The New Classic: Neenah Revisits Old Typefaces

by Brittany Willes, editor, PostPress
Fresh Takes on Classic Type on CLASSIC® Papers from Neenah Papers, Alpharetta, Georgia, showcases six highly tactile, visually engaging and interactive spreads.

The word is out: Paper is in. In a world overrun with digital media, studies have shown that people crave the tactile sensations and experiences that only paper can provide. As a result, companies are striving to find new and exciting ways to entice customers with paper texture. Neenah Papers, Alpharetta, Georgia, has gone a step further with its newest promotional book, Fresh Takes on Classic Type on CLASSIC® Papers. Showcasing six highly tactile, visually engaging and interactive spreads, the Fresh Takes book is designed around six iconic typefaces.

In order to create the oversized, French-fold-style book, Neenah reached out to Willoughby Design. As a way to emphasize the flexibility of Neenah’s CLASSIC® series of papers, Willoughby gathered a selection of classic typefaces, such as typewriter type, to act as the “new classics” of typographic design. “The book merges contemporary typefaces and design with the textures of legendary CLASSIC® Papers by Neenah,” explained Senior Brand Manager Kathy Kemps. “The goal was to inspire designers and educate them on the incredible printability of CLASSIC Papers. The book’s content is designed to draw the reader in to both visually and physically experience the designs, the paper and the different print techniques,” Kemps stated.

Combining typography, graphic design, traditional offset and UV printing, four-color imagery and spot color, foil stamping, spot thick UV, embossing, debossing and intricate diecuts on a selection of CLASSIC® papers, each typeface is designed to keep viewers engaged with, and returning to, the page.

The book features six different spreads, each showcasing (mostly) 21st century typefaces. For instance, the first spread is titled “Retro Retirement,” designed by Jessica Hische using Buttermilk and Brioche typefaces on CLASSIC Linen and boasts a removable and reusable coffee sleeve. “Matthew Carter’s Big Caslon is used on a piece of wrapping paper tucked into a folder, and then there’s the Dingbat’s story that has tear-out cards designed for building paper structures,” Kemps enthused. “Each of the six stories has a tactile element, giving a sense of discovery and playfulness throughout the book.”

A desire to pay homage to typography’s importance in history and design is what first inspired Neenah to create the book. It would serve as a means to honor iconic type designers. Willoughby Design was asked to identify creative typefaces that would engage designers and to create a visually strong, graphic piece that told stories with those typefaces.

According to Kemps, the Willoughby team brought in the idea of featuring contemporary type designers along with renowned typographical masters and their new digital typefaces, yet typefaces that still evoked classic analog printing. “If you look through the book, you’ll see how these new typefaces provide a fresh way for designers to use type without the limitations of traditional typesetting,” asserted Kemps. The spreads are designed to be both visual and interactive, and the textural appeal of the CLASSIC Brands (CLASSIC CREST®, CLASSIC® Linen, CLASSIC® Laid, and CLASSIC COLUMNS® Papers) weaves added dimension into each story.

As mentioned previously, the first spread, Retro Refreshment designed by Jessica Hische, makes use of two inspired typefaces: Buttermilk and Brioche. Of the two-page spread, the first page makes bold use of the Buttermilk typeface, proclaiming to viewers in Solar White 100c text: “May your coffee be strong and your Monday be short.” The brilliantly white text stands out against a custom match Canyon Brown background interwoven with Arabian Gold API Foil. For this page, Neenah’s CLASSIC CREST® paper was selected to complement the design. For the opposite page, CLASSIC Linen® paper is used to complement the spread’s slogan, “Evoking a time, a place, a mood.” This page displays a coffee cup that has received multi-level registered emboss and diecut, allowing it to stand off the page. Complementing the previous page’s color scheme, the removable cup sleeve was printed on CLASSIC COLUMNS® paper, in the same Canyon Brown color. The Brioche typeface across the sleeve, “Dotting my eyes and croissant my teas,” likewise stands out in bold white against the darker background.

The promotional book combines typography, graphic design, traditional offset and UV printing, four-color imagery and spot color, foil stamping, spot thick UV, embossing, debossing and intricate diecuts on a selection of CLASSIC® papers.

Following Retro Refreshment is Digital DIY Delight designed by Luke Lisi and featuring Homestead typeface. According to the book, Lisi is a “big believer in exploring the boundaries of technologies at hand. When [he] figured out how to break apart the letters H-O-M-E…it motivated him to develop a complete modular type system. The result is an 80c Patriot Blue, CLASSIC CREST® pocket laid over CLASSIC Linen® paper. The French-folded pocket also features a satin varnish, diecut, score, fold and glue tabs and contains three removable CLASSIC CREST® papers. Each of the different colored pocket inserts also displays diecuts and spot satin varnish. Each insert also makes use of different textures, including stipple, smooth and eggshell.

Also noteworthy is the Wood Typefaces Go Digital (A chip off the old block) spread from designer Erik Spiekermann. For this typeface spread, the left and right pages appear almost as mirror images of one another. It’s only by looking closer that the viewer realizes the two pages of text actually read differently. For instance, the text, composed of HWT Artz typeface, on the right page is done in Pantone gray and brown, displays registered deboss with pearlescent spot thick UV coating and reads, “Good Design is in all the Things You Notice.” The left page likewise is done on CLASSIC CREST® paper in Avon Brilliant White using 4-color process. The mirroring text reads “Great Design is in all the Things You Don’t.” Between the smooth texture of the paper and the UV coating, the blocky typeface effectively entices viewers to run a hand over the page.

“With the technologies we have today, digital and analog worlds are united in an unlimited possibility of expression,” stated Willoughby Founder and CCO Ann Willoughby. “It’s never been a better time to be a designer.” Expression possibilities may be unlimited, but Neenah has sought to provide a broad sample of themes and ideas. Each of the book’s spreads strives to tell the story of how new digital typefaces evoke classic analog printing technologies, while freeing designers from the limitations of traditional typesetting. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is the Typing Without a Typewriter spread, which evokes a distinct feeling of nostalgia.

Neenah’s goal with the book was to inspire designers with information, color, touch, typography and design.

Each page is done on CLASSIC CREST®. The left page features an Avalanche White background causing the black and red text to practically jump off the page. The typeface itself, “Qwerty for the digerati” as the page reads, perfectly imitates typewriter type giving the page a personal, even intimate, feel. The opposite right page is a stark contrast with an image of a solid black, old-fashioned typewriter against a brilliant red background. The page was printed using UV 4-color process with UV Black text for the appearance of classic typewriter typeface. The page also makes use of diecutting and spot thick UV coating. Like the Digital DIY spread, this spread contains removable inserts displaying varying colors and textures.

“Each spread contains a pull out, pop-up or put-it-together piece to help tell the story,” said Kemps. With all the different pieces and materials, “finding the balance of keeping it authentic while showcasing the papers became a bit of a challenge,” she admitted. Perhaps the largest challenge was selecting the right finish and color that felt natural for each story and then making it work to include as many colors and finishes as possible.

Despite the challenges, Neenah managed to include an array of colors, textures and finishes and not just in the spreads themselves. Even the front and back covers enter into the spirit of things. The individual pages are joined together with pewter wire-o binding and encased in CLASSIC CREST® double thick cover. Pantone orange, green, light blue, teal, gray and metallic silver splash across the cover, complementing the Neenah name, embossed with satin silver API foil and spot satin varnish. Further scoring, debossing and folding of the cover combine to create a unique tactile experience for viewers and all but demands the turning of the page to explore further.

According to Kemps, “Success with an intricate piece like this is achieved by doing your homework up front and working closely with your printer. Proofing, proofing and proofing again, as well as having paper dummies made to make sure everything will flow and fit properly. Also, working closely with the pressman was crucial for getting the perfect look and feel that we were after.”

As Kemps noted, the goal of the book was to inspire designers with information, color, touch, typography and design. “Designers love to play with paper and to learn about all of the specialty techniques that work so well with premium papers, and this book gives them that opportunity,” she affirmed. “We’re happy to say that the feedback we’ve been receiving tells us that this book has achieved the goal!”