Paper Insights

The Magic 8 Ball and Paper in 2010

By Sabine Lenz

“Should I get out of bed today?” – It is decidedly so.
“Should I have cereal for breakfast?” – Yes.

papertipMany of you have watched the funny YouTube video in which a teenager lets the Magic 8 Ball decide every action he’s taking for one day. Well, you can sit back and wait for the trusted 8 Ball to help you decide what’s going to be hot and happening in paper this year or …

THE Paper Trend for 2010

This one would overwhelm the 8 Ball for sure, as it can only answers Yes/No questions. There are so many interesting things happening in the world of paper that it’s hard to predict THE trend.

But if I have to pick one big thing, it’s “distinction.” The more our world gets digitized, the more we value true craftsmanship and that personalized handmade feel. Just think of the revival of letterpress printing. In the world of paper, this means unique papers, colors and textures.

Today, Nordstrom, American Express, and even old established banks employ a differentiation technique (using everything from translucent envelopes to unique textures) to reach out to customers and distinguish themselves from the competition.

These companies have recognized that it takes more than a pretty, well recognized logo to get the envelope opened and the letter read … well, a compelling offer helps as well.

In the last few months, several boutique mills have brought new paper lines containing wool, cotton and silk into the North American market. And I expect this trend to continue.

The Bigger Picture
There are several industry trends that are being directly driven by paper specifiers and their customers. From environmental benefits to new technologies to the bottom line, these bigger picture objectives will be prevalent throughout 2010.

Trading down – Due to budget concerns, designers and print buyers are trading down when it comes to paper grades: a No. 1 sheet instead of a Premium one or a No. 2 instead of a No. 1. If you know your paper math, you know that this means an average 12 percent cost savings per grade.

Some mills have responded to this trend by lowering their Premium prices … very smart indeed.

Digital short runs – As color and image quality have improved, and designers and print buyers have become more educated, the adoption of digital short runs is an unstoppable trend. In 2003, only 24 percent of print buyers and designers bought digital short runs. In 2009, we’re looking at a majority of 86 percent.

This goes hand in hand with the shorter print runs for which digital printing is the perfect technology. As a result, mills will continue to expand already growing paper options for digital presses.

Environmentally preferred papers – Beyond budget influences, the call for environmentally preferred papers, either with a specific amount of postconsumer waste (PCW) content, or some forest certification like Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), will remain strong.

And as Asian paper producers try to rid themselves of their unsavory environmental record, I think you’ll begin to see a heightened awareness and scrutiny among ever-more savvy consumers of the lesser-known certification schemes.

What’s in it for the Clients?
The incredible variety of paper offerings will continue to inspire the creative impulse and satisfy the sustainability consciousness.

The PaperSpecs paper database features more than 4,300 commercial printing papers that a buyer or designer can specify with an ever-growing multitude of attributes (i.e. translucent sheets with recycled content that are also suitable for inkjet printing; metallic and textured sheets that run well on digital presses).

There’s little compromise to be made, and all this allows designers to specify the perfect paper that will enhance the design and the message of the printed piece … and differentiate the client’s brand, product or service.

So there are my predictions for 2010 … all five cents worth! But if you’re not convinced, you can unearth the Magic 8 Ball and let it decide your paper path for the year to come ;-)

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