Posts Tagged ‘design’

Viz Series: What is Visualization?

February 27, 2013

In this three-part series, we’ll find out how visualization plays a crucial part in making your favorite Zazzle products and learn more about some of the mystery members of the Viz Team.

Every day on our site, people are zooming in on their one-of-a-kind iPhone case to get their initials just right, they’re designing the perfect slogan on a fitted t-shirt for their favorite pooch and they’re transforming their gorgeous wedding photos into a wrapped canvas work of art.

There’s much more that goes into making it all happen than meets the eye. The technology we use is completely novel — to make that bright red “Keep Calm and Om Nom Nom” mug you’ve been pining for, it needs to be rendered virtually, as though the mug were already sitting on top of your kitchen table. While your mug doesn’t exist (yet), you’re able to see just how it would look, as if it’s already been manufactured. Without our technology, you wouldn’t be able to make your perfect product — exactly to your personal specifications, just how you want it.

Om Nom Nom Mug
Om Nom Nom Mug by carryon

You have Zazzle’s Visualization Team (or the “Viz Team,” as we affectionately like to call them at Zazzle) to thank. Though they tend to hang out in a dark room, questions about who they are and what they exactly do became so numerous (and so pressing) that we decided it was time to shed some light on this team.

We cornered some members (they don’t put up much of a fight) and got the download on visualization (or as much as they could tell us without giving away all their secrets).


Visualization at Zazzle can best be summed up as the perfect blend of engineering and art. The team uses proprietary technology and computational photography to make it easy for anyone to upload an image, make design tweaks, and see a product as though it’s already made. Users and sellers don’t have to know anything about 3D modeling — that’s why we have the Viz Team around. The Viz Team is responsible for making it look all too easy.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 1.50.53 PM

Product Magic

A lot of the magic happens when they gather information about each and every product before it launches on our site. Products and samples are examined to see what areas can be customized and where designs can be printed. When they talk to product manufacturers, the Viz Team gets manufacturers to help specify design areas (which later become your design areas on our site).

After they nail down that info, they prep the product samples for a photoshoot — much like for real-life human models or starlets, except the products don’t demand bottled water or take calls from their publicist.

“Special” Photography

Once the Viz Team figures out what one can actually design or make on the specified areas, they take a photograph with “special cameras.” This process is meant to help you: it gives consumers and designers a way to look at the product and see exactly where the design could go once the product is on our site. For more complex products, the team will actually go the distance and build 3D models.

On Site, Ready to Customize

Through “special image processing,” the team locates the design area for the product and then the product goes on our site for your customization.

Once it’s on our site, the product is ready for your designs (using our nifty design tool.) A lot of people don’t hit “the plus button” (shows the high art view of the product), which gives you the precise field of the area that you can design. This makes the Viz Team sad.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 1.44.41 PM

More fun facts: the red dotted line is called the “safe area,” or the area where the image is guaranteed to be printed, the “black area” shows the actual size of the design area, and the “the bleed area,” or red solid line, allows for extra jostling when the product is actually made, so you won’t get uneven spaces of white on your product.

Next up, meet some of the members of our Viz Team. 

Customized School Merchandise Now Available on Zazzle

December 4, 2012

Zazzle has partnered with Louisiana State University, Stanford University, Tulane University, University of California Berkeley, University of Florida, and University of Missouri and is now offering customized merchandise.

Now fans of all ages can connect with their favorite school and purchase customized merchandise online. By giving you the power to create unique products and gifts instantly, you can achieve a whole new level of interaction with your school. Customizable merchandise includes messenger bags, water bottles, cases, invitations, mugs, and much more.

For example, an alumni could purchase a product with a specific class year, undergraduate major, or student organization. Now alumni, family members, and students all over the world can create and buy customized merchandise for their school. Perfect timing for gift ideas for the recent college grad who is proud of their alma mater, or the alum who gets nostalgic for the college days.

Stanford Tree Graduation Alumni Pride Canvas Bag
Stanford Tree Graduation Alumni Pride Canvas Bag by Stanford

You can easily choose your own design and select specific products to customize. Products are instantly and accurately visualized on the Zazzle site and offered in the Zazzle marketplace. Each product is made on-demand, when ordered, typically within 24 hours. Time to get shopping!

Seller Spotlight: TDSWhite

November 8, 2012

Matthew and Trevor are the dynamic duo behind one of Zazzle’s most popular stores, TDSWhite. Specializing in awesome holiday products and all things classic weddings, they’ve been selling their creations on Zazzle since its early days. Trevor has a background in photography and design, and Matthew has the writing chops, which is put to good use copywriting descriptions for their products.

If we had to describe our style, we’d say it’s timeless, classic and long-lasting. When we’re focusing on designing Zazzle custom postage or wedding products, we’ll make sure to include a beautiful white gown, flowers that don’t go out of fashion (like roses) or popular colors for the season.

We’re especially proud of our Zazzle custom postage for the holidays, which incorporate winter scenes and snowflake patterns. They’re a hit with customers. As for weddings, our background in floral photography helped us design successful products. We started out with Zazzle custom postage, and as more products were added, like invitations or towels, we adapted our designs to fit the products.

One of our biggest pieces of advice when designing for weddings is to pay close attention to color in your products. We try to keep our designs timeless, but we also pay attention to popular colors for each season. The color selection for wedding products in the fall and winter is different than spring and summer. There’s more earth tones, bright oranges and reds. As you go into winter, cool colors like blues, greys, bright red and white are popular all the way through the holiday season.

As if creating and designing on Zazzle isn’t enough to keep Matthew and Trevor busy, Matthew is also a screenwriter & novelist. Trevor designs all of his book covers. Check out their work at Matthew’s website:

Silent Night Christmas Postage Stamp
Silent Night Christmas Postage Stamp by TDSwhite

It’s Election Day

November 6, 2012

Votes are being cast today at the polls for this 2012 election (if you still haven’t voted, go out and vote!), and everyone’s eagerly awaiting each state’s results.

It’s been a hard-fought battle on both sides. No matter what your stance, everyone can agree that if you’ve already cast your ballot, the election is mostly out of your hands at this point.

While you’re waiting for the big outcome, check out our store with Creative Allies that’s recently launched. Creative Allies is a design contest engine and social media campaign platform for crowdsourcing designs. This year, Zazzle partnered with Creative Allies to reach out to their artistic community and gather submissions reflecting people’s opinions around the election. It’s no surprise that with an anxious election season and record-low public approval ratings, participants were feeling some political angst.

We received over a hundred submissions (even some internationally) featuring a wide range of designs and political positions, and we’ve showcased some of the best here. These amazing designs from submissions can be ordered on our election merchandise, such as posters, t-shirts, stickers, cases and mugs.

Also, check out all of the entries for our contest on Creative Allies’ main site.

Optical Illusion Shirt
Optical Illusion Shirt by creativeallies

Seller Spotlight: Little Prints

October 25, 2012

An avid artist since the age of 2, Little Prints spent most of her free time as a child drawing and painting. After focusing on art in high school and attending an art and design college in NYC for advertising and packaging design, Little Prints soon found herself interning for a well-known beauty company. It was there that she realized that she enjoyed designing kids’ items after having worked on products like bubble baths, holiday gift boxes and lip balms. When she had her first daughter, Little Prints decided to leave the corporate world and go into designing for babies and children full-time.

It’s all about the cute factor – a special touch that brings my designs to life and gives them personality. This can be a bow on a girl monkey’s head or a sweet, smiley face. I love designing invitations, party supplies, nursery art and I strive for a style that’s modern, colorful and adorable. Finding inspiration is easy. Being a mom to my own children, I keep my eyes open when I shop for them in clothing, bedding and toy stores.

The focus of my business is mostly baby showers, birthday invitations, party décor and nursery décor. My favorite events to design for are children’s birthday parties. For me, conceptualizing a new theme and designing all the matching items is just too much fun. Once an invitation design is done, I usually do a printable party pack with matching thank you cards, stickers, gift tags, banners, cupcake toppers, candy bar wrappers and water bottle labels.

My best-selling holiday designs are my winter and candy penguin designs for baby showers and birthdays. This design is my biggest seller – it usually starts selling in September and orders continue all throughout the winter.

Winter Wonderland Penguin Baby Shower Invitations
Winter Wonderland Penguin Baby Shower Invitations by PoshPartyPrints

I love knowing that my baby shower designs are being used to decorate a shower or that my nursery art is hanging in a baby’s room. Customers have emailed me photos and it amazes me to see the creative things that they do with my designs.

Designing for babies and children never feels like work for me. There’s a huge market for baby shower and birthday invitations and there are many themes I haven’t gotten to yet that I look forward to designing. Being an illustrator with a background in graphic design, this area allows me to create cute animals and characters in bright, fun colors and have so much fun doing it.

Where to find Little Prints

On Zazzle: little_prints, LittleBabyBundle, littleprintsart, poshpartyprints, polkadotpapershoppe, trendytotshop, simplymoderncards

On Facebook

Nautical Whale Boat Nursery Wall Art Name Print
Nautical Whale Boat Nursery Wall Art Name Print by LittlePrintsArt
Spring Butterfly Flower Girl Postage Stamps
Spring Butterfly Flower Girl Postage Stamps by little_prints
Mod Pink Elephant Custom Baby Shower Invitation
Mod Pink Elephant Custom Baby Shower Invitation by little_prints
Create your own custom invites at

A Visit to SJSU

December 15, 2009

There’s a lot of super smart people working at Zazzle.  Many of them attended Stanford or Cal, but there are other schools represented.  I did my Master’s in Human Factors and Ergonomics through the excellent program at San Jose State University, while still working my day job.  My advisor while there was Dr. Anthony Andre, and he recently invited me to come back and talk to his current crop of students about what I do at Zazzle and how I have put my degree to use in the “real world”. As someone who moved from User Interface Design into Product Management, I have a somewhat non-traditional job for a Human Factors degree.

Last month, I visited the SJSU ISE 290 class and talked about Product Management, User Interface Design and how these roles fit in at Zazzle.  And, of course, I presented a few case studies about how good interaction design benefits Zazzle customers.

Mike T at SJSU

Mike T presents to ISE 290 class at SJSU

Some things that we discussed:

1.  Product Management 101:  look for problems and create solutions, don’t make a solution and look for a problem it might solve.  At Zazzle we’re always striving to solve problems for our customers.

2.  Talk To and Listen To your customers.   This is important for UI Designers and Product Managers.

3.  How UI Designers work with Product Managers

4.  How UI Designers make excellent Product Managers

5.  Case study: Zazzle Product Page re-design.  More on that in a future blog post!

And just to show that Zazzle has something for everyone, even User Interface Designers, here’s a few related products

Fitts Law T-Shirt

UI Designers have to remember Fitts' Law!

UXWear T-Shirt

User Experience T-Shirt

Requiremens Mousepad

Requirements gathering is one of the first steps in the process


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