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Guided Journal

Playing Guided Santa at Seattle Childrens Hospital

As some of you who follow me socially @GuidedStober and other, you may know that I have spent quite a bit of time at Seattle Children's Hospital with my youngest little girl Chase who is now 6.  Long story short, Seattle Children's basically saved her life....and we now spend regular time there with frequent appointments.  So we are forever in their debt.

That's why when I had the chance this holiday season to play Guided Santa it was so incredible.  While some might call it just the formal end of a different business we dipped our toe in at Guided, I liked to look at it as  a pretty sweet opportunity to give something an organization and for me personally since I am kind of the boss (who cares about the few meal and expense reimbursables I have, I get to decide where we give back to the community!!!! Whoo hoo!!!).

So anyway, in September we were sitting there with a bunch of unused, retail wrapped Made in USA and green toys, and other bigger kids items that I thought Children's would just loooooooove.

So with my trusted elf (Chase), I loaded up my sleigh (freight truck) with bags (pallets) of toys and made a trip to Children's to play not-so-secret Santa.

It was really a great experience and Chase could not stop talking about 'giving all the other kids toys' for weeks.

I absolutely love Seattle Children's so it was an incredible experience.  I / we are looking at playing a bigger and bigger part in our community in the years to come.

Happy Holidays to all - wishing all of Guided Nation an incredible 2015!


David & Chase

Happy to Support the Imagination Foundation and the Global Cardboard Challenge

This past Saturday Guided was lucky enough to support Seattle Cardboard Challenge which took place at the North Seattle Boys and Girls Club.  Erika Wagner, one of the events coordinators said the event was a huge success with over 80 kids and parents participating.  Inventing time machines, mobiles, castles, boats, suits of armor and small woodland creatures - all out of recycled cardboard and the kids imaginations (some of it from Guided's post industrial waste and spoiled inventory).

In the coming years we hope to play an even greater role in the event.  Who knows, we may even find our next great recycled and Made in USA product idea!!!!

Background on the Imagination Foundation and the Global Cardboard  Challenge

The mission of the Imagination Foundation is to find, foster and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in children around the world to raise a new generation of innovators and problem solvers who have the tools they need to build the world they imagine.

We were born out of the overwhelming global success of the short film, ‘Caine’s Arcade’. The film launched a movement to celebrate the natural creative talents of every child, and the Imagination Foundation was created to grow and sustain this movement.

To learn more about the Imagination Foundation and the Cardboard Challenge please visit their websites.  The really are a special organization and group of people.




Seattle, WA - September 19, 2014 - Guided Products LLC, a fast growing consumer brand, announces vertical integration through the acquisition of supplier Graphic Impressions NW, Inc., the Northwest’s premier print finishing and packaging firm.

Guided has leveraged Graphic Impressions as a core supplier over the past seven years, helping the company become the lead innovator and driving force in green and American made office and promotional products.  Through the acquisition, Guided will add deep manufacturing and product development capabilities, streamlining operations and allowing the company to quickly add innovative products and services in new categories.

Guided will expand Graphic Impression’s traditional finishing services for it’s commercial printers and other trade partners. “We’ve always relied on Graphic Impressions for world-class craftsmanship and a level of expertise that only comes from decades of experience,” said Guided CEO David Stober. “With our combined design and product development horsepower, we are now a true innovation and brand partner for trade printers and custom packaging clients throughout the Northwest and beyond.”
Since the acquisition, Guided has added personnel in graphic design, computer aided design (CAD), customer service, and fulfillment.  With the added capabilities, Guided will now be able to help it’s existing direct clients  innovative products and messaging to market faster, and with even greater brand and product visibility with services such as:

  • Rapid, one-off prototyping
  • Packaging design and testing
  • Low production runs without tooling
  • Litho and screen print finishing

Guided now employs 35 people, consolidated in Graphic Impressions 34,000 sq. ft turn-key production facility in Kent, Washington.

Guided is a fast growing, American consumer product brand and provider of speciality print and packaging services.  Guided manufactures and sells unique, American-made products and supplies directly to consumers and through various big box and online national retailers such as Walmart and Office Depot.

Serving the trade and print industry, Graphic Impressions NW is the premier packaging and conversion house in the Northwest. Through trade print partners, Graphic Impressions’ turn-key operation integrates full cycle packaging from design, through to production and fulfillment for the some of the world’s largest brands.

To learn more about Guided, please visit and join our community at, and

Xbox Poster Brings Roman Empire to Life

Inside Finishing Magazine Article

Dark and ominous, the poster delivers exactly the tone needed to whet the appetites of gamers... and even more important, potential buyers of the Xbox game.

 Published on November 22, 2013, by Microsoft Studios and developed by Crytek as an Xbox One exclusive launch title, Ryse: Son of Rome was praised for its cinematic recreation of the Roman Empire. Described as “an epic tale of revenge spanning an entire lifetime,” the game’s story follows the life of Roman centurion Marius Titus, from early childhood to becoming a leader in the Roman Legion.

Through the creation of realistic characters and employment of immersive storytelling, Crytek developers artfully plunged gamers into the chaos and depravity of the late Roman Empire, from the northern reaches of Britannia to the Coliseum and the very heart of Rome. The game’s breathtaking detail and larger-than-life cinematography helped to catch the eye of SIGGRAPH judges – an annual festival celebrating and awarding excellence in computer graphics and interactive techniques. Winning the prestigious SIGGRAPH award for Best Real-Time Graphics, Ryse: Son of Rome successfully brought the Roman Empire to life.

In order to capture that bigger-than-life feel, the game’s promotional materials needed to set the stage, and the Ryse: Son of Rome poster, finished by Graphic Impressions NW, rose to the occasion... literally! Rich in deep, multi-level embossing, the large, lifelike image of Marius Titus thrusting his sword in battle seems to jump right off the sheet. Dark and ominous, the poster delivers exactly the tone needed to whet the appetites of gamers... and even more important, potential buyers of the Xbox game.

Setting the stage

Graphic Impressions NW (recently sold to Guided Products and now operating under the name of Graphic Impressions – a Guided Products LLC Company) has developed a long-standing relationship with its local print customer (Leatherback Publishing of 20+ years) and Xbox, dating all the way back to the first launch of Xbox’s Halo in 2007. Along with that partnership is a more than 20-year relationship with diemaker Universal Engraving, Inc., Overland Park, KS. All three combined have developed a formula for repeated success in producing the giant, lifelike collateral posters and point-of-purchase displays that, in some cases, have become collector’s items over the years.

According to past Graphic Impressions Inc. Founder/ Owner Craig Robinson (who recently retired from Graphic Impressions NW as director of operations after 36 years in the trade), “The process starts with our customer letting us review the art and provide our recommendation on what we can do to ‘trick’ it out.” In this case, the natural choice was to use a register emboss, utilizing one large, detailed, fully sculptured brass embossing die. The idea was to bring the poster to life with as much rich dimension and lifelike detail as possible. “This time around, we decided not to use foil,” said Robinson. “Foil would not have added to the piece in this design.”

Graphic Impressions is a print finisher/manufacturer offering foil stamping, embossing, diecutting, in- house CAD and graphic design, along with steel rule diemaking, from its facility in Kent, WA. The company services printers, packaging houses, design- ers and marketing/branding companies, as well as manufactures Guided Products’ proprietary products.

At the start of the project, printed sheets were sent to the diemaker, Universal Engraving, Inc. (UEI), to ensure the digital files would fit the printed sheets. The printer was sent a CAD file for layout, requesting a 3.25" gripper margin to help with balancing the platen tonnage and to allow room for die lock-up. Robinson stressed the importance of specifying the gripper margin, saying, “I am sure many of my fellow finishers have had jobs show up from the printer with 5/8" gripper and all the extra paper at the tail of the sheet with no thought to the emboss orientation!” This small attention to detail before the job is printed can make a world of difference when in the finishing stage.

One of the real challenges with the project was the timeframe allotted by the customer – a mere three weeks from start to finish to produce the job, which consisted of four different game titles, each requiring its own 22.25x24" brass sculptured die. “Many design- ers do not understand that making a large sculptured embossing die is not like making a printing plate,” stated Robinson.

The posters, totaling 9,500 for each design, were part of demo (or media) kits that go out to retailers prior to the launch of a product. The finisher also produces

‘King Kong’ boxes – an STE collapsible box, printed and sometimes foiled and embossed. In this case, as with all Xbox launches, the customer’s deadline was firm as it was timed with other media marketing. “UEI deserves credit for the great effort the company continually puts forth in hitting its commitment dates, thereby helping our team to meet the tight deadlines,” said Robinson.

Bringing the poster to life

The sheets were printed on 26x40" 16pt CIS on a six-color Komori and then were UV-coated off line. Next, the sheets were register embossed at Graphic Impressions on a Brausse SBL 1050 SEF, with an embossed image area of 22.25x26", and then trimmed to a final size of 22x28".

One of the greatest challenges faced when embossing large images is getting the most detail from the die without cracking the stock. Successful embossing jobs can depend on several elements, according to Robinson.

“In large part, it’s about the die and counter,” he continued. “A beautiful sculptured embossing die with intricate detail and texture must be ‘bottomed out’ to pick up all the detail of the die. If the die has some areas that are engraved deeper than the stock can handle or the die is not properly ‘ramped’ to achieve the depth, the stock will fail and crack. If you reduce the pressure in that area to stop the cracking, you also will lose the fine detail and texture.”

Capping the die with Mylar will help with cracking, but can kill all the beautiful detail and texture that the diemaker worked so hard to put in the die – if not done correctly. Robinson also explained that another issue with some large dies is that large counters are more likely to have an irregular thickness, thereby producing hot spots that require additional makeready.

Preventing this from happening requires the combination of a well-crafted die and skilled press operators. “The real trick to running that large of a die on a 40" press when you are ‘tonnage-challenged’ (300 tons is not a lot of tonnage when dealing with a very large die) is to be sure you are not using tonnage where you don’t need it,” said Robinson. “We are very fortunate to have a very knowledgeable team of operators, several with over 26 years of experience. They are very skilled at using just the right makeready combined with just the right amount of tonnage to get the most detail out of the die.” Robinson stressed the importance of the relationship with UEI in working through the die depth issues over the many years of their partnership. He also pointed to the strong working relationship Graphic Impressions now has built with Leatherback Publishing and gave special thanks to owners Grant and Eric Cundy.

Producing eye-catching results

The company’s skilled craftsmanship is evidenced by a long history of producing superior game-launch posters for Xbox – posters that have been catching the eye of gamers across the nation and around the globe!

Besides embossing, ink over holographic foils is another popular print enhancement feature used on the promotional game posters. “Incorporating ink over foil is much more striking than the use of ink over holographic board on most images... and it’s cheaper in most cases,” stated Robinson. “However, there are times when ink over foil board is the better option, such as when vignettes are involved and there is no clear line of delineation.”

Ryse: Son of Rome also drew attention in the recent Foil and Specialty Effects Association (FSEA) Gold Leaf Awards competition where judges honored Graphic Impressions with a Gold Award in the category of Best Use of Embossing with Print. “This award means a lot to our team as it comes from our peers and fellow craftsmen,” stated Robinson. “Thank you, FSEA.”

In the end, the game’s breathtaking detail and cinematic recreation served as the perfect inspiration for the award-winning Xbox promotional poster – bringing Marcus Titus to life in realistic, three-dimensional form.

Credits: Inside Finishing, August/September 2014

August 01, 2014

1 Comment

What size font should I use on business cards?

A customer wrote in with a great question today and I thought I'd share it here for the benefit of everyone designing their own business cards.

I need to have business cards produced and was wondering about any font size/weight considerations that I need to be aware of while designing the cards. 

- Scott

There's no hard and fast rule about font weights. For example, Stonewood Spa uses a logo that has their 'boutique and apothecary' tag line as part of their business card mark. 

You'll see that it is a bit lighter than you would chose for perfect legibility, but it is readable and it maintains the visual and messaging continuity with their other marketing materials.

The contact details, on the other hand, stand out nicely against the brown craft. This happens to be a 7.5pt Myriad Pro Bold, and I think you could safely use a Regular or a slightly smaller font size.

What do you think? 

Welcome to the New Guided!

At Guided we have been head down, working hard at building the Inspiration Marketplace. Today we are excited to announce that we are launching our... View full article →

Free Shipping and Lower Custom Print Minimums

We would like to introduce everyone to Jeff - our amazing Print Manager at Guided who touches nearly all of the custom imprinted jobs we do. Don't let the youthful face fool you... View full article →

Quick and Dirty Product Photography 101

product photography kit
With the proliferation of Instagram everyone thinks they’re a photographer! Just take out your phone, snap a photo, add a filter and presto. But photography is an art form. Especially with products where you have to capture the look and feel of your product. Great product photography makes people imagine plucking the product right off the screen. But you’re not a pro! And that’s okay. You can still take beautiful product shots with some basic tools. Let us lay it on you.



product photography kit a good camera

THE ESSENTIALS: A good camera.

Not your regular point and shoot. Invest in a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR). There are plenty of great entry level cameras that won’t break your budget. Tripod. Steady your shots and have uniform photos at the same angle for each product.


product photography kit lighting

Let there be light, light and more light.

If you’re on a tight budget and happen to live in a sunny area (aka not Seattle) you can get by on natural light through a window. Otherwise buy a decent budget light kit that include 2-3 lights with stands and umbrellas. Background. A neutral background works best for products. Seamless paper rolls can be a bit expensive, but a worth while investment. Budget options are project poster board or foam board.

product photography kit - clamps 


Keep your paper where you want it with some grips/clamps of some sort. Photo Editing Software While expensive, Photoshop is a powerful editing tool for those who know how to use it. Not to worry, there are also free programs available that range from being super simple to as advanced to Photoshop. COPY CAT: Are you eyeing our photo studio? Here's the breakdown of where you can purchase everything:

And there you have the basic recipe to great product photos. Just add some basic photography know how and you're set!

Glancing back and looking forward: Becoming the Inspiration Marketplace™

creating the inspiration marketplace

2013 was another incredible year for Guided.  The quick and dirty - we added more products and more shelf space and experienced continued growth online and direct.  Selling more Made in USA and eco-friendly products to moms buying school supplies, architects designing the worlds most efficient buildings, artists, educators teaching about sustainability, bands giving us joy, photographers sharing life, and our beloved nonprofits saving the world.  The economic and social result - more Americans employed and less overseas plastic and vinyl in our landfills.

All off this is fantastic and we couldn’t be more proud of our employees and partners, and also our customers who cared enough to either find us for the first time or stay with us. But enough of that, let’s get on to the fun stuff: the creation of the Inspiration Marketplace™. Guided will become a  place for discovery and inspiring creative.  A place to see what’s possible.  A vision for what can be. The reason is simple.  There is no monopoly on creative energy and inspiration.  Whether you are a fortune 500 company, a small business or an individual consumer, you are entitled to great design and the tools required to create it.  So here is what we are going to bring you in 2014 and beyond:

  • More great Made in USA and green products
  • New broad consumer categories of products
  • Expanded custom packaging services
  • A marketplace for our designer community to sell their goods and services

How are we going to do this you ask?  Well, we are going to do this by leveraging our experience as a Company, transforming a cute green operation in a garage to a mature organization with infrastructure, scale and relationships.  Continuing to offer one-of-a-kind products.  By building technology and systems for consumers to discover creative and then sync their teeth into their own design.

At Guided we believe life is too short for ordinary. We’re really excited to start bringing great design to the forefront, and I hope you’ll join us in celebrating the humans behind the design.

Realistic Resolutions


great resolutions

The New Year’s Resolution struggle is a real thing. Not even just maintaining it, but coming up with a realistic resolution. Are you tired of watching your friends check into the gym on Facebook for the 5th time this week? Or seeing a million posts of the different salads they’re consuming for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Time to go beyond the stereotypical choices. Fear not, we’re here to help. Let us throw some ideas your way to inspire you in the new year!

Be a better you. There’s no one like you… well, unless you have a twin, then there’s someone eerily like you. Nevertheless, it’s important to take the time to reflect on your life and your personal happiness. Believe in yourself more. Become more aware of bad habits you should break. Cheer yourself on with your good habits.

De clutter your life. Let’s start with those pesky paper phone books. Do you still get them? Visit or for Canada: and OPT OUT! Then recycle the stack that’s gathering dust in the corner. While you’re at it shred old bills you don’t need and toss those in the recycle bin too. Throughout the year whenever you come across an item you haven’t used or touched in more than 6 months, it’s time to put it in a bag to send off for donations. Then you can feel better about yourself and your more open living and storage space.

Unplug and explore. We know the glowing screen beckons your stare, but when your joints start to ache and you can’t find a comfortable position to sit in, it’s time to unplug. Stepping away from technology and taking a short walk outside will get your blood moving again. There’s probably a part of your neighborhood you haven’t even seen. Go forth and explore it.

Hobbies. Pick that one thing you said you were always going to learn or try or do and in the words of Nike, just do it. Easier said than done of course, but that’s why you find a common group of people to motivate yourself into doing said thing. Websites like are perfect for finding your niche and sticking to it. If you’re up for the challenge, enroll in a fun community college class—belly dancing, underwater basket weaving, bowling. Chances are you’ll stick with it after forking over the tuition fee.

Smile more. This one should be easy as pie! You’ll be amazed at how your day can turn around if you smile more. Positive thoughts are contagious and before you know it, you aren’t forcing that grin.

Move. This is a simple version of the standard resolution of exercising, which may be a daunting task to some. Forcing extra movement throughout your daily routine is a perfect way to easily exercise your muscles. Park further back in the lot not only lessens the chance of dings on your car, but gives you a short walk. Live on the 3rd floor of your apartment? Take the stairs, it’ll be faster than the elevator anyways.

Connect to your inner kid. Blowing bubbles, cartwheels, building forts, board games—things that are still as fun as an adult. Give it a go. Who says kids get to have all the fun?


celebrate success


Be a foodie. Next time you’re wandering the aisles of the grocery store and you go “What is that?”—get it. Starfruit, Green Tea Kit Kats, Rhubarb. Now is the time to expand your palate. Better yet, make it a gathering and wrangle your friends over to taste test with you.

Drink more water. Simple. Buy a large reusable bottle and never leave it more than 5 feet away from your person. You’ll easily quench your thirst more if a bottle is within reach.

Pay it forward. The news has been filled with random acts of kindness recently, but YOU can be a part of that story. Take the time to see those around you, and if someone is in need, act on it. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive—you can donate blood, volunteer your time, or toss your extra change to a charity every time you have it. Turn your good thoughts into action. We challenge you to choose one or more of these resolutions, you’ll have an awesome 2014 guaranteed! Unless you’re a Broncos fan ;) *knocks on wood* #GoHawks

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