Paper Review

By The Drum, Administrator

June 18, 2003 | 8 min read

elmwood's work for Curtis Fine Papers

Sitting at desks covered with various paper brochures, leaflets and press releases it has now become pretty obvious to most of us that the paperless office is never destined to happen. Email and the internet will not kill off paper as we know it, which ultimately means that paper companies are still furiously trying to out-innovate their competitors as Katy Archer discovers.

Pick up any fashion magazine at any time of the year and the pages are awash with what will be the new style for the next season. Whether brown truly is the new black, or how to wear that mock eighties taffeta skirt, fashions change from season to season, with all issues being expertly covered in the monthly glossies.

Fashion connoisseurs are quite a demanding lot when it comes to what they expect from their latest designer garb. So too are designers when it comes to choosing the right paper stock to print either an annual report, a company brochure or even a piece of stationery upon.

However, whilst designers are demanding more from their paper as technology increases, what they are getting in return is helping to quench their thirst for something entirely new and refreshing.

Designers are always looking for that little bit extra when it comes to choosing the right paper stock. And, as Stuart Gilmour of Stand points out, that extra mile normally comes down to the age-old adage – expense: “I suppose when it comes down to it, what we are always looking for is the best price in paper supplies. We are looking for a range of good quality paper, that is specific and appropriate for the type of job we are doing, and that the price matches.”

Daniella Oberti, marketing coordinator of paper sellers Fedrigoni agrees with this sentiment, although she does insist that the quality of the paper needs to be a constant factor: “Papers need to work much harder for clients; they should give improved results and greater efficiency regardless of a print run. Designers are continuously looking at paper that adds value for clients, they want to get better responses to direct mail campaigns or have more self-appeal in packaging produced.”

Karen Batley, brand manager of Curtis Fine Papers, is aware that price will always be a concern for both designers and clients, although agrees that the quality of the product should be paramount: “Price is one issue for designers that does come up. But the argument that we always give to the designers, and I am sure they will use it with their clients too, is that if they use cheaper paper then, ultimately, the product will look cheaper too. The quality of paper is a noticeable factor and the print quality is affected by it too.”

Whilst price might be the underlying factor of many a company in this recession-driven economic environment, Natasha Hornsey, national manager of Robert Horne, is keen to point out that the range of paper is always going to be dictated by what is, literally, in Vogue at any given time. Hornsey commented: “One thing we notice is there are a lot of pastel colours coming in this year. Our industry is normally dictated by the fashion industry – you’ll notice in the shops at the moment that it is all pastel and flowery – and that is being reflected within our industry, too.”

Marketing manager of Howard Smith Paper, Sam Findley, is all too aware of the demands of designers. However, Findley insists that Howard Smith is more than capable of working with designers to meet these needs, “Designers are always looking for new and innovative papers on which to present their work to the best creative levels. In order to meet the varying requirements, as a supplier, we have to offer an interesting mix of products that encompass a wide variety of finishes – from intensely smooth papers, to uncoated and volumetric grades, to textured finishes and environmental products. It is important that the very best quality products are sourced, which is why we make it a priority to work in partnership with major producers.”

Designers are the first to experiment when it comes to the types of paper to use, and for Graham Sturzacker, design director at Elmwood in Edinburgh, there is a real variety currently available: “What we are finding at the moment is that we are veering away from the uncoated stuff and are using different sorts of paper instead. We still do use uncoated work, but are also trying to go for something more unusual, for example using laminated and shiny paper instead.”

Designers appreciate the work that has been put in, says Gilmour, but at the same time he is first to point out that designers are not necessarily the most loyal of customers. He commented: “There is a tendency these days for things to come and go out for fashion. For example, I think that these days uncoated paper is the fashionable thing to use. Designers can be very fickle when it comes to paper and I suppose the paper merchants have to be able to reflect that.”

At Fedrigoni, one of the company’s main aims is to teach designers the variety of paper that can be used for any one product, says Oberti. “Fedrigoni would like to ‘educate’ graphic designers to think in a third or fourth dimension, not just two. This is done via seminars held at Fedrigoni UK head office in Northamptonshire and at designers’ premises throughout the UK.”

She continues, “Those seminars are also targeted at helping printers to be more effective with choosing their communication medium.”

Designers and clients need to be aware of the paper they are using and what they are using it for, insists Hornsey. She believes that this is a key element in getting the most out of the paper company and what they can actually do for the client. Hornsey commented “There have been a couple of trends over the past few years. The first thing that we have noticed is that people are using coated paper an awful lot more for things like brochures and annual reports. But designers and clients need to be careful and aware of the type of paper that they are using in terms of images and reproductions and the way they react on specific sorts of paper.”

“Our company, I suppose, is slightly different as we specialise purely in uncoated paper. There is a trend at the moment for high white super smooth paper,” says Batley. She continues, stating the changes that have occurred in recent years: “Companies are also becoming more environmentally friendly, and in turn designers and clients are too. We are also trying to promote the message that uncoated papers aren’t bland, and that we offer a variety of uncoated products that are just as effective as coated.”

Whilst there has been an e-boom of sorts within the design industry in particular, paper manufacturers are quick to point out that this is far from the end for their industry. Says Batley: “In terms of the e-boom – I myself know that when I get e-mail marketing campaigns I also want it to be followed up by something on hard copy. I think that it is all too easy to delete an e-mail, and without follow-up there really is no point.

“Clients are also aware that paper is a better option in terms of assuring the company’s security. Clients are aware of the perils of forgery and, by having stationery with watermarks, it ensures that fraudulent acts will not happen.”

Findley concurs, insisting that paper will always be in demand, regardless of any technological revolution that is happening, “The e-revolution certainly provides an additional platform for advertising and promotion but there will always be a need for paper. Designers will always be requested to produce paper-based collateral for clients simply because to produce a tangible, tactile piece, there is no alternative to paper. The fact that our product portfolio in this area continues to grow is evidence itself that paper is a medium for expression and is a vehicle that differentiates printers and designers in an increasingly competitive environment.”


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