards?!

Apple iPhone Letterpress Cards

Cards are available in 15 different styles, and they’re printed on 110# Crane Lettra Cover stock. Cards are $2.99 each, on the less expensive end of the letterpress card spectrum, but not crazy cheap. Photos and personalized text are digitally printed onto the ready to order letterpress cards, so you’ve got some flat printing going on, too. The cards are pretty cute, and photo cards are hot, hot, hot right now, but I’m feeling somewhat torn about this development.

Since the announcement about the new letterpress cards was made, many letterpress printers have expressed their concern about the new iPhone option, and I can see where they’re coming from. I realize that there are letterpress shops of all shapes and sizes out there, but when I think of letterpress, I think of small, artisan shops, not a gargantuan entity like Apple. This begs the question: is there such a thing as mass market letterpress? With the limited availability of presses and those who have the technical knowledge to be able to use them, can there be? If so, is this it? Also, is Apple outsourcing the work to a shop in the US? Overseas?

On the other hand, I see this as a smart marketing move by Apple, who are far from being slouches in marketing their products. Their customer base already consists of the majority of graphic designers, photographers, and other creatives, people who are more likely to know about and purchase letterpress printed goods. A number of these customers may be letterpress printers who are alienated by Apple’s latest move, but Apple’s undoubtedly playing the percentages here, and their goal is to capitalize on the popularity of letterpress, not to place nice with the small, artisan presses who have done the work in bringing the art of letterpress printing back in style.

So, what do you think? Will Apple’s new letterpress card option take the popularity of letterpress to even higher levels? How could Apple’s latest move affect small, artisan printers? Would you purchase these cards?

images from Apple

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9 comments on “iLetterpress? Apple’s New Letterpress Cards

  1. Two Pooch commented //

    Very interesting… I say, super work Apple for making cute cards and letterpress available to the masses. But, for me anyway, the draw to small letterpress shops is the uniqueness of the designs and the idea of it being hand touched by someone. I am always willing to spend a little extra for my stationery by a mom and pop shop than a big company.

  2. Lorene commented //

    I think this is actually a good thing for letterpress. People who have no idea what letterpress is will be ordering the iLetterpress cards. They will get them and realize how awesome letterpress is and then seek it out for other things. If you are already into letterpress then I doubt that iPhoto is going to be your first stop when shopping for cards.

  3. Lisa commented //

    The combination of letterpress printing and digital printing is the part that intrigues me. Will the digitally-printed text look strange next to the letterpressed illustration?

  4. Scott Rubel commented //

    Well, I never thought I’d see a company the size of Apple cut into my business. Maybe it’s a good thing, as Lorene says.

  5. kristen commented //

    It’s great to hear all of your thoughts on this subject. Keep ’em coming!

    Lisa – I’m curious about that, too. In the sample photos, it looks like they’ve just Photoshopped the photos onto the cards, but I’d like to see what the digital printing actually looks like next to the letterpress.

  6. Travis Friedrich commented //

    I agree with the folks who say this is good for letterpress printers overall. The more people who know what letterpress is, the better. Kristen, regarding your question about Apple’s sourcing for these, I’ve heard that the letterpress printing is being done by Julie Holcomb in the Bay Area. Her shop is definitely larger than some tiny artisan shops, but it’s also certainly not some sort of mass-producing factory.

  7. kristen commented //

    Thanks for your feedback and for the info about who they’re outsourcing to, Travis. It’s great to hear that they went with Julie Holcomb and not some overseas mass production outfit.

  8. Tracey Jean commented //

    It’s nice to think of letterpress gaining in popularity. I hope it causes people to shop around for a local guy once they see how awesome it is. My only concern is the brainwashed masses who will buy anything as long as you can put an “i” in front of it. Would they stop to try something new and (gasp) non-Apple? The people I know just wait for the next i-thing…

  9. Rob commented //

    These will be compelling in the short run. They may even promote custom letterpress because the one thing that Apple can’t do cheaply of fast is actual custom letterpress. Our company has already printed digitally on Crane’s Lettra paper. For digital photos it worked – ok – not great, not stunning, just ok. For exceptional letterpress (without printed photos or with stick-onphotos) the artisan shops will not be threatened. For custom letterpress they will not be threatened. And for a card design house like ours that creates custom photo cards without templates, and actually manipulates the photos to look like they were shot by a pro. we will be safe as well. This move by Apple cuts into “template” driven photo cards and letterpress. Custom work and high-quality are still safe.

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