Thinking outside the box
To learn the craft of graphic design inside out, Lars Harmsen started his career as a printer. Knowing all the ins and outs of the production process, he fully recognises the importance of choosing the right paperboard for the right project – and he is not afraid to use materials in ways other than the ones they were designed for.
THIS CONTENT IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN INSPIRE ISSUE 41 FROM 2012
Apart from being co-founder of Magma Design, launched in 1996 in Karlsruhe, and Munich-based Melville Brand Design, Lars Harmsen is also editor-in-chief of Slanted, a magazine about typography and design. When a representative from Iggesund showed him Invercote Creato (260 g/m² + 20 g/m² black pe coating), Harmsen got an idea. He wanted to use the paperboard – with black pe-coating on one side and white on the other – not for the kind of packaging it was conceived for, but for the cover of the spring 2011 issue of Slanted.
“The texture is very smooth and glossy without feeling plastic,” Harmsen says. “You can put a cup of wet coffee on the magazine and just wipe it off afterwards. It’s a fantastic material to silkscreen on. You feel the colour with your fingertips. Even a blind person can read what it says on the cover.”
Two weeks later, Harmsen was commissioned by Adidas to conceive a box for the 111th anniversary of the birth of Adi Dassler, the founder of Adidas. The box was handed out to 25,000 employees worldwide and contained cards together with the Adidas Brand Manifesto.
“I knew this box would be opened and closed many times, and I knew it had to stay in shape in the corners, which is the big difficulty to overcome,” Harmsen says. “The paperboard had to be sturdy, but I still wanted it to look luxurious and glossy and not leave any fingerprints. I knew these criteria were met by Invercote Creato, as I had just used it for the magazine cover, and I decided to use the same paperboard for the box.”
The event was held in the autumn of 2011 and both the client and the Adidas employees were pleased with the result. The cards, also made with Invercote, were cut so you could put one into the other, and everybody started to build card houses. Encouraged by the outcome, Harmsen now wants to continue exploring new uses of the paperboard. As a designer, he doesn’t like surprises, and he appreciates the reliability of Invercote.
“We’re looking into the possible use of Invercote for flexo cover books,” he says.
“One thing I appreciate about Invercote is that it allows you to do all these different types of finishing. The text on the Adidas box was embossed, which rarely works on plasticised surfaces – most of the time hot foil embossing won’t hold.”
A mutual motto of Magma Design and Melville Brand Design is that there shouldn’t be a gap between the graphic designer and the production office. This is why Harmsen started his career as a printer in order to learn all the details of the trade. In a time when the designer’s say over production choices has been limited, as the process is more and more often handled by external production companies, Harmsen believes it’s very
important that designers actively get involved in the production process and arm themselves with know-how in order to have an influence.
“As designers, we can only have influence if we have an advantage of knowledge compared to the producers – if we can say, ‘It’s only possible to produce this type of design on this type of material’ or ‘Look, this is interesting, this is new.’ I think the paper companies should spend more time visiting us, the creatives, instead of regarding the printing companies as their main market – because it pays off.”
The use of Invercote for the Slanted cover also became a success. It created a big buzz and was received with a communal “wow!” on thousands of blogs around the world. For the spring 2012 issue of Slanted, the magazine’s staff is cooperating with
Iggesund to go one step further.
“We asked Iggesund if it is possible to deliver it in other colours, very light fluorescent green or yellow,” Harmsen says. “It would be interesting to have colours that you can’t print in offset. Technically we think it’s possible. I’m really excited to see the Slanted Invercote cover in different colours. It will open a whole new world
TEXT KARIN STRÖM PHOTO JOCHEN SAND