Wang Zhihong 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?
I prefer a variety of textured but plain colored papers to replace the base color of the print. In general, I prefer papers that do not have overly strong feelings and directional textures. Those with strong characteristics would be inappropriate cause they will leave too vivid a memory. Unless they match the content of the project very well.
Could you give an example of a design you created where paper played a special or crucial role?
In the cover design of Motojirō Kajii’s Lemon, I wanted to reflect the everyday experience of people. Lemon is a crop that needs to be packaged and transported to a place where it can reach the consumer. In the process of purchasing, people leave an impression of all the things around them that they can see, such as the cartons that are used for transporting, the labels on the cartons, etc. The design of Lemon is intended to capture these feelings, and even if a lemon does not actually appear on the cover, the reader can still associate it with the experience and I achieve my desired effect. I used kraftpaper duple paper from Takeo Co., Ltd. The two sides of this paper show different colors, one side is white with gray and noise, and the other side is kraft paper, which resembles a common carton texture, so the paper plays a key role in this design instead of simply carrying the ink.
How important is the choice of paper in your design work? Do you spend a lot of time picking the paper?
The choice of paper is critical, and it must be shaped together with the design content. Because I am constantly faced with paper selection and know the products of the various paper trading companies in Taiwan, I am able to quickly pinpoint the approximate direction of my choices in general. There are a few special themes or design needs that may take more time, and sometimes I need to contact foreign paper suppliers or ask them to coordinate the paper.
Can you point out work by another designer that you appreciate when it comes to the paper choice?
Project Japan: Metabolism Talks… designed by Irma Boom. The cover of this book is made of gray cardboard with industrial paper characteristics, which is slightly rough in texture and probably contains recycled material. The thin paper for the interior has a grayish tint and a flat luster. The characteristics of both papers are similar, and I guess that these papers are not too expensive. They are a good choice for interpreting the Japanese Metabolism architectural movement of the 1960s. The content is meaningful, the editorial design is excellent, and the choice of paper is appropriate, which I think makes the physical book a fascinating read.
Do you think there are any gaps in the current paper market for designers?
Because Taiwan does not have a large market, the country has been mainly importing papers. In addition to Europe, paper from Japan such as Takeo has been used more and more frequently in the last decade, so the variety of choices may not be thatsmall compared to China, Korea, or Southeast Asia. But for designers, there can never be a day when there is no gap, and they always want to see more kinds of paper.
What is your biggest frustration when it comes to paper?
Although there are many types of paper imported to Taiwan, there are only a limited number of papers that are really liked and can be used time and time again. Due to the size of the Taiwan market, the new papers are not imported quickly enough, and inventory problems can obstruct the subsequent use. In many cases, we can’t afford to stop the project for the long time it takes to import paper, so this is the most inconvenient part for designers.
Do you find it easy/difficult to find information about paper, to get paper samples and/or collections?
This isn’t difficult for me, as many paper companies were willing to provide us with samples in the first instance, including Takeo in Japan. When we have worked on projects in China and the UK, Takeo has provided us with cross-country information to assist us. Both parties are able to communicate with each other immediately, without having to go through a domestic paper trading company.
How do you see the future of paper?
Because of my frequent contact with publications, I often see the future of paper in the form of books. It’s true that the market for physical books is shrinking, but we continue to offer good quality publications, and the choice of paper in particular highlights that attitude, as we believe it is the basis for good quality. And whatever the future of paper, I think it’s important to value the opportunities and resources that are available to use it, especially in these changing times.
Interview by De Monsterkamer with Wang Zhihong