One of the first things we do after deciding what product to launch is to think about packaging. How do we want our product represented, how can we package responsibly and how to make it all look knockout gorgeous? These are important questions. I’m going to be honest, I have a strange relationship with packaging. I’ve always been disturbed by the fact that most of it gets thrown out and some of the remnants from materials cannot biodegrade therefore ending up in landfills and worse, oceans for decades. I’ve stayed up worrying about landfills and the chemicals being leached into our soil and water and it’s really kind of horrifying to think about. I’m also very aware of the business we’re in and that from the beginning, the marketing centered around beauty products strongly emphasizes on how the product appeals to the consumer through packaging. It’s a vital part of our business and frankly, the “right” or wrong packaging can make or break a brand in the eyes of the consumer. Luckily for us, we’re able to package our products both responsibly and quite beautifully. We’ve committed to using paper (no plastic whatsoever) for our outer packaging. The results are not only striking, but we’re not haunted by thoughts of irresponsible packaging. It’s not a perfect world we live in as producers and manufacturers, there is still so much more we can do to be better, but I can comfortably share that we try our very best to think of all of these components pre-production so they need not keep you up or worry you.
When it came to, The Capsule Collection we knew our packaging had to be out-of-this-world special. The concept and contents were some of the most fun, imaginative and innovative ideas we’ve had as a team. We needed our packaging to be as aesthetically creative as the product itself. For this we visited our printer, first to discuss the collection then work together developing ideas to manifest our project. It’s always so much fun to take a field trip to Rohner Letterpress. We’re like kids in a candy store when we visit because who doesn’t love gawking at rows of thick, high quality paper or feeling the texture of letterpress, embossing and all of the cool stamping techniques used for logo design or copy? We get to see and experience firsthand where the magic happens and we often leave with more ideas than when we entered, which is not too bad of a problem in my book.
We feel the tactile experience from letterpress printing offers a sense of nostalgia, old-world charm as well as it’s absolutely stunning. Digital print feels dull and lifeless while letterpress is alive and extroverted. (Sort of like comparing your accountant to Don Draper.) I still remember my grandparent’s books and how they felt in my hands, heavy from being leather-bound and the pages worn, tinted from age with the luxurious feel of the font gracefully impressing character upon each page. (I became a chronic finger reader because of this.) There is no doubt letterpress is timeless, beautiful and incomparable. I believe our packaging is the “complete package” (no pun intended) and I like knowing our packaging is mindful of the environment while maintaining an eye for beauty. On a personal note, I hold a special place in my heart for the art of letterpress because my own father was a pressman at one point in his life. Sadly, as digital and offset printing became increasingly popular my father found himself in a profession in which he described as “obsolete.” I think he would have been thrilled with the quality of our packaging and knowing the art of letterpress is not outdated at all, but rather admired by many for its high-level craftsmanship.
We interviewed our printer, Bruno Rohner who along with his team worked diligently to help us create the most beautiful and elegant packaging we’ve ever put forward and to learn more about what it takes to be considered masterful in his field. (Time and time again we run into folks who know our packaging is made by Rohner Letterpress because of the quality of the work. This makes us so happy.) We’re excited for you to see The Capsule Collection in real life!
La Bella Figura: It’s been a labor of love for us working on The Capsule Collection. Every part from concept to design tells a story we want to share with our customers. How does packaging make an impact conveying our story with a project like this?
Bruno Rohner: When you’re launching a new concept like The Capsule Collection, the right packaging is absolutely critical. Your customers are making an investment in the concept, from a time, energy, and financial perspective, and you want to make certain that every touch-point is well-considered and supports the overall experience, again from both a brand and product standpoint. We do this by reviewing many different stocks for feel and color, by continually tweaking the design to get the exact right dimensions and lines, and by making certain that the product layout is as functional and pleasing to the eye as possible. There are little touches throughout the piece, some of which customers might not even notice… but we know how and why they are there. We also like to talk about the idea of “the reveal” around here. The process of opening and discovering this piece needs to be really special and the choices of the overall design, the paper stocks, and product layouts need to reinforce this.
LBF: Tell us a little about Rohner Letterpress and what you do.
BR: Well, my dad was a Swiss immigrant who studied printing in Europe and came to Chicago because it was the print capital of the US, and frankly, the world, at that time. He eventually owned a very successful print business on Chicago’s Printers’ Row. Working with him, I developed a love for all things printed, but when it was time to go out on my own, I decided to zig, when everyone else was choosing to zag. 19 years ago, instead of getting into a print technology arms race, I chose to work with old-school “specialty” techniques that look beautiful and also create a tactile experience. We execute letterpress, foil stamping, engraving, thermography, die cutting, edge painting, foil edging, envelope converting, and other print and finishing techniques for some very large companies, some very boutique designers, and tons of businesses in between.
LBF: Something that is very important to us is sustainability and using material that is used and reused especially with our packaging. Can you talk about how you’ve adopted that type of consciousness into your business?
BR: I am a father of three kids. When we get together around the dinner table, among many other topics, we have discussions about the environment. I also think about my kids when I think about how we want to run our business. For most everything we do, from the papers we purchase (all FCS certified) to the inks we use (soy-based) to the plates we make (using water soluble materials), environmental concerns are paramount. Even when we are finished with the product, all the scrap material is reused where possible or recycled and put back into the system.
LBF: Are there any current trends in paper, packaging and/or design you’re excited about?
BR: Where to even start on my answer to this! If I had to pick one thing, I would say that it’s the combination of really beautiful papers and the dimensionality of letterpress, foil stamping and embossing as print techniques. Most packaging manufacturers are using slick, coated papers; they don’t get that paper is really part of the picture… and that paper that you want to both see and touch excites multiple senses in a way that creates a deep and meaningful connection with the product and brand experience. This packaging revolution has really just started and we are excited to see where it goes.
LBF: What’s your favorite part about working with brands?
BR: You can answer this question in two different ways. On one hand, we work with many different brands representing many different products and services in many different business channels. I am an ideas guy and so I love it when someone comes in well, like you did, from the indie beauty channel. I get new exposure to a whole group of products and then I get to think about how to bring them to life in different ways. Then a new client comes in from an entirely different area in the business world and I get to do it all over again. The work is always exciting; it’s never dull around here. The second area follows right from the first. A brand, product, service, whatever, is nothing without the people who bring it to life. I like people, and I hire people who like people. Our work is so intricate and complicated these days that it requires close interaction with our clients to get it just right. If you don’t enjoy this aspect, well, specialty printing in 2016 is probably not where you should be.
LBF: We feel so lucky that you’re based in our hometown and we get to visit and check things out in person. We have a few “Chicago” questions for you. Favorite pizza place? What local hotspots do you recommend when someone tells you they’re visiting? Chicago Blues or Chicago Jazz?
BR: Dantes (3028 W. Armitage and 2825 N. Milwaukee) – believe it or not, this is New York style pizza and I love it. Parson’s Chicken and Fish (2952 W. Armitage) – The food and drink is pretty great, but the people watching is incredible on a warm summer Friday afternoon on the patio. It all depends on what you’re into… if you want noodles, Furious Spoon (1571 N. Milwaukee). If you want tacos, Big Star (1531 N. Damen). Most of the places that I listed are in Bucktown or Wicker Park. These spots are pretty close to our office southwest of Humboldt Park, and they are the types of spots frequently by the young designer set, a group with whom we do a lot of work these days. Chicago Blues or Chicago Jazz? I say “both.”