QuarkPromote.com: A Needed Solution, or Unwelcomed Competition for Designers?

Quark made a big announcement yesterday about a new service that connects small businesses with printers. It’s called Quark Promote www.quarkpromote.com and here are the details:

  • It doesn’t replace a designer. It provides professional templates to small businesses so they can create their own small projects — projects that professional designers don’t make a profit on, such as business cards, postcards, and brochures.
  • If a client doesn’t see a template that works for them, they can hire a designer from Quark’s directory. The directory will be available in December, but designers can apply for membership now under “Professional Designers using QuarkXPress 8”  at the bottom of the Quark Promote home page.
  • A future planned feature is to allow designers to create templates and upload them, similar to how microstock image services work.
  • The service is Web-based, but it downloads an application to the client’s computer to edit the templates. This removes the limitations imposed by browser-based editors, such as those from all other online template services.
  • The template is downloaded to the client’s computer, so they can work on it even when offline.
  • The application is Windows-only for now. Its interface will be familiar to Microsoft Office users. A Mac version is planned for early 2010.
  • QuarkXPress is not required at all.
  • Hundreds of templates are currently available, for business cards, postcards, brochures, coupons, flyers, letterhead, envelopes, data sheets and appointment cards.
  • Templates can be searched by industry. Currently, they are:

  • Templates include professionally-written copy, stock photos, and color themes.
  • Templates may be customized in several ways: the text, the fonts, the images, and the color themes. 20+ fonts are included for use, but clients may use any font on their computer. Hundreds of free stock photos are included for use in specific industries, but clients may use any image on their computer. Dozens of color themes are included, so one is likely to match a business’s identity.

  • Clients may print their completed items in two ways: either “by mail” through Quark’s printing service or by a local printer. Clients can search for local printers by zip code.
  • Printers may sign up to be included at QuarkPromote.com for free, under “Quark Alliance Authorized Output Providers” <http://quarkpromote.quark.com/neighborhoodprints.aspx> at the bottom of the home page.
  • Quark makes money on the service by getting a cut of the printing revenue back from the printers.

Here’s what I think:

  • According to Quark, there are more than 25 million small businesses in the U.S. alone, and most of them simply cannot afford the services of a professional designer. QuarkPromote.com offers a much more professional and customizable result than other Web-based printing services.
  • I’m really not concerned about this service “taking away business” from designers. Yes, many of these small projects are currently being handled by designers, but unless their clients have deep pockets, the amount a designer can charge for such a project makes these kinds of projects unprofitable for a professional designer.
  • On the other hand, if a designer is marking up print jobs for a profit, they lose this opportunity with Quark Promote. But… how much can a designer possibly make from small business projects such as these? With the low-volume printing likely with a small business, I’m guessing not much — and that’s probably eaten up by time taken to communicate with the client.
  • Quark Promote may even drive new clients to designers. Imagine a small business looking through the templates at QuarkPromote.com and not finding one they like. They look through the directory and find designers in their area who may then develop a relationship with that client — a client that may grow into a much larger business. I don’t know of any other service that is actually driving work to designers.
  • When Quark gets their system set up to allow designers to upload designs for sale, this could be a profit center for designers. If nothing else, a designer could upload a template for their existing small business customers to use, and eliminate the time-sucking order process necessary each time the client wants a revised project.
  • Clients don’t need huge, expensive software to edit these professional templates on their computer, and can work with a local printer. Small businesses want both of these things.
  • Yes, the software is Windows-only for now, but (according to Quark’s surveys) most small businesses use Windows. With a Mac version promised for early next year, Quark Promote will reach the small businesses that are
  • more aware of the value of design in all things — including their company’s appearance.
  • Quark will no doubt upgrade the website and editing application in the coming months, so they can adapt to requests (or rejections!) from customers. And since Quark isn’t limited by Web browser abilities, their desktop application could evolve into, well, anything.
  • This will benefit local printers, possibly immensely. According to Quark, the Web-to-print business is currently a $17 billion industry and growing, and all the profit is going to the printing companies behind those businesses. QuarkPromote.com will drive some of that profit to local printers.

Of course, only time will tell. The printing prices when ordering directly from Quark’s “by mail” printing service seem to be in line with other Web-based printing services, so customers will definitely find them competitive. The system is easy, the templates are professional, and the ability to edit templates on the client’s desktop (without an Internet connection) will be valuable to some clients. Also, the text included in the templates was written by professional copywriters and much of it may be suitable as-is for many clients. Other services do not offer professional copywriting.

From my perspective, this is a great advancement in the printing and design worlds. It solves several problems (unprofitable design jobs, Web printers taking business away from local printers, and designers looking for new clients) and gives clients higher-quality designs and editing capabilities than previous Web-based services have offered.

What do you think?