Awesome Techniques: Die Cuts (featuring a Q&A from i2marketing’s Jim Slatton)

When I talk to design students about options for printed pieces, die cuts are often the first topic that comes up. It’s no wonder; a die cut can add an amazing amount of impact. The feeling one gets from viewing a well-concepted die cut is not unlike what a child experiences when viewing their favorite pop-up book. You can’t help but to notice it.

When I was on press with Cougar® Journey, I couldn’t help but to notice an oversized brochure beautifully printed on Cougar paper. Although the design was exceptional, what truly set the piece apart were the die cuts. Not only did they make the brochure memorable, they helped to tell the story of the non-profit the brochure was created to promote (Mission Foundation). I was so intrigued by the piece I reached out to the creator, i2marketing’s Creative Director Jim Slatton, for more information.

mission-foundation2 missions-foundation1

Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide you wanted to work in the advertising/design industry? What was your first job as a designer?
My career started about 20 years ago in Athens, GA as a production artist and designer for clothing labels and apparel identities–very specific but very fun. Just doing the production for some of the top clothing brands was a great experience learning the nuances of type and identity design.

From an early age I was drawn to type, design and any illustration. Some of my classmates in elementary school would give me their textbooks and I would redesign the covers using shelve paper and markers.

What is your current role at i2marketing?
Currently I’m Creative Director. We are a small shop so I still get my hands dirty with many of the projects.

How do you typically begin the design process? What inspires you?
I typically start by researching anything I can about the project and then try to connect the dots of why someone (audience) would care. I think the best way to get inspired is to experience other forms of art—going out and seeing a band or checking out an art gallery or play. I also come up with many ideas while running or in the shower.

Tell us a bit about Mission Foundation and the audience you wanted to reach with the Power of Change piece.
The Mission Foundation is a philanthropic organization that raises funds for Mission Health, our regional health system. They have recently launched a campaign for the genetics program at Mission Health which will include new facilities. This campaign is very important for the future of genetic research in our area which has the potential to change the way we treat a number of diseases. We wanted prominent donors to realize their support does actually have the potential to change the future.

I see a lot of die cuts, but not many as well-concepted as in the Mission Foundation  piece. I love how the die cuts add to the build up of the story! How did you go about creating the die cut concept?
We wanted the piece to be interactive and the reader to feel empowered so we focused on a way to gradually eliminate the diseases or ailments. We first started with the idea of translucent paper but then eventually ended up using die cuts which (I think) is more effective.

With the Power of Change Piece, what did you consider first – layout design or die cuts?
The concept of using die cuts to tell the story and then built the layout around it.

Why did you choose uncoated paper (Cougar, in particular) for this piece?
We have designated Cougar as the brand paper for the Mission Foundation. Their brand is “high touch”, human and personal which translates to an uncoated stock. I like Cougar because it’s a great performing sheet that doesn’t break the budget. Is that an endorsement or what?! : )

How does designing on paper impact your process more than or differently than any other medium?
When you do printed pieces like brochures or annual reports, you really have to focus on the narrative, pacing and concept. It’s your job to try and lead the reader in and keep them engaged without the use of fancy programming, live action or interactive menus.

Now for a fun question we always ask: you’re on a desert island. Pick three celebrities you want to be stranded with.
Andy Somber, Greta Gerwig, Jake the Dog (from Adventure Time)