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Started by brother and sister duo Alexa and James Hirschfeld, the two set out to create a new online service that has made online invitations better through design. PaperlessPost offers a well designed experience to create and manage tastefully designed invitations, including RSVPs and ticketing. Recipients get an envelope in their email that opens when clicked on, unveiling the invitation.

While not quite the same rush you get from opening a printed invitation, it's an improvement over the current click-to-disappointment of most digital invitations. The service costs a few cents per invitation, managed by buying books of "stamps," starting with 60 stamps (for 60 invitations) for only $5—which they remind you is more than $25 in actual postage.

PaperlessPost is still in limited beta, but Cool Hunting readers can both sign up now and start with a credit of 25 stamps for free (but you have to do so before 19 May 2009).

We sat down with Alexa and James and asked them a few questions about their new website (click on images for an enlarged view).

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Cool Hunting: I'm sure you and your brother had a lot of ideas when you started thinking about a company to start together. Why Paperless Post? Was there an "a ha" moment?
Paperless Post: There were a collection of "a ha" moments that lead to Paperless Post. Over the years there were a lot of things we started working on together (like a woefully unfinished screenplay), but this was the most exciting. The idea for Paperless Post was to take the customization and thoughtfulness of printed stationery, which most people only use once or twice in their lives for very special occasions, and make it available widely. We were inspired by the idea of beauty and good design being available to, hopefully, a massive audience.

CH: What's it like working together? How do you divide/share responsibilities?
PP: It's hard to imagine starting something with anyone else. Arguments happen, but they are great because they always lead to new insights. James directs the content (cards, motifs, fonts, overall aesthetics) and Alexa directs the user interface. We share the responsibility of directing Paperless Post's future and making the critical decisions that any business faces.

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CH: Many other sites have the same or nearly the same functionality—but good design and experience can make the same product seem entirely new. What role has design played in the development of Paperless Post?
PP: Good design is the operating principle of almost everything we do. In many ways it drives not only our product line but also the technology. We could never compromise on design, so we've ended up finding and partnering with talented developers and business people who can bend and innovate to fit the needs of the product.

As for the aesthetic, we hope the look of the product is fun and original. A lot of the designs are reflective of our own taste and personalities—a mix of modern and classic. We are making room for more irreverence, but we started out with the basics—beautiful cards, motifs, and fonts that people have never been able to experience online.

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CH: Digital invitations are easier, faster, less expensive and obviously great for the environment. When do you think printed invitations are called for?
PP: We're seeing many users use Paperless Post for weddings and surrounding events, so we don't really know anymore!

CH: You're just getting started with the site and obviously it will evolve over time. What are some of the things you're looking forward to doing with it? Will people be able to upload a photo or a logo for their invites?
PP: You guys are good at this…there will be a few surprises in the coming months (people should sign up now!). Logos are our next feature, because we've found that our users are really excited by that. At this point we have a core group of dedicated early adopters that we communicate with closely and they have helped us pave our way. Photos should come around the end of the year. At this moment in time, we're really focused on being the best possible application for creating customized online stationery (invitations and announcements).

CH: What's the most interesting thing you've learned about starting Paperless Post?
PP: Execution is more important than an idea.

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