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Unique Paper: Breaking through the Clutter

Interesting communication pieces, using specialty paper or unique designs, are being used to break through the clutter that competes for the consumer’s attention.

A case in point is the award-winning folded invitation to last fall’s annual Unisource Chicago Paper Show, printed on Classic Linen Papers from Neenah Paper. The end product was the result of a collaboration that included O’Connor Design (Chicago), Ace Graphics (Naperville, IL), and the Fold Factory, an online resource and provider of folding templates. 

“Unisource’s Paper Show is an annual event for Chicago’s creative community, to expose them to everything new that is going on with paper,” notes Jim O’Connor (who owns the design firm with his wife Debra). “With the invitation, the idea was to illustrate something that couldn’t be done on the Internet, playing up the quality of paper. The tactile nature of paper, the fact that this was printed on interesting stock—all played a part in the design concept.”

A nine panel reveal, from a Fold Factory template, was used, showing the interactivity that you can have with a printed piece—something you can’t have with a screen. “From the beginning, we had the idea that we would create something that shows the attributes of printing and paper, incorporating a format that allows someone to open this piece up and there is something brand new, and then you open it again, an so on. The words we used were also a part of this, sort of a tongue-in-cheek play on words.”

In addition to folds, O’Connor Design also incorporates die-cuts, embossing and textures to draw in the end recipient. For one client’s annual report, a circle was die-cut through the first several pages to draw the reader through, with a big bang at the end.

“We are constantly looking to make paper do as much as it can,” says O’Connor. “We love working with paper. I know the trend is swinging the other way, but that is why we are always looking to create things that really stand  apart.”

Neenah, which targets designers looking for that creative edge, recently released its new promotion for its line of Environment Papers. Titled “Creative (un)Blocks,” it is described as a collection of inspiring samples and suggestions to help designers break through their inevitable slumps and take their creativity to the next level.

Neenah partnered with Josh Chen, principal and creative director of San Francisco-based Chen Design Associates to conceptualize and develop the original artwork in Creative (un)Blocks, which provides designers with actual printed matter they can turn to when the need for inspiration strikes.

Digital Printing; More Media Than Ever

Advancements in digital printing have spurred more media advancements, creating even more possibilities. Digital printing has gone way beyond imaging on plain paper, as new substrates allow printers and designers to offer clients graphic options that were previously not feasible, due to financial or logistic constraints.

“There’s a keen interest in materials in the digital printing arena, notes Chris Harrold, Vice President of Market Development, Emerging Technologies, Mohawk. “Materials are meeting beautiful printing and meeting digital printing technologies.”

Spectrum Printers Inc., an employee-owned commercial print shop in Tecumseh, MI, runs Nekoosa's MagnaCote pre-magnetized sheets on its offset press when longer runs demand it, or Digital MagnaCote on its Konica Minolta 7000 and 8000 machines for short-run, quick turn around, personalized printing.

A few years ago, Spectrum Printers Inc. introduced MagneCote to its customers by including a magnetized calendar with a holiday greeting card; customers are now requesting the substrate for reminder cards, envelope stuffers, business cards and large point-of-purchase displays for the retail industry.

Nekoosa's MagnaCote has a thinner, lighter magnet extruded to the back, rather than laminated onto it, says Brian Cummings, Product Development Specialist, Nekoosa Coated Products. “It has all the performance of a magnet, but the substrate can run through production digital printers and offset presses with ease.” 

MagneCote combines premium-coated papers with a proprietary magnetic layer, says Cummings. It can be saddle-stitched, perfect bound, foil stamped, embossed, die cut, scored, folded, or perforated. 

No Wear or Tear

Along with the pre-magnetized substrate, “Nekoosa’s Synaps Digital XM synthetic product is also seeing tremendous growth,” says Cummings. Synaps Digital XM, a polyester-based synthetic paper engineered for high heat, dry toner digital printing, has incredible tear strength, and can hold up in any environmental condition, says Cummings. When toner fuses with the synthetic paper, the finished product is both durable and naturally resistant to water, chemicals and grease. 

“Most vinyls are not going to react well to heat,” explains Cummings. “They are going to stretch and melt. Our polyester paper has a melting point that is much higher than the fusing heat of toner. It is dimensionally stable; it can run right through digital printers.”

One major grocer is using Synaps Digital to create signage for the produce and deli departments, damp environments that require durable signs. The grocer is creating signs on Synaps 12x18-inch sheets with custom pricing and custom graphics for every story in the country. With Synaps Digital, even the smallest retailers can now create professional looking custom signs when something is on sale, or larger, national chains can make regional or language changes quickly and easily, says Cummings. 

“Retailers of all sizes are taking advantage of digital printing, and the availability of high quality graphics on a substrate that is durable and can withstand water and weather and still look good,” says Cummings. 

Time to Look at Synthetics

At Mohawk, synthetics and embedded magnetic sheets are also taking off.

To celebrate March Madness with a bracket challenge, Metropolitan Printing Service (Bloomington, IN) created an embedded magnet postcard, concluding that recipients would be more like likely to hang on the message.

Anne Thomas from TOMA Objects (Montreal) used Mohawk Synthetic PVC 10 mil for her new series of paper clocks. The project, printed in small quantities on an HP Indigo press, required a substrate that was water and tear resistant. The substrate suggestion came from paper rep Marie-Michele Lanoix from Spicers, and printer Quadriscan, 

Mohawk Dimensional’s portfolio includes pre-perforated and pre-scored packaging, promotional, and presentation products for custom packaging and three-dimensional products. “We are taking our premium paper substrates, and created pre-converted sheets, in all digital sheet sizes,” says Harrold. “They arrive at the printer, boxed like traditional paper, but they are product specific. We are launching eight formats: cube boxes, gift boxes, table tent cards, pocket folders, golf ball sleeves, wine bottle boxes, greeting cards, and door hangers.”

The products are made with Mohawk grades Superfine Eggshell i-Tone, Via Liden i-Tone, and Synthetics.

“When we built this new addition to our diverse digital portfolio, we wanted to be able offer day-to-day house sheets that can be turned into very application-specific products, like a custom box for a wine bottle,” says Harrold. “We are taking the pre-converting form in this product category and turning it on its head, providing custom packaging design for a broader range of paper.”

Our motivation, says Harrold, is “how can we bring to digital printers the capability of high value print applications they can offer their customer with a low investment upfront. Now, they can expand their engagement with current customers or find new customers. They can offer their customers customized, one-of-a-kind packages on demand. It allows printers to cast a bigger shadow in marketplace without having to invest in finishing equipment." 

Artists, art galleries, photo book producers, and high-end product catalog designers are using Mohawk’s Panoramic papers, which lay perfectly flat when the book they’re bound into is finished. Using Convertible Solutions’ TRU-flat bindery technology, the designer is no longer bound by the gutter, says Harrold.  “The panoramic format offers enormous potential for brochures, presentations, art books, high-end photo books. The artist no longer has to worry about crossovers or color matches,” says Harrold,

Value of Media

Xerox, more typically associated with digital production machines, realizes the value of media in the digital printing arena. “With Xerox, it’s also about the media,” says Brian Segnit, a marketing manger and resident photo publishing expert for Xerox. “We have substrates or paper that allows you to create something no one else is doing.”

Xerox’s line of specialty printers, optimized for their production machines, are also going beyond 8.5x11-inch coated to include AccordionPix, a freestanding, multi-image, two-side paranomic array that displays eight photos total, as well as synthetics, magnet media, signage, and custom packaging. The whole point is to allow printers to create promotional material that lets their customers standout, says Segnit.