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Inkd logo.png
Type of site
Key people Kelly Smith, Kristoph Cichoki-Romanov
Commercial yes
Registration Optional
Launched March 23, 2009 (2009-03-23)

Inkd is a controversial new startup developed by Kelly Smith of Curious Office and the venture capital firm Second Avenue Partners in Seattle, Washington. Inkd calls itself the "World's First Market for Original Print Design". The company is a user-generated marketplace that provides the general public with a way to buy and sell print designs such as brochures, pamphlet, business cards, letterhead, postcards, menus and other common print form factors used in global business. Inkd is based in the old Pioneer Square, Seattle area.

The site follows in the tradition of a user-generated content marketplace, in that they provide graphic designers with free personal storefronts where they list their designs for sale in an attempt to earn commissions.[1] Businesses are able to download the contributed brochure and business card templates in a variety of file types for use in popular design and publishing applications.

Inkd has been compared to emerging microstock photo sites such as istockphoto as well as other graphics oriented sites like logoworks which was acquired by Hewlett Packard in 2007.[2]

Founded in 2009 under the name Pressplane, Inkd launched with an estimated 800 original designs, and has since grown to nearly 2000 template designs. The model is based on users who can preview and then download those designs and customize them once they have completed the purchase. Prices vary from $29 to $99 per design. Most print designs are primarily available in vector graphics programs such as Adobe Systems InDesign and Illustrator but the site also accepts submissions and offers templates for download in other formats such as Apple iWork and Microsoft Word.


Inkd was conceived and developed by Curious Office and Second Avenue Partners and is one of several companies in their portfolio. Inkd was capitalized with a $1.7 million Series A venture round on September 23, 2008 by Second Avenue and an unusual but broad cast of well known digital luminaries to include founder of Expedia and Zillow, Rich Barton and former MTV & Viacom President Mika Salmi.[3]

Kelly Smith developed the initial concept which closely mirrors another company he co-founded called Imagekind with Adrian Hanauer who is an owner in the professional soccer team called Seattle Sounders. That company was the first online marketplace to buy and sell art prints. It was subsequently sold to CafePress in 2008. The basic functions of Inkd and indeed its graphical look and feel closely mirrored the first version of Imagekind when it was launched in July 2006. Interestingly, the company was often called "The CafePress of Wall Art" well before CafePress chose to buy the company for themselves.[4]

While Inkd sells flyer templates, newsletter templates, brochure templates, letterheads, business cards and post cards, the blogsphere is already drawing parallels to CafePress again and even to the popular Threadless tee-shirt market.[5]


As a major player in the microstock game, istockphoto made a lot of enemies in the pro photo market when it launched. For similar reasons, not everyone is happy with Inkd. Design purists, for example, see organizations like Inkd threatening the livelihoods of graphic designers. "This is the future of the print industry, people. It's not a happy place", wrote one blogger.[6] Indeed, there has been much writing about the great microstock debate. Have Microstocks hurt stock photography? It depends who you ask. Jeff Howe of CrowdSourcing wrote an interesting dossier on the matter.[7]

Crowdsourcing in general hadn't really been tried before in the world of business graphic design but some still consider the effort too close to "spec work". Speculative presentations were originally made by large advertising agencies in an effort to woo potential clients. The agency would design an ad (or campaign) and pitch it to a client that they wanted to work with. This was done in order to convince the client to sign a long-term contract that would result in work for years to come. While these agencies did not bill for the actual spec work, their contract billing would factor it into the cost.

Today, companies like CrowdSpring allow users to post certain projects from which they would select from published designs that were posted by the very designers who are willing to risk not getting paid if they were not selected. In the purest sense, Inkd doesn't accept requests for designs so the closer corollary and debate will still be more like a typical marketplace of items for sale such as Etsy. Yet, posting doesn't mean you'll get paid. In the case of Inkd the contributing designer stands to earn 20% of each sale.

On the other hand, few small and medium businesses are likely to have time or budgets to justify every marketing project that requires graphical services. Search, purchase, and licensing processes have been simplified for buyers in that any user who purchases a design is free to adapt the work. Inkd has waived the usual finder’s fee if a buyer opts to work with a designer to further customize a submitted design.[8]

In this sense, Inkd will continue to be a polarizing entrant in this new era of user-generated graphic design. Whether it is better for graphic designers and businesses alike is yet to be determined.


The most prevalent type of products sold on Inkd are of single-sheet brochures, bi-fold (a single sheet printed on both sides and folded into halves) and the tri-fold (the same, but folded into thirds). A bi-fold brochure results in four panels (two panels on each side), while a tri-fold results in six panels (three panels on each side).

Other folder arrangements commonly found in business print are not available on Inkd to include the accordion or "Z-fold" method, the "C-fold" method, etc. Larger sheets, such as those with detailed maps or expansive photo spreads, are folded into four, five, or six panels. These also do not seem to be supported by the company.

Business card templates, letterhead, menus, postcards, flyers and datasheets are available for download. The site accepts design submissions that were authored in programs such as Adobe Systems InDesign, and Illustrator, Apple iWork, CorelDraw, Microsoft Word, Photoshop and QuarkXPress.


  1. ^ Dudley, Briar (2009-03-23). "Kelly Smith unveils Inkd, an online print and graphics market". Seattle Times. Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  2. ^ Wauters, Robin (2009-03-23). "Pressplane Breaks Out Of Stealth Mode With A New Name (Inkd) And A Solid Product". Techcrunch. TechCrunch. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  3. ^ Nicole, Kristen (2008-09-23). "Imagekind founder raises $1.7M for another marketplace". VentureBeat. VentureBeat. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  4. ^ Cashmore, Pete (2006-07-25). "ImageKind Launches - CafePress for Wall Art". Mashable. Mashable. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  5. ^ Etherington, Darrell (2009-03-26). "Inkd: A New Marketplace for Print Design". WebWorkerDaily. WebWorkerDaily. Retrieved 2009-03-26. 
  6. ^ Jeffries, Joshua (2009-03-23). "Inkd: More fuel for the Print is Dead fire.". OnDesign. OnDesign. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  7. ^ Howe, Jeff (2007-11-21). "Have Microstocks Hurt Stock Photography?". CrowdSourcing. CrowdSourcing. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  8. ^ Russell, Terence (2009-03-24). "Inkd Opens for business-minded creative content". TechNews.AM. TechNews.AM. Retrieved 2009-03-24. 

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