Bespoke printing – Taylor’d Press

Published:  August 19, 2011
Sam West
Bespoke printing – Taylor’d Press

There’s a great scene in American Psycho where Patrick Bateman shows off his new business card to some of his Wall Street trader buddies. He slaps the new card down on his desk expecting everyone to be blown away by its tasteful bone-coloured stock and ‘Sicilian rail’ lettering. “It’s very cool, Bateman,” says Patrick’s friend, placing a practically identical card next to his, “but that’s nothing.” Patrick’s card keeps getting upstaged until he ends up stewing in a sweaty, murderous rage. I’m pretty sure everyone ends up dead. The scene is funny (and more than a little creepy), but it has a point.

Business cards, especially for those in the design industry, are much more than a scrap of paper with contact information; they’re entire vessels for identity. They’re going to be pulled out of wallets and studied, so it’s not enough for them to just look good; to really impress they have to be immaculately constructed by a printer who really knows what they’re doing. One such printer is James Taylor of Taylor’d Press. Brendan McKnight (desktop’s editor) and I decided to visit Taylor’s studio in Richmond, Melbourne to find out how, in an industry that seems to be rapidly shrinking, Taylor’d Press has become one of the most sought printers in the country.

James and Kirsten Taylor

The first thing that strikes me when I get to the studio is the sight of a little girl tearing about the place on a Razor scooter. “That’s Madison,” explains Taylor’d Press production manager and James’ wife, Kirsten. “It may not look like it, but she’s home from school sick.” Madison spends the rest of the interview either watching LEGO movies or painting pictures to show her mum and dad, clearly loving the opportunity to spend the day at her parents’ work. It’s not hard to see why: the Taylors are unflinchingly passionate about their job.

“It’s pride in what you do,” says James. “You’ve got to treat every job the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cheap job or if someone’s spending $1000 to $2000 on it. If I can’t print something, I’ll tell them to buy someone else’s prints, because I’m too scared of faults. I cut things down a certain way. I’m maybe a little bit too anal about it actually, but at the end of the day it’s your name on the door.”

So where did this passion for taming ‘big grumpy’ printing presses (most of which went out of production shortly after World War II) come from? “My grandpa was a printer, so it’s in the blood I suppose,” he speculates. After doing a four year printing apprenticeship for a bigger company back in 1992, Taylor put a printing press in his parents’ garage and worked on his skills from there. Now he and Kirsten almost have more jobs than they know what to do with. “Sometimes we get so busy, I sort of want to say to Kirsten, ‘Let’s just turn the website off for a little while’,” he laughs.

Still, he says the industry has changed significantly since he first started out. “In this area (Richmond) there used to be five printers and now there are only two,” he explains. “When I first started, you’d be doing just about any job. You’d be doing local pizza shop menus, you’d be doing your nice elegant business card, the whole lot. Then High Street printers gobbled up all the instant printing. That made the industry smaller; then pdf and technology and digital presses just made it smaller again. I guess you do everything, until eventually your niche is found for you or you find your own niche.”

For the Taylors, that niche has tended to be projects for architects and designers, who really seek out that extra attention to detail. Interestingly, they say they didn’t specifically set out to attract this kind of clientele (they’ve never advertised); rather they just spent many years letting the work speak for itself until all business card fetishists knew their name.

“James and I really pride ourselves on getting people to make an appointment, come in and discuss the work,” explains Kirsten, “especially because cards seem to be getting a little bit more complicated than they used to be. It’s just good to have people completely confident about what’s happening. It can interrupt the day quite significantly, but it’s really worth it in the end.”

“Even if they don’t end up getting the work through us, I don’t mind,” adds James. “I’m not being arrogant or anything, but I just want to help them, because there’s nothing worse than getting work back from the printers and it’s just not right.”

The pair has even gone the extra mile of creating calendar guides that answer and demonstrate some of their most frequently asked questions about offset printing, like ruling and line thickness. “We’re try to take people’s questions and put them into a visual form,” says Kirsten.

This willingness to discuss the finer points of each printing job with clients has obviously helped spread the Taylors’ reputation around the design community, but more recently they’ve found Twitter has been acting as a kind of virtual word of mouth.

“Twitter’s a funny thing,” says Kirsten. “We originally got into it because we’ve got a 13-year-old daughter who wanted to follow her favourite pop stars.” Now, along from the pleasure Kirsten gets from reading Lily Allen’s tweets, she says Twitter has become an important part of Taylor’d Press’ business identity. “We recently had a problem with a foiling job, which we knew our customer wasn’t going to like,” says James. “So we called the foiling guy and he [said], ‘Ooh, is it really that bad?’ And I had to say, ‘Listen, these guys are on Twitter, they are mates with this person and that person, if we stuff it up, people are going to know’.”

Do the Taylors have any further advice for printers hoping to build up some success? ”Stay print size small,” says James. “The problem is if you start changing the business that you are, then you won’t get renowned for what you do, and you could easily damage what you’re good at.”

From desktop magazine.

Photography: Vlad Savin

One Response

  1. I love everything about print and would probably keep doing it to some degree even if I did not get paid. I do find it difficult, though, to compete in an industry where everyone wants to undercut each other, especially online printers like Vistaprint, how do we compete against that? I have a similar philosophy to the Taylors about helping others out even if it means spending a little extra time with them. Making people happy is more important to me than the money that is to be made. Business cards, for me, are the first point of call for most printing jobs the flow on after that is a bonus. I do all the design in house and outsource practically all of the printing work. I support local business where I can but it is getting harder and harder to compete. It is always good to have allied printing business to fall back on and Taylor’d press could be a great ally to have.

    All the best to the Taylors, wish I had even just a little of your success.

    Kindest Regards
    Matthew Smith
    Mouse Matt Creations

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