Artisan State Review: 6-months later

Following from my initial comprehensive review of Artisan State, I decided to see whether my initial experience differed to the current day Artisan State. Six months can be a long time for a company; workflow and processes may have evolved and their supply chain may have changed significantly. Due to the popularity of my first review of their products, I decided to try it again.

This review will cover the following areas: (1) design process, (2) ordering process, (3) price, (4) quality, and (5) delivery.

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1. The design process

I have only used Artisan State once. I used InDesign to design the spreads and uploaded the entire spread to its servers. This time round, I decided to try a different method. I used their online design tool.

I have access to fibre internet with fast upstream. I selected my entire high resolution 3GB gallery and uploaded it. It uploaded without a single error. Smooth as silk. Awesome.

The next task was to design the album using Artisan State’s provided online templates. This was my first time attempt and to my surprise, I picked up the process quite quickly. I was very impressed with the logical steps to design each double-page spread. I first selected the number of images that would be used, then I would select how many of these images would be in landscape or vertical orientation. Brilliant!

Because I am very used to InDesign, I found the available templates offered by Artisan State to be limiting. I suppose I have a way to let my images flow across each spread and Artisan State’s design tool didn’t allow for much variance. If you have ever come across design tools such as Smart Albums or AlbumStomp, then you will know that one can choose from many templates for each number of image configuration. And then, one can swap each of the images around the page in different permutations. With Artisan State’s online tool, I couldn’t find a way to do so. Similarly, and also quite disappointingly, I was unable to increase the zoom of any images within their aperture. This was quite frustrating. Perhaps I am missing something very obvious.

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Excluding upload time, I designed all 50-pages within a hour’s time.

2. The ordering process

From confirming the final design and layout to payment via Paypal, I couldn’t spot any difference between my initial experience to now. This is a good thing as ordering should be straightforward with minimal hoops to jump through.

FYI, I ordered a black leather cover book in a 8×11″ configuration. I chose thin pages on the lustre e-surface paper stock. I had a total of 25-spreads (i.e., 50-pages). I selected laser engraving for the cover and entered ‘STUDIOSAMPLE’ to receive a 50% discount. Because I am an impatient man, I went for priority DHL shipping (it was US $5 more than regular).

PS – this is a thin page. I personally prefer thin pages as thick pages add too much weight and bulk to the album.

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3. The price

The studio sample version that I created and ordered cost me US $101, shipping was $20, coming to a total of US $121. For a non-studio sample (i.e., if you were the consumer), you will be billed for US $222.

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Two-hundred and twenty-two dollars may seem like a sizeable chunk of coin to you, but for what you are getting, this is incredible value. Of course, value is a subjective derivative and your interpretation of value may differ significantly from mine. So allow me to discuss the quality of the tangible product in the following section.

4. The quality

The first 3 Artisan State books that I ordered stank of glue. It was not a pleasant smell. Thankfully, this one have a very mild adhesive smell. Unlike my first order, I actually did a proper design. That is, I maxed out the album at 25-spreads (50-pages) with layouts that I would typically do for clients. Therefore, the album that arrived was a lot thicker and more substantial than those that I used for my first review. I’ve got to say, my first impressions were positive when I tore away the DHL bag and unseal the album from its cardboard box. The black leather was thick (but not too thick). The pages were thin (but not too thin). The colour reproduction of the images on the e-surface paper was pleasant. The end sheets were glued well and the overall, it looked and felt good.

The laser engraving however, was not very elegant.

I noticed one issue with the printing. There was purple smearing on around the mid-line section. This occurred only once and it was for a black and white image. Other than that, I have not observed any other issues.

5. Delivery

I selected priority shipping. From upload to delivery by DHL, 4-days had passed. Ordered Friday, delivered the following Tuesday. An email is sent to you when the album has finished printing and has been electronically submitted to DHL’s database. This email hit my inbox early morning Sunday. There is no such thing as weekends off in China’s manufacturing industry. Similar to my previous order, the shipment originated from Shanghai, China. FYI, I am in Sydney, Australia.

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Even without the studio sample discount, at full cost, the 8×11-inch leather book is incredible value. It is far from perfect. Artisan State obviously has economies of scale and certain corners are cut in the quality of the materials used but overall, I think it will be very difficult to say that the album I received was not value for money. Their infrastructure allows for uninterrupted uploads to their servers, their supply chain allows them to churn out albums within 2-days and delivered in another two-three days. I cannot think of any other supplier that can provide this level of service. Admittedly, their customer service is probably non-existent, and for the price, I do not wish to ever have to give my hypothesis a test.

For the average user, Artisan State’s included online design workflow is a huge plus. Whilst their templates are somewhat limited, you should be able to find a template that works for you in most situations. From confirmation of ordering/payment and shipping, Artisan State excels at communicating that to you via email.

For professionals, Artisan State is a valid product to offer to your clients. However, know what market segment you are serving. Remember that Artisan State is available direct to the public and that its prices are very open. For this reason, be very careful of how you price your album.