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Neenah Paper Sample Book

Page from a Neenah sample book

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Neenah Paper seminar hosted by Blair Digital and Xpedx at green|spaces, and as an added bonus, got to hear more from the rep when he visited one of my design classes. As I stated previously, I love paper. Hearing Barry Clough, from Neenah Paper, gave me the opportunity to learn even more about how it’s made, this time from a mill’s perspective.

Neenah Paper is located in Wisconsin and was started in the 1870’s. Neenah began out as a small mill, but over the years has purchased other paper mills and now commands a large percentage of the market share for printing paper. As technology has changed, the company has introduced many new products to meet the evolving needs of designers and printers.

Acquiring paper samples always brings joy and I now have a growing collection of swatch books to look through for inspiration. As for their usefulness, I never thought about that beyond inspiration and picking the best paper for the project at hand. However, Barry showed us in class how to use them to determine the quality of the paper. He held a piece of copier paper and a page from one of the Neenah swatch books up to a window to compare the formation of the two papers. Formation refers to how evenly distributed the fibers are in the paper. Comparing the copier paper to the Neenah paper showed an even, regular distribution of fibers in the Neenah paper and an uneven, splotchy looking distribution in the copier paper. An even distribution of fibers ensures an even coating of ink. If you’re printing a full-bleed page of a solid color, having an even distribution of paper fibers ensures there will be no splotchy areas where ink (or toner if you’re printing digitally) is thinner than others.

Barry’s visit was entertaining and illuminating and I’m looking forward to more paper seminars in the future.

Team Ninja pitching our Adobe challenge project

Team Ninja pitching our animated ad to the Adobe Challenge judges. Photo credit: Leslie Jensen-Inman

A week ago Saturday I went to Amped in Atlanta. Amped was a hack day following the Web Directions conference, which is something I had never participated in before, and it was the first ever 10-hour hack day. Hack days, traditionally at least 24 hours long, bring together a wide variety of technologically savvy people to quickly solve posed challenges. I wasn’t sure what to expect and, since I had so much homework to finish, I was even considering not going. I’m so glad I went.

Several of my classmates attended, as well, and I decided I wanted to get on a team comprised of people I didn’t know. I figured since I had practically the same skill set as most of my classmates I’d learn more and be better able to put my own skills to use on a different team. So, pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I put my name and phone number on the board under “Have Skills” and set about waiting.

The team that contacted me was wanting to enter the Adobe challenge of creating an animated advertisement promoting open web. (Open web, put succinctly, is using cross-platform technologies to create websites that anyone can use. The sites can be viewed equally well on computers, mobile devices, TVs, etc.) We also worked on two other projects and entered three additional challenges. Those projects involved re-imagining how football games are viewed in the age of internet enabled TVs and creating a PalmOS app for GT students to access the student directory and have instant contact via phone or email from within the app.

I found working under such tight time constraints invigorating and realized that I was able to think more creatively in that atmosphere than I normally do. Of course, part of that was bouncing ideas off of my teammates, who were fantastic to work with.

The hack day also gave me a chance to meet industry gurus and learn a tremendous amount from them. Doug Schepers lent his expertise in SVG to our project – talking with me about ways to prepare the graphics and Ruby about the best ways to implement our plans.

Throughout the day, mini-workshops were held on all of the relevant technologies and topics making the learning environment one of intense collaboration as one team member would attend a session and debrief others on the team. Relly Annett-Baker was on-hand to discuss content strategy and I talked to her a bit about the particular wording on our ad.

Thanks very much to team members Ruby Zheng, Faried Amani, and Oge Nnadi. I had a great time working with you guys. Maybe we can do it again next year. Also thanks to John Allsop and Maxine Sherron from Web Directions for putting on an amazing event and to the sponsors, Adobe, Palm, and PayPal, for making it possible. I’m definitely looking forward to attending again and again.

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