SOURCING:Secret service

Suppose you can’t find the paper you want, or have a picture of something in your mind but don’t know if it actually exists. Who you gonna call? Epic.

One of the paper world’s best kept secrets is a four letter word: Epic. It is an acronym for the Essential Paper Information Centre, an organisation which is a graphic designer’s dream come true. Epic provides a paper-sourcing and samples service – and it is run absolutely free of charge to users.

For those who have already discovered Epic, it forms an invaluable part of the paper chain. “We registered with the service around 18 months ago,” says Derek Watson of Edinburgh-based Shaw Marketing and Design, “and didn’t use it for ages. But since we’ve seen the impressive results, we’ve gone back regularly for help.”

Shaw’s studio keeps its own extensive library of paper and board samples, but Watson applauds Epic’s extra scope. “Samples become outdated so easily, the ranges carried by merchants are always changing and you can never expect to know all the options. Epic’s knowledge base is broader and more current than ours.”

Watson has tested the Epic team’s expertise to the full. “For one job, I found a sample of paper I really liked but had no idea what it was. I described it to Epic’s team and they were able to come up with an exact match and details of the supplier.” On another project, Watson was looking for alternatives to the expensive text and cover papers he had initially chosen. “I was working on an annual report which had a big run and a tight budget. The first paper I had selected was way out of our price range, so I described the problem to Epic and within an hour I had been faxed a list of options followed a couple of days later by a package of a dozen samples of similar papers that were closer to our price bracket.”

Another satisfied customer is Paul Clarke of Birkenhead-based Promote Design and Marketing, a lot of whose work is for the environmental sector. “I’d heard about the service by mailshot and first used it when I wanted some help with sourcing environmentally-friendly papers,” says Clarke. “There is a strong demand for paper which meets very rigorous specifications and Epic has been very impressive at coming up with papers that answer the environmental requirements, feel good and print well.”

Clarke’s only criticism is that the service doesn’t offer accurate price guides. Epic’s business development manager Juliana Evans explains the omission. “Prices change almost daily in the paper industry and they vary according to quantity ordered and delivery times, so we couldn’t hope to provide accurate details. The best we can offer is a rough guide as to whether something is a premium, medium range or a value-for-money stock. Accurate prices must be provided by the merchant or printer.”

Epic was established in 1993 by an environmental consultancy. It was intended to specialise in environment-friendly papers but, after the initial green rush, its range was extended to embrace a much wider collection of papers. Earlier this year the service was bought by Pira International, the paper industry research, training and publishing business.

Evans explains how the service operates. “Epic is a free and independent paper sourcing and sampling service for printers, paper and print buyers, specifiers and designers. It’s a one-stop-shop where calls are answered by a team of knowledgeable paper advisers who take details of the request and then match them with the information on our database. We post off or fax details immediately and send out samples.”

The free service is made possible by funding from sponsors – paper mills and merchants including such big names as Robert Horne, Howard Smith Papers, Sappi Europe, Inveresk, Zanders Fine Papers and Paperback. “Epic forms part of their marketing mix,” says Evans.

The database isn’t restricted to these companies. “To offer the broadest possible service to callers we also keep information about many other papers and specialists and are happy to put callers in touch with them.”

Epic can also now capitalise on Pira’s work in paper-testing and research and give out information about Pira seminars and events: “It’s been a very good match.”

Epic can be contacted on 01189 665 665.

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