Akiko Wakabayashi about paper
What is your favorite paper, why?
I don’t really have one particular paper I would say is my favorite. It depends on the project, design and printing technique. I enjoy getting to know and try new paper at different occasions. However, I must say that Arcoprint Milk is a very nice, thick and light paper, like comics. It’s nice for books, you will not get a book that’s too heavy, even if you make a book with 500 pages.
Could you give an example of a design you created where paper played a special or crucial role?
Recently, I worked on a book called Stone Dealer, which is a book version of a video artwork by artist Mariko Kuwahara. The content is basically just a conversation between stone dealers and the artist. Since the project was done in Japan, I decided to print it in Japan for the first time for myself, therefore it was a natural decision to use paper from Japan for both conceptual and practical reasons. I chose paper from Takeo, which was possible to check even being here in The Netherlands. The stories of stone dealers gave me enough inspiration to decide what kind of paper I wanted: greyish and greenish.
Another book where I think the paper played a specific role is boom +, on which I worked last year. I initiated this publication project, which consisted of contributions from several graphic designers. I set up the format (size), paper, binding method, color rule and typeface for the contributors to be able to work with. Since I did not know how many pages it would be, it took the form of a Japanese binding to make sure the book would be thick enough. The contributors were allowed to play with print on the inside of the folds, if this suited their design. For this reason, the paper had to be see-through enough.
How important is the choice of paper in your design work? Do you spend a lot of time picking the paper?
I find that the choice of paper is always very visible in the end, especially in the case of a book, it is very much part of the decision making process, although I try to not look at too many different options.
Can you point out work by another designer that you appreciate when it comes to the paper choice?
I just had a look on my book shelf; it seems Julia Born has an interesting paper choice which challenges the structure of the book. I also like how my studio mates Janna and Hilde Meeus play with paper, not only with the esthetics of paper but with function and structure as well.
Do you think there are any gaps in the current paper market for designers?
I don’t know how many designers are eager to get some non existing paper. I heard about the paper called IBO One from many printing and paper industry people. It was developed by Irma Boom and Igepa. It is a nice thin but strong, offwhite 60 grams paper. I think this is good news for designers who were looking for a nice thin paper. It would be great if something like this happened more often, that a new paper is created based on the graphic designer’s demand.
What is your biggest frustration when it comes to paper?
Paper has to travel. If you want to use paper from Japan and print on it in The Netherlands, there is always a cost issue. It would be great if there was a good solution for this, so that paper needs to be shipped less.
Do you find it easy/difficult to find information about paper, to get paper samples and/or collections?
It is difficult to find the right person who you can ask about paper and who can understand what designers want or mean. Looking at my own samples is not enough to find something specific. De Monsterkamer is quite an ideal place to go to and ask.
How do you see the future of paper?
I had a chance to have a small trip to the Stoneywood mill in Aberdeen last year, it was great to see how paper is actually made. But I could also see that the paper business is having tough times not only because there’s less demand for paper but also because of difficulties with keeping employees. I hope those places will survive and keep creating great paper with many choices….!
Interview by De Monsterkamer with Akiko Wakabayashi