Kit Hinrichs Interview

Each month we ask a corporate member of the Art Directors Club to share some industry news with the greater ADC community. This month, Sappi paper had us sit down with their long-time collaborator, Kit Hinrichs, to talk about print production and education. Kit and Sappi have just finished The Standard 4: Scoring and Folding, an invaluable resource for designers and printers. Check out the wonderful intro video here.

I just saw the video put together for The Standard, No. 4 on folding and scoring that you did for Sappi – very cool! What drew you to this project?
My first, by the way. I had never done motion graphics before. And it’s not that I haven’t thought about that stuff before. It’s just that the opportunity hasn’t been there and we’re not an advertising agency so we don’t have that normal outlet to do it. It just seemed so perfect when we were in the process of actually putting together this thing – the simplicity of just folding a piece of paper, but the different ways in which you can fold it made it so interesting, and I just kept thinking, “What a great little motion video that could be!” So we just did it.

Why did you and Sappi put so much effort into an educational resource?
Well I have worked for Sappi for over 25 years. So I know them as a company. I’ve always been very involved in the print side of communications, and I’ve also be very involved with them on the educational side of design and printing. And so I’ve always tried to make things not just nice to look at and interesting, but also something that at the end of whatever you are viewing you walk away and say “I learned something from that” And it enriched each individual viewer along the way the process of going through this stuff. So we’ve always been involved in educational communications, even when it wasn’t defined as such. It was something that was built into everything we do.
And obviously the last 10 years has been such a transition in the communications world of so many things going digital, which is appropriate and going to remain that way. And at the same time we genuinely feel there is an opportunity for print to be part of the communications package. It’s not just one way, it’s not just radio or TV. It’s not just newspaper advertising or magazine advertising. It’s all of those things together and what we’ve been trying to do together in the last three or four years in doing the standards series was to give designers and printers the understanding that there are things you can do with print that you cannot do with any other medium. And so by doing for instance the Standard 3, which was on codings and varnishes, you see those kinds of tactile, textural things that you just don’t get when you deal with digital media. There’s all kinds of other things you get with digital, but you don’t get a lot of things. You don’t get scale like you do with paper, and so it’s been something that we’ve been trying to say, this is a really interesting medium we should use it more effectively because it’s got a lot of attributes to it. And we’ve been trying to highlight those attributes.

So in your opinion, what is the core advantage of print?
I think the thing that print has is scale. You can make it virtually any size you want to make it. So that aspect of something that unfolds or becomes larger. Scale is one. And also the texture of something. The smell, the feel of the paper. All of those things are an integral part of it, as well as the kinds of codings that you can put on a paper also add to that textural experience. So it’s a very sensual medium. And in many ways having control of the ways in which you begin it, go through the middle of it, go to the end of it (not that everyone does it the same way) you have more control over the way in which you want to deliver the message. And I think that’s also one of those interesting things about stories and about print. Is that you can tell the story, in my opinion, in a much more effective way.

I’ve heard you talk about letting materials compliment the image you’re trying to communicate. Is there an example you could give from Sappi’s sample library?
Many years ago, we did a piece for a printing company, it was a promotional piece. You often times have expectations about what something will be, and by changing the paper that you use, or the texture of the paper as we did in this particular case – the cover is done with a handmade paper – you immediately go “This is different than I’ve seen before.” It had short pages, and made of a different stock. You have different printing techniques, so it may be lithography or it may be letterpress printing, or it may be engraving, or embossing or diacutting. All of those things add to the richness of the story as you tell it. And this particular thing for Graphic Arts Center in Portland was an opportunity to really use the print medium in telling a wonderful story of the city of Portland. And it was very interesting, and it’s one of those things you just remember years later – one of those great opportunities. Certainly with Sappi I have done many promotional pieces and annual reports for them which have been unique. Though this latest one we’ve done, this Sappi 4, is I think one of the best pieces that I’ve done. I’m not tooting my own horn here, I just think the opportunity was so wonderful and it was great that they allowed me the opportunity to go through and actually realize it. And it was just terrific.

At both of our Paper Expos this year we’ve noticed a focus on environmental issues. How can designers reduce their carbon footprint?
Well I think one of the things that’s been coming up (besides the actual manufacturing of the paper) which pretty much across the board is recognized is “How can we be most effective in our sustainability in the use of paper.” So I think that’s something where there’s an educational aspect that’s not been fully realized, but certainly is on everyone’s radar and you’re aware of it. And the thing I find about print (not to take away from digital or anything) but you actually retain. If things are done well, you retain that piece, that piece of paper, that information. And you refer to it on a continual basis. That to me is one of the most effective and environmentally sound things that you can do. By doing things effectively in their design, you keep it, you refer to it, it’s a resource for you that is much more than just a single piece that you use once and throw away. And I think that’s one aspect. And in comparison with the digital world… the digital world isn’t free or without unsustainable aspects. You’ve got the electricity that is used to do those server farms which is just vast. So it’s not just free energy – free in the way that things are done. So I think it’s trying to take a look at a wholistic view of what do you get for the money, the impact issue, the usage of the communication, and the return on that – I think that’s certainly an important part of it.

Do you have any exciting work coming up?
There’s a lot, but one of the things we’re involved in right now is helping to create the identity for the Golden Gate Bridge 75 Anniversary. It’s coming up in 2012, and so that’s one of numerous things that I’ve been working on, and as you may know I’m a big American flag collector. And so I have a series of traveling exhibitions which are going to start in 2012 with sites – Smithsonian institute traveling exhibitions which will travel around the country. So I’m very excited about the idea of taking this icon that the American public has made and created over this 240 years or so. It’s an interesting design and communications exercise, and great.