A Symphony in Color by J.S. McCarthy

by Lara Copeland, assistant editor, PostPress
J.S. McCarthy’s self-promotion 2017 calendar has received much praise from its customers. Additionally, it is being recognized through industry awards as well.
Attending a live symphonic performance is a cultural experience people from all walks of life have enjoyed for centuries. This musical concert often evokes thoughts of sophistication and class as dramatic, red curtains hide an orchestral ensemble that will tantalize the senses of all in attendance. Rich, all-encompassing sounds of the combined instruments arouse emotions as symphony-goers anticipate the ebb and flow of the music – surging and commanding one moment and delicate and fleeting the next. The combined talents of the nearly 100 musicians offer an inspiring and meaningful shared experience. J.S. McCarthy, headquartered in Augusta, Maine, has taken the experience of a classic symphony and transformed it into the 2017 J.S. McCarthy Printers calendar – A Symphony in Color – showcasing a compilation of the talents of its craftspeople and highlighting its printing capabilities and most-requested finishing techniques.

J.S. McCarthy is one of New England’s oldest and largest sheet-fed printing operations. A thriving business for more than 60 years, the company is constantly pursuing advanced technology to remain competitive in the marketplace. With a wide array of capabilities beyond its printing presses – from perfect binding, diecutting, embossing and foiling to packaging, fulfillment and mailing – its tagline, “one source, one solution” rings true to its broad and diverse customer base spread throughout the country.

Each year, J.S. McCarthy creates a marketing piece to showcase its capabilities for its customers. Michael Tardiff, director of communications at the company, partners with his mother, Patty Tardiff, special projects, and Sue Bourdon of Bourdon and Company, a designer who has worked with J.S. McCarthy for many years, to create the design for the annual promotional project. When the design team holds its first meeting for the calendar, they brainstorm several ideas and consider what the design will look like and what it will represent. They are looking for that “spark” of genius as they explore different universal themes each year to reach their extensive customer base.

“We are doing work with designers from a multitude of industries – health care companies and colleges to name a couple – so we try to find something that has appeal to a large range of people while also highlighting our capabilities,” Tardiff explained. This year, they wanted to emphasize coatings and different inks, foil and diecutting, while also providing a sensory experience. After contemplating various options, the team decided to use the symphonic theme to create a multifaceted sensory experience.

From the diecut, scored, folded and glued by hand (due to the musical insert) cover to the 12-page calendar, J.S. McCarthy endeavored to replicate the symphonic experience, using not only visual representations but also sound. The entire capacity folder that holds the calendar is intended to resemble the red curtains that adorn theaters and separate the audience from the back stage. “We wanted the audience to feel like they were opening up the curtain of a symphony,” Tardiff stated. On the front panel is a sculpted and embossed sign that reads “2017” and appears to hang from the top of the cover. On the top half of its backside is another 3×4 area flat-stamped in gold foil that reads “A Symphony in Color.” Inscribed on the bottom half is a description of the theme – a poetic acknowledgement of the shared beauty between music and color.

Opening the inside panel activates a sound chip that plays Beethoven’s 5th symphony, captivating the audience’s attention with its riveting four-note introduction. “We chose that particular song for its suspenseful draw and classical appeal,” Tardiff specified. Pockets on the inside serve a similar purpose by including thumbnails to give the audience a preview of what’s to come without spoiling the details completely.

The capacity folder presented a few challenges for the design team – but nothing that they considered insurmountable. In recent years, J.S. McCarthy fashioned what Tardiff called a “traditional” calendar – with one sheet per two months. This year, the company moved away from this traditional style, opting for a format that would allow them to experiment with different foil, embossing and coating techniques.

To meet their design expectations, the team used its HUV Straight Komori and its HUV Perfecting Komori. The capacity folder that holds the calendar was printed on a 14pt Carolina White stock and coated inline. UV-curable inks were used for the cover in a 7 over 6 HUV process with a double hit of black on one side. Lastly, Velcro dots were used on the inside to secure the calendar within the folded wrap.

J.S. McCarthy won Gold in the “Best Use of Foil Stamping & Embossing – Self-Promotion” category during the Foil & Specialty Effects Association’s 24th annual FSEA Gold Leaf Awards competition.The main attraction, a 12-page calendar with wire-O binding and a hanger, features one month per page. Each page depicts different processes in an appropriately themed musical picture for the specified month. The days of the week, in all but one month, run horizontally in bold across a faded musical bar. In a sidebar on the left of each calendar grid, the design team decided to include a brief description of that page’s production, as well as a small-scale version of the previous and next months’ calendar.

“We tried to find processes that are popular with our clients and show different ways to do those, and if we have a new process – maybe a new coating – we tried to incorporate it into the calendar,” Tardiff said.

The elaborately designed November page is one example of a relatively new process for J.S. McCarthy. With a focus on percussion instruments, several drums are depicted, with one snare drum pictured in the front. To obtain this look, designers started with a metallic stock and then printed on an 8-color offset press. The first pass on press included 4-color process and two hits of white opaque ink in strategic areas of the calendar grid. It was also gloss UV-coated inline. A second pass included a spot dull varnish on the grid portion of the calendar page. The combination of the translucent inks over the drum set and reversed-out silver in specific areas gives a unique and distinguished finish to the entire page. To complete the look the design team envisioned, the page was topped off with a sculpted embossing pass to highlight the gold drum set. Patty Tardiff explained, “As the beat went on, so did the sculpted emboss to soften the edges of this heavy metal month.”

The February calendar page showcases several of J.S. McCarthy’s capabilities. The featured clarinet, shown tucked away in its case, was first printed with a pass of metallic silver ink. “We felt Metallic Spectrum would highlight the design without losing the antique finish on the clarinet parts,” Patty articulated. The second pass included a reticulating UV coating that creates a spot gloss on the clarinet parts and a dull varnish in the other areas of the image. The second pass also included a spot aqueous soft-touch coating on the inside portion of the clarinet case. Lastly, the metallic silver-inked clarinet parts and the wording “February” were sculpted embossed to accent the beautiful calendar page. “Going a step further, we felt the sculpted emboss would enhance the image and add yet another tactile element to the unique inks and coatings used,” said Patty.

May might be the most outstanding of them all. “It is truly exquisite with the rough texture of brick, elegant shine on the piano and smooth velvety curtain,” Bourdon commented. The first pass included seven stations on the Komori where the piano and brick background were printed in 4-color, and then a gloss UV coating was used to highlight the piano, with the surrounding brick and flooring being coated with a dull UV. The curtains on the outside of the image were spot-coated with an aqueous soft-touch. The next pass included a peacock-blue metallic flat stamp on the wording “May,” the days of the week, and highlighted specific dates – the 14th for Mother’s Day and the 29th for Memorial Day. “The foil in a contrasting color added a subtle touch of elegance to the “grand” setting,” Patty noted. The last pass was an embossing/debossing of the background brick and windows that the design team included to add dimension to the architecture.

With any great feat, great challenges are expected. One production hurdle the company faces each year is finding time to process something for self-promotion during its busy season. “Our busy time is July 4 through the end of the year, and it’s a challenge to process something for yourself when you’ve got a majority of your customer work going through,” Tardiff explained. To overcome this obstacle, designers strive to get it on press as early as possible – with everything ready by June or July. Squeezing it in around customers’ work can be difficult, but he admits that customers come first. “We have to make sacrifices to make sure we are prioritizing correctly.”

The main attraction is a 12-page calendar with wire-O binding and a hanger, features one month per page. Each page depicts different processes in an appropriately themed musical picture for the specified month.

Fortunately, the sacrifices seem to be well worth it thus far. Tardiff shared that this has been one of J.S. McCarthy’s best received years. “We always get calls the first few weeks when people are looking at our calendar, so that’s not unusual,” he continued. “But this year it seems like every month when a calendar page turns, I’m getting emails forwarded from sales representatives saying ‘I just changed my calendar and this month is my favorite.'”

The company is seeing plenty of engagement this year – more so than what it has seen in years past. Tardiff said this is exactly what the design team was aiming to accomplish when it changed the way it communicated its capabilities with its customers. In the past, J.S. McCarthy sent out monthly mailings with production notes that accompanied the new month. This ensured that contact with the customers was maintained throughout the year. Now, however, Tardiff says that “doing it the traditional way – the calendar is really speaking for itself.” Most of all, he is pleased that customers are responding.

J.S. McCarthy’s self-promotion 2017 calendar has received much praise from its customers. Additionally, it is being recognized through industry awards as well. Winning the Gold for “Best Use of Foil Stamping & Embossing – Self-Promotion” during the Foil & Specialty Effects Association’s 24th annual FSEA Gold Leaf Awards competition this year left the entire J.S. McCarthy team feeling honored. “None of this would be possible without the amazing craftspeople we have here, and it’s nice to see our hard work recognized,” Tardiff disclosed. The calendar was then awarded “Best of Show” at the FSEA Awards Reception that took place during the recent IADD•FSEA Odyssey in Schaumburg, Illinois, an award selected from all the Gold winners in 36 categories. Feeling inspired, Tardiff concluded, “we are going to keep innovating and doing more and being better.”