The online generation. Full of Internet-driven businesses, paperless offices, hands-free communication, e-marketing, think-before-you-print, hot-desking, plastic money, podcasts, webcasts, weblogs and downloads. The touchy-feely world of paper is in danger. Emails instead of letters; online annual reports and brochures. Magazines have to be there too... Heck, we even get our daily fix of news from a flatscreen rather than a crumpled newspaper. Paper has lost its relevance in the 21st Century. Or so some people would have you believe.
But has it really? Who wants to drudge through an online report, unable to mark the relevant sections and filter the crap? Who really trusts the internet when it comes to making a purchase? Who would really rather sit on a train scrolling down feature after feature, story after story on a PDA rather than flicking the pages of a magazine or newspaper?
Despite the internet’s rise and rise, the use of paper is still vitally important in our day to day lives. Like a security blanket keeping us warm from the chill of the cold practicality of the new digital age.
In the world of communication, where the consumer has been isolated in the constant stream of information bombarded at them by companies and governments, the warmth gained from the right, relevant communication is more noticeable now than ever before. To give that warm touch of reassurance, to lure in the consumer, the feel of the communication must lure the target to the matter. Sometimes literally. For that reason, the importance of paper – or should that be the importance of the right paper – in communication has never been more fundamental. Here, The Drum talks to a paper buyer and a paper seller to ask just why the right choice of paper is so important.
In any design for print project, paper is an essential element and can often make or break a job. From rich, intense colours and luxurious textures, to sumptuous pure cotton fibre, sparkling metallics and porcelain smooth whites, the correct choice of paper can add impact and vitality to your printed communications making them stand out in a crowded marketplace. Think about how many 'glossy brochures' are out there and then try a different approach; choosing a coloured paper and printing a contrasting single ink colour, or using fine graphic techniques such as foil blocking and embossing or even traditional printing like letterpress and die stamping - these can often turn a mundane piece into something quite stunning!
Another important consideration to be made is the mailing of your communication pieces. Investing in beautifully designed brochures or other items of collateral such as invitations and then sending them out in a plain white or manilla envelope can dilute the whole effect, or worse remain unopened! For little extra cost a coloured or textured envelope - and these can be tailored to fit your brochure size, in very small quantities – can set the mood to perfection, increasing the appeal to your prospective audience. Research has shown that investing in fine paper stocks can positively influence the response to a mail-shot by as much as 46 percent, so not only are you making your message look wonderful, you are making a very smart business decision.
How important is paper as part of the design process? For me it’s as important as any other part of it and something I’ve always enjoyed working with. Most printed matter has to be picked up and held and how a document feels to the reader undoubtedly conveys quality, even on a subconscious level.
As long as there's quality in the stock, I pretty much like them all, uncoated and coated; I think the appropriateness of their use is what's important. I’ve seen some fairly average work really improved by a good choice of stock and similarly many good pieces of design ruined by a poor quality sheet.
Sometimes when I begin a project, paper - along with format - are the first things I think about. I’m lucky enough to work with a group of people who share my enthusiasm. In our studio it’s part of the culture to discuss the use of paper as much as any other part of design. We have loads of bits and pieces of work in the studio that people have found and kept simply because they liked the paper it’s printed on.
As with all aspects of our work, I think the best way to get the right result is to take a considered and appropriate approach. Some cover and textured stocks are really beautiful, but finding the right use for them requires a little bit of restraint. There are of course other aspects to consider, less obvious but just as important. Such as how does the sheet handle large areas of solid colour? If your job features detailed photography, how will that reproduce on the paper you’ve chosen? And of course there are the environmental concerns.
Last year we were asked by Curtis Fine Papers to produce the new book for their recycled range, Conservation. For me it was a bit of a dream project, a chance to work with different finishing techniques on a beautiful range of paper.
What surprised me most when we did our research was the fact that the main point of using recycled paper is not to save forests. Managed forests used for woodpulp replant more trees than they fell. The point is that by using more recycled paper we reduce the amount of harmful toxins released into the atmosphere from landfill sites contributing to climate change. Reducing incineration saves on energy use and pollution in the form of dioxins.
That’s definitely something worth considering as part of the design process.
creative director, D8