John Keefe: inktree and Information-Product Packaging and Design

Inktree is a Virginia-based packaging company that focuses on the educational and publishing industry.  What I like about inktree, in addition to its environmental practices, is that it is borne out of a desire to design information products according to how people actually want to use them. Intelligent, informed design is something to which education has traditionally paid very little attention. John Keefe, CMO of inktree, is a member of the “Higher Education Management Group” on “LinkedIn.”

KH: Let’s start with the basics: what does inktree produce, and who are currently your largest customers? 

JK: InkTree creates and manufactures proprietary designs for educational and instructional consumer packaged goods, sustainable packaging, automation rate qualified mailers, and instructional inserts. Our consumer packaged goods focus on alternatives to traditional learning and instructional formats, like books and board games. Our formats are great for classrooms and formal education, and they also provide tremendous improvement to any “how-to” instruction which requires the use of two hands (for example: cooking, music, DIY, exercise, corporate/employee training, crafts, hobbies, auto mechanics, medical training, etc).

Currently our largest customers are Alfred Publishing (the global leader in educational music publishing) and Carson-Dellosa (a brand leader in educational publishing, whose product line includes classroom decorations; supplemental books for math, science, social studies, language arts, & early childhood; pocket charts; games; and much more for preschool through the eighth grade).

KH: What are inktree’s origins? 

JKInkTree was formed by myself and Eric Braun; two childhood friends who have always shared the entrepreneurial spirit.  We formed the company around our first product – THE BIG FOLD (where Fold is an acronym for Fold-Out Laminated Display).  THE BIG FOLD is 3 products in 1: it’s a 3-pocket folder, a gigantic dry-erase wall poster, and self-supporting triangular table tent.   

The product was born out of need. My brother and I were trying to learn how to play music together and we grew increasingly frustrated with having to flip pages back and forth in our instructional music books.  We were not good guitarists and were annoyed with having to continually take our hands off our instruments.   Enter SHREDHED, the first application of InkTree’s BIG FOLD technology, which allows musicians to play a song from start to finish without ever taking their hands off of their instrument to flip pages. SHREDHED is great for collaboration or jamming with friends and fellow musicians.  SHREDHED is the recipient of the coveted “Best in Show” Award from NAMM, the most prestigious organization of retailers and manufacturers in the music industry.  SHREDHED’s unique combination of innovation and quality education renders it a remarkable product for experts and amateurs alike.  

KH: As display technology improves, and more education moves online, the role of paper-based products will certainly change. What do you see as the future role of paper-based educational packaging?

JK:  We see “functional packaging” as the future of paper-based educational packaging.  For example, our product the ISE PACK (which stands for PACKaging Innovations for a Sustainable Earth) is a “green” alternative to traditional packaging for CD/DVD products. The ISE PACK is not only “green” because of the method and materials used to produce it, but it’s packaging that provides real utility to consumers beyond the point-of-sale. The product eliminates the need for a secondary instructional insert and is something that consumers keep as a handy how-to guide, rather than simply throwing away the packaging.

Our packaging, mailers, and instructional pieces are made of 100% recyclable FSC (Forrest Stewardship Counsel) certified stock, and are intelligently designed to offer real benefits to the consumers and publishers of digital media. Consumers receive the benefit of a superior instructional format and therefore a speedier learning curve for the media they’ve purchased. In the case of music, movies and educational applications, the consumer may simply get a neat decorative, collectible, or instructional wall chart. The ISE PACK is a tremendous branding piece for publishers and a handy instructional piece for consumers/students.

Posted in: Business Models

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