This year’s Design Week Paper Supplement is based on the theme of paper as a communication tool. Most of the time we take paper for granted, never pausing to consider its role in everyday life, communicating messages and recording data. This supplement offers the opportunity to explore the use of paper in sales and marketing, in business communication, and, at the start of the Year of Reading, in literacy.
Here too we include examples of some of the most beautiful and highly sophisticated modern papers as well as some of the earliest ever used to document civilisation.
Its use as a recording device was demonstrated most powerfully to me when I recently visited the British Library’s new exhibition galleries – the idea that the Lindisfarne Gospels and King James Bible were just sitting there on show, not 100 yards from the number 73 bus route, was completely amazing.
Also included here is the latest update of new papers launched by the ever-inventive paper manufacturers.
The industry has experienced a rollercoaster ride during the past decade or two – first came the predictions that electronic communication would gradually reduce the need for paper; then came the pendulum swing from boom to bust – one month the pulp suppliers couldn’t keep up with demand, then the next they had swamped the market.
At last, this exhausting cycle looks like settling down – good news for the designer and the client since this will introduce some stability into pricing and supply structures. The changes are being brought about by consolidation – tree growers, pulp producers, paper manufacturers and merchants are being formed into massive groups thereby ensuring some control over the whole production process.
Enso of Finland and Stora of Sweden have merged to make the world’s largest manufacturer of paper and board, and more acquisitions are in the pipeline. Sappi has become a global giant too. The South Africa-based manufacturer last autumn acquired KNP and is now drawing together operations in its 16 mills in the US, Europe and South Africa, all focused on a main office in London.
And finally, this year has seen the formation of a new paper industry alliance called PaperCom Europe. Its first meeting was held in London earlier this summer and featured manufacturers and merchants along with designers, representatives from the Post Office, WH Smith, Hewlett Packard and Xerox. Environmentalist Jonathon Porritt and a host of other experts were also involved in the debate about the future of paper. Among its key aims the body promises to promote and encourage the sustainable production and creative use of paper in communication.
I look forward to hearing more from PaperCom and hope that, as well as providing a forum for debate, there will be new opportunities to show off some of our best design talent.