Thursday, 02 December 2021 10:21

Paper that connects

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2021 12 02 102000The more digitalised the modern world becomes, the more people are looking for a counterbalance to the digital overstimulation in the physically tangible realm. This trend, called high-tech/high-touch, has been anticipated for decades. Understanding this trend can be an advantage in the never-ending race between digital and print media.

Flipping through the pages of a coffee table book or unwrapping tastefully packaged online purchases – this is what relaxation looks like for many people during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially after a long day of staring at screens. Contact restrictions and working from home have shifted both work and leisure into the digital space. However, digital information services have been challenging print products for the rank of the top mass medium of choice well before the pandemic. Digital media deliver exactly the kind of information we need, or simply want, in everyday life at the touch of a button – fast and easy, anytime, anywhere. This makes anything that is tangible and real all the more precious during a time of digitally maximised efficiency, when physical contact and sensory experiences of any kind are few and far between. The more time people spend in the digital realm, the more they crave something real, something tangible, something that allows them to slow down and enjoy the moment.

How the high-touch megatrend affects the paper industry

This sense of longing is best explained using the principle of high-tech/high-touch. Rapid technological progress (high-tech) stands in contrast to a need for sensory impressions, human interaction and personal contact (high-touch). This conflict was outlined in 1982 by futurologist John Naisbitt in his best-selling book ‘Megatrends – Ten new directions transforming our lives’ – back when digitalisation as we experience it today was just getting started. John Naisbitt was one of the first authors to coin ‘megatrend’ as a phenomenon. Unlike fashion, product and industry trends, which are relatively short-lived and limited in their range of impact, a megatrend is a profound change that is woven into the fabric of society and business over a period of years, or even decades.

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Megatrends also have an impact on the way we consume products and media. Like the smell of a new book or a premium package with relief embossing, print products with their sensory aspect can provide the perfect high-touch antithesis in the jungle of high-tech communication channels. They address the primal human need for touch, which hasn’t been made easier to satisfy due to contact restrictions and hygiene regulations during the fight against Covid-19. Touch provides a sense of direction in an increasingly complex world, grounding people in the here and now like no other sensory impression.

In print we trust

Furthermore, flipping through books and magazines or unwrapping a package takes place offline, in an oasis far away from digital information overload. As a result, engaging with print products is becoming an increasingly emotional experience, luxury people consciously take time out for. In the age of digital overstimulation, print products are far away from becoming obsolete, they are simply experiencing a shift in meaning: from simple mass-produced goods to works of art in their own. Rather than a vehicle for information, they are increasingly perceived as a vehicle for experiences. Think of typical everyday situations: a bookshelf full of high-quality volumes evokes more emotions in most people than even the most extensive e-book collection; recipients engage more strongly with a handwritten letter than with hundreds of e-mails.

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Many people associate paper with commitment, consistency and quality. Subconsciously, they recognise the craftsmanship and creativity that has gone into the design of high-quality print products. Especially in the case of media, print products also tend to enjoy more trust than digital alternatives, due to rampant fake news among other trends and factors. With print media, consumers intuitively assume greater regulation and more careful selection than it would be the case with purely digital media. Thus, print media enjoys more credibility.

The aesthetic impact of print products, be they media products, packaging solutions or works of art, should also be taken into consideration. While most digital media are similar in their basic structure, paper can be used to create exclusive-looking, distinctive products. There are virtually no limits to creativity in terms of material properties and design. The skilful use of print offers manufacturers, packaging specialists and publicists an effective tool for standing out from the crowd.

Paper bridges high-tech and high-touch

Manufacturers of print products can make targeted use of their knowledge of the emotional impact of paper to create unique products. High-tech – think, state-of-the-art printing and finishing processes, high-quality source materials, and expertise – help to craft the desired high-touch effects. But in order to achieve this, the paper used as the base material must have a lot to offer, both in visual and haptical appeal.

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That's why Mondi, a leading paper and packaging expert, specialises in providing the proper source materials for unforgettable premium print products. The individual paper brands in Mondi's portfolio are tailored to the specific requirements of different paper products and the associated printing processes. When designing the portfolio, Mondi always aims to interlock the three key factors of look, feel and sustainability. The product range extends from through-dyed premium papers to sustainable recycled printer paper and novelty papers in which part of the cellulose is replaced by grass fibres – for greater tear strength and sustainability. In product development, Mondi is consistently geared to current consumer trends such as the preference for rough, natural and high-quality-looking paper surfaces. In terms of finishes, hot and cold foils are currently popular, with their smooth, shiny surface providing a captivating contrast to the rough paper surface.

The toolbox of luxury

With its PERGRAPHICA® range of uncoated design paper, Mondi addresses the needs of artists as well as manufacturers of premium packaging by offering a wide range of intense, rich colours and a particularly high-quality texture and printability to provide unique high-touch experiences.

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For five years, the Mondi PERGRAPHICA® range of design papers has been lean and mean, consisting of three shades of white and two surfaces in both machine directions in the key sizes and weights. Later, an ivory paper for book printing and a black paper for creative and packaging applications were added. In late 2020, Mondi has added 30 new, vibrant colours to the Pergraphica colour range, including ten dark and deep colours as well as PERGRAPHICA® Infinite Black. Dark and intense shades are notoriously difficult to produce, but very sought-after by manufacturers of packaging for luxury items due to their classy appeal. They have to be produced in a way that makes them withstand some tear and wear without losing their unique properties.

The finishing touch

As PERGRAPHICA® papers are also extremely suitable for finishing, they are a popular packaging material for gifts of all kinds and other high-end products. Embossing, debossing and hot foil stamping processes show the level of detail that can be achieved with the right paper, using the right techniques. With laser cutting, tiny patterns can be embedded in the paper. Laser engraving is a particularly interesting choice for coloured papers, as the heat of the laser changes the colour on the engraved areas. PERGRAPHICA® is part of the Mondi CO2 neutral portfolio and is FSCTM certified. This makes PERGRAPHICA® the paper of choice for sustainable reasons as well as looks.

With many different paper grades as well as printing and finishing techniques, manufacturers of print products have a wide range at their disposal to create lasting sensory impression. In this way, the printing industry can differentiate itself with unique products, even and especially in the wake of digitalisation.

About Mondi Uncoated Fine Paper

Uncoated Fine Paper is a business unit of Mondi Group. In six operating sites in Austria, Slovakia, Russia, and South Africa, Mondi Uncoated Fine Paper produces pulp and environmentally sound office and professional printing papers tailored to the latest professional digital and offset print technologies. The company complies with the strictest international certification standards to support sustainable production processes through the responsible management of forest, water and air resources. All Mondi uncoated fine papers belong to the Green Range of papers that are FSC™ or PEFC™ certified, 100% recycled or bleached entirely without chlorine.

Its renowned brands such as Color Copy, PERGRAPHICA®, NAUTILUS®, NEUJET®, IQ, MAESTRO®, BIO TOP 3®, DNS®, Snegurochka or ROTATRIM are used in office environments on laser or inkjet printers and by professional printers on digital or offset presses to create brochures, transactional material, folders, invitations, business cards, letterheads or other high-impact communication. Converters appreciate the excellent printability and smooth handling of Mondi’s professional printing papers.

About Mondi

Mondi is a global leader in packaging and paper, contributing to a better world by making innovative packaging and paper solutions that are sustainable by design. Our business is integrated across the value chain – from managing forests and producing pulp, paper and plastic films, to developing and manufacturing effective industrial and consumer packaging solutions. Sustainability is at the centre of our strategy and intrinsic in the way we do business. We lead the industry with our customer-centric approach, EcoSolutions, where we ask the right questions to find the most sustainable solution. In 2020, Mondi had revenues of €6.66 billion and underlying EBITDA of €1.35 billion.

Mondi has a premium listing on the London Stock Exchange (MNDI), and a secondary listing on the JSE Limited (MNP). Mondi is a FTSE 100 constituent, and has been included in the FTSE4Good Index Series since 2008 and the FTSE/JSE Responsible Investment Index Series since 2007.

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