Patrick Doan 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?
It’s always difficult to name a favorite but what left a strong impression lately was Curious Matter from Antalis. It was first introduced to me by Arie Lenoir at LenoirSchuring (currently Zwaan Lenoir) and it immediately struck my imagination. The super matt surface creates almost no reflexion which was an interesting feature when I had to design the cover of a book discussing Le Corbusier, zones d’ombre. The haptic qualities are second to none since one might mistake it for fine sand paper. This distinctive structure is derived from spherical particles of raw potato starch (a by-product of the food industry). I used it several times for covers and was happy with the result: paradoxal experience of luxury and starkness, good rendition of color prints on the white version, sturdy yet subtle. I hope I can use it again, in a smaller weight this time.
Could you give an example of a design you created where paper played a special or crucial role?
One of my first book designs, Lettres du Havre by Élodie Boyer and Jean Segui (Éditions Non Standard), was also one of the most technically challenging ones. Paper played a crucial role from the beginning to the end and we were all happy that it ended well. The book aims at documenting the graphic identity of the city of Le Havre by presenting an extensive collection of pictures showing shop signs, public institutions, companies buildings, containers and their haulers, etc. We didn’t want to sacralise those pictures but rather materialise the natural light and the wide range of subjects captured by Elodie Boyer’s gaze. I remember thinking of the book Why Mister, why? by Geert van Kesteren. Mevis & Van Deursen, the designers, used light glossy paper to print the pictures of a ground unit during the Irak war. We used LuxoMagic in order to create that same kind of sharp unfiltered reality. Rather than putting some distance between the viewer and the photo, we wanted to bring them on the ground. The paper was perfect to reproduce the details with precision and honesty. In contrast, the opening and the ending of the book were evocations of the city and used a serie of risoprinted scenes on Da Costa 100 g/m2, a bulky paper that is perfect for absorbing the rich soy ink. Further, there was a collection of imaginary missives written by Jean Segui that lent a voice and a story to the images. I like to think that this voice would tell something about who we were when this book is read in a hundred years, like the way our ears are caught by recorded voices of people from the 50’s, 60’s. We printed those letters on Munken Lynx 80 g/m2 Munken Lynx has an uncoated, smooth surface. The natural white shade provides an exclusive and at the same time authentic look, with a natural paper feel. and cut them in a different format. That leads us to the question of the perfect binding of a multi format, multi paper book of 804 pages. To make sure that all the pages were properly collected, Patist (the binder) weighted each volume to check that there was nothing missing. A difference of 6 grammes and it would go to the bin. In total, we used seven kinds of paper together with the box.
How important is the choice of paper in your design work? Do you spend a lot of time picking the paper?
When I work on book and magazine designs, it is very important to explore and discuss the paper questions with the publisher. While I can have some ideas related to the type of assignment, choosing the format and the paper is always a collaborative process. Showing existing designs and pointing at specific features or combination of features helps the different parties to move together and toward each other. You basically cannot talk about a book design without holding and manipulating one. Reading a book is a singular experience, not only because of its content, but also because of its materiality. Each of them leaves a distinctive impression. I like to think that we own our world by incorporating it to our own body. You don’t only read a book with your eyes but you interact with it in so many ways that those felt experiences shape your relation with it. Lately I was obsessed with the way a volume would hang bending when you hold it by the spine. Some are short and stiff. Some are long and falling, Some are reverently bowing.
Can you point out work by another designer that you appreciate when it comes to the paper choice?
I was fascinated by the way Esther de Vries used canvas as a cover for ZEEN, a book about the work of Maurice Scheltens and Liesbeth Abbens. It allowed this kind of supple behaviour when we hold it. Also the design of MacGuffin magazine is currently helping me a lot to figure out the paper we could use for the European Review of Books, a new literary magazine that aims at revisiting the genre. Arcoprint milk 1.5 Arcoprint Milk is an uncoated paper and cardboard with high bulk. It has a pleasant soft surface. Available in a natural white shade. or Olin Bulk 80 g/m2 To make the Olin range even more complete, it has been expanded with Olin Bulk. This paper is especially suitable for spectacular communication and publications. It is a high quality, bulky white and cream novel print with the right look and feel for most types of books. would be great papers for the type of content and design we want.
Do you think there are any gaps in the current paper market for designers?
Opacity is often a concern I have when designing books. I wish there would be a more opaque and light, yet bulky bookish paper. Difficult since opacity always rhymes with density.
What is your biggest frustration when it comes to paper?
Some of them are turning yellow after a few years on the shelves. It’s part of life but still, I find the degradation a bit excessive sometimes. More importantly I wish I knew more about their diversity and their specificity. It’s a bit sad when a paper is not available, discontinued or worse when a mill is closing. It feels like you missed the chance to make a new friend.
Do you find it easy/difficult to find information about paper, to get paper samples and/or collections?
My first source of information used to be the printer with who I used to work. Arie Lenoir loves paper and talked about it with great passion. I miss him. You really need to find that kind of passion to guide you into the world of paper and print. Someone knowledgeable, sensitive, playful but yet calm and articulated, generous and enthusiast of course. I think that you at De Monsterkamer are such persons. The variety of paper producers you represent is fantastic and your library of books is brilliant in showing the design possibilities. Living nearby, it is extremely convenient for me to plan a visit and be helped.
How do you see the future of paper?
I see a more responsible future for all the actors of the graphic industry. Paper has a lot to give for a long time if we can control its toll on the environment. There are plenty of new ways to produce eco friendly papers (recycling, bamboo, kenaf, hemp). Life is better in analog so let’s try to keep it that way. Another interesting change for the future of paper is the development of digital printing like the Indigo. It delivers a lot while creating less waste and accepting an interesting range of paper.
Interview by De Monsterkamer with Patrick Doan