Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Paper Nirvana

Back in my old days of desktop publishing as a graphic designer and later as a print buyer for a record company, one of the joys of being involved in the graphic arts & printing industry was working with the various paper mills and suppliers.

Specification representatives would make the circuit of design firms, bringing the latest in paper sample books. The better regional paper suppliers would not only have a dedicated representative(s) but also maintain a "resource" department. Usually a stockroom brimming with publications from the paper manufacturers, these resources demonstrate use of various printing processes, varnishes, coatings and effects such as embossing and die cuts on an assortment of paper stocks in different textures and weights.

Paper comes manufactured in various finishes - felt, vellum, satin, smooth, 25% cotton, laid and linen. Within those finishes as an example, are varying degrees of whites from high gloss to muted shades each designed to serve as a canvas for the designer and printer to collaborate on a finished product that evokes a response.

As visual communications has veered at warped speed to reside on the internet with web papers, Flash animations, sound and video, there is nothing quite like holding a physical object of a book with its cloth or leather bound cover encasing textured edged pages unfolding a story in 12 point serif type face.

Consider a birthday card with sentiments expressed on heavy card stock, perhaps with objects affixed - a flower or ornament - with its tactile feel gives that particular printed piece a special home in a keepsake shoebox. Annual reports from companies and nonprofits such as hospitals want to present an image that conveys their mission statement without coming across as “slick” or “glossy”. Thus design firms take great care to craft messages and photography with the right printing process – four color, black and white, perhaps a mix of paper stocks to elicit the precise response desired.

Each paper mill such as Neenah, Mohawk, Monadnock and French Paper, just to name a few produce sample books.

Some paper sample books are reminiscent of paint chip books and there are those that are extremely well designed and printed as best examples for optimum use of the particular paper line the mill is promoting.

Graphic designers cherish these sample books as they assist in visualizing a finished project and without a doubt, serve to jumpstart the creative process for ideas.

Sample books courtesy of Chris Chamberlain of Athens Paper in Nashville, Tennessee.

Article originally published at - Everyone can understand technology; sometimes it just takes a little translating

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