De Monsterkamer

Aki Suvanto about paper

What is your favorite paper and why?
It’s very hard to point out one or even a few favorite papers. In my mind different ideas/projects require very different papers. And since projects can vary a lot, the paper choice tends to follow. In general there’s always one paper that fits a project better than another. Paper is really an important part of the work. Especially when the design is simple, every chosen element has an increased value over the final product. If I look back at things I’ve done or liked, I might say that there’s been a clear preference over the past few years for uncoated materials, rather natural whites than pure whites, either very thin or thick, rough or bulky. At the same time I like to challenge myself to find ways of using something completely different or at first sight inappropriate materials. For example structured papers (like Conqueror or Rives), that before I never even thought about, can be quite interesting when used in an uncommon way.

Art exhibition catalogue for Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art of Helsinki.
Series of 4 different covers with 4 different colors and materials cut in same size but positioned and used various combinations.

Art exhibition catalogue for Kiasma, Museum of Contemporary Art of Helsinki.
Series of 4 different covers with 4 different colors and materials cut in same size but positioned and used various combinations.

Could you give an example of a design you created where paper played a special or particularly functional role?
Sometime ago I had a client, a fashion brand Samuji, that had bought some superb special paper in Japan with no particular idea of where or how to use it, they’ve just felt it’s theirs. And so did I. We decided to use it for the seasonal look-book and that was the starting point for all the design. Since we just had some 500 big sheets of that paper – we wanted to use it as efficiently as possible – the paper really was the key element for the whole process, it affected the size, the amount of prints, binding, other paper choices…

Tokushi Tokai Paper, Tant Select (TS-1) paper for the cover

Double folded covers. Inner paper is Terreus 60 g.

Detail of the cover with black foiling

How important is the choice of paper in your designs? Do you spend a lot of time choosing the paper?
Since I like paper, I like the touch, the feel, I’d say it’s very important.

Could you mention a designer whose paper choice appeals to you?
Hard to name out someone special. I mean, there are many. But I recently found a book first published in 2006 that really shook me by it’s beauty, and that beauty mainly comes of how the paper was applied. Perfect harmony in everything, size, feel, look all in service of the subject. Quiet and punchy at the same time. It’s an art book of Sheila Hicks designed by Irma Boom. No paper is mentioned thought, but printed in Holland, so you might know it well. [MK: the paper is Munken Print by Arctic Paper, the book is printed by Lenoirschuring, you can see it at De Monsterkamer]

Is there something missing in the current range of available paper?
There’s always something missing. In general things are ok, but there’s often something that is not there when you need it. In my opinion the paper industry still has things to explore and evolve. And happily so.

What is your biggest frustration in the field of paper?
At least here in Finland, the northern and last corner of Europe, I quite often struggle with the fact that paper delivery times can be quite long (which I completely understand) in contrast with to deadlines that seem to get shorter and shorter over the years. That drives us often to use paper qualities that are more common in use. On the other hand, I’m happy that there are good papers around easily available for printers, Munken papers for example.

One other thing that is sometimes quite difficult to follow is the pricing of papers, and their impact on the complete printing process.

Is it difficult or easy for designers in your country to find information on paper, paper samples and/or paper collections?
I’m sure it’s more difficult here than in bigger market areas with more choices and concurrence. I have sometimes a feeling that we just have a small top of a mountain here. This feeling grows while traveling.

How do you see the future of paper?
I hope it goes somehow like this: if quantity goes down, quality goes up. At least I have a feeling that the importance of paper as a haptic, touchable, “living” thing will grow as it becomes rarer. More of a luxury in self.


Interview by De Monsterkamer with Aki Suvanto