Lu Liang (The Exercises) on paper
Since 2011, De Monsterkamer interviews designers about paper. What is their favourite paper, what are their sources of inspiration and how do they see the future of paper? The questions are always the same, the answers are surprising.
What is your favorite paper, why?
My favourite paper are the ones that are soft, so soft that a book falls open naturally and nicely. They can be either offset or coated it doesn’t matter to me. Often I like to hold a book with one hand, therefore a soft kind of paper works the best. The format and binding method are important here as well.
I am also always a big fan of recycled paper, I find those paper types very comfortable for reading. They also give some roughness to the design. I used to like Cyclus Offset (uncoated) and Cyclus Print (coated) a lot. But unfortunately the production has stopped some years ago. But I was happy to find something very similar just recently: Rebello Rebello 110 CIE is a natural white uncoated paper with its own character. It is produced from 100% collected waste paper. Rebello accentuates the message through her appearance. In addition, it is one of the best choices for environmentally responsible paper. and Circle Print Circle Print is a double-sided coated 100% recycled paper with a satin surface. By recycling waste paper through a unique innovative and environmentally friendly process, without chlorine and optical whiteners, this high-quality natural white paper is created. The greyish hue shows a clear choice for recycled paper. .
Could you give an example of a design you created where paper played a special or crucial role? How important is the choice of paper in your design work?
The example I would like to give, is a catalogue I made in 2017 for a project called Shanghai Project. It was a two year long research project, in which events eventually took shape as an exhibition. The catalogue was a compilation of materials from those two years. It’s a large variations of all sorts of things, from essay to research project, from interview to public events, from public art to exhibitions… Using different paper helps me to divide the different type of contents. There are many different colour sections, they are a folder system rather than a book. Each colour folder holds one research project.
Paper choice has always been very important in my practice. The tactility, weight and colour of the paper are super important for the identity of the design. It’s similar to the way that architects choose materials for a building.
Do you spend a lot of time picking the paper?
I do! But it’s always quite painful. There are always problems. Either the paper goes out of production, or it’s too expensive, it doesn’t match the budget, has the wrong sizing or wrong paper grain. Honestly, all sort of things. When you finally come to some choices, you have to make a book dummy to see if they come together nicely in the book, do the combinations actually match with each other. It’s like an endless story until the book goes to print.
Can you point out work by another designer that you appreciate when it comes to the paper choice?
There is one book I always appreciated for all those years, it’s The Great Method—Casco Issues X, designed by Julia Born. I think Julia herself was using this book as an example for the same interview some years ago. I thought this book was so brilliant, that the choice of paper is so crucial that it shaped the concept of the book.
Do you think there are any gaps in the current paper market for designers?
I remember for a while there was a gap. When I was still at the Werkplaats Typografie, we had this set of paper samples from Bührmann Ubbens, 12 folders and so much paper choices. But the company has closed unfortunately. Suddenly there was no company that had this many different paper choices. And at the same time different types of paper also quit being produced. I felt that the amount of choices we’ve had before has never come back.
What is your biggest frustration when it comes to paper?
I guess that’s what I also mentioned before. When you finally find a paper you like, but there’s no budget to use it, or they went out of production. I also print a lot in China for projects there. My biggest frustration in China is that I just can’t find paper that is thinner than 100 g/m2. It’s ironic when you think of those very thin soft rice papers that were actually invented in China.
Do you find it easy/difficult to find information about paper, to get paper samples and/or collections? How do you see the future of paper?
To be honest it’s not easy. The paper fairs used to be very handy, and of course De Monsterkamer’s advice is also very handy. But otherwise, I don’t know much other resources.
There will be probably less and less special paper, and less “rough” looking paper in the future, as they might not suit the big commercial need. There will be more standard mediocre paper. I might sound pessimistic, but I really hope it won’t be going in that direction.
Interview by De Monsterkamer with Lu Liang