National Stationery Show 2014:
Our Booth

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

It’s the end of July and another month has flown by. It’s been a busy summer here at These Are Things. We have been so busy that I’m now more than a little behind on writing about our experience at the National Stationery Show. (Oops!)

Today, I’m excited to share the next installment in our NSS 2014 recap series. Read on for a full tour of our booth, along with a peek at some new pieces that will launch later this year.

As I mentioned earlier, we upgraded to a 10’ x 20’ inline booth. Our goal with this expanded space was to design a gallery-inspired display that showcased our expanded range of wall art and stationery. We also wanted establish a clear walking path through the space.

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

The solution was a more complex floor plan than last year’s design. By playing with the shape of the booth, we were able to split the space into clearly defined zones. This added complexity definitely made the construction process more challenging, but we found that the end result was well worth the extra effort. (I’ll share more details about our design, construction, transportation, and assembly process in a future post.)

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

Similar to last year’s booth design, we built a small wall facing the aisle. We used the space to highlight one of our favorite new items: a new style of custom map prints.

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

Two flags hang from either side of the booth to increase visibility from down the aisle. This is one of my favorite details!

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

Here’s a closer look at those new custom maps. They’ll be in the shop this fall along with an expanded range of personalized map options. (I was going to say summer, but let’s be real. With how quickly this year is going, summer will be over before we know it.)

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

This custom built feature wall showcases all of our new greeting cards.

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

Narrow floating shelves are built directly into the wall and seamlessly transition into our main gallery wall.

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

Gallery-inspired title cards display pricing and other relevant information.

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

Our gallery wall features some of our favorite bestsellers as well as a bunch of new work. We’re playing with a few new formats, including fancy wall scrolls. They’re one of those projects that have been on the to-do list for a few years, so it’s exciting to see them finally coming to life.

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

A low, gallery style bench added seating and helped direct the flow of traffic within the booth.

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

You can see more of our new wall scrolls and continental maps here. We had so many new things that it was impossible to show them all one one wall, even a big wall like this one.

On the right side of the booth, we carved out space for a 4-foot long counter. The idea was to create a separate “checkout” area to finish the experience. The flow of traffic through the booth naturally ends up here, where buyers can help themselves to a postcard or stop for a quick chat.

This arrangement worked perfectly, making us accessible to our visitors without awkwardly hovering in the corner of the booth. I could easily get up to help a buyer while Omar stayed at the counter to take orders with our fancy iPad-powered point of sale system. Of all the improvements we made at this year’s show, the counter was one of the most functional.

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

Behind the counter, our original Modern World Map hangs proudly. This custom gold leaf frame matches the slat wall. (Of course!)

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

For our giveaway item, we wanted to do something inexpensive and fun. When we stumbled across this vintage coin operated vending machine at a flea market earlier this year, we thought it would be the perfect addition to our booth.

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

We filled it up with 1” pinback buttons. It worked about 50% of the time, adding a little gambling-style thrill to each turn of the handle. Along with the vending machine, we displayed some simple takeaways: postcards, business cards, and stickers.

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

Dropping in a coin is half the fun of a vending machine, right?

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

And here’s some of the buttons you could get from the machine. There were a bunch of different designs, including a few rare cat heads. We’re thinking about offering some pin sets in the shop eventually. Who doesn’t love pins?

Next, I’ll show you how we built this beast by hand, stuffed it in a U-Haul van, and reassembled it in a significantly smaller space than expected. It’s always an adventure in the Javits Center!


National Stationery Show 2014:
Our Second Year

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

After five whirlwind weeks of post-show madness, we’re finally getting a chance to sit down and write about our second year exhibiting at the National Stationery Show. It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole month since we were standing in our booth at the Javits Center in New York. Time flies when you’re printing, folding, and framing all day!

Fortunately, the delay in posting means good news: the show went really well. Since our van rolled back into Ohio at the end of May, we’ve been busier than ever, shipping These Are Things goods to new retailers around the country – and even a few around the world. We’ll be introducing you to all of our new stockists over the coming months.

During our week in New York, we also had the chance to meet a bunch of our blog readers in person, which is always fun. Big thanks to everyone who stopped by to say hello! We were blown away by how many of you read last year’s extensive recap of our first trade show experience. A few first-time exhibitors even mentioned that our posts armed them with the extra knowledge they needed to tackle the show this year, which was awesome to hear. 

We promised that we’d write a recap of our second year at the show, so let’s get to it! From our super-sized booth to changes in our product line, we have a lot to cover. This week, we’ll be sharing all the details of our experience exhibiting at the 2014 National Stationery Show, including:

  • The results of our first trade show and the strategic changes we made for our second show
  • A photo tour of our new-and-improved booth, including a preview of new products that will debut later this summer
  • How we designed, built and transported our booth
  • A detailed account of how much money we spent (and where we saved)
  • What we’ve been doing in the weeks after the show – and what’s next

Let’s get started by reviewing what happened in the twelve months since our first show and what we chose to do differently the second time around.

National Stationery Show 2013: The Results

Our very first trade show booth: completed!

Above: Our first booth at NSS 2013

After exhibiting at the National Stationery Show for the first time in 2013, we walked away from the experience with one big question: was it worth it? A successful trade show is about more than the money, but it’s no secret that these shows require a significant up-front investment to participate. After the show, we were eager to find out when (or if!) we’d see a return on that investment in our first year.

I’m happy to report that in the twelve months following the show, we did make back the money we spent to exhibit in 2013. In addition to the sales, we also saw the following benefits:

Established ourselves. We’ve been working in this industry for nearly five years now, but we’re new on the wholesale scene. Exhibiting at the National Stationery Show gave us the opportunity to introduce ourselves and our company to a new audience, most of whom were not previously familiar with our work. For those who had seen our work before, the show was a chance to prove to them that we’re a “real” company that is capable of exhibiting at a show of this caliber.

Opened new accounts. During the 2013 show, we wrote orders with a number of new boutique retailers, most of whom have reordered a number of times throughout the last year. We also scored our first large national account, seeing our products land in over 80 Nordstrom stores as a part of their 2013 holiday pop-up shops.

Licensed our work. Thanks to connections we made at last year’s show, we’ve started to explore opportunities to license our illustrations. Last summer, we inked a deal with a calendar manufacturer to create a new style for national distribution in 2015. (The samples arrived last week and they’ll be in stores this fall. See what I mean about trade shows being a long-term investment?)

Connected with press. After making connections with the press in 2013, we’ve been featured in each quarterly issue of Stationery Trends magazine, saw our work land on countless NSS roundups, and wrote a guest post for the official National Stationery Show blog.

Learned a lot. For better or worse, exhibiting at NSS in 2013 highlighted weak spots in our business. As a result, the past twelve months were spent restructuring our operation to strengthen those weak points and increase scalability. Without the added pressure of a trade show, we might never have discovered these parts of our business that weren’t working at 100% efficiency.

National Stationery Show 2014: The Plan

These Are Things at the National Stationery Show 2014

Above: Our second booth, new and improved for 2014!

After learning so many valuable lessons in 2013, we knew we wanted to go back to the show in 2014 and put them into action. Here are a few of the biggest changes we made for our second year:

Went big. The biggest change we made was the most obvious one: we upgraded from a 10’ x 12’ corner booth to a 10’ x 20’ inline booth. There were many reasons for this change, and it was an expensive choice to make (double the square footage = double the booth fee!), but the bottom line is that we needed more wall space to showcase more art. We’ll talk more about our booth design later this week, but overall we’re happy with the decision to go bigger.

Did it ourselves. In 2013, due to space and time restrictions, we hired out many parts of the booth construction process. We paid a company to build and install our hard walls and used a third-party fulfillment company package and ship all of our orders. This year, we were able to do it all ourselves, gaining more control over the final product and saving lots of cash in the process.

Cut corners. Since we didn’t know what to expect during our first year, we ended up going overboard in many areas that didn’t matter as much as we thought they would. As a result, thousands of dollars (and about 900 catalogs) were wasted. This year, our goal was to make some conscious cuts. By eliminating unnecessary expenses, we were able to save ourselves a lot of time and money while putting together an even more impressive display.

Listened to feedback. After taking all of our customer feedback into consideration, we spent the winter in the studio making changes to our line. This year, we offered more customizable options and more cards. From our product to our booth layout, we designed the entire experience with the customer’s perspective in mind.

Changed our expectations. Above all else, our experience exhibiting at the show last year helped us revise our expectations for this year. Trade shows are a long-term investment. It’s all about establishing yourself as a reputable company with a consistent presence. This year, our main goal was to show up with a super-impressive display and tons of new work. Anything else beyond that would be a bonus.

Next week, we’ll walk you through our new and improved booth design, complete with lots of photos and a peek at some of the new products that we’ll be adding to the shop later this summer.

If you have any questions about the world of trade shows, please feel free to leave a comment below! We’ll answer as many questions as we can throughout the week (and beyond.)


Our Next Big Project:
2014 National Stationery Show Sneak Peek

These Are Things at the 2014 National Stationery Show

I’m writing this from the front seat of a U-Haul van, heading east on I-70 towards New York City. (Don’t worry! Omar’s driving.) Things have been quiet around here lately, but we are alive and well. Ever since we got back from speaking at Pioneer Nation at the end of March, we’ve been working nonstop on our next big project: exhibiting at the 2014 National Stationery Show.

This will be our second year exhibiting at the show. Last year, we wrote extensively about our experience as first-time exhibitors. We learned a lot and we’re excited to put those lessons into action during this year’s show.

These Are Things at the 2014 National Stationery Show

Over the past six weeks, we’ve been building our booth by day and designing new products by night. It’s been a challenging process, but in that time we’ve created more new work than we have in the past four years combined. We have a lot of new things to share, including some pieces that have been sitting in our “in progress” folder for years. It feels pretty great to finally see them hanging on the wall.

These Are Things at the 2014 National Stationery Show

Once we’re in New York, we’ll spend two days setting up our booth before the show opens on Sunday, May 18. We’ll be at the Javits Center every day through Wednesday, May 21. After the show, we’ll be sharing all the details about our preparation process and how it all came together. In the meantime, here’s a little sneak peek of our booth. Check back at the end of May for a full recap of the experience.

These Are Things at the 2014 National Stationery Show

If you’re visiting the Stationery Show, be sure to stop by booth number 1633 and say hi! You can also follow along at home on Instagram (@TheseAreThings). I’m really trying to be better about using our These Are Things gram… but no guarantees.

See you at the show!


Pioneer Nation 2014:
Just Say Yes (To A Free Print)

It’s been an incredible couple of days so far at Pioneer Nation. Yesterday morning, we took the stage at Pacific Northwest College of Art to give a short talk about our journey and the power of saying yes.

Pioneer Nation 2014 by Armosa Studios

We’ve been busy connecting in the offline world (gasp!) so there will be much more to say about our time in Portland soon. For now, we want to give our new Pioneer Nation friends the opportunity to snag a free print of our Just Say Yes slide. You know, the one with the X’s.


To grab a free print, just send us your address and we’ll deliver it straight to your doorstep in a couple of weeks. If you’re more digitally inclined, you can also download a couple of phone and desktop backgrounds here:

iPhone 4 background
iPhone 5 background
Desktop background

We’ll be back in a few days with a full recap of our (awesome!) time here in Portland. Big thanks to all of our new Pioneer friends. Keep in touch… and don’t forget to say yes!

J + O

Update: Wow, you all really like free stuff! Signups are now closed. If you signed up for a print, it’s in the mail. Enjoy!


Los Angeles Weekender’s Guide

It’s been a long winter for us here in the Midwest. Fortunately, we were able to get a brief escape from the freezing temperatures a few weeks ago. When we heard about even more snowfall coming our way at the end of February, we decided to take a trip to Los Angeles to escape for the weekend.

See ya, polar vortex! Next stop: somewhere a little warmer...

Both of my sisters are lucky enough to live out there in the land of 72 and sunny, so it was really nice to visit them as well. Here’s a few highlights from our travels that might help anyone else out if they plan to visit LA.


Also, moon rocks

We got into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) at around 10:30am. We rented a car which is almost 100% recommended. Even though the weather is super nice, LA is not known for being a very walkable city. Be prepared for some slightly aggressive driving and traffic at pretty much any hour of the day.

My sister, Neelo, was working so we decided to get some lunch before heading over to her place. We got food at a great spot named Forage in Silver Lake which had really fresh, clean, locally grown food. My sister met up with us at the restaurant and then we followed her back to her apartment in Los Feliz to drop off our backpacks.

It was a beautiful sunny day and after three months of snow, slush, and clouds, we wanted to be outside! Neelo took us to nearby Griffith Park where we hiked all the way up from the bottom of the park to Griffith Observatory. It was quite a climb, but it felt great to be in the sun.

At the observatory, there was a mini-NASA exhibit where we got to touch an actual moon rock and try on a space glove. We walked around the observatory a bit before beginning our treacherous descent down the trail.

We cleaned up a bit and got dinner at another nearby restaurant called Home. My other sister, Mariam, joined us. The food was good, but the fun outdoor atmosphere was even better. After all the hiking and all the food, we were beat and called it a night.


Enjoying the sun in LA for the weekend! Spotted a pair of These Are Things originals (circa 2010) at Kid Firefly in Venice yesterday. What else should we check out while we're here?

The next day, Jen and I headed out on our own. We drove down to Venice to check out all the shops on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. We browsed so many well curated and designed boutiques, including the beautiful paper goods shop Urbanic which stocks a few of our prints and cards. We even saw a couple of our first prints displayed in a children’s shop Kid Firefly.

When it came time for lunch, we saw a large gathering of people outside of a place called Gjelina. We always take that as a good sign and we are usually pretty patient line-waiters. After putting our names down, Jen decided to get a juice from a food truck called Juicebox. The food at Gjelina was 100% worth the wait. It reminded us a lot of some of our favorite restaurants we went to in Brooklyn.

After eating a bit more shop browsing, we drove to Santa Monica to pick up some film my sister had developed and then headed back to our home base in Los Feliz. We relaxed for a bit and then headed out for drinks and dinner. Drinks were at a bar named The Churchill which also conveniently had a vintage dip-and-dunk photobooth (Jen and I are trying to start a collection of photo strips). Neelo said we had to have some authethic Los Angeles sushi so afterwards we went with her and Mariam to Izaka-ya in West Hollywood. Definitely no California or Philadelphia rolls here. We got plate after plate of incredible food and then headed back home.


Park life

After getting some coffee and tea in the morning with Neelo at Broome St. General Store, Jen and I were on our own again. We headed to downtown LA where we went to the highly recommended Poketo Store. I picked up a cool planner and a beard comb. We walked around a bit more and had to duck into Handsome Coffee Roasters to do some quick revisions for a freelance illustration. Afterwards, we drove a bit North to check out Mariam’s apartment in the Echo Park neighborhood.

We got another fresh and healthy lunch, this time at a lunch spot called Lemonade (we all also got delicious different flavored Lemonades). We checked out a few antique and made in LA furniture stores including a wild place called Early California Antiques. I almost walked out of there with a full suit of samurai armor. We drove along the winding roads of Silver Lake for a while before chilling at Echo Park Lake. The paddleboat lines were too long but it was fun looking at all the dogs and ducks roaming the park.

We dropped off Mariam and then headed back to Silver Lake to check out a few more shops Jen had on her to-see list. We stopped in to a very expensive furniture store called Lawson Fenning, a modern design and gift store Yolk, and a lady-bag store Clare Vivier.

We rested up at Neelo’s place after our extensive travels and then headed out for a romantic dinner at a small plates restaurant: Animal. We were again reminded of some of our fun nights out in Brooklyn with the amazing food and ambiance.


Had to touch the water

We woke up early(ish) to check out the weekly flea market Melrose Trading Post. We saw some great furniture and knick knacks that we wanted to bring home but that probably wouldn’t have fit into our carry-on luggage.

Afterwards, we visited Neelo at Poinsettia Park where we watched her and her recreational girls basketball team, The Pistol Shrimps, do their weekly practice. At the practice we had our only two LA celebrity sightings. First was Aubrey Plaza (of Parks and Recreation) who is actually on my sister’s basketball team and second was this crazy drunk guy who heckled and sang “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” during their entire practice. They all (minus the drunk) went to pizza and milkshakes after basketball, and Jen, Mariam, and I went to The Hart and the Hunter for some insanely good brunch.

We parted with Mariam and explored a bit more for our last day in LA. We drove all the way to Malibu which didn’t seem too far on our map, but with the traffic took us forever. We barely made it to the beach before sunset. We walked in the sand, put our hands in the water, and watched the sun set on our little vacation. We drove out of Malibu and tried to find the Bachelor mansion but it was too dark and wooded so we just headed back to Los Feliz.

We had our final meal which had to be Mexican food at Malo where Neelo introduced us to the wonder of “chewy” tortilla chips. I also tried, unsuccessfully, to get my sisters to eat flan. After that, it was time to pack up and head back to Ohio.

After a few weeks back in the deep freeze, we’re already missing the warmth and sunshine. We’re already planning a return trip! Anywhere else we should check out the next time we’re in southern California?