Beautiful printing is now more than its own reward

Jenny Roper
Friday, May 10, 2013

PrintWeek got exclusive access to this year's internationally renowned Kraszna- Krausz awards to find out what makes a world-beating book

There's something magical about an expertly designed and beautifully crafted book. No longer simply the sum of its parts and a practical means of conveying information, such a product has real impact and real power over just what that impact might be.

Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards
Winner: Best Photography Book

War/Photography: images of armed conflict and its aftermath
Anne Wilkes Tucker, Will Michels and Natalie Zest (Yale University Press), printed by SYL Printers

War/Photography is based on a photography exhibition that opened at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas. Images were found in military, museum, press and photographer agency archives and range from daguerreotypes documenting the Crimean and American Civil Wars to digital images made by soldiers in 21st-century Iraq.

Electing this as winner was a unanimous decision, reports chair of the photography book panel and photography specialist and curator, Zelda Cheatle.

The book’s win was mainly down to its fresh and insightful approach to its subject matter, but the quality of its design and print execution certainly played a big part, she explains. "It is beautifully printed. Some of the images are Russian war photographs so the negatives of the print were in very bad shape to begin with so it wouldn’t have been an easy job," she says.

How it was printed The book was printed by SYL Group, a 100-staff, high-end book printer based in Barcelona. It was printed on a B1 Heidelberg Speedmaster, on 150gsm Hello silk, and bound in-house.
This paper stock was chosen, explains author of the book Anne Wilkes Tucker, to convey its serious and important subject matter.

"We wanted a book that people could pick up repeatedly and would stand that kind of repeated handling, yet we also wanted a good paper stock," she says. "We wanted it to feel like a book that is for reference, not just pretty."

The stock used was also key in making the book easy to handle, as was the quality of its binding.

"The paper is not too white and has a very good weight," says Cheatle. "Because it’s such a big book, if it had been a heavier paper it would be more difficult to handle, and yet you don’t feel like there’s any bleedthrough and it has a weight and solemnity appropriate for the topic. Quite often a big book isn’t easy to read; you’ve got to sit at a table and do it properly. But with this book it’s just about possible to sit on the sofa and have it on your lap and that is very well thought through."

Wilkes Tucker adds that quality binding is also often crucial to a book attracting a browser’s attention in a book shop crowded with other titles: "In a store, if you’re lucky the cover is out, but if you’re unlucky, it’s just the binding. We wanted both to be strong so people would feel inclined to pick it up."

Concerning the print quality of the images inside, Barbara Sadick, US sales rep at SYL explains that converting all files to CMYK was key to faithfully reproducing photos: "The challenge was that these were different images taken by different photographers at different times, so you want the book to look cohesive, at the same time as maintaining the integrity of each image," she says. "I think we accomplished this. In the printing, when you’re looking at the book, there’s a nice common ground in the way the separations are made so that the overall feel is a cohesive one. That was achieved through everything being printed in CMYK, so that you can see the different warmth and coolness of the black and white, even where they’re done with different photographic processes."

Winner: Best Moving Image Book

Hollywood Costume
Deborah Nadoolman Landis (V&A Publishing), printed by Printer Trento

Hollywood Costume was produced both as a catalogue for the V&A exhibition of the same title, but also as an attempt to rectify a situation where, in the words of author Deborah Nadoolman Landis, "the subject has been marginalised throughout the history of the cinema". The book includes not only movie stills but also design sketches and images of actors being fitted for costumes.

It was both this much-needed scholarly approach to costume design, and the "incredibly beautiful production" of the book that secured the win, reports judge and professor of screen media at Brunel University Julian Petley.

"It looks absolutely stunning and that does make a big difference," he says.

How it was printed The book was printed by Printer Trento, an Italian firm printing a wide variety of books for clients including Penguin UK, the Hachette Group, the AA, the British Library and the British Museum.
The inside pages were printed four-colour with spot varnish on a five-colour KBA Rapida 162a, a process that, to Nadoolman Landis’ mind, produced an "absolutely sharp" result. Although she spotted some instances where the images were too closely cropped on initial proofs, she reports that the final result was spot on.

"Especially when something bleeds, very often it’s the case that the picture is too closely cropped; you’ll suddenly see the tip of the shoe and wisps of hair are gone," she says. "But the end result was absolutely perfect and correctly printed. Hollywood Costume is almost a case study in printing."

In terms of materials used, the V&A provided very exact specifications, reports Jo Clark, UK sales representative for Printer Trento. "They specified 150gsm GardaMatt Art, which is an exceptionally high-quality coated paper," she says. "It’s quite a standard spec in terms of materials, but an exceptionally lovely book. They’re very good-quality materials of course, put together with excellent design, reproduction and printing, to produce a really beautiful object."

Nadoolman Landis was very pleased with the specific effect created by the stock chosen. "Another of my books is on glossy paper, which I’m not happy about," she says. "I very much wanted Hollywood Costume to be on matt paper, because you can look into it. I think it’s much better for sketches and drawings; the reflection doesn’t get in the way."

The final icing on the cake for Nadoolman Landis was the matt black cover, which was key in replicating the feel of the V&A show, she reports.

"In the exhibition, you were almost in a black tunnel and the only thing ahead of you were the costumes," she says. "When you’re in a movie theatre the only light and colour comes from the screen and in the exhibition the only light, movement and colour came from the plinth. You were told a story in a very controlled way and the book matches that feeling."


Making the most of award opportunities
Both Printer Trento and SYL can attest to the fact that an award win can be very positive PR. Here’s how to get the most out of such opportunities:

Entering the award

  • Be proactive in finding out what awards are out there. Remember that just because an award isn’t strictly a print prize doesn’t mean your company won’t benefit from being associated with it. And remember that just because it isn’t the printer who enters the book or other print product, doesn’t mean you can’t suggest your customer enters.
  • Be careful, however, about how you approach this, remembering that some awards will require your customer to pay and/or put in a lot of time to enter.  
  • UK sales rep at Printer Trento Jo Clark says: "It depends on the relationship between the printer and the publisher as to whether it’s appropriate for the printer to suggest a customer enters."
  • Think carefully about whether the product in question fits the brief in other ways than just being an example of beautiful print. Judge Julian Petley explains, in the case of the Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards, this should involve considering if the book is "a serious account of its subject." He explains: "It has to have a high degree or originality, not a re-hash of things we know already, and combine that with striking visual presentation."
  • Make sure any supporting information required with the entry is carefully thought out. Francis Atterbury, PrintWeek Awards judge of four years and partner at Hurtwood Press, says in the case of these awards, he is most keen to hear about why certain decisions were made.
  • "I don’t really care that it’s printed on the most up-to-date printing press," he says. "I’m not interested in how they made it, but the thinking that went into it. I want to know why they chose that cloth and why they chose that paper."
  • Don’t be afraid to say in this supporting information if you would have done something differently.
  • "It could be that it’s been printed on this gloss-coated paper because the client insisted on it but the printer thought it should have been printed differently," says Atterbury. "In my book, stating that would probably get you extra points!"

Marketing a win

  • Include details of the win in as many forums as possible, such as in company newsletters, at the bottom of emails and on the firm’s website.
  • Send out copies of winning or shortlisted items as examples to customers where possible. "A number of books we have printed have won awards and of course we mention that to our clients." says Clark.
  • Remember to shout about being shortlisted too.


Don’t forget to enter the PrintWeek Awards, which will be held on 21 October this year. Enter at www.printweekawards.com by 3 July, or 12 June to benefit from an early-bird deal.


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