In the creative and print industries where long term is often as short as a few months and short term is tomorrow first thing in the morning, it is remarkable that the Imagination book series produced by paper manufacturer Champion Papers was able to succeed and flourish for over two decades from 1963 to 1986. During that time, 26 issues were produced and acclaimed designers, such as Carl Regehr and James Miho, brought their talent and innovation to the pages.
Initially in the early 1960s, Champion Papers began to idle with run-of-the-mill Dunder Mifflin-like marketing where its main focus was on paper sales and order volume instead of the inventive ways paper could be used by the creative industry. But starting in 1963, Champion Papers made a game-changing decision by electing to adopt a different business approach after a survey showed it was virtually unknown to designers, art directors, and creative printers at the time. In response to the findings, Champion Papers became determined to reach out to that elusive market. This effort resulted in the production of Imagination, an annual print publication targeting the design community and showcasing the varied creative uses of paper in stunning ways.
Each Imagination book has a distinct theme beautifully executed through the use of photography and illustrations richly printed on a diverse range of paper grades using a number of different printing and finishing techniques, such as fold outs, die cuts and specialty bindings. Enlightening and educational text exploring the theme often accompanies the images. For example, the theme of Imagination 25 (shown above) is “Fun and Games,” where the text investigates the toys and recreational pastimes of numerous cultures and the value placed on play by ancient and contemporary societies as a means to learn and recreate. Other Imagination themes include a wide range of topics, such as ships, flight, and time.
Creating an issue of Imagination involved a great deal of resources and effort. A single book often took almost a full year to complete. The material used in the series was deeply researched and the design concepts carefully considered so that they would be long-lasting and classic with each issue building on the one before it. Sometimes an issue consists of just one bound book. Other times an issue comprises a set of individually packaged publications in custom carriers. Whatever the format, however, the editions of the Imagination series became long-lasting paper reference tools for creative professionals, many of whom safeguarded their copies over the years due to the unique presentation and engaging content.
photo credit: Robin Benson for his images of Imagination 2 1963 “Flight”, Imagination 8 1965 “Ships & Boats”, Imagination 24 1983 “About Time”, and Imagination 25 1985 “Fun and Games”