Over the past three decades, Paper Source has grown from a small, quirky boutique to a successful chain operating across the U.S. — they’re on track to open their 120th store by 2017. The keys to remaining true to their brand values are simple: stay authentic, remember the mission and invest in a world-class design team.
Through the years, the Paper Source brand has held fast to founder Sue Lindstrom’s goal to spread the love of paper to everyone who walks through their doors. Staying true to their brand values has paid off, earning them a passionate and devoted following of like-minded paper enthusiasts. Step into a Paper Source store and you’ll find everything from fine papers and locally printed wrapping paper to greeting cards, notepads and calendars. And, of course, the legendary Paper Bar where customers can mix and match custom papers, notecards, envelopes and liners to create truly one-of-a-kind stationery. Paper Source has also created an exclusive color palette made up of a variety of custom colors available year-round, as well as exclusive seasonal colors like this fall’s lush Sweet Potato. They work with local paper mills to create custom papers in their proprietary colors. Then they partner with local printers, like Chicago-based Active, to print products that coordinate perfectly.
Remember the Mission
Paper Source was founded with the mission to inspire customers to “do something creative every day.” More than 30 years later, it’s clear that mission is still core to everything they do — from the in-store workshops, online how-to videos and highly anticipated catalogs to the quirky products and creativity-inspiring Paper Bar.
Although Paper Source’s assortment has evolved over the years, paper remains the star of their offering. With such dramatic growth behind them — and even more growth projected for the future — it’s clear paper is far from passé.
Invest in a World Class Design Team
Keeping the design and creative strategy internal has allowed Paper Source to remain agile while adhering to brand standards and keeping their mission in focus. Although Paper Source is first and foremost a retail store and e-commerce destination, that’s far from all that they do. “We’re also a design house,” explained Owens. “Over half of the products that you see are designed by our in-house design team. A lot of them are originating from Chicago, some even produced here in Chicago or in the surrounding area.” The in-house design team is responsible for creating the illustrations, iconography and hand-lettering seen across all of Paper Source’s exclusive products. They are also the creative and branding force behind all of their exclusive paper craft kits. They concept the design and plan out the diecuts, folds and techniques required to turn a flat piece of paper into a flower, wreath or seasonal critter. It requires not only an eye for color and design, but also a thorough understanding of technique.
But the design team’s role doesn’t end with the design. The designers also collaborate with the merchandising team to find new ways to bring products and brand messaging to life. They will look at a design and suggest ways to incorporate it in new and different products. According to Owens, “They have a much greater influence on our products than just sitting and drawing. They really are instrumental in product development.”
Arguably, it is the unique combination of artistry and the desire to spread Sue Lindstrom’s unabashed love of paper that has made Paper Source the successful brand it is today. And it’s why a store devoted to the art of paper continues to thrive.
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