For many years I have been involved in the production of books. In 1986 I started working at the state printing works and fell in love with the proverbial butter. At that time, the state printing and publishing company was still a single concern and the state publishing company was widely applauded for its fine portfolio of art books and state editions.
In the design department of the printing company, many designers were involved or not in the book productions. Designers such as Karel Treebus, Wim Zaat, Esther Noyons, Erik Nuyten, Monique Voorhout, Gert Kootstra, Irma Boom and many others.
Why do I start this story this way?
Much has changed in the technology, but in the design a lot has remained the same. A good book can be recognized by its beautiful, readable typography, the correct use of notes, the layout of the pages and the golden section used.
But there are also designers who like to go against that and work against it with a less clear and bright typography, texts close to the edges and so on. But it is precisely by doing things differently from others that we receive great praise for them. In fact, it even wins international prizes. Designers don't allow themselves to be framed, so to speak. That's also the beauty of the design profession. Everyone has their own approach. And his own fans.
Eventually, the design will have to be translated into the execution and that's where the choice for a printing company comes in. The printing world has changed a lot in recent years. In the 1980s, when I joined the graphic arts world, there were quite a few printing works that were dedicated to the excellent execution of the book the designer had thought up. Or in general; to work for designers. Think of the Staatsdrukkerij, Drukkerij Rosbeek, Steendrukkerij de Jong, Drukkerij Mart Spruijt, Drukkerij Ando and then I could mention a lot of names.
Many companies have unfortunately been lost, new printing companies have come back for it. But unfortunately not all with the knowledge and passion that used to be so characteristic. People now often wait for the supplied PDF files and start printing. Often nothing is checked anymore and the entire responsibility has been shifted to the customer or designer.
Knowledge, service and quality as critical pillars for success
What matters in essence is that a designer - I also call them the graphic architects - can expect a lot of in-house knowledge from the printing company. From paper types to lithography, the correct use of profiles and knowledge of the finish. Where do you get the most beautiful color on cut? Can combinations of selected foil embossing with the chosen laminate? Possibilities in the field of coloured yarn, laser punching, embossing, you name it. The above knowledge has disappeared from many printing works. There is no more investment in this area.
More than once a lot of money is spent on photography, text and design. So the composition of the book. Unfortunately, when it has to be printed, other rules often apply.
But isn't it the case that this very meeting of efforts often leads to a brilliant result? The printing works have a role to play in giving all these prior efforts a physical form. The meeting of these efforts that leads to the final product. With the right care, to a brilliant end result. And expertise, service and an eye for quality are of crucial importance for the best result.
The slightly different thinking printing companies that value service are always willing to think along. Digging in paper collections. Maintain an extensive network of suppliers and always stay in touch with them. Go to the first binding model. All with an eye for optimal results. A precise lithograph. Translating the image in the right way with the right profiles. Use the optimal grid. Checking the delivered files. Feedback of any imperfections. Looking for the right materials. The perfect color paper, possibly even on production the color to be made.
These printers spend a lot of time and, in essence, money on this. They come up with the best solutions. Describe everything neatly in detail. All these aspects offer added value, which ultimately benefits the end product.
So my position is that you'll be making a book together. You are a team together with client and designer. From my experience I also know that the designers appreciate it a lot when they think along with me. As a designer, you can't invent all the material knowledge and feasibility of what you've come up with on your own. You need partners for that. Because the most beautiful thing is of course to put on the table that which has been thought up with a lot of passion and has finally been executed in the best possible way. And that you can be proud of the end result together.
I've been worried about the graphics industry. Irma Boom has also indicated in an interview with the FD that the graphics industry is being eroded. Paper suppliers are disappearing. Paper collections are getting smaller. Binders are disappearing. Inherent to this is that knowledge disappears.
I think that there is also a role for the clients here to provide a little more space for the beautiful printed book. And yet maintain the partly artisanal process, otherwise it becomes more of a one-size-fits-all sausage. Let's cherish the book.
For it is clear to me that the book will continue to exist. Of course a part of it will go digital, but that will remain 111111 and 00000. A beautiful art book, a book about architecture, but also a novel printed on paper will always be a tangible item.
With a good glass of wine and a beautiful book on the table that has been put together, printed and bound with the greatest care, the whole thing becomes a special experience. Which you can experience in peace and quiet. Where touch, smell and sight will create a tangible emotion. That's what makes the book so beautiful, it stimulates the senses.
With this blog I want to start a discussion to maintain the beautifully printed book and that is only possible with each other. With the realization that when you want to make something beautiful, the effort has to come from everyone. You make something together. And I'd almost say, something for eternity.
Let's cherish the craftsmanship and look at the beautiful international awards that Dutch printers regularly receive. On to the next beautiful book and a Dutch golden letter.