It was a real treat to open up a flat file and rediscover the stack of French Paper Company posters that had accumulated (see previous post). As opposed to being buried, the swatch books that I've acquired and saved over the years have always been laying about and within easy reach. I don't get a ton of opportunities to order French papers, but the swatch books have always been on a shelf, in sight. Maybe they're a form of status symbol. Although I don't often have anyone other than my wife and family in proximity of my work area, you never know when a designer in-the-know will stop by, and one wants to project the illusion of high-grade professionalism, does one not?
The posters are beautiful, but after re-acquainting myself with the swatch books, it's apparent which is the dog and which is the tail. The swatch books have a function, each contains color and weight samples of the line that it promotes. Undoubtedly another function is brand-building and radiating ultra-coolness, which is a mainstay from the earliest to the most recent designs. From the visual standpoint alone the evolution of the branding is apparent. A simple, utilitarian clip art approach slowly becomes, well, whatever someone more articulate than me would call the latest design approach.
What doesn't come across in these photos is the tactile aspect and the production value of the swatch books. The printing of ink is the baseline, but the other techniques are what make these so unique. Type, imagery and even textures are often embossed and de-bossed. Additionally, some kooky foil stamping (or perhaps super thick varnish?) is also used liberally throughout. The binding is also unique on all. So these not only look great, but the feel of them is memorable as well. It would have been interesting to listen in on the conversations where Charles Spencer Anderson and his design team were justifying the cost and the necessity of these techniques when presenting them to their client. I'll have to wait for the book and the movie to come out to get the inside scoop.