There is something about good paper stock that gets us every time. Our head of creative, for instance, has been known to take fresh stock into a room by himself just to smell it.


Not everyone has to appreciate paper to that, borderline fetishist, degree to understand that choosing the right paper stock is vital to a finished product, and to the brand and message behind the product.


Whether you want your design agency and printer to do the leg work, or would rather more involvement in the process, it is worth knowing a little of what goes into choosing paper stock, the better to make sure your choice is in alignment with the aims of your brand.


What is the final product?


You can’t begin to design until you know what the final product is. This is the first and most important stage of the process. Whether direct mail or business card, exclusive brochure or flyer (to name just a few) the aim of the product will define the feel you want it to have: Luxurious, traditional, quick, inexpensive…


Paper is a three dimensional, complex material. Just as no two design projects are the same, there is an almost endless range of paper stock to complement them.


When to think about paper.


Good design starts by defining the final product, and that includes the paper stock. In some cases, the material used can influence the design as much as the reverse. This makes me think of Marshall McLuhan’s famous phrase: “The medium is the message.” Including the material choice in the initial stages of design credits the material with the importance it will inevitably have with regards how effectively it helps deliver the final product.




And from the inspired to the prosaic; cost is something that needs to be considered from an early point as well. Paper takes up a large amount of the cost of an average print project, it needs to be factored in from the beginning to give a realistic spread of options.


Paper stock choice shouldn’t be merely based on the highest affordable quality. Rather, we always seek to make the most appropriate choice.


If a certain paper stock costs more, it is beholden on us to explain to a client exactly why we think that it is worth the extra cost. Often the easiest way to do this is to just hand them a sample.


Get tactile.


The relationship between touch and the message your brand is trying to convey is real and important. Whether you want to convey a quick, throwaway message or something of longer value, the quality of the paper will go a long way to amplifying the message. We have an almost constant stream of samples from various paper companies hanging around the office, and spend an inordinate amount of time with different grades of stock. And, beyond that we also…


Know the printers.


We have an excellent relationship with our printer and often head over to spend time there discussing projects. They take their work very seriously and often prove an excellent sounding board and source of advice regarding cost and behavioural aspects of different paper stocks. Plus hanging out down there, among the massive range of old and new machines, is just plain fun.


Weighing up the options.


Weight conveys a message before the copy or design has even got to work. Generally, heavy stock communicates expense, solidity and luxury, with light stock doing the opposite.


Thinking green.


Using FSC certified paper or recycled stock (like that generated by post-consumer waste) doesn’t necessarily lead to a drop in quality, but can definitely help establish environmental, caring credentials.