The right fibre

To make an impact in a world dominated by online media, paper has to trade on its special properties. Anna Richardson considers the latest trends in terms of tactility, colour and texture, as well as the increasing popularity of bespoke stock for global brands

Paper needs to work hard – it constantly has to demonstrate its Green credentials, make projects more desirable and tactile, and justify its very existence in the face of the onslaught from the Internet and electronic media.

Many paper mills have gone bust and a lot of ranges are disappearing. There is a diminishing role for paper in many areas, but an increasing role in others, believes Jon Cefai, creative director of Kent Lyons. ’The idea that paper is becoming something special is where its strength is,’ he says.

Many specialised print projects require paper to lift the design – invitations needing the materials to make an impact, or small print runs of brochures and leaflets that have to feel tactile. A print run of thousands, meanwhile, requires FSC paper to minimise its environmental impact.
Kent Lyons is currently completing a self-initiated project exploring the production of paper, from start to finish, and gauging what paper means to people within the design industry. ’Paper isn’t a dirty word,’ says Cefai. ’It’s its misuse and waste that is bad.’

Produced in collaboration with GF Smith and Generation Press, Pulp Paper is a book that shows paper off in all its glory – reflecting many of the trends of tactility and colour. It uses 15 stocks in 18 different sections and documents a visit by Kent Lyons to the GF Smith Colourplan paper mill in the Lake District. Cefai particularly enjoyed experiments in printing four-colour images on coloured paper, such as sorbet yellow, which gives the images ’this amazing warmth’.

Many cite the tactility of paper as its USP and stock such as Arjowiggins’ Curious Touch (a perennial favourite) takes this to another level, as it responds to a touch’s temperature change.

Combinations of textures are also popular – a coarse board on one side teamed with a gloss finish on the other, for example. The promotional pack for Comme des Garçons’ new perfume Daphne, designed by Studio Small, combines printable book cloth Flaxprint by Fenner Paper on the outside with an inner glossy black Colorlux Ebony Gloss by GF Smith.

For a leaflet promoting exhibition and book The Concise Dictionary of Dress, Studio Frith used Fenner’s Clervaux – making a simple, folded leaflet intriguing to the touch.

In the new window design for Parisian chocolatier Pierre Hermé , meanwhile, Marianne Guély used a variety of Arjowiggins metallic papers (including Curious Cosmic Alien Green, Mars Red and Blue Planet) to evoke the store’s favourite flavours of anise, lime and vanilla.

According to James Groves, marketing director at GF Smith, paper also works increasingly hard in reinforcing global brands’ values. From fashion to finance, companies are demanding the same paper for all their global operations, rather than different domestic renditions. This means that many international brands are starting to use bespoke papers, which can reinforce particular brand values – and also provide an extra guard against knock-offs and fraud.

Gucci Group-owned Alexander McQueen, for example, uses a bespoke coloured GF Smith grade, internally called the Alexander McQueen Grey. The paper has a customised shade, texture and finish, is used globally and reflects the brand’s values of quality and craftsmanship.
With paper working so hard, it’s no wonder that designers still value it so much. In his contribution to the Pulp Paper book, Adrian Shaughnessy of Shaughnessy Works confesses to being ’a slightly odd graphic designer. ’I don’t have a paper fetish’, but adds, ’There’s no question that paper products like books and magazines have proved their durability. The book is a great piece of technology, and will remain important as long as people want to read and as long as people value the portability and sheer effectiveness of paper-based products.’

’We think twice about making anything these days,’ writes Nat Hunter of Airside. ’But often nothing will do the job as well as paper can.’

Pulp Paper is a collaboration between Kent Lyons, Generation Press and GF Smith

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