Q&A With The Minds Behind Neenah’s CLASSIC® Papers Refresh
The recent refresh of the CLASSIC® Papers portfolio, more than a year in the making, resulted in inspired colors, trendsetting textures, and dynamic promotional materials. Here is a Q&A with longtime industry veteran and Neenah Brand Manager Kathy Kemps, and design partner Pum Lefebure of Design Army about how this undertaking evolved.
What was the design brief for the refresh of CLASSIC® Papers?
KK: While our beautiful whites are the foundation of the brand, the colors and the textures are really the heart of what makes the CLASSIC® brand iconic. So, we wanted to maintain everything that designers know and love about these papers, and then give them even more to love. And before we made any changes, we wanted to preserve the essence of the brand family.
PL: We thought a lot about what makes something a classic. It could be literature, or Renaissance art from the 17th century, or even a 1960’s classic design like an Eames Molded Plywood chair. For something to be considered classic, it must stand the test of time. That was the benchmark we set out. So, where did you start the process?
KK: It was important for us to build a portfolio that our customers wanted, not just what we thought they wanted. So we talked with designers across the country, to really understand their needs. All of these customer insights laid the foundation for creating what would become the new line.
And then you developed the eight new colors?
KK: Yes. We examined the color palette as a whole and incorporated what we’d learned. We held on to the colors designers love, the hardworking colors they use every day. Then we infused the collection with new colors that would both energize and complement the entire portfolio. For example We incorporated two new grays to the existing grays to offer a broader range, because designers asked for more gray options. There are now three dozen colors across the CLASSIC Brands.
Is it true the color inspiration started with a trip to the art store?
PL: (laughs). Yes! We stocked up on art supplies, and mixed hues, by hand, in the office. The new Imperial Red was a color that existed in my head, inspired by a dramatic red hue I saw during a trip to Beijing. We also looked at color in terms of fashion. Not fashion trends, per se, but wardrobe staples. What are the core items, the foundations that we use to build upon? Black, white, neutrals, and so on. For example, the new Chambray is like your favorite pair of jeans. We created colors that would work hard and have staying power.
What about the two new branded textures?
KK: We actually asked designers to show us samples of textures that inspired them. Many great ideas came from those discussions, including the new CLASSIC® Woodgrain. The new CLASSIC® Techweave finish was inspired by today’s tech products. It’s a high-touch texture that presents a modern way to depict a high tech service or product.
So then you made all of the colors in all of the textures?
KK: No, and this was a carefully thought out decision. Design Army was invaluable in this regard; Pum has great natural instincts. She really helped us think through how the colors and textures would actually be used by designers.
That’s a lot of pressure.
PL: It is. But, it was important for us to think through items like the new Woodgrain, it’s an organic texture so there are colors that naturally make sense, and others that don’t. Color evokes so much emotion, so when you get the right shade, combined with the right texture, it’s going to be emotional.”
Is it hard to design for designers?
PL: As designers ourselves we felt the pressure to create colors that our peers would use…colors that would be seen as current, yet timeless. And there’s business pressure… what happens if an item doesn’t turn? You want the selections to be right.
KK: (laughs) I love it. Having worked in this business now for more than 30 years, I still get excited to see designers look at brand new, finished materials like these. Now I just can’t wait to see what they do with them.
The new portfolio, including the new additions, can be found in the new three-volume swatchbook set and a new promotion. All are available, free, through your Neenah Paper sales rep.