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Wallpaper* magazine uses HP Indigo technology to let readers create their own custom cover designs


“We wanted to
give our readers a
chance to have a hands-on experience collaborating
with our brand.”

— Meirion Pritchard
Art director
Wallpaper* magazine

Beyond its cutting-edge editorial content, every element in Wallpaper* magazine is carefully considered. The weight of the paper, the matte feel, and each well-crafted image and typeface add up to the artful, modern aesthetic at the heart of Wallpaper*’s brand.

Quick Facts

  • Wallpaper* magazine let readers design their own custom covers for its August 2010 issue.
  • The custom covers were printed on an
    HP Indigo 7000 Digital Press.
  • Readers designed covers online and then received the magazine with their personalized cover in the mail.


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Wallpaper* magazine
But the international design magazine isn’t afraid to switch things up for the sake of creativity. For its August 2010 handmade-themed issue, Wallpaper* offered up its prime real estate—its cover—to readers, allowing individuals to design their own custom covers. Wallpaper* worked with print service provider F.E. Burman, who used HP Indigo digital technology and variable data printing to produce a unique cover for each subscriber. Reader-designers then saw their own cover art on the issues they received in the mail.

“It was a huge undertaking, and the results were miraculous,” says publishing director Gord Ray.

Numerous designers, singular quality

Rather than simply put the spotlight on existing handmade products, Wallpaper* seized the opportunity to do something far more ambitious.

The magazine commissioned unique, handmade items—everything from a sculptural watering can to a custom coffee blend to designs for an apartment building that’s also an urban farm. The staff paired designers with manufacturers to give both a chance to stretch their abilities. It only made sense to extend that collaborative spirit to the magazine’s readers.

Meirion Pritchard, art director at Wallpaper*, commissioned five graphic artists to design a palette of images, patterns, textures and words. On Wallpaper*’s website, readers could then combine elements from that palette to design their own covers for the August issue. Variable data printing with FE Burman’s HP Indigo 7000 Digital Press not only made that level of customization possible, but also ensured that each cover maintained Wallpaper*’s exacting standards for quality. Pritchard says:

Meirion Pritchard

“People had a lot of
fun with it and really used
their imaginations. When it
was printed, they had this
professional product
to show for it.”

One issue, 22,000 covers

Coordinating the designers and manufacturers for the products featured in the issue presented a huge logistical challenge, and the custom covers added another layer of complexity.

Wallpaper* had to involve staff from its subscriptions department, marketing, online security, publishing and fulfillment to ensure that each person who designed a cover received the right one in the mail.

That was complicated, to say the least, but Ray says the actual printing of the custom covers was easy. Wallpaper* used a traditional offset press for the bulk of the magazine, and the HP Indigo 7000 Digital Press to print 22,000 unique covers—2,000 designed by readers and 20,000 randomly generated designs.

“The quality was amazing,” Ray says.

That’s critical not just to Wallpaper*, but to its advertisers, who expect perfection when it comes to reproducing their brand image in the magazine. Pritchard says:

“There’s no room for error. It has to be perfect,
and it is. Looking at the color proofs, there is no difference between the digital and traditional prints.”

Just the beginning

The handmade-themed issue has received incredibly positive feedback from readers, advertisers, industry press and beyond. “It was even more successful than we anticipated,” says Ray.

Wallpaper* also produced custom covers for each of the brands featured in the handmade issue, and many of them have requested hundreds of additional copies for their own promotional use.

The seamless experience of producing customized covers and the high-quality results have led Wallpaper*’s staff to consider new ways to use digital printing technology in future issues.

Says Ray:

“We’re really trying to
bridge the gap - to play to the
strengths of both print and online.
Now that we know we can do that successfully, we’re looking at how
we can do something even bigger
and better next time.”

Gord Ray