When it comes to developing a retail brand, most designers will tell you the devil is in the details. Making sure brand identity and messaging connect with its audience involves many elements that require thoughtful attention to detail – especially print collateral. In fact, it is scientifically proven that consumers form powerful, emotional connections through touch. It’s called haptics, and when thoughtfully incorporated into a retail brand’s print collateral, it has the ability to turn customers into brand loyalists. And Neenah is leading the charge, inspiring a revolution of sorts with its newest promotion. CLASSIC® Retail Revolution is a resource for designers working with retail clients to help them see new and unique ways to use printed pieces as a tangible element of today’s retail experiences.
The Design Collection by Neenah features luxuriously tactile and colored papers available for commercial printing. It houses 15 different papers in one place, and features a richly colored grades like Stardream, Esse, Oxford, So…Silk, Plike, Slide, Astroking and Wild. That’s only half the story. Texture is the other word synonymous with The Design Collection. With finishes like Canvas, Felt, Pearlized, Heavy Vellum, Hi-Tech and Diffused, creatives have plenty to choose from. Options are good, right? Sometimes it makes it difficult to decide exactly what paper to use with a specific technique. That’s one reason why we love samples so much. Creatives and clients alike are visual. Thankfully, there’s Neenah’s new lookbook, The Design Collection – Surface Issue.
By definition, the word classic means “serving as a standard of excellence : of recognized value.” In other words something that stands the test of time. Neenah’s CLASSIC® Brands have been around for 55 years. And that’s saying something in an industry that’s pretty fickle when it comes to paper grades with staying power. To give you some context, I started in the industry around the same time Survivor first aired. I’ve seen more papers come and go than torches snuffed out by Jeff Probst. So yes, it’s safe to say the CLASSIC® Papers live up to their name. But how exactly does a brand that is so iconic and classic undertake a refresh? Well, that was a collaborative process between Neenah Paper and Design Army that was a year in the making. I say it was well worth the wait because the results are stellar.
I started collecting stationery as a kid in the 70’s. Back then the selection of available stationery was not nearly what it is today. I had a shoe box full of paper ephemera, most of it featuring the likes of Betsey Clark and Suzie Angel. I had no idea what went into producing these gems, I just knew I liked the cute characters and colors they featured. Fast forward forty years to the 2016 National Stationery Show and I found myself lucky enough to be a part of the NSS Class of 70 trading card promotion by Legion Paper – and I loved every single minute of it!
But how does it feel?
That’s the one key question I ask before I make any decision. That one word – feel, applies to so much. If you think about it, it can mean the actual texture of a thing, the mood or emotion something evokes, the way something looks, smells, sounds or tastes. Thoughts are cerebral but feeling is existential. Feeling provides us with context that is imprinted on us long after the thought is gone. For example, I had not thought about my grandmother’s kitchen in decades, then last weekend I was cooking chicken soup. I’ve had chicken soup hundreds of times since I was last in that kitchen (she passed away over 25 years ago), and never once did I think about that space. But as I was stirring the soup and got a whiff, I instantly felt like I was 8 years old, standing on a stool in that tiny, brown and gold kitchen waiting for the soup to be done. I love that feeling. Every time I experience one of those moments is priceless.
Oh, really? Tell that to Jessica Hische. She’s built a pretty fab career designing book covers (among other things) for Penguin and Chronicle Books, with the sole purpose of being judged.
The reality is our work is being evaluated all the time. And I can think of no other profession where judgment is more intense than in graphic design. When someone is paying you to literally make their brand look good, you can believe they’re judging you and your work long before you ever meet them.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the conveniences of technology. The immediate gratification I get from the click of a mouse suits my impatient nature and life in the 21st century. But truth be told, I’m old school, my heart belongs to analog. Like many creatives, I’m smitten with the tactile nature of print, especially the techniques whose methods and tools of the trade remain largely unchanged. So I was thrilled when I saw the newest limited edition print added Neenah’s site, The Beauty of Letterpress: The Art of Making An Impression designed by Earl Gee.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m a sucker for a nice looking foil stamp. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about that shimmer that gets me every time. It’s kind of like in high school when you find out the boy you’ve been crushing on is going to ask you out. It’s just so fun and exciting. Well, I get the same fluttery feeling every time I see the sheen of a foil stamp. I know something special is in store. And that’s exactly the feeling we wanted to share with our latest subscriber exclusive – foil stamp thank you notes!
Have you ever seen a print promotion so awesome you wanted to kiss it? Ok, maybe that’s taking my adoration of ink on paper a little far but I swear that’s how much I love the new piece, Character, from Neenah Packaging. I know what you’re thinking – Neenah has a crazy budget and if your clients had their budget you’d produce something awesome too. But here’s the thing, it’s not about the budget, it’s about inspiration and execution. After examining this promotion, I am convinced the difference between average and awesome comes down to character.
Just when I didn’t think they could get any better, Issue No. 7 of the Mohawk Maker Quarterly – Character, comes along. Putting out quality editorial and design content is tough, but to do so on a consistent, quarterly basis is pretty impressive. In fact, I’d say it speaks to the character of a company – and Mohawk has always been one paper maker who walks the talk. So it’s not lost on me that the paper selected for its production, Mohawk Loop, reinforces the theme of this issue. From the companies and artisans profiled in it, to the paper it’s printed on – when it comes to character this issue of the Mohawk Maker Quarterly has it in spades.