Neighborhood Outreach Part 2: Wandering Awareness Cards Tutorial

Sunday, September 22, 2013

I've a lot positive feedback from the wandering awareness cards I created to pass out to neighbors during trick or treating a couple of years ago.  A lot of folks have asked how to make them, so... voila! Here's a tutorial.

It's worth noting that, while the examples are tailored for an autistic child, they would be equally useful for notifying neighbors that your family has an adult with Alzheimer's at risk of wandering.

General Instructions
View or download a PDF of the basic instructions for creating wandering awareness postcards.

The rest of this post provides further explanation on individual aspects of the process.

Photo Editing
If you have Photoshop (or your image editor of choice) and know how to crop and/or resize a photo, skip this part.

If you have a friend with Photoshop willing to do you a quick and easy favor, skip this part and call them.

If you want to do it yourself and need an image editor, this article reviews five free image editing progams.

(Yes, your computer probably came with Paint and it will, technically, crop a photo.  But it offers no reliable way to crop to specific dimensions, so it's useless for this task.)

What you need to achieve:
1) A close up, straight on shot of your child with a clear view of their face
2) With unnecessary background clutter cropped out
3) Sized to fit in the postcard template (3" wide by 4.25" high)
4) A resolution of at least 300 DPI

Determine Quantity
The quantity of cards you want to print is a major factor in this decision - it's important to determine how many postcards you need before choosing a template and printing method.

For example, I knew I was only going to give them to neighbors close to us who I was on a first name basis with, plus a handful of close friends and caregivers.  I needed 20, tops.

If you are doing this to educate a larger group your child often interacts with (for example, a church congregation) then the minimum order requirements for most online printers will be less of a concern and may not impact your template selection.

Template and Printing Options
 Due to technology and vendor limitations, template and print method choice are closely linked.

Option 1: Use an online printing site's built-in templates

The advantage to this is that you don't have to have any software of your own.
The disadvantage is that - while many sites offer this feature - on most it's very low quality and a waste of your time.

Vistaprint is affordable, has a great selection of templates and a robust online design function.  This is the vendor I used the first time I did this project.  My only problem was having a lot of leftover cards because they require a minimum order of 100.

Option 2: Design your own card, upload design to online printing site

The advantage to this option is that you can choose a site that does not require such a large minimum order.  The disadvantage is that not everyone is comfortable using the necessary software.

Several years ago I happened to use the site Overnight Prints for something, so I went back to check them out.  While I cannot recommend their online design function, they offer a number of downloadable templates in all the major applications to make it easy for you to make your own card.  The best part is that their minimum order is only 25, which makes them ideal for this project.

This is the list of design guidelines for Overnight Prints templates - if you click on the program you'll use at home (probably Word) just click on it near the top of this page. This project is for a 4.25 x 5.5 postcard.

If you are not comfortable designing a card from a completely blank template, you can use this template I created using the Overnight Prints template and the content from my own postcard.

Download Wandering Awareness Postcard Template - Front (Word dotx)
Download Wandering Awareness Postcard Template - Back (Word dotx)

Please note - after creating the card in this template you do need to save it as a PDF prior to uploading for print. (All newer versions of Word have this option built in now.)

Option 3: Design and print your own cards

If you have a decent color printer and don't need too many cards, this can be a great choice.

Avery makes several printable postcard products for both ink jet and laser printers. The 4 card horizontal layout will work best for this project.

This is where you can download the free Word template for Avery postcards.  Though, you don't even have to download it if you've got Word - all the Avery templates are already built into the mail merge function.

I also threw together a quick version of my postcard template using the Avery postcard template in Word.

Download Wandering Awareness Postcard Template - Front (Avery 4 card horizontal, Word dotx)
Download Wandering Awareness Postcard Template - Back (Avery 4 card horizontal, Word dotx)

I did the front and back in two separate files because it's too easy to hit quick print and end up with fronts printed on one set of stock and backs printed on another.  This way you have to think about it and will hopefully remember to flip the stock over and put it back in the paper feed while you're opening the other file.

Best of luck with your wandering awareness postcards.  I hope you never need them.