Suzy Tuxen from A Friend of Mine discusses a few of her recent print projects…
What was it that sparked your love of print design?
There is something very exciting about getting a job back from a printer/producer. Printing really adds another dimension that you can never achieve on screen.
What is your favourite print finish?
I really love the thermography that was used on the business card designed for Carla Grbac. The way thermography works is they print one side of the card, then put a fine powder on the surface, which is baked in an oven. The ink bubbles up and forms a shiny, raised surface which is really tactile. It was perfect to represent Carla’s weaving craft – also highly tactile. When you run your fingernail across the card it has this lovely effect similar to what it is like to scrape the flat side of a comb. The Commonwealth Bank business cards use thermography; it’s actually quite an old-fashioned technique.
How do you determine when a particular effect is right for the project?
The embellishment should always be relevant to the core idea of the project, or enhance it in some way without complicating the message.
Where do you find inspiration for print finishes and processes?
It’s fun to find inspiration in unexpected, rare or unfashionable sources. I have a list of several embellishments I can’t wait to use. I’m just waiting for the appropriate opportunity!
How do you choose a printer, and how closely do you work with them on a project?
You really have to pick a printer according to their skill set and ideally find one that specialises in what you need. It pays to ring them early on in the design process and ask if they are capable and, if not, if they can recommend who is. It’s worth doing your research and finding somebody reputable with attention to detail. The relationship is close. They really need to understand exactly what you are trying to achieve, and all the limitations should be clear before starting.
Do printers and designers speak the same language? How do you think we can better communicate with each other to ensure great outcomes?
Designers and printers often speak a completely different language. We have a lot to learn from printers, and that’s why it’s so important for designers to overcome any shyness and pick up the phone and speak with an expert. They really can educate us on their craft. In order to ensure the project is going to turn out well, and how you expect, you should visit the printer to learn how the machines and processes work. Press checks are also imperative.
How do you go about making selections for finishes? What qualities are you looking for in speciality stocks and inks?
We are currently designing a foil printed leather tag (for an overseas wedding invitation) and working with a talented bookbinder to do this. This really strays from the normal print comfort zone, but I’ve found it fascinating. It was important to be really engaged in the process.
We actually drove to the leather supplier to hand pick a leather hide, which would be used for leather luggage-style tags. As each hide is unique and no two are the same, it’s not the same as picking from a swatch book – we needed to go there directly and feel each one, pick the one that had the right texture, tone and thickness.
Our bookbinder then did lots of test prints to figure out the right style of embossing and foil printing. Each leather reacted differently to the foil – and, as there is no precise science with leather or foiling, we just needed to test things out.
How do you bring a client to the party in terms of cost?
It is about educating your client about how the embellishment would look and function, and what value it would add to the finished piece. Really, it’s up to the client then if they want to invest in a special embellishment – often they do when it’s appropriate to the design and makes an exciting finish. Embellishments can add so much and really make a piece tactile and memorable.
As designers, we work largely in the digital environment, so how do you begin to conceptualise a print project?
A big library of samples and Photoshop skills come in handy at this point! It’s tricky when
shifting between the digital and print realm. I don’t have an answer for this as sometimes they don’t really match up. While websites allow animation and movement, they don’t accommodate tactility or dimension.
What’s the most memorable mistake you’ve made on a print job, and what have you learned from that mistake?
Years and years ago, during my first design job, I used fluorescent yellow for the typography on a little booklet. At dusk it glowed beautifully; however, after the sun dropped and in the absence of natural light the colour disappeared and the text was completely illegible! It was a pretty embarrassing mistake, which in hindsight could have been avoided.