A passionate advocate of fine printing, Leslie Smolan has directed many iconic branding campaigns, almost all of them integrating print design as a component. We spoke with her about the power of print and the campaign Carbone Smolan is creating for the luxury resort NIZUC, on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
Design Print Impact: What are the key principles you apply when building a brand like NIZUC?
Leslie Smolan: We strive to communicate the experience. A luxury resort like NIZUC needs to give its customers a sense of what to expect. That requires a presentation that is of the same quality as the resort itself. Everything about the campaign must speak to this quality, while also being seductive and alluring.
DPI: And how do you communicate that quality?
LS: We use design to create a sensory experience through the interplay of imagery and materials. For example, we intentionally selected a soft, flat finish for the print materials. Evoking luxury is all about subtleties. It requires speaking with a whisper, not a shout. We also work very hard to create a brand expression that spans 360 degrees. It’s a bit like conducting an orchestra. We plan and define every touch point that reaches the public so the brand projects a unified statement through collective exposure.
We intentionally selected a soft, flat finish for the print materials. Evoking luxury is all about subtleties. It requires speaking with a whisper, not a shout.
DPI: With so many entities involved with presenting the brand to the public, how do you ensure a unified statement?
LS: For NIZUC, we centered the brand statement around the photography, orchestrated to project exactly the image we needed. The client invested in a photo shoot that was carefully directed, just like a film with stylists and actors. Every shot was thoughtfully planned to capture the immersive experience of a stay at the resort. We built a library of high-resolution images and then gave low-res versions to the Web and social media teams so we would project a consistent image across all platforms. In the design, we let the pictures speak and kept the text minimal, highlighting experiences like soaking in the landscape, savoring the cuisine, or engaging in activities.
DPI: To what degree is fine printing relevant for an integrated campaign like NIZUC’s?
LS: It’s very relevant. For one thing, print creates a wholly different experience than a tablet. It delivers a sensory impact that feels like a stay at NIZUC. Print also creates a one-on-one conversation. For luxury resorts, it’s important to make a direct connection with the travel professional. Print allows you to do it at a refined quality level.
Print creates a wholly different experience than a tablet. It delivers a sensory impact that feels like a stay at NIZUC. It also creates a one-on-one conversation.
DPI: And what is different about the process of producing a design for print?
LS: Designing for print is a distinct discipline, like Web design, but it incorporates several physical variables, each affecting the final result. Designers must understand the progression from a color monitor to ink on paper and be able to visualize the effect of decisions they make, such as the type of press, color corrections, paper selection, coatings and so forth. Experienced designers have learned how to manage these variables, but younger designers have to go through the process a few times to learn from the experience.
DPI: So what advice do you have for younger designers who want to learn the discipline of print design?
LS: Probably the biggest is to seek out experts who know print design and learn from them. We bring our younger designers on press so they can see a job come to life. There are also wonderful printers who are willing to teach and guide you. Finally, keep trying to learn. The best designers are always trying to raise their “level of invention” and the hard work of that can only be done on the press.
Leslie Smolan is a strategist and creative director known for her relentless pursuit of timeless beauty. As co-founder and director of creative strategy at the Carbone Smolan Agency, she applies the wisdom of her 35 years of experience to mentor clients on the power of strategic design to transform businesses. Carbone Smolan designs branding and marketing campaigns for enterprises including Credit Suisse, Christie’s, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and the Louvre Museum. You can see their work at carbonesmolan.com.