Katja Hartung – Toben

Published:  December 30, 2012
Katja Hartung – Toben

Katja Hartung from Toben talks us through her favourite print finish, as well as how to find the right finish for the job.

What was it that sparked your love of print design?
I guess we’ve always opened any interesting-looking packaging, admired records, and had to touch any great book and magazine in-store. Printed applications offer so many different ways to interact with graphics, and give us unlimited formats and surfaces to design with. We find it the most inspiring medium to work in. It has texture, dimension, scale, can be touched and reacts to changing light conditions.

What is your favourite print finish?
That really depends on the application, and what it adds. Foil can be really effective and surprising, especially on unusual tactile surfaces.

Thumbnail and above: The Ongoing Moment - Underlapper album cover

How do you determine when a particular effect is right for the project?
We almost exclusively include finishes when the idea is part of the overall visual concept, and rarely as a pure added embellishment at printing stage. On a few projects, we’ve replaced finishes with a conventional printing method at the same cost, or used an unusual print, size or die-cut to work around the limitation of small quantities. So it doesn’t always have to be an indulgence. It is usually the design concept, the client’s budget, quantities, the feel, positioning and brand context that we weigh up.

Where do you find inspiration for print finishes and processes?
The best inspiration seems to come from the most unusual places – a vintage find, a comment, an artwork. The majority of finds seem to come from browsing stores, overseas travel (I’m always returning with a suitcase of embellished flyers, magazines and art publications) and through our friendly paper and print reps who share the same excitement, and online.

How do you choose a printer, and how closely do you work with them on a project?
We work with a range of printers that seem to have their individual strengths. They are sometimes involved early on if the production is complex (advising on binding, stocks, finishes and prototyping); other times we only work closely with them throughout the proofing stage.

Alpen - Inside The Sky album cover

Do printers and designers speak the same language? How do you think we can better communicate with each other to ensure great outcomes?
We’ve certainly had a few alien discussions with some suppliers! I guess the best printers focus on more than just the technical aspect, and employ a manager on their side who has the same passion for innovation and quality as we designers do. At the same time, it probably helps enormously when we designers know a fair bit about the technical side of printing to understand the limitations, and when we are engaged enough to learn more. Tight deadlines and too much pressure seem to be very counterproductive for that communication.

How do you go about making selections for finishes? What qualities are you looking for in speciality stocks and inks?
That’s a tricky question; it really depends on the overall creative. An opaque ink or a flimsy stock could be a disaster on one job, and the perfect effect on another. In general, I could only say that it should support the concept, and maybe surprise in some way.

How do you bring a client to the party in terms of cost?
We are quite upfront with clients about costs and cost comparison, and generally deal with fairly well-educated clients who know about the cost and benefit of finishes. With smaller clients especially, we find out about their printing budgets to come up with solutions that are realistic. Sometimes we have to reconsider the initial idea of format and print method to offset the cost with a finish. It really helps when a client has the imagination and vision to make that decision based on a little mock-up, with a swatch or sample as reference to the finish. Finishes should add something relevant or surprising or memorable to the application. When they do, they sometimes sell themselves.

Vera Xane stationery

As designers, we work largely in the digital environment, so how do you begin to conceptualise a print project?
We like to make that transfer to very rough paper mock-ups or prototypes really early on. It helps wrap the mind around it, and it sparks ideas throughout the design process.

What’s the most memorable mistake you’ve made on a print job, and what have you learned from that mistake?
We’re a bit obsessive when it comes to the production control, and I think we’ve been very lucky too. We are always triple checking files and proofs, and also have had really attentive printers. The worst mistake we’ve made was to accept a very tight deadline with no room for error. On top of that our supplier neglected to test the very thin stock on the folding machine. The print was done, the event deadline was approaching with no time to reprint, and the stock didn’t go through the folding machine. We had to hand-fold for 24 hours. Thankfully, our amazing client was on hand to help. So I guess we’ve learned to keep a buffer in the timeline, always have full approval, press check whenever possible, and keep every good print partner!

Thumbnail: The Ongoing Moment – Underlapper album cover.

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