Responses by Cast Iron Design
Background: Patagonia approached us to design a printed guide to Boulder, Colorado, for its retail customers, many of whom are tourists. The end result is an amusing, yet handy pocket guide that’s also the first to use algae offset ink.
Reasoning: First, we rethought the form of the guide. The typical format for a city guide is a two-sided sheet of folded paper. This results in a cumbersome experience for users, forcing them to flip back and forth to connect locations on the map side with descriptions on the other side. Our solution utilizes several single-page maps, each with varying zoom levels, to cater to the various points of interest that range from “across the street” to “an hour drive.”
Second, we wanted to rethink the print production. Our studio was founded in 2010 with the goal of creating sustainable design; Patagonia is known globally as a sustainability pioneer. With these shared values, we had the chance to push the sustainability envelope. During the early stages of the project, we reached out to Living Ink, a Colorado-based company developing algae ink, and asked them about using its ink—which is still in development—for this project. The size of the project, timing and client worked out perfectly and we were able to use the ink as a “beta test” for larger commercial production.
Challenges: Using algae ink on this project was always a maybe from the very beginning. We had to get buy-in from Patagonia, find a local print shop that was willing to test out the ink, which puts the equipment at risk, and had to complete a successful test run. All this needed to be completed within the given timeline, which coincided with the grand opening of Patagonia’s Boulder store.
Favorite details: Using the world’s first algae offset ink is rewarding because our studio has strived to integrate sustainability into our practice for nearly a decade. It’s not often we have the opportunity to work with new and emerging technology like algae ink. Though a seemingly inconsequential achievement on its own, these small victories push the industry towards a more sustainable future. That, and the fact we were able to put in a reference to Bat Boy from ’90s tabloids.
Visual influences: We were inspired by the organic texture of algae and wove stippled treatments into the imagery. Also, we were limited to black ink, so we chose a colorful interior paper and cut the cover smaller to let a flash of that color show through.
Time constraints: We needed to have a contingency plan for the book’s content, as we designed a page dedicated to providing information about the algae ink. In the end, everything worked out and we were able to print the first-ever commercial run using algae offset ink.