Peter Bil’ak about paper
What is your favorite paper and why?
It’s like colours or fonts, there is rarely just one favourite, but rather a number of them, each good for something else. When I worked on Dot Dot Dot magazine, I became fond of Munken Lynx, and for a long time it became a benchmark of ‘normal’ uncoated paper. It just feels so natural, and reproduced full colour very well. I’ve used it in a few other projects. But I like many more, each for a different reason. I recently used Zanders Chromolux in a brochure, and since it was very dominant, I could do much less with the design. And I like bible papers a lot, I use them in our type specimens.
Could you give an example of a design you created where paper played a special or particularly functional role?
It would probably be the collection of Typotheque type specimens. We have a database of nearly 10.000 addresses, where we send free type specimens, presenting the fonts we design and publish. Because of this large print run, the biggest single expense is not the printing, binding or paper, but the shipping costs. That’s why I looked for an opaque paper which is very light. I first used Hispeed Opaque 60g, which was very functional. Later I switched to Elementa Opaque 50g, an even thinner and lighter paper, which performs really nicely, and I like the feeling of flipping through the pages.
How important is the choice of paper in your designs? Do you spend a lot of time choosing the paper?
Each element of design is important, but since I am often both the designer and the publisher, I carry the financial consequences for the choices of paper. On the example above, the change of paper to Elementa reduced the overall weight of the brochure and reduced the shipping costs by thousands of euro. So yes, the choices are very important.
I recently started a new magazine, called Works That Work. It is a magazine about unexpected creativity, and its production is very important as it is read mainly by designers. This time I didn’t design the magazine myself, but I defined a design brief for our designers. One of the attributes it included was that the magazine including the envelope should weigh less than 250 grams.
Could you mention a designer whose paper choice appeals to you?
Works That Work magazine is designed by Atelier Carvalho Bernau, whose work I really like. When I presented them the design brief and limitations, they started looking at choices. New magazines today, need to do something more than just present information, they need to create a tangible, tactile experience to support the content. We chose a coated paper for the full colour photos (Magno Star 90 g/m²) and uncoated (Lessebo Design Natural 100 g/m2,) for the texts from Igepa Nederland.
Is there something missing in the current range of available paper?
At a first glance, the selection of papers looks overwhelming, but when you apply specific criteria, the choices are not sufficient. For the Works That Work magazine, we looked for a specific colour of the white, uncoated, less cloudy when you look against the light, a specific sheet size, and the choices were surprisingly limited. It is often not the ‘speciality’ papers, but those which look normal that are hardest to choose, and often I have a feeling that miss either the right colour or the sheet size.
What is your biggest frustration in the field of paper?
I have a large collection of paper samples, and it is frustrating when I finally find what I want, call the printer, and they tell me it is not available. Either it is out of production, or you need to order large quantity, or they exist in a wrong size.
Is it difficult or easy for designers in your country to find information on paper, paper samples and/or paper collections?
I live in the Netherlands, where the culture of book production is very high. I think it is easier to find the relevant information than elsewhere.
How do you see the future of paper?
When we started the Works That Work magazine, people asked me why I am doing a print edition, when the future is digital.This is at least what the popular myth seems to be. We started the magazine through a crowd-funding campaign. We offered the magazine in digital edition for 8 euros, and in print for 16 euros. 90% of our readers chose the print edition, contradicting completely the trends about digital magazines. We still produce the eBook version, but it is a marginal project compared to the print edition.People like me, who spend so much time in front of the computer, like to read on paper in their spare time. So paper may change its role, but will continue to be an important medium for disseminating and archiving information.
Interview by De Monsterkamer with Peter Bil’ak