Designing for Designers: A Color Story

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Special Advertising Note: The following sponsored content is brought to you courtesy of Neenah Paper, one of PRINT’s trusted partners.

Designers love color. It ignites passion, it evokes memories, it inspires creativity, and sometimes it speaks to you, like the shocking red wall in Beijing’s Forbidden City did to Pum Lefebure, Design Army’s Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer.

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The experience of seeing that wall in Beijing was the impetus for the development of Imperial Red, one of the eight new colors Neenah just introduced into the refreshed CLASSIC Papers line. “Of all eight colors we worked on with Neenah, Imperial Red was the most difficult color to achieve,” said Lefebure.

“Producing a color to precisely match what you envision is a challenge. We spent a lot of time in the office mixing paints and watching them dry before we achieved exactly what we were looking for,” said Lefebure.

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Creating the right colors for the brand’s refresh was a project that went beyond Lefebure’s vision, “We were designing a product for designers, so as designers ourselves we felt the pressure to create colors that our peers would find useful. Colors that would be seen as current, yet timeless.”

Lefebure and her team collaborated with Neenah to revive the entire palette for the iconic CLASSIC Papers portfolio, retaining vital colors and removing anything that designers might not find appealing today. Neenah conducted research across the country with designers and printers, asking what types of colors they found inspiring, which they deemed the most useful, and what they saw as missing from the product line.

The eight new colors are Imperial Red, Cobalt, Military, Aubergine, Chambray, Cool Gray, Cadet Gray and Bare White. “We had to come up with colors that would ultimately work together as a system. If you think about it from a fashion perspective, certain pieces in your closet are considered staples, classics that can be forever paired with new arrivals: Black and white, jeans, a red dress, a military jacket, an earthy, purple sweater for the fall. These are all hard working colors. They don’t look to be famous on their own, they work to compliment each other as a collection,” said Lefebure.

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Once Lefebure and Neenah had the final, new colors selected, it was time to convert them into paper formulas to match the carefully crafted additions. Lefebure spent two days with Neenah’s Senior Brand Manager, Kathy Kemps at Kemira Chemicals in Atlanta, developing the formula for the new papers.

Lefebure found the mixture of art and science fascinating. “When you try to move the blue the tiniest bit, the blue can change to purple! You have to get it so exact. I couldn’t sign off on Cobalt or Imperial Red until they were exactly right. Nothing is impossible to me,” she said.

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“The day we worked on the Imperial Red we were looking at so much color that my eyes weren’t seeing it correctly anymore. I kept walking outside to stare at a blank white wall, like cleansing your palate at a wine tasting. I had a color hangover for days,” said Lefebure.

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Lefebure says each of the new colors in the CLASSIC Brands collection was inspired by stories from her travels, such as the color Military, which comes from a piece of art board she found in Paris.

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Cobalt is reminiscent of the beautiful blue hues she saw in Paris. “It’s bright, bold, energetic — those characteristics make it classic. It also plays well with other colors, whether its pale pink or white. It has power but in a very sophisticated way,” says Lefebure.

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The eight new colors, along with two new branded textures, CLASSIC Woodgrain and CLASSIC Techweave, are featured in a new 3-volume swatchbook set: CLASSIC CREST, CLASSIC Linen, and CLASSIC Textures. The portfolio now boasts 36 colors and nine finishes.

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Showing off the new colors and textures was a must for the relaunch, and Design Army had fun doing just that in the new Think CLASSIC Papers promotion. The book features all of the new items, plus original imagery, strongly influenced by color and Lefebure’s art direction. “We wanted to showcase the colors in very artful, inspiring ways, so from set design to props, to even hair and makeup, every aspect of the art direction came from the colors we created,” says Lefebure.

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“It’s been such a beautiful journey to work with Neenah Paper, they’re so passionate about what they do. It’s so exciting to see the whole collection come to life. We are privileged to provide designers with gorgeous backdrops for their designs to shine. We can’t wait to see this collection become a foundation for the creative industry,” said Lefebure.