Truly, I work very hard to make sure the packaging that I create isn’t too perfect.
I was in the studio after hours, shooting these George Dickel photos. I was getting in there really tight with the macro lens, adjusting the lights ever so carefully when it occurred to me: I’m looking for the imperfections in the labels. That’s what I want to see. That’s the good stuff. Then it hit me, I’m always doing that – and I’m thinking along these lines the whole time – way back at the beginning of the design process. It turns out, I go to a lot of extra effort when it comes to producing a label – to make it less perfect than it could be. I make a nuisance of myself calling paper reps, ink reps, foil manufacturers, etc. Now that I think of it – all of that effort is usually directed toward one end: trying to make things less perfect. Go figure.
When I’m shooting glass, it’s the little bumps in the surface that excite me. When I’m shooting paper labels, I’m looking for the way the light plays off the fibers in the paper. I like the way metallic foils don’t lay down smooth, the paper beneath them imparts a wonderful texture. Etc.
You could actually do what I do a lot more perfectly, with a lot less effort. The print industry has been pushing closer and closer to perfection and precision for decades. By default, they will offer you the most bright white, smoothest, glossiest papers known to man. Brilliant, vivid inks. Fabricators have mirror-finish hardware and metal parts cast with a precision that would make NASA proud. And they assume that’s what everybody wants. And I think they are mostly right about that. You actually have to invest quite a bit more effort to mess things up a bit. You have to ask around and find specialty shops that use old equipment, operated by old-timers who do things by hand. You have to make bothersome phone calls and get obsolete, out-of-print sample and swatch books and send your printers after inventory in forgotten warehouses to get materials that are no longer considered state-of-the-art.
In my assessment, the extra effort is worth it and I shall continue on my quest. Rest assured, good people, I will not relent in the pursuit of imperfection. I will continue to offer you obsolete, imprecise, bumpy, off-white, speckled, fibrous and dull. You have my word.