For the past week, I’ve been designing the printed material for a certain conference. I often forget the mixed emotions that come with switching medium and designing for print again. On one hand, it’s great not to have to think about IA, usability and CSS bugs and to focus on just creating something nice and smelling paper (we’ll get on to that). On the other hand though, especially when designing to a specific deadline which can’t shift, the feeling of finality that comes with print still scares the shit out of me. If it’s wrong, that’s it.

A small dig at web process

Maybe it’s me, but when I’m designing for print—especially when I’m preparing artwork—I take immense care to not screw things up. Because once it’s at the printers, then there’s no going back. With the web, the act of finalising work before completion is actually only imposed by process and not by the physical act of uploading something. If you upload something and it’s not right, you redo it and upload again. Can’t do that with a 20k run of annual reports.

This bothers me.

So, note to self, get in the same mental space for the final production work for web design as you do for print. Probably easier said than done.

Feeling and smelling paper

I like this bit of print design. My wife still laughs at me whenever we’re out and I go fondling and smelling paper stock in Waterstones. This week, I’ve had a great time speaking with my printer and sourcing a really great stock for the conference material. This involves looking, feeling and smelling. Choosing the right stock is such a sensual experience (note. I’m using that word in its correct context there. Choosing paper is definitely not sexual. Well, for me anyway.) Also, having just gone into business myself, I don’t have the stash of paper samples I’ve had access to in the past when I worked in agencies. So, I’ve been on a dreadful looking site, who have an incredibly useful list of mills, brands and products. I began the task of compiling my own paper collection.

I was amazed at how varied the industries websites were. What was surprising was that all of them, except one, made ordering swatches and samples incredibly frustrating. After about an hour, I gave up on most and picked the phone up. I don’t get it, how is this difficult? Like I said, there was one site that really stood out as a visual, interesting way of ordering samples. That was Zanders Samples.

Zanders, a joy to order

First off, before I go on about how great this was, ignore the fact the code is shonky. Okay? Good.

Most of the online sample ordering services I came across were simple shopping cart type functionality. For the most part, they worked well, but considering the breadth of most product ranges (in terms of size, colour, weight etc.), and the choices I had to make before ordering, the simple shopping cart soon became a monstrous list of links. Then I stumbled across the Zanders UK samples site.

Very simple, task driven presentation. Do you want samples? Or other stuff?

The homepage is so simple; do you want samples (tailored to order of course), or generic product swatches and promotional material.

On clicking samples, you are treated to some wonderfully simple illustrations to guide you through the process.

1. Choose what type of sample you want. 2. Pick a product. 3. Pick a product type and 4. Here’s what you ordered.

A really fresh take on a labourious process.

Know where I can get more swatches?

Years ago, when I was a full-time print designer, swatches and paper samples seemed to be easier to come by. Bigger mills, such as Modo, where pretty much throwing bulky swatches at any newly graduated designer. Oh how times of change. I really couldn’t believe how difficult it was to track these down this week. Anyway, I’m getting there, slowly. On that note, does anyone know of any good mills or distributors who’d be happy to send me a decent range of paper swatches?