Paper matches the Zeitgeist

Paper is available, relatively cheap and supposedly patient. Designers think, however, that paper can be used for many more applications than just for writing.

At the beginning was the idea to produce a chair made of paper. “The first chair I constructed together with a fellow student. After 17 hours we were finished, we sat down and it collapsed” describes Christoph Rochna his start in the paper business.

To work around this problem, the native German experimented with paper-based bean-bags, for which he developed a 100% bio-degradable material. “The material was too good to just use it for bean bags only. “That is when we came up with the idea to design laptop sleeves”, he says. Christoph Rochna is the creative part of the Austrian start-up Papernomad. Together with his business partner Mario Bauer, who is responsible for marketing, the 35-year-old developed paper sleeves for laptops, cell phones and computer tablets, which capture international attention. Papernomad products are sold across Europe and have reached markets as far away as Asia, oceania and America. Since recent times, they are also sold offline through Apple Premium Retailers. From here it may only be a small step into the official Apple Stores. The two young men have seem to have discovered a market niche. Why?

“Paper matches the Zeitgeist. It embodies the concept of ​​environmental sensibility, it is bio-degradable and sustainable” says Mario Bauer, describing his dedication to the paper products. “Organic materials are on the rise. Even the automotive industry is recognizing the material’s potential” adds Rochna.

In fact, paper impacts our everyday lives, but very few dare to manufacture resilient products from it. Those products that exhibit similar characteristics of products made from plastic or wood. “And if manufacturers use paper, then usually in combination with plastic. We, in contrast, wanted an entirely green product”, says Bauer. The two therefore had to develop a suitable material together with at a major paper manufacturer. Since that day the patented Papernomad paper exists: tear- and water-resistant and biologically degradable to one hundred percent. The other materials inside the product are green, too.

Making tracks. Apart from the green idea there is another property that will inspire Papernomad customers around the world: the idea not to keep their products clean, but to doodle on them from top to bottom. Coffee stains, notes from the conference or the phone number of a new found friend – everything can be recorded on the brown wrapping-paper-like envelope. “We live in a world of constant change; the paper sleeves function like a canvas which keeps a record of our experiences – making memories come alive” says Rochna.

The two are no short of marketing ideas. They sent an iPad sleeve as a chain letter around the world, another time they had their paper sewn into pairs of jeans to be worn on a promotional tour in America. Actor William Shatner, the old Captain Kirk, and the singer Sheryl Crow have become their prominent proponents. The latter insisted to hold onto her Papernomad. Rochna was not surprised: “The material is very pleasant to the touch. We all have a smart phone with lots of information stored inside. But none of this information is tangible.”

“Die Presse”, print edition, 02/12/2012

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