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Paper show rocks

Dec 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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This October, about 800 people representing design firms, agencies, marketers and commercial printers attended the 20th annual Unisource Paper Show at the Hilton Chicago. Competition was fierce (if good natured) as the attendees eagerly collected swatchbooks, brochures, calendars, note cards, posters, books and other paper-related swag.

“It's a marketing tool [the mills use] to reach out and educate the graphic design marketplace,” said Andrew Dembitz, Unisource's director of specification and the show's organizer since its inception. “It's a feeding frenzy, with the top mills presenting new promotions and introducing new grades,” he says. “It's a major networking event.”

The invitation-only affair is said to be the largest and most established graphic design event sponsored by a paper distributor. “We were thrilled with the quality of attendees — it's about 75 percent creatives, design firms, agencies and in-house marketing departments,” says Dembitz of the show's demographics. “The remaining 25 percent of attendees are printers specializing in high-end work.”

Some competitors have discontinued their paper shows. “We've been a little bit luckier than our peers,” says Dembitz. “Our management team believes this is an important part of our value proposition. That sends a great message to our marketplace.”

Glenn Barton, Unisource's senior vice president of sales, says the event's endurance is “a testament that the American paper manufacturing and distribution industry will continue to meet the challenges of new communication media. We remain optimistic that the future of paper — as a means for delivering effective messaging — will continue to evolve and that the industry will remain a vital part of the U.S. economy.”

Participating paper mills at the 2009 Unisource Chicago Paper Show included: Crane & Co., CTI Paper USA, Domtar, FiberMark, Finch Paper, Grupo Portucel Soporcel, MeadWestvaco, Mohawk, National Envelope, Neenah, NewPage, Reich Paper, Sappi, Wausau and Yupo.

Katherine O'Brien is the editor of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at

Ed's excellent paper adventure

NewPage Corp. showcased “Balance,” the 13th issue in its “Ed” series of educational brochures. It provides statistics about the forest products industry and responsible forest harvesting, carbon emissions, energy consumption, waste disposal (including e-waste) and communication lifecycles. “Print is a truly sustainable communication vehicle that plays an important role in a successful, integrated marketing campaign and works in partnership with e-media initiatives to increase brand awareness,” says Julie Davis, NewPage's commercial and digital marketing communications manager.

The strength behind synthetic paper

Marty Fiorillo, vice president of commercial sales for Yupo paper, fielded many questions about synthetic papers. “Because YUPO is more expensive than coated paper, it's application driven,” he explains. “A designer would choose it for projects that require extra durability. Yupo is waterproof and highly tear resistant, and is commonly used for restaurant menus, posters, manuals, reference charts, labels, tags, POP [point of purchase] signs, etc. It also offers an exceptionally smooth printing surface. ”

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Two to Tango

Wendy Crawford, commercial printing account manager for MWV, as Mead Westvaco is now called, said the Unisource Show turnout was exceptional. “There was a high level of interest and many questions about our Tango Advantage C2S line,” she reports. “It prints as well as a No. 2 cover grade. The ultrasmooth surface is comparable to most coated free sheets and is versatile and cost-effective.”

A decade of making a difference

Sappi's Ideas That Matter program is celebrating its 10th anniversary. “It's the industry's only granting program,” reports Molly Foshay, Sappi's director of creative services. “We give away grants to creatives so that they can help nonprofit/charitable organizations that need design work to support their organization. We have given away $10 million dollars over the last 10 years and just announced this year's winners.” Copies of Sappi's “Ideas that Matter” commemorative book were popular with attendees. “We ran out,” says Foshay. The paper company also promoted a new 30% recycled fiber option for its Opus line.

Specialty papers embrace the spotlight

“I thought the 2009 Unisource Show was simply the best show that I have ever worked,” says ReichPaper's Duke Reich. “The quantity of highly-qualified designers and printers impressed me. As the owner of a small company, I work many paper merchant shows throughout North America as well as national design shows. [None] compared.”

Reich's father, Dan, founded the specialty paper company in 1958. In addition to translucent vellums, metallics and felt textures, ReichPaper debuted a 100% cotton paper. “The Savoy line blends old world elegance with new world sophistication making it a perfect choice for a wide range of projects from identity packages and invitations to luxury packaging,” says Reich.

Make yourself at home with Casa Opaque

“This show has always been a great event for the print and design community,” notes Mike Feuerabend, Finch Paper's Midwest sales manager. Finch's uncoated portfolio now includes Casa Opaque, another in a series of cross-platform offerings that deliver value with matching digital and conventional printing papers. Featuring 30% post-consumer recycled fiber and FSC certification, the comprehensive line is represented in a new swatchbook, brochure and digital trial pack.

Envelopes for everyone

“This was my first Unisource show, but the turnout seemed good,” says Dave Collins, sales rep for National Envelope. “It's the only event of its kind in Chicago. People asked if there was anything new and wanted to know about our capabilities. They were especially interested in our environmental brochure.” Founded in 1952 by William Ungar, National Envelope is the largest envelope manufacturer in the world. Its Carbon Neutral Products Program is available for all envelopes, announcements and holiday cards it manufactures.

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Swag bag

Here's a sampling of some paper show highlights:

Pentagram's 2010 Classic Typographic Calendar was among the most eagerly sought souvenirs at the Chicago show. It's printed on Sappi Fine Paper's McCoy Matte, an ultra bright blue-white sheet made with 10% PCW. The FSC- and SFI-certified paper is produced using 100% Green e-certified renewable energy. See

CTI Paper has introduced a digital swatchbook featuring Aspire Petallics, Currency and Glama Natural. See

Domtar's Cougar commercial printing papers offers 98 brightness, three finishes (super smooth, smooth and vellum), 10 weights for text and cover, two colors (natural and white) and 10 percent post-consumer recycled content. See

FiberMark ( and Taylor Box ( are distributing a set of 12 coasters. The tray and platform use 100% recycled 30% PCW 50 pt. Indigo Eviva wrapped in 30% PCW 80 lb. Parchment Multicolor. The coasters feature a sampling of FiberMark's in-stock covers.

Grupo Portucel Soporcel's uncoated woodfree paper uses eucalyptus fibers. Navigator's high fiber count offers good porosity, opacity and paper formation. See

National Envelope's free 76-page “Envelope Specifier” includes envelope style and size charts, updated postal info, sealing methods and more. It's printed on Finch Opaque Smooth Bright White Text and Cover. See

Neenah Paper's Classic Crest, Classic Linen, Classic Columns, Environment and Oxford swatchbooks are online at

Mohawk-at-a-Glance promotion provides an overview of its extensive product portfolio. An enviromental chart showcases the mill's green attributes. See

ReichPaper markets and sells CT translucent vellums, Shine shimmering metallics and Odeon lush felt textures. A new line, Savoy, is made from 100% cotton. See

Unisource partnered with the Lakeshore Foundation (Birmingham, AL) to showcase Paralympics athletes in a promotion printed on Domtar's Starbrite Opaque Ultra. See

Wausau Paper offers a sustainability Q&A guide for art directors and other influencers as well as environmental stewards. See

Yupo Corp.'s “Wally Awards” honor innovative synthetic paper projects. A past winner, the Perry Street Condo Brochure from Pentagram Design, interleafs Yupo translucent and opaque sheets. See

Supporting young artists

Unisource has donated more than $100,000 to Marwen through the Unisource Chicago Paper Show over the years. Marwen is a not-for-profit organization that provides free high-quality visual arts, education, college planning and career development programs to Chicago's underserved youth in grades 6-12.

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After-school programs are held in the fall, winter and spring. A summer session offers students two-week intensive instruction in one specialty. Older students can enroll in Marwen Lab courses to work one-on-one with a teaching artist.

According to manager of communicatons Brandon Hayes, Marwen's six studios offer courses that include ceramics, photography, printmaking (screenprinting, etching and litho), painting and drawing, digital media, animation and computer arts.

“As the kids get older, they can combine studio time with internship opportunities at 30 sites around the city,” explains Hayes. Some Marwen juniors and seniors have interned at the Art Institute, Banana Republic and Motorola. “These companies generally only accept college students as interns,” notes Hayes.

Every year about 30 students do a commissioned piece as a group for a corporate or not-for-profit client that might range from murals for a CTA station to a photo collection for a bank.

Workshops on public speaking and money management help provide skills students will need in college and beyond. Marwen provides extensive college counseling and works with leading art schools across the country to secure scholarships for its graduates. “These are exclusive funds for Marwen graduates,” Hayes explains.

Show stoppers

In addition to the Marwen student display, the Unisource show featured these special exhibits:

  • Mohawk Show Ten | Vistors saw Best of Show entries from Lipman, WAX, The Glass House, ALT Design and Teddy Bear Holding Inc., as well as submissions from 20 finalists. 2010 entries are due in May.

  • AIGA Chicago | American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) advances design as a professional craft, strategic tool and vital cultural force. See

  • Photography. Book. Now | NewPage is the primary sponsor of this juried book competition, celebrating the most creative, innovative and finest photography books using print-on-demand technologies. See

  • Chicago 50 Corporate Communications Show | Annual reports, corporate brochures and sustainability reports representing 50 of Chicago's finest companies and institutions.

Designed & printed in the U.S.A.

Every year, Marwen commis-sions a group of high school students to design a series of greeting cards.

Elizabeth Requena, then a student at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, created our cover image, “WaterTower Wonder,” in 2006. “It's such a beautiful building, but there are so many details on it,” Requena said. “It drove me crazy for a while. There's so much texture. It just looks like someone carved it out of a rock. The hardest part was the little, tiny towers. It was a challenge. ”

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Marwen's 2009 Holiday Card Collection features 19 designs painted by Marwen artists. Messages can be personalized — digital pioneer UniqueActive ( prints the cards on its HP Indigo presses. Another Chicago area printer, Yorke Printe Shoppe (, produces an annual report, newsletter and other material.


Are you getting enough certified fiber?

The Unisource show also included environmental exhibitions by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

SFI's Danny Karch enjoyed meeting the student attendees at the Unisource show. “Several were very interested in the sustainability component of paper within their industry,” reports Karch, SFI's national director market access (Canada). “Many were aware of certification programs but very few could name them. Most said they would encourage the initiative to support certified paper in their careers.”

Karch is often asked to clarify SFI vs. FSC. He explains that all credible forest certification systems used in North American work towards the same end — to support responsible forestry.

“When folks ask specifically about the differences between FSC and SFI, I provide the context that SFI was developed for North American forests,” he says. “FSC was originally developed for tropical forests in regions [lacking] the U.S. and Canadian legal framework.”

Finding SFI certified papers shouldn't pose a challenge. “There is a great deal of supply because more than 80% of the certified fiber in North America can use the SFI on product label,” says Karch. “We have more than 700 chain of custody certificates at over 1,500 locations . We have a complete list of our participants and chain of custody (COC) holders, including printers, on our website and will be launching a new search engine in the new year.”

Some participants asked about “tri-certification,” where printers seek COC certification from SFI, FSC and PEFC. “This is great — we support policies that recognize all credible systems,” says Karch. “The ‘certification hat-trick’ is a great thing. Just 10% of the world's forests are certified — so the more that we all can do to raise awareness of responsible forestry and forest certification, the better.”

Karch briefed show goers on responsible forestry and certified paper sourcing. “Most [attendees] didn't know that there is almost the same amount of forest in North America today that there was 50 years ago,” he says. “It was a good eye opener — teaching this business sector what is being done to ensure responsible forestry gives them a better understanding and appreciation for sourcing certified paper products.”


Seeing the forest & the trees

Emily Crumley, manager, chain-of-custody for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) concurs that designers and printers basic environmental awareness has risen over the past few years. “About 99% of the attendees I spoke with knew about FSC,” she says. “We were able to get into deeper conversations about what the standards mean (both forest management and chain of custody). We also had a lot of technical and logo use questions, which was nice too.”