CR: What are the most important factors in creating a good working relationship between designer and printer?
PH: To be open-minded, on both sides. Communication is the key. It seems like the designers who create the better work are also those who will start with a vision, ask their printer how they might achieve it and then incorporate that expertise in the finished design. The earlier you can talk to us in the process the better.
Every designer wants to push boundaries. Pretty much everything has been done before but not necessarily in a particular combination. There are no parameters to work to in print. It’s a case of saying “in our experience, this would work better with that”. Good designers take account of your experience and knowledge and use it to challenge you. The critical thing is to have a very good idea of what you want to end up with and to be able to communicate that to the printer. There isn’t always time these days for wet proofs or tests so communicating well and being on-side rather than working against each other is vital.
CR: What are the most popular print finishes and techniques at the moment?
PH: Foil-blocking is still really popular as is duplexing – where paper companies bond two different paper stocks together to create one sheet with a different texture on each side. We’ve also seen a lot of appropriation of papers for things they weren’t originally intended for – greyboard is very popular at the moment which is a recycled board that you are not really supposed to print on at all.
CR: What about environmental issues – are designers driving demand for “greener” print?
PH: I don’t think that designers have come to grips with these issues in the same way that printers have had to. Designers are still largely preoccupied with how something looks and feels and how it will be received in the marketplace. They almost expect us to look after the environmental side. We have FSC [Forestry Stewardship Council] accreditation and are carbon neutral. If a designer asks just for a white uncoated sheet of paper, we will specify FSC as a matter of course, but most designers are not really clear about what these things mean. There’s not enough knowledge out there.
CR: Now that so much information is being disseminated digitally, how is the nature of print changing?
PH: The companies that care about their brand are differentiating themselves through the quality of their print. Print as a commodity has been devalued through digital and 24-hour turnaround but there has been an increased value in high quality print as an expression of a brand. n
Paul Hewitt is the youngest of four generations of Hewitts to have worked in the print industry. His company, East Sussex-based Generation Press, counts designers such as Yacht Associates and Poke (plus Build) among its clients.