Tag Archives: Print

Did Quark Quack Its Last Quirk?

In 2002, I started working in the industry as an assistant prepress technician. Back then, we were on working Power Macintosh computers in the advanced operating system of “Classic Mac”—we couldn’t possibly trust the new OS X! We prepared files in QuarkXPress 5 and sent them to a film marker to eventually make plates and begin the printing process. Adobe was just starting to filter into prepress departments with InDesign 2, but like OS X, it was also not to be trusted.

At this time in the industry, the only software that could successfully communicate with plate setters and filmmakers was Quark. Yes, it had its quirks, but it always got the job done. Designing something in InDesign and trying to get it successfully onto a printing plate could spell disaster for my keyboard—InDesign was always the whipping boy for me!

Fast-forward to 2013, and you can clearly see that the tables have turned.  Adobe has totally taken over with CS 6, and those who refuse to make the switch only use Quark. I cringe when I get files in Quark. Just recently I received a magazine file in Quark, prepared perfectly and packaged appropriately. After doing our due diligence of loading the customer-supplied fonts and then opening the document and relinking any missing images, all seemed to be well. Our esteemed prepress technicians made print- and screen-ready PDFs, and we distributed them to the client for review.

This is the shocker: All the caption fonts were incorrect, and there was an entire image missing on one of the pages. After receiving this news from the client, I questioned our prepress technician. Much to my surprise, the response was, “I’m not surprised”—this is a known occurrence with Quark these days! Upon further investigation, we determined the fonts were there (we had to manually switch it), and so was the image. But the image was hidden—not behind something, just blank, gone! It came to our attention that a new feature called “content aware” text wrapping was used to wrap text around the image without placing a proper clipping path in Photoshop. So, the question is, why is Quark releasing features that are not totally fleshed out?

The moral to this story is: Quark, you quacked your last quirk for me! If a software provider who was a leader in the industry allows itself to be overtaken in a market it once dominated, it should cease to exist. You can’t take back market share when you are releasing versions that have so many “quirks” that it doesn’t make sense to use. So, today the only useful feature of Quark is the hidden Easter egg—the little alien that marches onto the screen to delete your object. When you get frustrated with Adobe products, open up Quark and hit this key command—it will make you feel better, and then you can quit Quark and go back to Adobe!

Tell me—do you use Quark and have a full keyboard of keys, or does it look like mine?

Author: John Mehl

 

Captcha If You Can

For those of you who visit the blog on a fairly regular basis (for which we offer our never-ending thanks), you will notice a small update has occurred on our blog and contact pages. Though we’ve tried to get by without one, we finally caved: If you want to contact us or interact with our blog, you now must cross that the extra trench of a captcha, a challenge-response test in order to ensure that your comment is from a real person.

Why, you ask? First and foremost, not having a captcha (which is an acronymn for “completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart”) creates an unnecessary security risk––and I just wrote about how companies need to step it up. Every time a website is open to the public to submit information, the same portal allows spammers––both humans and bots––to infiltrate and overload the website managers with spam. As everyone is aware, spam can be extremely destructive, though we were lucky never to run into that particular problem.

Our problem was one of inconvenience: spam that ate up a significant amount of resources. As one of the website managers, I’m here to tell you it was getting out of control. We would receive 35–40 pieces of spam on average per day, which on weekends would often spike up to 60–70 pieces of spam. On a week with minimal spam, we would receive almost 300 pieces of spam. Trying to sort out the legitimate comments and contacts from that list was often tedious and time-consuming. On top of this, the spam was also compromising our analytics of our website, which in a data-driven society would be reason enough for some people. So finally unable to bear the onslaught any longer, we implemented a captcha.

As you surf the Internet, you will notice there are many different types of captchas––often involving retyping numbers and text or, less often, executing math equations or seeing what is in an image––all with the goal of ensuring that you are human. Because of the print and digital nerds here at Vanguard Direct, we have opted for reCaptcha, a captcha that helps digitize print with every word typed in. How does it work? The program takes words that could not be read using optical character recognition (OCR) and distributes them for users to type in before they can submit other information to a website (such as comments on a blog). How does reCaptcha know the word is correct and that you are human? Two words are presented to the user, one of which is known already. If that word is answered correctly, then the user gets access to the web content and the unknown word is logged with reCaptcha with your possible solution. As that word gets typed, eventually a consensus emerges and the word can be determined with high confidence. With the amount of captchas getting filled out every day, the more reCaptcha is used, the quicker we can archive things that exist solely on paper.

Remember that a captcha can help filter out most spam, making both your life easier and your website a safer place to visit. This week I have gotten two pieces of spam. That’s a monumental decrease from 300. Using a service like reCaptcha on top of it also gives something back to the print and literary worlds, solving multiple problems at once!

Author: Zack Smith

Can Being Too Green Actually Be Bad?

In today’s market, everyone is focused on being “green.” Has anyone ever stopped to ask, “Are we being too green?” In some cases, I think we are. In the hopes of impressing our peers with how green we are, we might actually be losing touch with the basics of living a sustainable life.

Paper: It’s a race to see how many logos you can get on your printed piece. Is it FSC-, SFI-, or Rainforest Alliance-certified, printed with soy inks, powered by wind energy, 100% PCW recycled, carbon neutral, printed by a man wearing recycled shorts, and not printed on Earth Day? We are going to need business cards that are 8.5″ x 11″ to hold all these logos on the back. But have we ever thought about if we need those printed materials or not? (Jump back to my previous post for more info. on paper and “greenness.”)

Transportation: If you’re an actor in California, more likely than not, you drive a hybrid. My first question is: Why? If I had that type of cash, it would be a Bugatti Vitesse. Sure, it’s not cheap––just 2.5 million––but it goes like hell! It’s considering their “public image” that persuades all affluent actors to buy a hybrid and drive around in the most boring cars that have ever existed. I would argue that new, clean-burning turbo diesels are better for the environment than the best hybrids out there––and you can actually enjoy driving them for more than 100 miles!

I would challenge everyone to take a step back and evaluate your green initiatives. Consider what you did before. Younger generations are learning more about sustainable initiatives but are losing sight of their day-to-day activities that produce the most waste. We have turned into a very waste heavy society.  What happened to reusable milk and beer bottles, paper shopping bags that we used as trashcans or book covers? Think before you print, ask yourself, how many do you really need? Try taking public transit to work, it gives you time to think and reduces your inner road rage!

Author: John Mehl

Too Little, Too Late?

Kudos to the United States Postal Service. Ending Saturday delivery is a step in the right direction for the ever-failing quasi-governmental organization. But is this too little, too late? With an estimated loss of 15 billion a year, due mainly to prepaid pensions, the Saturday delivery cut will take care of only 2 to 3 billion of that deficit, leaving the USPS in a hole 12 to 13 billion deep. Union leaders, Congress, and the American public face some hard choices. Do we allow the USPS to increase postage to rates that UPS and FedEx have survived on? Should Congress revise its 2006 law requiring that the pensions be prepaid, or do we let the USPS fail? How important to you is every door, every day service? Isn’t five days enough? I, for one, would enjoy five-day service. I mean, who wants a bill in the mail on a Saturday to ruin the rest of your weekend anyway?

The announcement to cancel Saturday mail was a milestone in USPS history. The USPS made this announcement during a press conference even before consulting Congress or union leaders. Since union leaders influence the members of Congress who actually determine the fate of the USPS, I would think they wound be in the know. But they weren’t, and I’m happy about that. This means that the USPS is taking charge and making decisions no matter who it upsets in the process.
Here’s to hoping that the USPS can make the necessary decisions to stay afloat for another 50 years! But if it can’t, we’ll just have to use the interweb. That is, of course, what you’re reading this on!

BuzzFeed’s Picks for Best Print Ads of 2012

BuzzFeed recently published its picks for the top 12 print ads of 2012. While we hardly think these selections cover the full range of print ads published worldwide, there were certainly a few that stood out. To view all 12, be sure to check out BuzzFeed.

Have a favorite? Take a look at these five and let us know what you think!

1. Kielo Travel – Y&R, Belgrade

This ad is simply genius!

2. Pictionary – Ogilvy, Kuala Lumpur

3. LEGO – Jung von Matt, Hamburg

Admittedly, this ad took me a while to figure out. It wasn’t until I saw the entire campaign that I figured out what I was looking at. Love!

4. Karate for Kids – Grey, Tokyo

5. Ray-Ban – Marcel Worldwide, Paris

I was less than impressed with this ad. It’s a bit of an obvious route. Maybe in 1988 this would have been cutting-edge. I get the old New York reference. But still—meh.

Author: Eric Swenson

Convergence of Holidays, or How Do I Send a Greeting Card Without Ruining a Client Relationship?

I think the “Holiday Season” begins right after Labor Day, or at least it does in Walmart when the summer section begins its transformation to the “Winter Decorations” section. Call this time of year what you want, but it’s anything but the Indian summer of my youth, at least in the stores. Consumer dollars are paramount in the last four months of each year, and no matter what the occasion, there are greeting cards sitting on the shelves to please every denomination and cover every “holiday” event. Living in New York, I would say there is no greater melting pot of cultures anywhere in the world.

The business world wants to use this time of year to reach out to its client base to thank them for their business and wish them a “Happy Holiday.” Therein lies the first dilemma: what holiday is “safe” to mention? Some will go with their own beliefs and may send a Christmas card, while others will play it safe and send a generic “Happy Thanksgiving” (everyone eats turkey), “Season’s Greetings,” or “Happy New Year” card.

Marketing communication companies are in a special pickle when it comes to deciding which medium to use to convey their greetings. Email blasts, YouTube clips, or other clever new media can be used to wow the client base, but today I want to talk about one of my favorites: old-fashioned ink on paper. To me there is nothing like the experience of receiving a card at home in the mail and opening it like a Christmas present to see what exciting message lies within.

A recent post by Matthew Parker on the Profitable Print Relationships blog outlines seven of the many dos and don’ts that will help you think through the process. Print companies especially need to put their collective best foot forward. Nothing kills the message like a catalog-bought card or a card that is poorly executed. This is your profession, and this is your time to shine. Spare no expense and make your card pop. Check out the post here:

If you have a smaller holiday card list and still want to send something original, I can suggest a new Apple app that I can personally vouch for as offering value for your dollar. The app is simply called Cards, and it allows you to send beautiful letterpress cards you can personalize using a number of various designs. You can send them from your iPhone, iPod Touch, or your iPad. Each card is just $2.99 when mailed in the US, and that includes postage. The cards are printed on a heavyweight, textured cover stock with matching envelopes. You have the option to add photos to the design, and the cards can be generic or personalized for any occasion. You can also send the same card to multiple parties. Each envelope has a handwritten look to it, and though it may be a gimmick, it’s hot right now. Take a look at the app at Apple’s App Store or follow this link.

If senders would only call on their own greeting card experiences before sending greeting cards, they would avoid many disappointed recipients. I have complied a few of my own dos and don’ts––but then again, this is just me.

• Do sign the card! For the love of Mike, would it kill ya to sign a card?

• Do add a handwritten message to photos with preprinted greetings. I love seeing you and your family grow old, but it would be nice to hear how everyone is doing and exactly how Uncle Willy wound up in the wheelchair. Personalize the card for me.

• Do get the names of my family right, make sure the spouse is the current one, and also check if Ol’ Yeller is still alive before adding the pet’s name.

• Don’t write “Seasons Greetings.” If you know me at all, send me a Christmas card and please stop hoarding free cards from twenty years ago––use the new ones you get for free.

• If you send a card you got for free from a charitable organization, please do send them a small donation or just put the cards in the recycling bin. If I see you in fur during the holiday, your PETA card may come flying back at ya.

• Finally, do make me smile. I know we have all had our own shares of ups and downs, but at least make something warm my heart and bring a smile to my face.

With that said, this is the front of my card for this year:

Happy Holidays!

Author: Tom Caska

BMW’s Brand-New Twin-Turbo 560-HP Printing Press!

Having trouble coming up with a stimulating idea for direct mail? Maybe you should look at how BMW is pushing the envelope! Never before has a 560-horsepower BMW M6 been converted into a printing press, but there is a first for everything, right?

In a creative attempt to demonstrate how the new BMW M6 can “peel the pavement,” BMW partnered with Classic Color, Toyo Ink, and Sappi Fine Paper. They all reported to Blackhawk Farms Raceway to test out a new, turbo-charged printing press. Watch the symphonic culmination below:

I gather that most companies out there don’t have this type of cash to spend on direct mail projects, but this is an inspiring example of how far outside the box you can go with a simple printed piece. After all, everything comes down to return on investment, and I would guess BMW only has to sell ten of these cars to make up for this stunt.

I hope this helps stimulate your creative brain … Come up with anything yet?

Author: T. John Mehl

Hey, BTW THX!

In this high-tech age, we are so interconnected with each other that we tend to forget how impersonal technology is. These days, there seems to be a higher value placed on virtual things than on real interaction. We wish our friends and family a happy birthday on Facebook, and––for the most part––it’s accepted. The emphasis is on quantity, not quality, in that regard. But your grandmother still remembers your birthday, right? And she doesn’t even have Facebook! (Well, at least the majority of grandmothers don’t … yet.)

Where has this personal touch gone? It’s actually still alive and well in many successful organizations today. Go buy a pair of shoes at Cole Haan––you’ll receive a handwritten thank-you in the mail in a day or two. I bet you’ll go back for your next pair of shoes! Do business with Sprint on a Thursday, and you’re likely to get the same polite follow-up.

The point is that companies are stepping back to the tried and true methods of customer satisfaction. Thanking customers for their business instead of giving them attitude for the Friday afternoon rush job has been lost in the clutter of email and voicemail. I suggest we all take a moment to thank our customers. Write out a few thank-you cards and see what the results are.

When was the last time you thanked your customers for their business?

Author: John Mehl

A QR Code You Can’t Read With Your iPhone5

Image from Engadget.com

In the marketing communication industry, everyone is blue in the face talking about QR codes. Every time I hear the phrase “QR code” these days, I cringe. More often than not, they are improperly used. But now there is a good case for their use in protecting our currency.

Researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology have created a tiny version of the QR code that can be used in protecting currency from being counterfeited. These nanocodes are created with blue and green florescent ink and can be applied to many surfaces to prove authenticity. The code is only visible under near-infrared laser light. It’s expected that criminals would someday catch onto this and be able to mimic the code, but isn’t this always the case with crime?

Let’s just hope that the codes the criminals place on their counterfeit bills don’t take you to their Facebook pages! Wouldn’t that be ironic?

Author: John Mehl

Forget Printing Money––Make Me a Steak and a Liver!

With great advancements in technology, we have seen our share of shock-and-awe products. While many of these are undoubtedly cool, few possess the power to change the world. 3-D printing was one of those “cool” technological developments that hit the market a few years ago and had us scratching our heads as to where this would fit in the communications and graphics industry. Well, this is where Modern Meadow steps in.

Modern Meadow is a start-up that has secured a large amount of money for researching and developing a way to print organic cells in the hopes of making edible meat. At first glance, it just seems novel, but it actually could have some amazing economic and environmental impact. That is, of course, if it doesn’t end up giving you cancer. The cold truth is that modern farming and agriculture is very harsh on the environment both in terms of what it takes to keep a farm up and running as well as in the processing of the product to get it ready for the dinner table.

There have been similar advancements in 3-D printing with the goal of printing organs for people in need of transplants (featured in a recent TED talk). If successful, this could radically alter medicine.

So, as good old MJ sang, “Heal the world, make it a better place.” Yes, we have print to thank for that!

Author: John Mehl

A Customer Can Become a Lost Client

I have always tried to build relationships with existing customers with the goal of making them clients. A salesperson who becomes tagged as the promo person, the forms person, the printer, or––the hardest mold to break––the commodity person will never convert the customer to a client. What’s missing? The go-to person who has the solutions.

A lesson learned: I recently was fortunate enough to have a customer that ordered 10,000 T-shirts and hats a year. For five years, I was Joe the Promo Guy. One day, I received a call informing me that Larry the Promo Guy from Brand X beat my prices and Vanguard Direct was history. I guess that company was never a client to lose because I never had it (in spite of doing almost one million dollars’ worth of business with it in five-plus years). My contacts at the company had left, and the department had gone to another outsourcing group.

This is a hard lesson to learn, and it happens time and time again to salespeople in our industry. We now, however, have several clients that consider Vanguard Direct a solutions provider that offers a wide range of services. This is all due to the fact that we don’t go to our clients with products to sell––we go to our clients to listen to their problems, and we find solutions that meet their needs.

When is the last time you converted a customer to a client?

Author: Joe Corbo

Connections

There was a radio commercial for cell phones about twenty years ago that used connections and relationships in New York as the attention grabber. The commercial began with a man’s gravelly voice. He was a ticket broker in the city and talked about how he pulled off miracles for his customers. Of course, he was able to do this with the help of all the people he knew and had worked with over the years. When we talk about relationships, it is very important to know that these relationships have been built through honest dealings. You can get printing plants and customers to work with you if they know you are trustworthy.

I handle a client’s very large distribution project each year. The gathering of information from multiple locations is monumental. All the locations have to submit specific information for all the individuals on their lists, and this variable data must then be converted into easily understandable graphs that are then imprinted on preprinted 8×11 sheets. The whole project takes about five months from planning to distribution, and the reports must be ready to hand out on a specific date.

Unfortunately, one year there was a breakdown with this delivery. The long and short of it was that one group of locations closed earlier than the others and did not get all its reports delivered on time. Recovering from this was, to say the least, critical.

We were let down by our plant, which had run the job late, and had to come up with a plan to get this material mailed to the individuals’ homes. Our other priority was to pick up the material that had arrived too late to be distributed at the various locations. These reports had to be destroyed because they contained personal information and the client did not want them sitting, undelivered, on the premises.

The recovery took the client’s full cooperation because getting individuals’ personal addresses is tricky and confidential. (The client has to give permission every time anything is mailed to these individuals’ homes for security reasons.) We were very fortunate in that, although upset, the client realized that we, its trusted partner, were doing everything in our power to repair a potentially disastrous situation.

This required our plant to jump through hoops to reproduce 40,000 individual reports, preprinted forms, and envelopes in about five days. The plant responsible for the error then had to re-imprint the information and insert an extra letter explaining why this report was being mailed to each person’s home. The largest task fell to the delivery firm, which had to pick up the reports from some 1,400 locations as they were closing and then take them to a warehouse to be destroyed.

Fortunately, this all turned out OK, and although it could have been a deal breaker, the client was satisfied with the recovery effort. If anything, the client appreciated the effort that was made.

The point of this story is relationships. We––as a company––and I––as a representative of my company––had relationships with our client and with our plant that allowed us to take this negative situation and quickly recover from it. The plant trusted that we would appreciate its efforts and be reasonable about how quickly it could reprint the material. The client saw a quick resolution and was happily unaware of all the behind-the-scenes craziness that had to go into it.

As that cell phone commercial stated, it is all about relationships.

Author: Chuck MacGill

Are You a True Print Entrepreneur?

Since the dawn of printing, we have all thought of ourselves as entrepreneurs––industry leaders who provide a specialized service to fulfill a market need and make a decent profit. In the past ten years, however, we have seen a drastic decline in the global revenue of printing. Regardless of the state of the current economy, I can’t help but ask, are we really entrepreneurs? Are we doing everything we can to provide services that will generate revenue? Or are we just doing what we know best and hoping that it all comes out OK in the end?

Well, my recent trip to Greece opened my eyes to what a real entrepreneur or salesperson can be. Maybe they don’t know all the sophisticated sales techniques that we are taught or possess the sophistication of current technology, but they get the job done and they make a profit. Here are two examples:

The first took place at a wedding. We were all sitting down for the reception, having a marvelous time eating our souvlaki and tzatziki, when something bright happened. A photographer demanded everyone pose for a quick picture––in groups or alone––and as the table was circumvented by her flash, in that same instant, she was gone! A foreigner like me would think nothing of it and chalk it up to a pushy wedding photographer. But I was wrong. I followed the photographer around and then outside to her car when she finished. After taking a picture of everyone at the reception (nearly 800) she proceeded to print directly from her camera to a quick inkjet printer in her car running off a power inverter to convert 12 volt DC into 220 volt AC. It was brilliant. She shot and printed almost 1,000 photos in under an hour or two. The photographer then proceeded to go table to table trying to sell the photos for five euros each. I figured she would have to sell at least 15–25% of her photos to make a profit, but she did much better than that, arriving with a stack that two hands could hardly hold and leaving with less than a pinch in one hand!

I witnessed the second example of Greek entrepreneurialism while driving through Kavala. We were coming home after a morning of shopping (my least favorite activity), so I was naturally in a less-than-decent mood. But who knew that two men, a motor scooter, and a laser printer could change my mood faster than the smell of ink in the morning. While we were driving through the center of the city at about 50 KPH, a motor scooter flew past at over 80 KPH carrying two men, one driving and the second grasping an office laser printer. Now, I know this really has nothing to do with the printing industry, but it shows the ambition of people with a slight relationship to the industry. I for one would never dream of transporting a laser printer this way. But these two men had a need and came to a very quick solution. I pressed on in my 1.4-liter Nissan Note to try to keep up and see where they were headed. But the maneuverability and speed of this printer-boosting duo was no match for my car nor my ambition. I can only imagine that if they were so inclined to use this form of transportation, it was for a good cause.

So, what’s my point? Well, for starters, it’s eye-opening to see what people on the other side of the world will do to generate revenue. And, secondly, it’s to inspire all who consider themselves entrepreneurs to find new, interesting techniques. I only hope that this was mildly inspiring and greatly funny for you to read. As I write this on the flight home while my wife and baby are sleeping, after spending three weeks with them and the in-laws, this has proved to be quite possibly the most fun I have had on this “vacation.”

So, what international experiences can you share that have inspired you to be a better entrepreneur?

Author: John Mehl

Toshiba’s “No-Print Day”…Kaput

What started out as a good idea for Toshiba, the National No-Print Day campaign fell flat on its face as the U.S. arm of Toshiba pulled the plug, bowing to industry pressure. The message was not even heard as much as the slogan. In this day with Print struggling to stay current in its uphill battle against New Media, the last thing needed was a campaign called “No-Print.”

Initially the campaign was set as a “Green” PR event in hopes of putting a better spin on Toshiba’s poor environmental record. Offering a statistic of 40,000 trees a day being wasted by office paper waste was a great tag line and a noble cause. Printing Industries of America was one of the most vocal critics and not because of the “cause,” but the way it was presented. It was not specific in its message of recycle and renew and it seems the PR company that pitched the plan may not have understood the overall state of the industry in today’s environmental friendly world.

Vanguard Direct has long been a champion of using recycled paper in our print to our clients. There are many brands across the spectrum and most are a minimum of 30% Post Consumer Waste. Post Consumer Waste includes office paper waste and is in high demand these days. We have often advised projects to print on stock which has up to 100% Post Consumer Waste. In the past, uncoated stock was the leader in PCW content but with changes in manufacturing coated papers have regained ground and now offer up to 50% PCW. Federal guidelines for coated paper is 10% PCW content; we are proud to be able to offer 30 to 50% PCW content to our clients in all three finishes—Gloss, Matt and Silk. Our client’s often insist that not only the recycled logo be printed on their piece but the PCW content as well. This wide variety of renewable resources gives our clients an advantage over their competition and makes a statement about their corporate efforts to be “Green.”

The Paper industry as a whole embraces not only using recycled paper but also the use of wind power in its manufacturing process, supplying paper which is Processed Chlorine Free and is FSC Certified.  Aside from just the manufacturing process, the industry has taken on the lead from European Industry to create sustainable forests. FSC Certified paper is a certification from the Forest Stewardship Council that can accurately trace the final printed project to a certified sustainable forest through a chain of custody. This chain of custody begins in the forest, transfers through the mills to the paper merchant, then on to the printing plants and to the consumer. The truth of the matter is that there are more trees today because they are managed much like crops such as corn and wheat.

So how “Green” is your company? How are you viewed by your clients? Do you have corporate guidelines that include recycling or energy-saving programs? Are you using products that are approved by the Rainforest Alliance? If you’re not sure or have questions of how to get started don’t fret, here is a link to the Rainforest Alliance web page for “greening your office.”

http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/green-living/office

Toshiba had the right idea but wrong execution; if the campaign ever finds life again, I am sure it will take on more of the tone it had intended. To printers and publishers around the world, “No Print Day” was Kryptonite and it should be placed in a lead-coated box and taken to a planet far, far away.

If you would like to follow the recycling trail, click on the YouTube link below.

Author: Tom Caska

The Devil Is in the Details

Does your job need a perforation? Maybe a spot varnish? Does your label need consecutive numbering? What type of surface material is the label being used on? Did you remember to tell your vendor these details?

A good vendor will ask you these questions and sometimes many more. The basic list of specifications isn’t that long, but for certain products, the specifics are many. Label printing, for example, has many specifics. Face slit vs. back slit. Permanent vs. removable adhesive. Flat sheets vs. rolls. Outdoor use vs. indoor use. All of these specifications must be known at the start of the project.

The toughest part of our job is trying to “assume” we know what you need. We don’t. And if you don’t tell us, whose fault is it when the finished product is missing that vital detail? Even the best vendor might overlook asking the right question. Be as precise as you can when submitting specifications for a project. If you are not sure a particular application is necessary, ASK.

Better to be safe than sorry.

Author: Doreen Doyle

Security Printing – Invisible to the Untrained Eye

As a leading communication and print solution provider, Vanguard Direct often fields unusual print requests. In recent years, two of our clients asked us to provide solutions that would prevent the counterfeiting of valuable mass-produced printed matter. Both clients had had bad experiences in the past and looked to Vanguard to provide solutions that would put an end to counterfeit documents. Each solution had to involve an easy check for authenticity, minimal training of client personnel with little or no technical printing background, and no sophisticated and expensive examination equipment.

We used our experience to understand the problems and to pick the best, cost-effective security solutions.

Technical methods and measures used in security printing include: special paper, watermarks, intaglio printing, geometric lathe work, micro-printing, optically variable color-changing inks, holograms, security threads, magnetic ink, serial numbers, anti-copying marks, prismatic coloration, halos, false-positive testing, fluorescent dyes, registration of features on both sides, electronic devices, thermochromatic ink, and latent images (Wikipedia).

Though the possible methods of preventing and deterring counterfeiting are many and varied, we’ll discuss only two of them here. In both cases, the documents we needed to produce and protect had a high monetary value. Our goal was to introduce visible, recognizable deterrents as well as invisible (to the untrained eye) elements to ward off any attempts at forgery, tampering, or counterfeiting.

Client Need 1 – Valuable Event Tickets

After meeting with our customer’s production and security staff to discuss previous problems and concerns with event tickets, we suggested solutions and their estimated costs. We discussed each option until a solution was chosen that included special shaped holograms and serial numbers. Besides these visible deterrents, the solution also included supervised steps along the manufacturing path. A log-in and sign-off book followed the work-flow process and noted the destruction of all printing files, plates, and print production waste as well as the inspection of specially sealed packages. A special courier delivered the completed ticket packages to the client along with a notarized affidavit outlining each step in the work-flow logbook.

Checkpoints for inspecting and collecting each ticket from each invited guest were manned by client personnel who had been trained to check by eye for the visible and not-so-visible deterrents. (Each year, modifications have been made to the technical methods that add to the security process.)

Client Need 2 –Valuable Application Forms

On this project our challenge was to ensure customer-outsourced care providers submit only one single-sheet application per candidate enrolled. Each enrolled candidate earns rewards for the care provider, so the greater the number of candidates enrolled, the greater the reward. (To help deliver adequate security and prevent fraud, we have added and varied security deterrents each year.)

  • Techniques to limit the number of applications made available to each provider were introduced. Applications were distributed in carefully counted lots and packaged with an equal number of program guide booklets.
  • We have varied the ways of matching program guide booklets to applications each year. Those looking to cheat the system were left challenged.

The success of these programs has been measured by the absence of breaches in security over the years. Being mostly invisible has been utterly successful!

Author: Paul Grieco

Landa Corporation Introduces New Technology That Will Change the Printing Industry!

I mentioned in an earlier post that there was a big announcement coming out of Drupa 2012 about nanographic printing technology. Well, it’s here! Landa, the company that gave us Indigo, has brought us what could be the next industry-changing technology in printing. There has always been a gap between short-run digital and long-run offset. Landa has come to market trying to fill this gap.

So what is nanography, and why is it so cool? Well, let’s start with the roots: “nano” is derived from the Greek word νaνος [ná:nos], which means “dwarf,” so we know it is small. “Graphic” comes from the ancient Greek word γραφικός [graphikos], meaning “belonging to a painting or drawing.” Now we know that we are talking about very small graphics. This is where nanography changes everything. The pigment size these new presses use is about 100,000 times smaller than a human hair! The color precision that Landa machines can achieve is remarkable. The printing process is very similar to that of digital printing. Billions of nano-ink droplets adhere to water droplets on a belt, and as they spin around the belt, the water evaporates, leaving the nano-ink on an ultra-thin polymeric film that can be transferred to virtually any substrate––coated, uncoated, paper, plastic, or even metal.

Landa has debuted six presses at Drupa, three sheet-fed and three web-fed––all with speeds comparable to traditional offset presses and with outstanding industrial design and very small footprints. In the sheet-fed arena, you have B1, B2, and B3 sizes. In web, you have 22″, 40″, and 22″ perfecting presses. More in-depth details can be found at WhatTheyThink.

Nanotechnology has been around for years, but this is the first time we have seen it introduced in printing. Landa has taken into account every aspect of printing on these new machines: quality, efficiency, sustainability, and even interface and workflow. I urge you to read more about Landa because you will be using its technology in the future!

Are you excited yet?

Author: John Mehl

Transitioning from Print to Digital Publishing Design

If you are currently making a living as a print designer, I can almost guarantee that you have thought about what it would take to design for digital publishing. And by digital publishing, I mean publishing to tablets and smartphones. For many designers, this issue has caused a great deal of stress. Well, I am happy to report that Adobe is making designing for digital publishing much easier with its new release of Creative Suite 6.

Creative Suite 6 boasts a whole plethora of new features that will help designers and the like perform their daily job functions more efficiently. What makes this release better than its predecessor is how you can take a print layout in InDesign and transition it over to any tablet or smartphone––landscape or portrait! With previous versions of Adobe’s digital publishing suite, you had to design two separate files for portrait and landscape orientations. This led to a lot of duplicate work for designers and never allowed fluid translations to different devices.

Take a sneak peak at CS6 and some more interesting features!

http://www.youtube.com/user/Photoshop

Author: John Mehl

Print is Dead… NOT, wait till Drupa 2012

It’s funny… I hear more and more people saying, “Print is dead.” To me this is ironic, because more often than not the person saying this is reading the words off a printed page. Whether it’s in a magazine, newspaper, cue card or press release, lets face it: these are all printed materials. The assumption that print is dead is almost as ridiculous as saying that face-to-face communications will be nonexistent in the future. As much as I want to attend family occasions (especially with the in-laws) via Skype, there is so much to be gained through physical, tangible communication.

When the stars align this May in Dusseldorf, Germany during the Drupa Print Media Fair, we will have the best of both worlds: face-to-face communications focused on printing! Just the raw numbers this event produces are enough to invalidate the statement “Print is dead.” There are several large press releases slated for that week, and some have already broken. One of the highly anticipated announcements expected is from Landa on the subject of nanography— a technology that promises more efficiency and flexibility in both digital and traditional offset lithography.

If you’re anything like me, if you bleed CMYK, if you love the smell of ink in the morning, keep your ear to the ground during the Drupa Fair. There will be a technological breakthrough that may just change the shape of your current career. The faster we adopt these new technologies, the better we do at squashing the statement that “Print is dead!”

If you’ve ever been to Drupa, I’d love to hear your story—any takers?

Author: T. John Mehl

Staffing for Future Growth

Growing up in a printing family, I always had aspirations to go into the family business.  During summers between high school and college years I basically worked in every aspect of the printing company. When it came time for the almighty college tour, my father had added Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to the list of stops, much to my dismay. I was searching for “college,” basically, a noun to me that meant non-stop partying. My father and I couldn’t have been more disconnected. RIT to me wasn’t “college”—it was work that we didn’t even get paid for!

Fast forward 10 years, I’m back at my alma mater —of course RIT —looking for the next generation of hires.  When I came to RIT in 2002, I was seeking the Print Management major. Little did I know, that year, the major was changed to New Media Publishing. Sounds cool, right, but what did this major include? I had no idea, and I’m pretty sure no one else did either. This was the beauty of it all; RIT knew that the need for Print Management was dwindling and they reinvented it. They knew that with an ambiguous major like New Media Publishing, they could teach us anything that was relevant in the marketing communications environment—with the idea that we would be suited to take on a wide role of careers in that industry.  Not just Print Management! So my class was the first in this new major, and when we graduated in 2006 we really were setup to be hired in a multitude of different responsibilities. No one knew what we could do, except us. We were able to take from that major what we wanted and go towards a career that we were passionate about.

So back to RIT in 2012, the major is now being renamed again from New Media Publishing to Media, Arts and Technology. The more ambiguity, the more opportunity. My colleague, John Carew and I met with several candidates, and I know I can speak for both of us in saying that we were very inspired. The level of relevant course work and outside experience these candidates possessed was even more valuable to me than anyone with 5-10 years of experience in the industry. The hardest part of this whole experience is going to be picking one or two to bring on board. Sure, I may be biased, after all it’s my alma mater, but it wasn’t my idea to go recruit there. This came down from our management who has seen how RIT grads can deliver, and has had a hunger for more.

So what’s the point of this whole rant? It’s about staffing your company for future growth. Take a look at the universities that fit your mold, find out what they are teaching, talk to their fourth year students, and heck, maybe even attend their job fair! It is the universities job to teach the students what is going to be relevant in the industry when they graduate, not what is relevant 10 years ago. For many established companies, it’s foreign to bring on college grads to hold important roles in your organization. But, I would always argue; with the right education, a homegrown employee is always going to be more effective in your organization than someone who comes in with his or her old habits. After all, isn’t it hard to teach an old dog new tricks?

Author: T. John Mehl

HP Delivers Seven New Digital Presses, but One Steals the Show!

A printing-related announcement from Israel is not something your local news conglomerate would cover, but to me it was the best news I’ve heard in a while! Two weeks ago, HP Indigo announced it will debut a 29″ Indigo seven-color digital press this May at Drupa (the world’s largest printing equipment exhibition, held in Düsseldorf). What this means in short is that any traditional commercial printing application can be reproduced digitally on this machine. If you follow the link above, you will also find that HP will be introducing six additional presses to its lineup along with the new 29″ Indigo.

Maybe I’m alone in this quest for a larger-format digital press, but I doubt it. Over and over again I find myself returning to traditional sheet-fed offset equipment because of the size restrictions of current digital equipment. Pocket folders, six-page brochures, oversized posters––the list goes on. Well, look no further––HP and Indigo have created a product that can (and I think will) take traditional offset off the market.

The HP Indigo 10000 Press is not just any digital press. It touts Indigo’s seven-color, mineral-oil based liquid toner system that can provide a much larger color gamut than the traditional four-color process. You have a choice of the standard four-color process, a six-color process, or even a seven-color process with the addition of white ink. Or, for the brand police out there (provided you have an Indigo ink mixing station) you can custom mix any non-metallic PMS color to make the most impact while dealing with a brand color.

It’s the innovation and commitment to quality that HP and Indigo have that keep them at the forefront of the market. They heard the cries for help and have delivered a product that no one thought was even possible. Now I just can’t wait to get my hands on the first press on US soil.

Author: T. John Mehl

Brooklyn Public Library On Demand!

In an effort to keep up to date with industry trends, the Brooklyn Public Library has taken a chance on a $125,000 investment. Last Wednesday, it debuted its on-demand book publishing machine, known as the Espresso Book Machine. One of two such machines found in NYC, it offers undiscovered authors a chance to self-publish their books. The machine also has a library of over seven million books that can be selected and printed in as little as three to four minutes.

NY Daily News – Machine Print Books Brooklyn Public Library

New authors can submit their PDF files to the machine’s database and sell their books after paying a self-publishing fee of $149.00. The machine’s web-based software enables public domain books to be printed from various sources, such as Google Books and Random House’s collection. The software also has the ability to tally author royalties so that self-published as well as world-renowned authors receive their compensation.

This “library-in-a-box” is an excellent addition to the Brooklyn Public Library and shows that its CEO, Linda Johnson, has a clear vision of where the industry is moving. In the printing industry, we have seen Xerox machines capable of on-demand book publishing for over 10 years. But that equipment is far too large and complicated for use at a public library. The beauty of the Espresso Book Machine is the marriage of existing technology with a creative touch in robotics that turns the digital file into a completed book. The machine starts with a traditional black-and-white Xerox copy machine, which prints the book text block. At the same time, an Epson four-color inkjet printer prints up the cover. The two pieces are joined with simple robotic clamps, trimmed, and then output.

Check out the video below that explains the process.

Almost makes you want to go to the library, right?

Author: T. John Mehl

Is Printing Having a Midlife Crisis?

As I contemplate my own midlife crisis, I was wondering if the printing industry was having the same problem. A midlife crisis is usually experienced between the ages of 40 and 60. Most people will experience some transition during that time of life. This transition may cause them to take stock of where they are in life. Most will come through the process without making major life changes. For others, this crisis is more complicated. The key is knowing how to handle the transition.

If I do the math, at 55, the chances of living till I am 110 are very remote. Using 80 as a more reasonable goal, my crisis should have ended some 10 to 15 years ago, leaving me 25 years to make the best of it. A crisis, though, is complicated––consider some of the feelings one could experience:

● Unhappiness with the lifestyle that has provided happiness for many years
● Confusion about who you are and where you are going
● Being unable to make decisions about where you want to go
● Questioning the choices and the decisions you have made
● A desire for a new passion

When I consider the current state of the printing industry, it seems to be experiencing many of the same issues cited above. Many printers have seen their share of the industry slip through their fingers by not staying up with new technology. Families of second- and third-generation printers are advising future generations to get out of the business. Many who have not embraced the technology changes that have come along are unable to decide where to go next. Those who did not upgrade equipment cannot compete with the new machinery in the marketplace that is built to save time, resources, and money––the big three. Two of the giant member-driven print organizations, NAPL (the National Association for Printing Leadership) and PIA (Printing Industries of America), are even considering merging.

Back to the blackboard––let us do some math together:
 I contend that the printing industry is having trouble with this definition:

“Printing is a process for reproducing text and images, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing.” – Wikipedia

Yes, this is a big part of what the printing industry does, but it does not define what it is. Printing has always been about communication, be it the Bible, newspapers, wanted posters, billboards, or dollar-off coupons. It has been a means to get the message out to the masses, and it is international. The means of production was the printing press, which itself has morphed light years away from Gutenberg’s press. Printers need to realize they are in the communication industry. In the United States, this industry in 1999 contributed more that $457 billion to the US economy, according to the US History Encyclopedia.

Printing as a part of the communication industry has 572 years of experience––aeons more than that “snot-nosed” little eight-year-old Facebook. Eight years is hardly long enough to embrace the users that print has developed worldwide over close to six centuries. A midlife crisis, maybe, but it’s also an exciting time to be in communications. The “printing press” is morphing again.

As a former owner of a “printing” company with “printing presses,” I now work for a communication company. I left my shop behind fifteen years ago and never looked back. I still consider myself a printer, but now I can deliver the message to the masses in a wide variety of mediums, including ink on paper. The challenges that have been created by new technologies have also opened the door to many new and exciting opportunities. “Printing” now not only includes ink on paper but embraces the web, email, video, audio, mobile devices, and social media. No “printer” can ever own the amount of equipment necessary to properly compete with the communication industry as a whole.

Maybe one part of the communication industry is having a midlife crisis, but what a crisis to have. The print industry is going through a major life change, and the crisis is complicated. This transition is not the first the industry has seen, and it will not be the last, I am sure. The key is for printers to handle the transition and not ignore it. For printers like me, we should look at this as the dawn of an early spring; a time to grow new ideas and plant the seeds that have worked in the past and to nurture those seeds with the new tools that are available. I say, with a potential life expectancy of 1,144 years, at 572 years young, printing can be considered the “snot-nosed kid” of the communication industry.

Author: Tom Caska

Sassy Says: Get Your Bargains on Consumables, NOT Marketing Materials

People in my company think of me as the bargain queen. I know where to get a deal on just about everything. But when you are searching for bargains, you need to know what to splurge on and where to economize. I definitely don’t want half-price sushi (do you really want to take the chance that they are trying to get rid of the less-than-fresh stuff?), I don’t want to use Groupons for my medical care, and I don’t want to venture into areas where my knowledge is less than fluent looking for a deal.

This takes us to the marketing world. You can get business cards online for $1.99, but they are gang-run, you have no customer assistance, and what you get is what you get. Many people may think a $1.99 gamble is worth it. But is it? Many cultures and businesses take great pride in a business card. It serves not only to relay information, but almost as a certificate of honor and pride for what you do and the company you work for. People spend thousands at design firms conceptualizing the perfect business card, picking the perfect stock, ink, finish, etc.

There is an etiquette in some cultures for the presentation of a business card. The Japanese hold each corner and present it to the receiver. You would never just deal one out like we do here.

So I ask you, if this much thought and money is spent on a business card, what about the rest of your marketing materials? Don’t you want to be perceived as a sassy, forward-thinking company and not a cheap fly-by-night? Marketing materials, websites, and any other communication should always put your best business foot forward; potential clients make judgments on your company based on these items. Sometimes these materials are the first contact a person may have with your company. Making a great first impression is something I would never gamble with.

Remember: Shop around for the paper clips, glue sticks, and staples. Buy Groupons for the neighborhood office supply store and LivingSocial pizza deals for staff lunches. Visit the TKTS line for your discount theater tickets, shop the sample sales for amazing discounts in the city, and search websites for the cheapest gas in your area. But don’t scrimp on making a great first professional impression.

Author: Cari Frederico

Staffing in an Ever-Changing Communications Industry

I came across a very interesting article on Print Buyers International a few days ago about staffing in our industry, or more specifically, print buying. While I totally agree with author Margie Dana’s statement that we need to have “seasoned” employees who know the equipment lists of our manufacturing partners, they in no means have to be “older”! The argument is that the “older,” more “seasoned” print buyers are in a better position to handle the complex specifications of any print project. But can’t you replace the seasoning with education?

Of course, some may say that I am biased, I’m an outlier. I grew up in the industry; I’m a fourth-generation “printer.” I’m cursed, right? No, I love what I do! And today it’s even better than it ever was. The injection of technology into this industry has made the impossible possible. I would argue that what I see as a normal print job would be a near impossibility to the “seasoned veteran.” Do I learn things every day from the “seasoned” employees whom I work with? Yes, of course! But, they also learn from the younger, more technologically inclined staff as well. The perfect answer is not new or old; it’s having a healthy mix of the two.

There are more people out there like me––people who grew up in the industry––but there are a whole lot more who are looking for work and can be taught. Why not hire the college grads who majored in marketing and teach them the down and dirty of printing?  You may just learn something from them! Set up a training program at your organization to educate your staff. Have the seasoned employees teach print and the newer ones technology. Better yet, look into universities that still offer majors with a print background. I guarantee they don’t have a Print Management major anymore. But they have very intriguing majors like these: Communication and Media Technologies, Media Arts and Technology, and New Media Marketing. Click on those links in the previous sentence to see the curriculum––it almost makes me want to go back to college just to learn!

So what’s the point? The point is that when the industry is changing so rapidly, we can’t staff ourselves out of the market by keeping only seasoned employees. Nor can we hire only young college grads to service our most important clients. With such a diverse market, we will need a diverse staff. Keep the wisdom while encouraging the youth––together they are both our future.

What are your sources for new hires?

Author: T. John Mehl

Taking a Vision into a Community: The Ringing Ear

I met with Paul McIntosh in the early spring of 2011 to discuss the possibility of designing and printing a poetry book––The Ringing Ear––for his school, Wadleigh Secondary School. We met and discussed what he envisioned with Vanguard’s Graphic Production Supervisor, Antonio Lopez. We worked diligently through the spring and summer to create a book the students and community members would be proud of. This project was being funded by a grant from the New York City Council, Office of Inez E. Dickens. The expectations were high.

After several rounds of revisions, we were finally able to get something that was print-ready. Paul was kind enough to include a special thank-you to both Antonio and me for helping to get this book printed. We ran 200 copies digitally. The final product looked beautiful and exceeded all expectations. Antonio and I were invited to their special “publishing party.” We travelled up to the Harlem to the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building on 163 West 125th Street. When we got there, Paul excitedly greeted us and requested that I speak, much to my surprise. We entered the small auditorium, helped ourselves to the refreshments, and watched the activities in the room from a back corner. The community leaders, teachers, family members, and students were excitedly buzzing around the room. I noticed in front of us a beautiful young woman in red glasses, happily chatting to an elderly woman. A call to order, and the young woman joined her fellow students in the front two rows. Community leaders, teachers, Paul, and then I spoke. I talked about the process but focused on congratulating the students on their achievements and saying what an honor it was to help them and be invited to their event. The students all took turns reading their poems. Some of the poems were rapped, some rhythmically spoken, and some just simply read. Even a parent and a teacher were represented in the book. It was amazing to hear them spoken after just reading them for so long. I was so impressed with the beauty and excitement they all displayed with their readings.

Finally, Miss Red Glasses got up and started to rhythmically read her poem about a cancer survivor. The woman in front of me started to sob. I reached out, with tears in my eyes, to say her daughter was doing a great job. She turned to me and said, “ That’s my granddaughter, and I raised her. I didn’t even know she wrote a poem about me.” I was really teary by then. It was so touching. Her son and grandson joined her, and she turned and introduced them to me. The event concluded on such a high note––everyone was just thrilled with the book, and the students were even autographing their poems!

We learned that creating and printing a project––something we do every day and take for granted––can have such an impact on the end users. For me, this project was deeply personal after attending the reading. It had a voice and meant something more than ink on paper to a small group of people. I happily watched it come to full bloom. It was a celebration for everyone, and we are excitedly anticipating the start of the new Ringing Ear 2012. We certainly have a tough act to follow!

Author: Diane Waldman

Kodak Prepares for Bankruptcy…

As I wrote in a previous post (“Kodak Gets Overexposed on Film––Will Digital Be Its Savior?), I predicted that Kodak would face bankruptcy if it didn’t sell off its digital patents or do something drastic to improve its position. Well, it looks like the time has come. It’s rumored by Reuters that Kodak is already preparing its documents for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and will most likely file in February.

It’s sad to see an icon from our time dwindle away in the transition from analog to digital. It is, however, a reminder that we as corporations have to stay flexible in our offerings. If we wait to react to market changes, we may be too late. Proactive measures and predicting future trends in business will set apart the leaders from the bleeders.

I ask Kodak this, “Is this your Kodak Moment?”

Author: John Mehl

Take It to the Cloud––No, Not That Cloud, Fuji’s Cloud! Where?

Since the “cloud” has quickly become an everyday topic at our office, we have tried out a plethora of cloud-based storage services. Sometimes we even have a hard time finding which cloud we have put our files on. The more clouds we get, the more inclement our moods are. The fix-all organizational tool that the cloud purports to be has discombobulated our lives and fragmented our minds and documents. It was easy when you knew, “Damn, that file is at home on the computer.” Now, the question is, is that document on Box.net, Dropbox, Amazon Cloud Drive, Evernote, iCloud, iWork––or maybe it’s on the Fuji copier? We don’t need a new cloud, we need an atmosphere to keep all of our clouds in one place. Our network administrators are turning into meteorologists, and we all know what their accuracy rates are…

Regardless, Fuji Xerox has launched a cloud-based document collaboration tool that interfaces directly with its copiers. While I think this is great selling tool, couldn’t Fuji Xerox just integrate this into one of the existing could storage solutions? The apparent answer is no, it needed its own cloud, and presumably that is what everyone else has concluded. Don’t get me wrong––I think the cloud is an amazing tool. It has made my life easier in so many ways. But it could still be simpler. The market is being diluted with too many free services that are trying to catch everything in one basket. I’d rather pay for something that handled all of my cloud-based needs.

Fuji Xerox could be onto something here. It is the first in the mainstream market to integrate cloud-based storage and collaboration with its production workflow in the copiers. The power that this will bestow onto users is great. Being able to modify documents seconds before they hit the press is a great selling point. But does this make sense in the real world? The implementation of computers, print-ready PDFs, and email has already made the standard RUSH job a nightmare to pull off. In the current workflow, the ease of submitting new files mid-production has led to jobs being “approved” 4–5 times. I can only assume that this will make that worse. However, with the correct procedures in place, there could be success with this product. We will have to wait until Fuji Xerox releases this into the US market to give it its fair trial. Sales started in Japan last Monday, so reviews of this are still very preliminary.

As Jay Alabaster in PCWorld points out, “A myriad of similar online storage services exist, and many such as Dropbox and Evernote can sync with faxes and scanners. But hardware makers are rushing to launch cloud offerings that work seamlessly with their products, as a way to lock in clients and a buffer against commoditization amid falling profit margins.” All I can say is that I couldn’t agree more! Fuji’s service will cost around $45 a month and allow 10 users access to 10 GB of shared storage. The company aims to sell 10,000 contracts for this service per year.

So what is your cloud-sharing service preference? I find myself using Dropbox the most.

Author: John Mehl

Are Laser Printers Really as Bad as Cigarettes? Depends on How Many Trees You Burn!

In a recent study conducted by the Queensland University of Technology, researchers have found that laser printers release harmful amounts of toner into the air during normal printing. What is concerning in this study is that almost all of us are sitting in an office just a stone’s throw away from a laser printer. While not all laser printers release harmful amounts of toner into the air, no report has shown what makes and models are worse than others. Now we just have an additional area of concern when buying a new laser printer.

I have been saying for a while that printers using plastic-based toner have reached their highest possible quality. In order to increase the image quality, the toner particles would have to become smaller. Making these particles smaller would result in more airborne particles and lead to a greater health risk. Little did I know that the current toner particle size was already affecting our health during normal use! My colleague John Carew and I have always warned our fellow coworkers that changing a toner cartridge can be potentially dangerous to one’s health, but at least this is an isolated event that can be controlled. I was surprised that HP was one of the culprits in this report, because it is the only company to use a liquid-supported toner (in its HP Indigo machines).

The irony of these findings is that the more you print and the closer you are to the printer, the more potential harm you are in. So let’s think back to the times when we were printing something big that would pose a threat to our health. I remember printing a 100-page proposal just last week on one of our laser printers. Luckily the printer is about 20 feet from my desk. But, by the time I reached the printer, it was only 20 pages into the print run. This means that I hovered over the carcinogen-spewing printer for the remaining 80 pages, unknowingly inhaling tiny black toner particles, with no buzz to boot!

I propose that the industry take one of three steps to resolve this threat. One, it could increase the size of the toner particles so that they cannot become airborne. Two, it could switch over to liquid-supported toner, like that used in the HP Indigo. Three, the industry could infuse nicotine into the toner, so at least we would be getting some bang for our buck. (Actually, this way we wouldn’t have to go outside to catch a smoke! Thinking more about this, this could increase worker productivity. People would work harder to get that 100-page report in print in order to catch their fix.)

In all seriousness, this report brings to light an issue that has long been known by the manufacturers. We can only hope that this gains enough traction to prompt regulation of the amount of harmful toner particles that are released from the unit during normal operation. This could mark a shift to more inkjet-driven or liquid-supported machines, which for the most part are of higher quality anyway!

So, how far away can you get from your office laser printer? Did you already go out and buy a really long USB or Ethernet cable to extend your life?

Author: John Mehl

Canada’s Currency Goes Paperless!

In an effort to make its currency more secure, Canada is moving to polymer-based bank notes. All right, so this is not “paperless” per se, but it got you reading, didn’t it? Seriously, though, this move from a paper- to a plastic-based note has many advantages and ramifications for the current system.

For starters, security is the main priority. Gone are the days when a fly-by-night counterfeiter can scan and print out a bill on his desktop printer. Although these delinquents are most often caught, I am sure that some of them get away with it given the right techniques of printing and aging. The polymer notes are virtually impossible to counterfeit using consumer-available products. Take a moment and watch this video, which highlights the security measures in place.

Besides the enhanced security features, this polymer note will extend the life expectancy of the currency, which will in turn reduce the need to constantly replenish the inventory. The presumable hope is that the increased costs will be offset by the longer life of the product. Needless to say, the costs associated with polymer notes as opposed to paper notes will be greatly offset by putting an end to counterfeit currency.

While the implementation cycle––from now until late 2013––may seem drawn out, this marks a turn of events in the currency markets, and more countries are guaranteed to follow Canada’s lead. The question is: When will the USA upgrade its currency to these standards?

Author: John Mehl

Scodix Inkjet Spot UV––What?

Few know that Israel has invented and produced what I think is the most impressive digital printing equipment. First, came the Indigo digital press, and now comes Scodix. Scodix is a digital inkjet printer that can lay down clear gloss UV ink on preprinted sheets. So, what’s so cool about this?

Well to start, anyone in the industry knows the “wow” effect that spot UV has on the end user. But at the same time, everyone can attest to the “shock factor” when it comes to the cost! Needless to say, the traditional methods of applying spot UV have been reserved for plentiful marketing budgets and long offset runs. With a digital device like Scodix on the market, the Israelis are again changing the standards, much like digital print did to offset in the ’90s.

Scodix does a few cool things that traditional offset spot UV cannot:

  1. Economical short runs
  2. Variable content
  3. Variable depth, finish, surface area

The whole idea is that this technology can open up another dimension on print. As the VP of marketing, Ziki Kuly says best, “print has always been a two dimensional medium.” With the addition of this digital spot UV, Scodix is bringing print into the third dimension!

The real question is: Where can we implement this new technology to increase our return on investment?

 

Author: John Mehl

Kodak Gets Overexposed on Film––Will Digital Be Its Savior?

Founded in 1892 by George Eastman himself, Eastman Kodak is one of America’s most iconic corporations. Kodak can be credited with the invention of amateur photography, among many other technological evolutions. But where does it stand today? The sad facts point to a company that is near death in all aspects of its financial health.

Headquartered in Rochester, NY, Eastman Kodak is partly responsible for the rise and unfortunately the demise of the local economy. In its heyday, Kodak employed over 60,000 people in Rochester alone; today that number is down to only 7,400! Teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, Kodak has fallen back on its long inventory of patents and commercial printing ventures.

In January of 2010, Kodak began enforcing its patents. It kicked off what will be a decade’s worth of court battles by suing Apple and Research In Motion (RIM). The case was based on patent infringement in regards to digital photography. Unfortunately Kodak lost this battle, but it continues to pursue other infringements with other organizations. Now that Kodak has reached a point where it fears losing everything, the company is toying with the idea of holding a fire sale of its patents in a desperate attempt to drum up needed revenue.

Kodak’s other angle of revitalization has been in the digital print arena. Kodak’s NextPress has been a strong player in the toner-based digital print markets. The most intriguing venture into digital print, however, has come in the form of inkjet technology. Kodak is developing high-volume solutions for digital color inkjet printing and imprinting. It will have a tough time competing with HP in all digital print arenas, but for now Kodak seems to be on the right page.

It’s hard to watch the demise of a well-known American brand. Kodak has always been innovative and creative, and I hope it can continue that in the future. This could be labeled a sign of the hard economic times, but I say it’s a sign of short-sighted business planning. This should remind us that we need to keep looking forward to try to anticipate market changes, or at least be flexible enough to adapt quickly to new models.

So, will this be the company’s Kodak Moment?

 

Author: John Mehl

Can Apple Trump Hallmark With Cards?

John Carew wrote a few weeks ago about the release of the new iPhone 4s coupled with the updated software, iOS5. Along with this new operating system comes a new app called Cards. Cards, developed by Apple, is used to design, print, and mail out cards from your iOS device to anyone in the world. Those of you now thinking to yourselves, “Apple is getting into the printing business?” will be shocked to know that Apple has been offering printed materials since it launched iPhoto in 2002. Since then, Apple has offered printed photos, books, calendars, and other materials that you can generate with one click from iPhoto. But Cards is different––it’s simply Apple genius innovation to make our lives easier and more beautiful at the same time.

So what is Cards? Cards is an application on your iOS device that allows you to send out a tangible card to anyone in the world. But, it’s not just any card. These cards are beautiful, letterpress-printed shells made of 100% cotton. You can pick a photo from your photo library and place it on the front, personalize the message on the inside, place the address on the envelope, and Apple will pop it in the mail for you. You can go from taking the photo to submitting the order in less than a few minutes. I tried it out myself––sent a picture of my daughter to my mother––and the reaction was priceless. Needless to say, my mother will keep this card for the rest of her life, and will most likely start sending out her own!

The coolest part about this app is the thought that went into the process. One, Apple uses the best materials and printing processes known to man to create the product. Two, Apple allows you to personalize the card to your liking in a quick and easy way. Three, Apple integrates the IMB barcode on each piece so you get a notification of when the card will deliver. And best of all, a card costs less than the average Hallmark card! Apple cards will cost $2.99 domestic and $4.99 international. I don’t know if I will ever send another Hallmark card through the mail. You can practically send a card anywhere in the world for less than you can pick up a generic card from the Hallmark store.

So, only one question remains: When will you send out your first Card?

Author: John Mehl

Get That Order Into Production NOW! (1969)

Back in the day, before email was even a thought, orders were received from customers via US Mail. They were mostly handwritten, with the key words “as per sample.” Our mechanicals were a collection of cut and paste, shoot samples, parts of negatives, and––best of all––handwritten corrections. Shipping instructions were complete and accurate: a ship-to address on the printed sample (no cost centers or multiple locations). The method of shipping specified was “cheapest way.” Our main piece of up-to-date order-entry equipment was the IBM Selectric II electric typewriter.

State of the art 1969

State of the art 1969

The production order form was a six-part snap-out form. The hard part was to be sure that the number you put on the order was entered, by hand, correctly in the order logbook and on the job jacket. The order number was written on the upper right of the job jacket at least 3″ high with a black marker. The real heart-and-soul item was the rubber cement. The trick was to remove part one of the six-part form and glue it to a 10″ x 15″ envelope (job jacket) without getting glue all over yourself and, more importantly, place it dead center, lying flat without any bubbles. We were so efficient. It only took 20 minutes to enter an order.

Vanguard Direct heard our prayers … enter Easy Order 2. How do Vanguard and our clients do it now? Easy Order 2 will be the subject of my next post.

Author: Joe Corbo

If Video Didn’t Kill the Radio Star, Can Computers Kill Print?

Video Killed the Radio's Star by Momoko-KawaseBack in 1981, need I say before I was born, MTV aired its first music video, “Video Killed the Radio Star,” by the Buggles. Selecting this video for the debut of MTV was so appropriate, but was it true? Did the invention of music videos really kill the radio stars? You can argue this both ways.  Yes, the implementation of video into the music art industry did have an affect on who became more popular and why.  No longer were artists judged on the way they sounded, but also on how they looked, and unfortunately their dance moves too. But, did MTV kill the radio, I say no!  There are still many people out there today that still listen to the radio, and who don’t watch MTV. Most likely because every time you tune the tube to MTV these days, you get a fist pumping scene from the “Jersey Shore,” not the good old music videos that they founded themselves on, this is now a different channel of MTV all together.

So you may ask, how does this relate to print? Well, sit back and think what technology was invented recently that is commonly graced with the term, “print killer.” If you thought about the computer, you would be right. So the same question stands, has the computer and its vast array of applications trumped the printing industry? For this I say no again.  For computers have not smashed print down to the thin flat sheets they are printed on, it has actually given printed materials the ability to come alive. Many applications that have transitioned from print to digital, more often than not, have the same characteristics on screen as their printed version. The only difference being that they are easier to search on a computer. A beautiful marriage of print and computer is Google Books, and more specifically Ngram Viewer.

Google Books was created back in 2004.  This was a project obviously run by Google to convert printed books into searchable text.  Many of the older books that have expired their copyright protections are available online in full text for reading. But, this is not the cool part. All the books scanned in and indexed by Google are searched and mined for data.  So what does this data present us with?  Well when you put the numbers together you get the picture. They have scanned over 15 million books, containing over 500 billion words from publications dating from the 1500s to today. A shard if you will of our humanity documented in books (Print), which are able to be searched online (Computers).  Enter in the application Ngram Viewer, and you have a really cool way to see when certain things or events happen throughout history. So to prove a point, let’s do a search for print and computers from 1940 through 2008.

What we find is that computers were just begging to be written about in 1945, surpassed print in 1985 through 1987 and then quickly fell under print thereafter. The data is there, it can’t be disputed, and computers didn’t kill print. Print is not just words on paper; print is any spoken language displayed on a medium we can read. It’s up to the user how he or she wants to interact with the words. Computers print and we can now print computers. There is no end to either of these technologies, for both will hold a place in our hearts because they are so different.

Have some fun with Ngram Viewer — what marvelous conclusions will you come to with this new found data set?

Inspiration from – What we learned from 5 million books – TED

Author: John Mehl
Photo credit – Momoko-Kawase

Postmaster General Outlines New Reality for USP

Last Wednesday the United States Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Donahoe addressed an audience of 8,000 regarding the new reality that the United States Post Office is facing. He touted cutting costs by over $12 billion and reducing staff by more than 110,000 positions over the past four years but still recognizes that he has lots of work ahead of him. It is estimated that the USPS will need to reduce its annual costs by $20 billion by 2015 to become profitable. Donahoe praised USPS employees for helping the USPS to save $12 billion and blamed the entire situation on an overly restrictive business model, not the devaluation of mail.

So what is this “overly restrictive business model”? The USPS is the only––and I mean only––organization in the world that pays out pension funds for employees who are not currently retired. Yes, you can read that again––it is correct. The union negotiated for prepayment of pensions, which guarantees that the money will be there when employees retire. The USPS agreed to these terms back when mailings were strong and profitable and has been unable to renegotiate, even with the large decline in mail over the past four to five years.

As part of its restructuring plan, the USPS has proposed that Congress pass legislation that:

  • Gives the Postal Service the authority to transition to a national five-day-per-week delivery schedule
  • Resolves the retiree health benefit prepayment requirement

The USPS also continues to make progress on the fronts listed below:

  • Studying 252 mail-processing facilities for potential consolidation
  • Reviewing 3,600 low-activity post offices for potential closure, consolidation, or contracting
  • Enhancing and expanding alternate access sites, including village post offices and usps.com
  • Modifying delivery routes and service standards
  • Making it easier to do business with the Postal Service with new, innovative products

I can sincerely say that I hope the USPS can figure out how to manage its budget and maintain some sort of acceptable service level, but given the current situation it seems unlikely. I wouldn’t mind 5-day service, or even 3-day service. But that would only work for residential delivery; commercial delivery would need to stay at 6-day service. Over the course of the next few years, we will see what the USPS will make of itself, and speaking on behalf of the industry, I wish them the best. Just don’t raise our postage prices, or we will go to UPS and FedEx!!

Author: John Mehl

The Last Dinosaur in the Forest Ate the Best! Do You Know Joe?

The last dinosaur in the forest ate the best! I graduated from the New York School of Printing Vocational High School in 1967. Those of us who were not drafted to fight in the Vietnam War became pressmen. In 1969, I ran a press in a business-forms plant. We were the largest non-direct forms manufacturer in the country at 14 million per year. We ran only snap-out and continuous custom forms. In 1972, we became high tech and merged with a pressure-sensitive label plant. I had to learn the technical world of labels. At that time, “high tech” was a label blown on a single-part continuous form, now known as an integrated label. In 1981, I became a plant representative. Vanguard Direct was my largest distributor. I had to learn to sell what I knew.

And now for my 30-year journey at Vanguard. I joined Vanguard Direct in 1988 and was a vendor for seven years prior. I sold VGD snaps, continuous forms, and labels, and the terms “cross-selling” and “up-selling” were not in my vocabulary. I only sold what my plant was able to provide. My idea of being a solutions provider was getting the order delivered on time. I have an iPhone with over 100 apps. When my Outlook is down, I am depressed. I sell technology, promo, online ordering systems, creative design, social media, and direct mail (and printing, too). I never refer to VGD as a printing company. I am a solutions provider. Not only do I sell what I don’t produce, I sell whatever my clients need to improve the work flow in their organizations. I am on Twitter and LinkedIn. I only see my five grandchildren’s pictures on Facebook. Yes, a 62-year-old printer can make the transition. I can’t take a plant tour, however, without thinking back to the old days of the multipart snap-out form and the smell of ink.

So what’s the moral to this story? I worked at the largest union snap-out forms manufacturer in the country, and where is it today? It is extinct, because it was incapable of change! In this industry, you have to be flexible and willing to change your offerings to what your clients are asking for. It doesn’t take a scientist to make these changes, either––just a driven, hardworking mentality that is open to transition.

So the question is: What are you doing today that you won’t be doing in five years?

Author: Joe Corbo

Pitney Bowes Offers Up a Cloud-Based Transpromo Product! Will Google Play Ball?

A few months back in my post “Transpromotional Printing: Will Google Get on Board?” I predicted that Google would develop a product that would tie in its online advertising to printed statements. Transpromo advertising is a great way for marketers to vertically sell their current customer bases, but it is very hard for smaller companies to implement. Because of this growing pain, I had thought that Google would come up with a standardized solution. Since then, I have stumbled upon a few interesting things.

First, Google did investigate something like this. It ran a program called Google Print Ads. This started back in 2005 as a limited program in publications such as Maximum PC and Budget Living. The idea was to sell the less-desirable ads––such as quarter-page ads––in an auction format. Google would let the advertisers set their own pricing, similar to how AdWords works. The thought was that this would attract a larger base of online advertisers that wanted to transition easily into print advertising. Since this venture never proved to be successful, Google decided to shut down its efforts in 2009 and focus on how it could better serve the print advertising market.

Second, Pitney Bowes just started to offer a web-based, or––to use a common buzzword––cloud-based, transpromo service. The company hasn’t released many details on how this will work or what market it is targeting, but it is promising. If Pitney Bowes can build this functionality into its hardware, then it can really reach a wide array of customers.

To sum it all up, transpromo advertising is an amazing way to keep your customers engaged. Since you already communicate with them on a periodic basis, this advertising is a cheap or almost free way to get the word out. Because there is some programming and technology involved in bringing this to market, however, it hasn’t really caught on with the smaller to medium-sized companies. Therefore, the industry needs a larger company to take the reins and build a solution that is easy to implement into companies’ current hardware. Google could for sure figure out a way to do this, but I think that Pitney Bowes may be an even better candidate given that it is already so heavily established in the print and mailing markets.

If you had an easy way of incorporating transpromo into your statements, would you jump on board?

Author: John Mehl

Borders Is Closing. Who’s to Blame: Technology or Poor Business Decisions and Planning?

Borders announced last month that it was closing its nearly 400 stores; the reasons stated were e-reader technology and the poor economy. I contend, however, that Borders lost sight of its core business, which is the magic that comes only through turning pages. I love books and have many bookcases filled with them at home, but I also loved to cruise the aisles of Borders just to see new and exciting topics that I hadn’t considered before. In hindsight, it seems that Borders had a core customer base––avid readers––that it let slip through its fingers. A customer’s visit to Borders should have been treated as an event by the company, which should have focused on cultivating more avid readers. Maybe having craftsmen showing how books are made or gold foil artists actually producing book jacket covers would have been sexier than a book signing for Joan Collins’s new autobiography. Not that I have anything against Joan, mind you, but having a book signing is not my idea of an event. Borders let a generation or two drift toward e-books, and I am not so sure the solution is better than the touch and feel of a book. On a regular basis I see people with library books on the train––these to me are avid fans who could easily use an e-reader but still love the joy of turning pages. There is a lot of satisfaction in sitting down with a traditional book and a sense of accomplishment in closing the book after the last page. I submit that the age of the book is far from over.

Now consider the program Imagination Library started by Dolly Parton in Tennessee, which is bringing the joy of reading to young children and their parents. Dolly wanted to foster a love of reading among preschool-aged children and their families, regardless of the family’s income. She wanted children to be excited about books and the magic that books can create. This free program begins with The Little Engine That Could. Newborns through five-year-olds are eligible, and a child can literally bring the first book home with him or her from the hospital. Every month after that, a new, carefully selected, age-appropriate book will be mailed until the child turns 5 (the last title is Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!).

Imagination Library has jump-started a long-loved family tradition of reading together at bedtime or anytime of the day. If enrolled as an infant, a child will have collected 60 books by age five. The books are written in English, but native-language, bilingual, and Braille books are available. The program was started in 1996 in partnership with Penguin Publishing, and the response since then has been overwhelming. In 2010 Imagination Library mailed its 30,000,000th book. It is now in 1,300 communities in 3 countries and sends books to 560,000 children each month. The Little Engine That Could was given to 249,145 children in 2010, and just under 126,000 graduated from the program in 2010. As the website proudly states, “What’s the sum of all these numbers? Smiles on faces, books held close, and our four favorite words––‘Read it to me!’”

2010 was also big for New York City; the Department of Education has recently partnered with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and other organizations and currently has over 22,000 children enrolled. The goal is to promote the development of emergent literacy and language skills that are important for every child’s success in school. The by-product is bringing families together with the joy and magic of books, not e-readers.

Let’s finally consider the demise of Borders’ 400-plus stores and the $1.275 billion in assets it filed in its 2011 Chapter 11 filing. How much of those assets are books? And the bigger question is why in the 15 years since Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library began hasn’t Borders found a way to bring back its core base, avid readers of books? I contend that technology is NOT the reason, because there is a love of books that has not gone away.

A few thoughts on the subject of books:

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” — Mark Twain

“Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, and hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.” — Stephen King

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island … and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.” — Walt Disney

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” — Groucho Marx

Information on Borders
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
NYC Department of Education’s Imagination Library Registration Form“

Author: Tom Caska

Reinforcing What You Already Know: Make Screen Marketing as Important as Print Collateral

Traditional print and print-centric design organizations (think magazines, newspapers, book publishers) have struggled to balance print- and screen-based consumption of their products. The variables affecting the transition from print to screen are complex from the very start. Economic, advertising-based factors significantly influence the investment that businesses put toward both print- and screen-based initiatives. In October 2010, a study published by the Rochester Institute of Technology Printing Industry Center, Print versus Screen—Presentation Medium-Dependent Picture Consumption, addressed some early findings on screen versus print consumption. The study focused on understanding how college-aged young adults consume and retain information on screen versus print and if there is a preference for either medium. The 2010 study consisted of 3 smaller experiments aimed at “identifying and understanding the differences in how information is consumed from print in paper versus computer display.”

The study contained three separate experiments:

Part I: Viewing preferences, printing behavior, and content-management habits
Part II: Identification of behavioral and cognition-based differences between print and screen consumption
Part III: Study of eye movement while viewing screen versus print content

The study used photo books of images located in Rochester, NY, and on the Rochester Institute of Technology campus that were familiar to the participants. If you extract the findings of the study and apply them to larger visual communications efforts, the following conclusions should be considered as you evaluate work effort and the priority level given to screen and print collateral:

  1. The 56%/44% split of print versus screen preference indicates that design emphasis should be placed to both mediums equally.
  2. More frequent eye movement (fixations) for screen viewing compared to print suggests that the traditional design rules that work for print need to be rethought for a new medium.
  3. Initial studies indicate that the medium does not impact the time spent with the print or screen version, but time spent with screen media is less than print.
  4. The split or fragmentation of end users’ preferences has and will continue to pose a hurdle for any visual communicator. As these young adults age, their buying power will force visual communicators to align their design priorities, but at the very least, print and screen design should be at the same level.

Applying traditional print rules to screen design and layout is a bit like taking an auto mechanic and expecting his manual dexterity to give him the talent to paint an oil masterpiece. The Adobes and Quarks (whatever may come of it in the future) of the world have an interest in creating an application that lets users create content for both mediums, but just because you can, doesn’t mean it is functional, correct, or usable.

Proceed with caution, but remember the mediums are not the same. The RIT study begins to prove that younger people have preferences that embrace both mediums.

Author: John Carew

Variable Data Is Not a Mail Merge!

The invention of the digital press has brought marketers one of the most powerful tools since the beginning of direct mail: the ability to print variable content during the same run. Adding personalized or variable content to any printed piece can increase response rates anywhere from 10 to 50%! This increase alone can spell the difference between an unsuccessful campaign and a wildly lucrative one. For marketers, it’s all about the return on investment (ROI), and nothing can increase your ROI like variable content. But variable content is not just using a simple mail-merge function!

 

More often than not, I see people using the mail-merge function and calling it variable-data publishing. So what is the difference? A mail merge is simply taking the data you have and displaying it on the printed piece. This can be someone’s name, address, or even birthday. Variable content is taking that data and doing something more than just displaying it. In a campaign for a chain of stores, for example, this could be using the recipient’s address to print a map to the closest store. Some variable-data printing (VDP) pieces are so advanced that without data there is nothing to print. All the images and text are directly related to the data, which corresponds to you. This is what we in the industry call a “personalized piece.” The success of a variable-data piece is based solely on the quality of the data and how that data is used to encourage the customer to take the next step in accordance with your offer. Below are some examples and different levels of VDP.

 

Mail Merge

Advanced Mail Merge (variable imaging)

Variable Content (displaying names and swapping out images based on preference)

Personalized Piece (name, image, offer)

 

So, what kind of data do you have about your customers, that could be used in a variable print run, to increase your ROI?

Author: John Mehl

HP Introduces the T400 Inkjet Web Press

Back in March, HP introduced the newest addition to its line of high-speed inkjet web presses. The T400 is the first of its kind to offer a full-size web width of 42 inches. HP has again opened the door to opportunities that were never before available in the digital print industry. This fills the gap between where digital laser presses stopped and traditional offset presses began. Now quantities from 500 to 5,000––books with high page counts or direct mail applications, for example––are seen as perfect candidates for these machines.

Of course, these high-speed inkjet presses require a substantial investment in finishing equipment, but a traditional offset plant may already have invested in that equipment. The T400 is special in that it can deliver on a 42″ roll or split that web into two 21″ rolls to match most preexisting finishing equipment.

Since HP started installing its T200 and T300 high-speed inkjet presses in 2010, these presses have already printed 1.46 billion pages. Acclaimed print enthusiast Frank Romano, a man I was privileged to study under at Rochester Institute of Technology, has stated that this press is at the “top of the industry,” meaning that this is now the standard of print! Not to mention that in all aspects concerning speed, flexibility, and image quality, this press trumps all the competition.

It is additions like the T400 that will continue to keep the print industry alive and well. Being able to pair variable print with amazing speed is what will allow marketers and advertisers to target exactly who and what they want, when the time is relevant. I honestly can’t wait for the first opportunity that drives me to use this press; it will be a true joy to work with such spectacular innovation.

So, what opportunities do you see this machine opening up for you?

Author: John Mehl

USPS Offers 3% Discount for Using a QR Code!

By now I am sure that everyone in our industry is aware of the QR code, the small, monochromatic cube that can transform printed material into rich online multimedia content. If you aren’t, here is a great link to learn more!

There are many advantages to using QR codes on your printed pieces, and many marketers have had great success with them. But the United States Postal Service has just upped the ante. From July 1 through August 31, the USPS will be offering a 3% discount on all first-class and standard mail letters and flats that include a mobile barcode on the printed piece. The push is designed to give customers an incentive to use QR codes, which will help the USPS demonstrate how printed and mailed materials can still prove relevant in a digital world. While this may seem like a small thing to many, you have to consider the source. This marks a new way of thinking for the USPS, a company that is operating under an $8.5 billion budget deficit due to the decreased mail volume over the last decade. This promotion suggests that the USPS is trying new things and thinking outside the box. Let’s hope this trend continues.

I originally thought that the QR code had to contain data specific to the piece’s mailing address, but I was wrong. The QR code must only be relevant to the marketing purpose of the mailing and offer the end user a multimedia experience above and beyond what is offered on the printed piece. More detailed specifications about this program can be found here.

Basically, if you do a lot of direct mail, you should already be using QR codes to engage your customers beyond the printed piece. The instant metrics and added features alone should be reason enough to adopt QR technology. The 3% discount on postage should just be icing on the cake, so why not take advantage of this?

Food for thought: Valpak is using QR codes on their summer mailings, but they don’t mention the postage savings of around $2 million, coincidence, I think not!

Author: John Mehl

President Obama Cancels the Printing of the Federal Register

In an address to the public, posted to YouTube on June 12th, President Obama announced an end to the printing of the Federal Register. Published by the Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Federal Register is the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents.  In his video the president refers to these documents as, “expensive doorstops,” since they have been available online since 1994.

The end of the printed Federal Register is the start of a new era at the Whitehouse.  For decades millions (if not billions) of documents have been printed and distributed almost directly to the recycling bins.  Miles and miles of red tape have forced the government to print every piece of legislation regardless of the fact that it’s available online. There’s been mixed reactions to this message throughout the printing industry, but I have to say I side with the president.  When it comes down to it, political/legal documents are better viewed online.  Being able to search their content rather than skimming through hard copy. Instead of thinking about how the president is bashing our industry, we should be following in his footsteps and thinking how our clients could benefit from eliminating their printed materials and taking them to a digital media?

President and CEO of Printing Industries of America (PIA), Michael Makin’s response to this announcement was outright telling.  His response can be plainly categorized as a misinterpretation of the president’s message.  It is evident that he is in denial about the state of the printing industry.

Have a look: http://www.myprintresource.com/video/10286890/pias-michael-makin-voices-concerns-over-president-obamas-anti-print-comments

In the end, it makes sense for this document, and documents alike to only be available online.  While not everyone was able to obtain a hardcopy, everyone is able to view it online. So lets take a moment and think; what material do we print on a regular basis that is better suited online?

Author: John Mehl

Vanguard Direct Integrates Print, Production, & Distribution

Vanguard Direct is a family-owned business that has grown dramatically since we first opened in 1976 and now employs nearly 150 people. We have remained steadfastly committed to integrity and accountability from day one. We take pride in the enthusiasm and professionalism we bring to our work, and our clients trust us to deliver what we promise. That will never change.

Printing stands as the cornerstone of our business. You benefit from our vast knowledge and experience, access to the best technologies, and an unrelenting drive to excel on each run. You will find our print work clean and compelling because it is our goal to make you look your best. And you can rely on us to manage rush jobs that require extraordinary attention to detail.

The picture below is an example of Vanguard Direct’s print production services. We printed the envelopes and inserts that were distributed in newspapers across NYC. The Mayor’s Office was looking to highlight the importance of not parking illegally in accessible spaces, so adding the envelope and insert to the ad in the newspaper was a great way to get the attention of NYC drivers.

Our full-service agency can solve any communications challenge you face. You can count on us to deliver marketing expertise, including creative, production, and distribution services. Our approach to integrated marketing allows you to orchestrate your various marketing activities, improve the productivity of your efforts, and make your marketing dollars work harder and more efficiently.

Author: Stephanie Huston

What Is On-Demand Book Publishing, and When Should We Use It?

Many of us have most likely heard the term “on-demand book publishing.” Few of us, however, understand the process and know when to use it. In the literal sense, on-demand publishing means that nothing is produced until there is an order to fill. This order could be for one book or a million. The content for this book can either be predefined or submitted at the time of the order.

Amazon is one of the largest––if not the largest––on-demand book publishers. When you order a non-mainstream book from Amazon, the order is usually sent directly to a digital press to be printed and shipped to you.

Better than Amazon is Lulu. Lulu.com is a company devoted to online on-demand book publishing. Authors of all levels can sign on to Lulu and upload their books to be ordered in printed or even digital formats. Lulu also goes a step further and offers help with many services that surround successful book publishing that might not be readily available to all authors. These services include pre-publishing, marketing, and ISBN distribution. This is the key factor that has led many upcoming authors to Lulu instead of its competitors.

So, when is the right time to pursue on-demand book publishing? Basically the answer is: anytime you want to publish something that doesn’t have a large initial distribution plan or is not immediately time-sensitive. Or maybe you just want to print your family photo book for the holidays, for that is the fastest-growing segment of on-demand book publishing!

When was the last time you thought about an on-demand book publishing solution?

Author: John Mehl

Is digital printing the new standard?

As digital printing is gaining more and more popularity, we have to take a step back and think; at what point will digital become the standard for print quality?  I won’t lie, I still prefer the quality of offset over digital, but that could just be my love for the smell of ink!  In all seriousness though, there is something about a perfectly printed offset sheet that still sets the standard for me. However, with digital presses such as the HP Indigo, that quality is put to the test. Traditional plastic based toner presses (Xerox iGen) still have some catching up to do, and I’m not sure if they will ever equate to that of offset.

Inkjet now is a whole different world. It used to be that a customer would supply a laser print of their project and ask the printer to improve upon that quality. But, today some customers supply an inkjet proof with their job and ask us to keep the quality the same! This, as we know can almost be an impossible task. There is at first the difference in the dot structure. Inkjet being continuous tone, and offset being line screen, but, that’s not the problem. Today a $100.00 desktop inkjet printer can be using seven or more ink colors!  They have the traditional CMYK + light magenta, light cyan, matte black, photo black, and some even having a gloss optimizer! The gamut of these printers far surpasses that of any traditional four-color offset press.

So, how do we handle this? You could print all your offset jobs using six-color processes (hi-fi printing). Or, you can have the difficult, yet appropriate conversation with your client to which that what they had supplied, just isn’t achievable given the processes at hand.

Basically what this boils down to is that you need to keep yourself and your client educated and updated on the latest technologies and processes. If you have a better understanding, your job will be easier. But, I didn’t answer my own question; what is the new standard? And for this, I would have to answer inkjet, for its quality is unsurpassable!

So, how can you use what you know about inkjet printing to your advantage?

How will Apple’s Newsstand Affect the Printing Industry?

Last week, Apple released details on its new operating systems for iOS devices and personal computers. With this came the introduction of many new and innovative features, which John Carew documented in last week’s technology post. The one feature that has a direct link to the printing industry is Newsstand.

Newsstand is your digital “news rack” for all your magazines and newspapers. Apple is hoping to make digital subscriptions to these publications more user friendly by separating them from the iBooks completely. Subscriptions would be purchased once and updated automatically in the background when new issues are released.

So, one may ask, what does this have to do with the printing industry? Many would say nothing, but I would argue that it has everything to do with the printing industry. It seems like every time Apple releases a platform that allows other parties to sell their products to iOS users, it’s a huge success. Take for example iTunes, which revitalized the music industry; the App Store, which put small developers on the map; iBooks, which made amateur authors famous; and lastly the Mac App Store, which doubled and even quadrupled developers’ revenue in 6 months! Given that track record, who in his right mind would think that Newsstand won’t have an impact on print?

Of course, magazines and newspapers will still be found in printed form, but that won’t be the majority of the circulation. With over 200 million iOS users, the conversion rate from print to digital media should be astounding. But this is not about a diminishing industry; it’s about a changing industry. Designers who laid out print ads will now be learning how to design and lay out digital publications. With the new release of Quark 9, this will be easier than ever! Those who think this is bad news have already missed the boat. This could be for the printing industry what the iTunes Store was for the music industry. Stay tuned!

Will you convert from printed subscriptions to digital subscriptions?

Author: John Mehl

Vanguard Direct in Chicago for Print Solutions Conference and Expo

Last week, Chicago hosted the 2011 Print Solutions Conference and Expo. For three days, the famous Navy Pier on Lake Michigan was home to educational seminars and exhibition booths. The overall theme this year seemed to be the continuing emergence of technology and how our industry is incorporating it. Much focus was placed on how print can work with social media and other marketing technologies.

Vanguard Direct sends a team every year, and I was fortunate enough to attend this year. As a contributing blogger to Utterly Orange, it was great to represent Vanguard Direct’s social media initiatives. I attended several seminars on how our industry is embracing this technological revolution. Most notable were seminars on mobile marketing and how to network in the digital age. Also making the trip were Tom Worrilow from our Pennsylvania office as well as President Bob O’Connell and Vice President Joe Corbo from our NYC office.

It was certainly interesting to note the many ways our industry is evolving to incorporate these new marketing channels. Continuing education is a vital part of Vanguard Direct, and attending industry events like this is one of the many ways we stay ahead of the curve when facing new trends.

Author: Dustin Hill