Topography Inspired Journal & Pencil Box Set – Part One


Did you ever have an idea for a project you were saving for something really special? You know, the one you keep tucked away for just the right circumstances. For me it was the pencil box. Looking back, I definitely under estimated a few things about the project. My timeline was way off. And honestly, the production skills required for a packaging project are different than four-color offset printing. But if there’s one thing I know for sure, the only way you grow is by challenging yourself. So I dove in, head first. This post is all about the process for producing the Topography Inspired Journal & Pencil Box Set – the good, the bad and the ugly.

For months, I’d been thinking of a way to incorporate a pencil box project into one of our exclusive projects for The Parcel subscribers. However, I didn’t have a clear vision for the design. Then I saw this Land Rover calendar, and I knew immediately the design direction for the pencil box – topography. But I was stumped how to execute it, until I saw The Surface Issue.

Sometimes having a clear vision isn’t enough when it comes to actually producing a project, especially with print. Producing our topography inspired journal and pencil box set was one of those projects that tested everything I talk about when it comes to paper specification, print production and vendor relationships.

From Concept to Comps

When it came to the design, I really wanted the paper and production techniques to be the hero. The design consisted of amorphous line art illustration. We took a minimal approach for the journal covers. Blind embossing was used to give the design a three dimensional feel. We paired some of the embossed lines with a thin stream of foil stamping, just enough to punctuate the topographic detail.

As for the pencil box, I loved the idea of taking something as utilitarian as the pencil and making it feel special. What better way to do that than with the packaging. Given its size, we were able to envelop the pencil box in the same design as the journals but with the blind embossing flowing over all sides of it. Seeing the design on screen is one thing, producing it in real life is another story. And my expectations for this project were high.

Like many of you, I was operating under real life constraints, and needed to keep the project within budget. I chose to go with a folding box instead of a rigid box, with dimensions large enough to accommodate five pencils. All that was left was to adjust the dieline for the pencil box so it fit the specs.

I printed out comps of the design on all the papers we were considering using. Which was a lot. Armed with an exact-o knife, stylus and adhesive roller, I mocked up dummies in too many papers to count.

What About the Paper?

Leave it to a paper pro to get hung up on choosing the perfect paper. Talk about irony. About all I was sure of was that I wanted to produce the journals and pencil box sets on three different colored papers, each one with contrasting foil. I just couldn’t decide what colors.

In October, around the time Neenah was getting ready to release their newly revamped Touché swatchbook, the paper specification process became clearer.  Neenah approached me about helping with some promotion for the Touché launch, and we got to talking about the journal and pencil box set I was working on. They expressed an interest and suggested the possible use of Touché. I liked the idea of that. Touché is a packaging paper with a luxuriously soft-touch finish in a wide range of colors. I thought it would fit the project perfectly.

I knew one of the sets would be produced on black paper with black foil. Molly and I looked over the colors in the swatchbook, we both loved the slate blue shade. It paired well with silver foil but I also loved the idea of copper foil on it too. That left me with one other color choice – decisions, decisions…

Continue on to part two of our process for producing the topography inspired journal & pencil box set.


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