Fingering a fine invitation, leaflet or brochure is a tactile pleasure, and choosing the right materials, finishes and colour for a job is a welcome creative challenge – especially when budgets are tight.
Considering use of paper and process in print projects is ‘probably one of the most enjoyable aspects and also one of the trickiest of any job’, says Mel O’Rourke, creative director at Dublin-based Creative Inc. ‘Type and imagery only take you so far, the feel of paper can evoke an immediate reaction and can communicate certain aspects of what the piece is promoting – such as quality, youth, culture and so on.’
Creative Inc had a limited budget for a brochure to accompany the launch of a new name and brand identity for investment company GoldCore. ‘We chose to keep printing techniques to a minimum, keeping the budget spend for quality paper stocks to give the brand a plush, understated quality that it required,’ says O’Rourke.
For a book celebrating 40 exhibitions held at Dublin’s The Lab arts centre, on the other hand, the consultancy chose economical paper stocks and open case binding using cardboard, with varying printing techniques between the sections, from process to spot printing.
Economising in one area to lift the design in another was also the approach at Blueriver for the printed materials promoting this autumn’s Design Event in Newcastle. Taking its cue from the festival’s yellow and black identity, Blueriver stuck to a two-colour design, which allowed the freedom to use six alternative covers and motifs for brochures and invitations. ‘It also allowed us to have a decent print spec,’ says Anthony Cantwell, creative director of Blueriver. Restriction can be quite stimulating, he adds, ‘From a graphical point of view, it can lead to much greater results.’
In many instances, today sees a simpler aesthetic asserting itself after the exuberant flocking and foiling of the recent past. ‘Quality of design and subtlety of finish will always be on-trend, but even more so at the moment,’ says O’Rourke. ‘Obviously, cost is currently a major factor in specifying paper stocks and finishes. Companies don’t want to be seen to be spending too much on their marketing material.’
Two-colour, or even single-colour, printing can be particularly effective. It’s always been a necessity for budget-tight projects, says independent designer Karl Toomey. ‘The Big Crunch has probably resulted in more and more low-cost print jobs lately, too,’ he adds. ‘But it has always been a popular option, as a lot of great things can still be done in one and two colours.’
Consultancy Happily Ever After took a simple black and white approach to the catalogues and invitations for this year’s Royal College of Art degree shows. It paid particular attention to materials to convey the look and feel of the paper you might use for watercolour, lino-cut or pencil drawing. Paperback’s 100 per cent recycled Cairn Natural, a soft and fibrous paper, worked beautifully with printing a single colour, says Happily Ever After’s Sara Carneholm.
For marketing materials for the Crafts Council’s Take Stock campaign, the consultancy stuck to the identity’s fluorescent pink Pantone colour for the initial promotional flyer, with a die-cut ‘for extra specialness’.
Happily Ever After co-founder Leah Harrison believes that the appeal of two-colour print is not necessarily due to its retro-aesthetic, but rather about the impression it conveys. ‘It has a specific non-digital feel to it,’ she says. ‘The feel is more immediate. You sense there’s been a human touch to it, and there’s an honesty about it. There’s a real transparency to the process, some great paper and really well-considered print, and you can feel the honesty in the work.’
O’Rourke adds that it could be ‘a backlash to some extent against four-colour process printing and its connotations of excess’. ‘There’s something a lot more subtle and interesting about one- and two-colour use, especially when it is combined with great paper and unusual folding and binding methods,’ she says. ‘It’s really down to what the stated objectives of the piece are. Process printing may be more practical and appropriate for some projects, whereas printing one or two colours on a gorgeous paper or card might be just what the doctor ordered for others.’