A Classic Brand Gets a Refresh – Neenah CLASSIC® Papers


By definition, the word classic means “serving as a standard of excellence : of recognized value.” In other words something that stands the test of time. Neenah’s CLASSIC® Brands have been around for 55 years. And that’s saying something in an industry that’s pretty fickle when it comes to paper grades with staying power. To give you some context, I started in the industry around the same time Survivor first aired. I’ve seen more papers come and go than torches snuffed out by Jeff Probst. So yes, it’s safe to say the CLASSIC® Papers live up to their name. But how exactly does a brand that is so iconic and classic undertake a refresh? Well, that was a collaborative process between Neenah Paper and Design Army that was a year in the making. I say it was well worth the wait because the results are stellar.


After months of research and refining, the result was a completely reimagined and reorganized new CLASSIC® Papers line up. The collection has been simplified into three new swatchbooks: CLASSIC CREST®, CLASSIC® Linen and CLASSIC® Textures.


The process of refining the color palette could not have been easy, editing never is. According to Pum LeFebure, Design Army’s Chief Creative Officer, after considering several color palettes they kept the colors that worked the hardest, weren’t trendy and had staying power. With that in mind, the team selected eight new colors worthy of classic status:

  • Bare White: Beautiful, balanced white that bridges the transition between Avon Brilliant White and Classic Natural White
  • Cool Gray: Light shade that bridges the transition between Antique Gray and Pewter
  • Cadet Gray: Rich gray tone to round out the existing gray offering
  • Chambray: Fresh twist on denim blue
  • Aubergine: Deep, comforting color similar to the rich purple of a fresh eggplant
  • Military: Warm, rich, natural looking green
  • Cobalt: Timely and trending vivid blue
  • Imperial Red: Fresh, bright and fashionable red

“We literally created the new colors by hand, mixing paint colors in the office! Once the eight new colors were perfected, we needed a recipe that would translate to the paper machines,” said Lefebure, “We spent two days in Atlanta with Neenah’s color dye partner, Kemira, developing the formulas, and matching handmade paper samples to our paint colors. It was a time-intensive, but very exciting process.”

That process sounds like this paper fanatic’s dream come true. I have to say, the color palette is stunning. I am absolutely smitten with the new Bare White, and think designers looking for a white shade with the slightest bit of warmth to it will love this option.


When it comes to evoking emotions and making a connection with people, there’s nothing like texture to do the trick. Neenah added two new tactile grades to the CLASSIC® Papers line up – CLASSIC® Techweave and CLASSIC® Woodgrain. CLASSIC® Techweave is a high-end, structural and trendy grade that embodies finely woven fabric with a high-tech twist. While CLASSIC® Woodgrain has the aesthetic charm of a wood texture, and an eco-friendly and sustainable tonality. Just look at how great a foil stamp pairs with CLASSIC® Woodgrain in the new Military shade.


Add these textures to the existing CLASSIC® Stipple, CLASSIC® Columns and CLASSIC® Laid grades and the new CLASSIC® Textures swatchbook is soon to become a go-to resource for those craving tactility in their print designs.


Fans of the CLASSIC® Papers will be thrilled to learn that there’s also six new duplex combinations added to the lineup, bringing the total duplex count to 16 across the entire brand. And based on the feedback the team garnered during their research, they added 64 new items to the papers they offer for digital printing – if you’re counting that’s now 237 items across all CLASSIC® Brands.


You didn’t think I’d leave out my favorite part did you? You can imagine that a brand relaunch of this magnitude would warrant some pretty awesome samples. After seeing the swatchbooks, I was expecting something special but could never have imagined what I was about to experience. I was awestruck. I hate to even use the word promotion, because it is so much more than that. This is the kind of piece you’ll refer to time and again throughout your career.


The Think CLASSIC® Papers promotion is a big, bold, beautiful book that presents 64 oversized drool-worthy pages filled with design, art, photography, typography, digital printing, embossing, foil stamping, metallics, die cuts, French folds, and colors and textures galore. Each stop-and-stare page showcases a different piece of artwork, and a different production technique.

Before you ask, this piece was produced in very limited quantities. It is so rare, that when I attended the local grade launch I had to share one! If you are lucky enough to snag a copy of your own, make sure to put your name on it or it will wander off.

When it comes to choosing paper for print, tried and true is a very good thing. The last thing any designer wants is to have a project go south while on press because the paper won’t do what they expect it to. But that doesn’t mean we need to settle for run of the mill white and bright paper. No, that’s hardly what I’d consider to be a classic, especially when it comes to paper. In fact, I’d argue it’s just the opposite. A classic paper grade is one whose characteristics are awe inspiring – timeless in color, texture and application. Achieving that trifecta is difficult to do under normal circumstances, but especially so when it’s for a brand whose name is synonymous with timelessness. I have to say this brand refresh for Neenah CLASSIC® Papers by Design Army is worthy of five star status.


Oh, in case you’re wondering, the new CLASSIC® swatchbooks and flat sheets are in stock in the sample studio – but they are going fast! And with good reason, their helping inspire the tactile trend designers can’t get enough of.

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