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The story of Superfine

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If you’re a fan of Design Observer you may have caught today’s ‘The Observatory’ podcast featuring Jessica Helfand and Michael Bierut discussing a topic near and dear to our hearts: paper.

Included in this podcast, Jessica and Michael share their experiences with Mohawk Superfine.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history and heritage of Mohawk’s flagship Superfine, read on.

The Story of Superfine
This is a story about a legendary paper that has shaped 20th Century graphic design and redefined the digital age.

Widely known as the finest printing paper in the world today, Superfine is the signature paper of Mohawk, one of the leading manufacturers of high quality, digital print-ready paper.

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Mohawk Machine Room
Mohawk Archive

Superfine goes back to the earliest days of Mohawk. The paper was originally made for greeting cards in the late 1940s, created with a rare pulp due to fiber shortages during WWII.

After New England salesmen had successfully sold the paper to many accounts, came the biggest breakthrough yet: Alvin Eisenman, one of the 20th century’s leading graphic design educators and founder of Yale University’s graduate program in graphic design, approached Mohawk to develop a custom paper for the production of a book for Yale University Press. With Eisenman developing an enduring relationship with Mohawk, Superfine became a staple in the tool kit of the aspiring graphic designers whose careers Eisenman nurtured. As such, Superfine has been used on projects as diverse as annual reports, collectable posters by Paul Rand and Seymour Chwast, writings by Benjamin Franklin and Dwight Eisenhower, as well as fine art books.


“The qualities and results that made Superfine respected and exceptional 40-50 years ago are the same traits that make it a leader in the digital world today. Superfine has beautiful formation, legendary feel, and unmatched variety of white shades. Businesses have selected Superfine because of its tactile elegance.”
Chris Harrold
Creative Director & VP

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Mohawk Mill
Mohawk

The industry’s move to digital printing—a shift so paramount that Mohawk has called it the “most significant watershed shift since offset lithography replaced letterpress”—proved that Mohawk was still an innovator in its field and a leader in its craft: in the early 2000s, Mohawk turned Superfine into the ultimate digital sheet.

“Everything we do with Superfine Digital also has a reflection on the reputation of our heritage Superfine products and we simply can’t afford to lower the bar,” says Gavin Gaynor, Vice President Research & Development at Mohawk. “From the very beginning of product development we insisted that Superfine Digital would ‘simply be the best.’” And the best it is. Superfine Digital, with unique testing of coatings, has allowed designers and printers the highest quality against any other digital sheet.

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Mohawk Lab
Testing Paper
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Mohawk
Mohawk
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Mohawk Warehouse
Mohawk

“Our manufacturing team takes tremendous pride in producing Superfine and relishes the opportunity to see a beautiful printed piece,” Gaynor continues. “Many of our employees are second, and even third, generation Mohawk employees and they all understand that it is one of the pillars on which Mohawk has been built. We have a number of great products that we are very proud of, but Superfine is the one product family that elicits a nearly unanimous emotional attachment. Our employees on the floor will simply not compromise when it comes to product going out the door wearing a Superfine label.”

Using Superfine for digital print can be the best way for designers or printers to realize their best projects,” Harrold explains. “Because the default paper most printers use is coated gloss, Superfine helps any project become a more beautifully executed physical, tactile presentation. The results and quality will be resoundingly better.”

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