Kristin en Marie van de Inktvissers op bezoek bij Buroform

Customer in the spotlight: the ‘Inktvissers’

Just before New Year, a fantastic book rolled off our presses: the Ivens jubilee book, on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Antwerp manufacturer of storage tanks. In a contemporary and playful way, it tells the history of the family business, interspersed with interviews, anecdotes, quotes, photo reports and illustrations. The result is an anniversary book like you rarely see, lightheartedly told and breathlessly designed, with attention to the past, but also to the company culture, employees, partners and customers.

© Greetje Van Buggenhout – From left to right: Kristin Wuyts, Marie Verdurmen

Storytellers on duty are Kristin Wuyts and Marie Verdurmen. The former is an author and communications specialist, the latter an art director and illustrator. Together they form the ‘Inktvissers’, a creative agency dedicated to the development of these types of books. From word to image and everything that comes with it: Kristin and Marie dive into companies’ pasts, angling for the best stories and giving voice and face to the people behind them. Form and content flow together beautifully in the process. We met both ladies for an extended conversation about their love of ink, paper and craft printing techniques.

© Greetje Van Buggenhout

Hey, Kristin and Marie, first things first: “Inktvissers” (the Ink Fishermen), what a great name. How did you guys come up with that?

Marie: “Anniversary books sometimes have a somewhat dull and dusty image. In addition, they are often loose assemblages of texts and photos from the archive. We want to do that differently. Not just with contemporary design and inspiring text, but by really analyzing a company’s story in depth. Our books are honest business portraits that look far beyond the facts and figures. We talk about the people, what drives them, how the world is evolving and a company deals with it. The Ink Fishermen nicely reflects what we stand for: it is a young, fresh, even somewhat playful name. We fish out stories and fully immerse ourselves in a company’s past. All that info then flows together into a coherent and finished whole that stands out both visually and substantively.’

With Ivens, you prove that you can bring a corporate history in a hip and young way. What do you think makes a good anniversary book?

Kristin: “Every book is different, depending on the budget, what the company wants to achieve and the target audience. For us, it is important to deliver a sincere, relevant and refreshing story, in line with the company’s strategic goals. To do this, we work very closely with the client. We talk not only to company executives, but also to current and former employees, customers and suppliers. For the Ivens book, for example, we talked to dozens of people. Then you find out things. Those interviews lead to fun quotes and juicy anecdotes that illuminate the past from a different perspective. With Ivens, they are even the common thread throughout the book. They are micro stories, sometimes funny, sometimes endearing and touching. They give the reader a picture of the past and the culture, without necessarily giving everything away.

“For the Ivens book, for example, we talked to dozens of people. Then you find out things.”

Marie: “You can tell a history in different ways. Sometimes we work chronologically, sometimes we use flashbacks. We integrate milestones, timelines, quotes, archival footage, new photos, you name it. There is no delineated design plan. Variation is the key. With Ivens, for example, we did not opt for a classic division into chapters, but rather a structure around important dates. They are interspersed with photo reports and interviews. I also drew an ink portrait of each of the company managers, giving you an accessible and playful atmosphere.’

© Greetje Van Buggenhout

For what purpose exactly do companies knock on your door? In other words, what makes such an anniversary book so attractive and interesting?

Marie: “There could be numerous reasons for this. First of all, print is very sensory. You can hold it, feel the texture of the paper, smell the pages. Digital is often fleeting; a book is “real. People like having something in their hands. A book you keep and cherish. It is a tangible product that exudes reliability and credibility, and so is especially valuable as branding for your business. An anniversary book allows you to show who you are and what you stand for, as well as where you want to go. You show how you have grown and responded to new challenges now and in the future. It’s a way to increase your brand awareness and highlight your expertise.

Kristin: “Ivens’ book became a very human book. It creates connection. Between management and employees, but also with customers and partners. Everyone who has helped build the company’s history in one way or another is featured. Memories and experiences of countless people are shared. That creates a bond. People feel involved and recognize themselves in the story because they themselves have been given a voice in it.

Ivens’ anniversary book is a very tactile, almost artisanal book. Why that choice?

Marie: “Craft and innovation are crucial to Ivens. The book also exudes that philosophy, on every level. Not only because it departs from the classic structure and narrative structure. The thread on the cover, for example, is a special graphic element that recurs several times throughout the book. In an abstract way, it illustrates the company’s sense of craftsmanship and quality. In addition, the book was given a linen cover, was traditionally bound with red thread and we chose an FSC-certified paper. All these elements together give the final product an artisanal look and feel, indicative of what Ivens wants to tell.’

© Greetje Van Buggenhout

You chose Buroform as your printing partner. How does our printing company fit into your story?

Kristin: “We got to know Buroform through Café Cliché. A very interesting initiative that creates engagement. You feel the drive. The desire to inspire creative people to give them more options. Buroform shows that it is with the times and can take your work to the next level. That won us over.

Marie: “A good printer translates your creativity into reality, in a feasible and affordable way. As a graphic designer you have many ideas, but not everything is always possible. By thinking with us and offering different solutions, Buroform guided us perfectly. For the cover of Ivens, for example, we chose intaglio printing instead of blind embossing: less expensive, but no less beautiful. We received explanations and saw a lot of examples. That helps to make choices, even if they involve minuscule details. But it is just those little things that give your product the right look.’