Paper-makers try hard to develop the papers designers need and want, but sometimes the ideal stock just doesn’t exist. Melanie Willis Fleming offers paper creators a few ideas by asking six designers to give us a description of their dream paper.

Janet Neil

The Chase

The dream: To contrast with the reliable smooth white papers available, how about “living” paper that would be unpredictable and constantly changing? It would respond to its environment – growing and shrinking, changing colour depending on the temperature, changing rigidity and texture depending on the humidity and glowing in the dark for night-time reading. It would also respond to the subject matter printed on it, rejecting spelling mistakes and illuminating important areas. It would respond to the different people handling it, smooth surfaced when handled carefully, rough textured when not. The paper would not only be an integral part of the finished product, but would actually contribute to the way it looked, always appearing different to the different people handling it. It would smell fresh when young, before fading and going stale and crumbling at the end of its useful life. And it would have different gradings – from perishable for flyers to long life for brochures.

The reality: I don’t especially have favourite papers but I like Monadnock, thick grey cardboard and anything handmade.

Bruce Duckworth

Turner Duckworth

The dream: The type of paper I love is only available in children’s colouring books: you use clear water to paint on to the paper and, magically, colour and images appear. I think my dream paper would be a layout pad which has the answers to all my current briefs hidden within it.

The reality: A favourite paper is Connoisseur Piero from Arjo Wiggins. It takes embossing superbly and looks just great. And there’s Inveresk Somerset White, a handmade off-white paper with that handmade paper edge that you just cannot emulate with mass produced papers.

Ian Wright

The Jenkins Group

The dream: A book in a bottle would be interesting. This would be a paper that remains in liquid form so that you can pour yourself a few pages of a book each night. Perhaps tomorrow’s Sunday papers could be a single sheet of paper that you can “plug in” to reveal individual spreads at will. An extremely light paper that is totally opaque and without show-through would be useful in reducing the weight of annual reports. A paper that is uncoated stock on one side and a real art on the other is another possibility.

The reality: I like Robert Horne’s Huntsman Velvet. It is a consistently high-quality paper that has survived the fads over a number of years. Alliance’s Galerie Art is the only triple-blade coated paper that I am aware of. It is less susceptible to cracking and provides high print gloss. My favourite stationery paper is Curtis Fine Papers’ Classic Ultra White Wove, a long-standing paper that is ideal in terms of colour and feel.

John Bateson


The dream: When it comes to future innovations in paper there are many features which, with a little imagination and a large pinch of salt, could be incorporated to make our lives as designers a lot easier, and perhaps more amusing. After much discussion, our preferred options are: left-handed paper; three-sided paper (to give us more space); fresh paper, with a built-in sell-by-date; paper with a built-in spell check; and paper that can change on printing to become gloss, silk and matt. We’d also like a sheet that can be programmed to match any Pantone colour exactly: this would avoid all those complicated specification details and inappropriate standard paper colours that we have to battle against. Then we’d want a paper that changes its composition to be eligible for any award scheme and, finally, a paper with a molecular membrane that remembers how to be flat. Perfect for smoothing out those irritating little wrinkles and creases.

The reality: A regular choice for us is Zanders’ Ikono range. We have produced a number of complicated creasing and folding designs with this and it always gives a good and consistent result.

Frank Schroder

Palmer Madge

The dream: I would like very thin paper which is also strong and opaque (like silver foil). Another helpful sheet would work like photographic paper – no screen dots, brilliant colours, lovely tints and excellent detail definition. In Asia or South America there are many bad quality papers that could be improved for our markets, but still maintain their “honest” character. Why not print novels on paper that adjusts to the surrounding light? It would almost glow in the dark, yet appear normal in daylight. I dislike writing, so I would love paper that prints itself with my thoughts and translates them into correct English. The paper would be interactive (touchpaper), with animated pictures and sound – like a multimedia page on paper.

The reality: Until my dreams come true, I like Neptune Unique from Fenner.

Neil Smith

Marsteller Giant

The dream: How about magic paper? You just brush water over the paper and the design magically appears! Our children could help out when we’re busy. Or invisible paper? Words and images would appear to hover in mid-air. Brilliant! Not, however, for use with invisible ink. Edible, flavoured paper would reduce waste and solve the world’s food shortage. Small, DL leaflets could provide a light snack, while annual reports are more a hearty, square (or A4) meal. A crispy, watermarked paper would be useful. We could laserwrite 50 notes on to it.

The reality: Our favourite papers include Monadnock Astrolite, Parilux matt, Andrex (soft, strong and very long), Sunday Sport, and Paper Lace (Billy, don’t be a hero).

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