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Archive for January, 2017

Book Printing: Divining the State of the Print Book

Monday, January 30th, 2017

I read two articles online this week that have reinforced my belief that the print book is still going strong.

“Book Reading 2016”

The first article is from the Pew Research Center (Internet, Science & Tech) website. Dated 9/1/2016, this article, “Book Reading 2016,” makes a number of claims about the state of the print book and reading in general, which it then supports with charts and statistics. (Over the years I have developed an unreserved trust in the Pew Research Center.)

Here are the claims the Pew Research Center made based on its surveys and analyses (as quoted):

  1. “Print books continue to be more popular than e-books or audio books.” The article goes on to say that in the last twelve months more than twice as many people read a print book as read an e-book.
  2. “Nearly four-in-ten Americans read print books exclusively; just 6% are digital-only book readers.”
  3. “More than one-quarter (28%) of Americans read books in both print and digital formats.”
  4. “Some 38% read print books but did not read books in any digital formats.”
  5. “Compared with those who have not attended college, college graduates are more likely to read books in general, more likely to read print books, and more likely to consume digital-book content.”
  6. “…young adults are more likely than their elders to read books in various digital formats, but are also more likely to read print books as well: 72% have read a print book in the last year, compared with 61% of seniors.”
  7. “The share of Americans who read in order to research a specific topic of interest has increased in recent years.” This is in contrast to those who read to stay abreast of current affairs, those who study for school or work, and those who read for pleasure. Since 2011, “the share of Americans who read in order to research specific topics of interest has increased by 10-percentage points…, from 74% to 84%.”
  8. “Women are more likely than men to read books in general and also more likely to read print books.”

What We Can Learn from This Information

First of all, Pew Research Center statistics make it clear that print books aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They are still way ahead of electronic media in terms of readership.

However, many people, especially younger ones, do read e-books as well as print books, for pleasure, to study for work or school, to stay abreast of current events, or to research topics of interest to them. But the ratio of print book readers to e-book readers is still exceptionally high.

The article also noted that although e-book readership increased from 2011 to 2014 from 17% to 28%, it has nevertheless remained stable since then.

Griffin Press, “the World’s Most Advanced Book Printer”

The second article was entitled “Griffin Launches End to End Digital.” Written by Wayne Robinson, the article was published on 9/7/2016 on www.proprint.com.au.

The article describes the hardware and workflow of a state-of-the-art book printer, noting the following (as quoted):

  1. “The company has installed a HPT410 monochrome digital printer.”
  2. It has “added a full Kolbus binding line onto the back.”
  3. “Covers–previously the stumbling block in attempts to create such lines–are printed on site on Griffin’s new HP Indigo 10000 and HP Indigo 7800 printers.”
  4. Griffin adds cover “embellishment on a Scodix Ultra Pro Foil.”
  5. “Griffin is looking to produce some 45,000 books per day or 16 million books a year, on the digital end-to-end line.”
  6. “It has two other HP monochrome reelfed digital printers.”
  7. Griffin “will keep its offset presses for long-run work.”
  8. Peter George, CEO of Griffin’s parent company, PMP, notes that “the entry of Amazon into the book market ‘changed everything’ and led to local publishers demanding rapid print and short runs.” He says that “Printed books are clearly here to stay. Kindle has plateaued.”

What We Can Learn from This Information

The article succinctly reflects the present moment in print book publishing. This is what I infer from my reading of “Griffin Launches End to End Digital”:

  1. For book printing, the most efficient equipment is a dedicated, black-only, toner-based digital press. To me, Griffin Press’ buying the HPT410 monochrome digital printer reflects the company’s view that the highest percentage of print book work will be for K-only text blocks.
  2. Conversely, there’s no better equipment for book covers than the HP Indigo digital press. In my opinion, nothing comes closer to offset-quality printing.
  3. That said, the demand for print books in general is high, as reflected in Griffin Press’ projected yearly output of 16 million books. (The HP T410 press–and HP’s latest T400 series presses–cost in the range of $2 to $3 million (depending on the press’ add-ons). This shows just how serious Griffin Press is regarding the future of “ink on paper.”
  4. Until recently, the focus has been on printing ink or toner digitally onto the paper substrate. Press sheets then went through traditional analog finishing operations. Now there are digital binders (the article referenced the Kolbus binding line). Press manufacturers have been developing end-to-end solutions that integrate digital printing and digital binding equipment. This reflects the manufacturers’ commitment to digital book production, and their awareness that consumers and businesses have shown a growing need for digital book printing.
  5. The reference in “Griffin Launches End to End Digital” to “embellishment on a Scodix Ultra Pro Foil” reflects a move from analog to digital equipment for die-cutting, foil stamping, embossing, and other processes that in prior years had required the making of metal cutting or stamping dies. Scodix has rendered die-making less necessary by inventing digital methods for building up 3D texture (coatings, foils) on a press sheet. This complements recent advances in laser creasing and cutting, which also sidestep the need for metal dies.
  6. Griffin Press’ purchasing additional reelfed monochrome printers implies that digital printing will also be essential for longer-run books, since rolls of printing stock are more economical than cut sheets for longer press runs.
  7. Griffin Press’ keeping its offset equipment implies that even though the bulk of book print jobs will be short run or variable data work, some publishers will still require longer press runs of books (black-text-only or multi-color-text).
  8. Griffin sees that the trend is toward shorter press runs and faster turn-around times, as noted by Peter George’s (CEO of Griffin’s parent company, PMP) comment that Amazon’s print-on-demand business model “changed everything.”
  9. As in the first article referenced in this blog posting, “Griffin Launches End to End Digital” notes that e-readers (the Kindle, as per the quote) are no longer displacing print books. The print book is still viable and will be for the foreseeable future.

At least that’s what I got out of reading the Pew article and ProPrint article.

Custom Printing: A Print Book Design Make-Over

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

One of the many things I do in addition to writing is to analyze and help to improve clients’ publication design work. I help them with overall design, typeface choice, eye movement around a double-page spread, color, overall concept, you name it. I just did one of these sessions with a client who had hit a wall and didn’t know how to fix the design for her print book.

I thought you might find this case study helpful in your design work, in terms of how to approach a design and improve it.

The First Draft of the Design

First of all, what I received from my client was a PDF of a page spread from a government report on water and dams in developing countries. The print book format was 8.5” x 11” (or actually slightly larger, since the agency is global, and they work with an A3 page). My client, the designer, had a four-color palette to work with, but beyond the photos, she had chosen 4-color builds of a blue and a beige for accent colors.

I noticed right away that the initial draft page spread looked washed out. There was nothing dramatic to look at. The image was of a man standing on a support in a reservoir adjusting a pump. The colors were all earth tones, but the photo appeared to have been taken in the hot afternoon, and there was an overall greyness, or haze, in the photo.

This photo, which was on the left-hand page of the spread, was horizontal. Above it there was a solid area of blue bleeding on the left and top and extending to the gutter on the right. Below the photo there was a repeat of the blue solid with the opening chapter headline reversed out of the color. At the top left of the photo there was a circular cut-out into which a large “8” had been placed (presumably this mock-up was the introductory page spread for Chapter 8). The “8” extended up into the blue solid, and my client had reversed the “8” out of the blue color.

On the right-hand page there were two columns of justified type with an overly light initial cap to start the first paragraph. Below the two columns there was a box of type surrounded by a rule line. This was actually something I liked about the sample page spread. My client had chosen a condensed sans serif typeface for the headline. She had also reversed the words “Box 8.2” out of a little blue solid bar she had suspended from the top of the rule line surrounding the box (as a “tag,” to identify all boxes). What I really liked was that the headline was flush right instead of flush left. It was unexpected and daring, but it was quite readable in the sans serif face. I also liked the tight leading of the two-line heading. Finally, my client had made a few words in the text blue and bold for emphasis (and to distinguish between the two countries referenced in the text).

I told my client to start with the ruled box. I said it “worked.” She should understand why it worked and apply the design concepts to the rest of the page spread.

The Problems with the Design

I noted the following problems:

  1. The initial cap starting the first paragraph on the right-hand page was too light. It didn’t attract the reader’s eye. The reader’s eye had to go to this point to start reading, so the visual cue had to be more prominent.
  2. The headlines and subheads (other than those in the text box) were too light. This gave an overall greyness to the page spread (i.e., little distinction between the heads and text, and no immediate cue for the reader to go to the subheads). In addition, the headline typefaces in the text box were exceptionally close to, but not exactly the same as, the subhead typefaces in the main columns of text.
  3. The “8” that designated the chapter of the book was too light. In addition, the curve of the photo (knocked out to allow for the positioning of the “8”) seemed superfluous and cute.
  4. The justified text columns seemed too rigid. They also did not allow for an interesting contour around the columns of type (that is, the columns of type were just two tall rectangles providing no complexity or visual interest).
  5. The photo seemed boring since it was so monochromatic and since there was no action reflected in the image.
  6. There were too many visual points of alignment. That is, too few of the graphic elements (heads, subheads, photo, folios, etc.) aligned with one another, creating a chaotic look. The chaotic look worked against the simplicity needed to lead the reader’s eye through the page spread.
  7. The overall greyness of the page gave no direction as to how the reader’s eye should travel through the page spread.

The Design Solutions

I realized this was plenty of criticism to offer my client, so together we discussed options that wound up improving the two-page spread significantly. My client also created an additional page spread (an interior spread for pages following the chapter opening). With these two spreads I knew my client could create the remainder of the 48-page book, applying all of the design decisions (page grid, typeface choices and sizes, box rule lines, and so forth) to all successive pages of the book. All of the visual decisions had been made, allowing for creation of a coherent design product.

Here are the design decisions and why they helped:

  1. My client made the photo abut to the center gutter and bleed on the left. This gave it a sense of expansiveness. Immediately above it she placed the same light beige screen that she had used as a background for the text box on the opposite page. (She bled this screen off the top of the page above the 4-color photo.) Most importantly, she aligned the top of the photo on the left-hand page (which rested at about the two-inch mark below the top of the page) with the top of the two columns of type on the right-hand page. This created a visual “axis” (or alignment) running all the way across the two-page spread. It simplified the geometric, visual shape created by the photo and the text.
  2. Above the photo on the left, my client placed the “8” of the chapter head. She made it huge for emphasis. She also made it orange. (This kept it from being as “heavy” visually as an “8” printed in black ink.) On the opposite page, she also made the subhead orange, and she made the initial capital letter of the first text paragraph bolder, and orange as well. (This would make the reader’s eye jump from the chapter number “8” to the initial cap to the subhead. In general, knowing what to read first, second, and third puts the reader at ease and makes reading pleasurable.)
  3. Including the entirety of the photo (without cutting away a semicircle for the “8”) highlighted the beauty of the entire image. It made the reservoir and dam seem more expansive and interesting.
  4. My client made the heading at the bottom of the left-hand chapter-opening page much bolder than before and set it flush right to make it stand out (readers usually expect flush left heads). This gave a visual precedent for the flush right head in the text box on the opposite page. The heading was bigger, bolder, and the two lines were tightly set one above the other, as my client had done in the text box on the opposite page. (It is a useful rule of the graphic arts that consistency in the treatment of visual elements simplifies the design. This makes reading easier and more predictable.)
  5. My client placed a thin, vertical rule between the two main text columns. She also added folios (page numbers reversed out of a blue box). For interest, she raised them above the center line. She also aligned them with the top of the photo and the two text columns. The blue solid with reversed type echoed the treatment of the text box label (“Box 8.2”). The repetition made for easy identification of these visual elements. It also gave more coherence to the page within a simpler grid, or structure.
  6. Setting the subheads within the text in an orange color made them seem different enough from the head in the text box that I no longer minded that the two typefaces were close but not exactly the same.

What You Can Learn from this Case Study

This was the overall direction my client and I took to improve her design. Each time you deconstruct and analyze a design the process will be different, but it always helps if you look at a few things each time:

  1. Does the reader’s eye know how to proceed through the page spread? What is most important, secondary, tertiary? If your reader knows where to look for important information, reading will be easy and pleasurable. If not, he or she will stop reading altogether.
  2. Is your photo (or are your photos) interesting? Are they cropped in such a way that they tell a story. Does the photo cropping make it easier or harder to know what’s important?
  3. Can you simplify the page “geometry”? That is, can you draw fewer imaginary grid lines to which you can anchor graphic elements? The fewer these “axes,” the easier it is for the reader to progress through the page design.
  4. Can you use color (a secondary, highlight color) to help your reader progress through the page design?

These are just some thoughts, but the best way you can train yourself to think along these lines is to look at brochures, books, posters, signage—every printed item you see–and consider how the color choices, typefaces, page grid, type alignment, etc., make the printed products easier or harder to read. Then start to apply the same set of rules to your own design work.

Custom Printing: Infographic Shows “Print Is Everywhere”

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Here’s a good example of multi-channel marketing. I just found an online article referencing an online Minuteman Press franchise advertisement that contains an infographic showing all the places you’ll find printed products on your travels through your business day.

The infographic is called, “Print Is Everywhere.”

“In Your Kitchen”

The Minuteman Press infographic begins in the kitchen and includes such printed products as a calendar, school stickers and schedules, birthday cards, menus, branded sports bottles, branded ceramic mugs, screen-printed t-shirts, promotional bags, and wine bottle labels.

Minuteman Press also includes statistics reflecting the ubiquity of offset and digital custom printing:

  1. “Americans buy approximately 6 billion greeting cards per year.”
  2. “53 percent of U.S. consumers own promotional drinkware.”
  3. “Promotianal bags generate more impressions (5,700+) than any other promotional item.”
  4. “Digital label printing accounts for approximately 33% of all labels.”
  5. “58 percent of U.S. consumers own promotional T-Shirts alone.”

What We Can Learn from the Infographic

Here are some thoughts:

  1. Even though we’re on the computer a huge portion of the day, we still have to dress, eat, drink, and carry stuff to our jobs. All of these activities involve potentially branded items (i.e., they require commercial printing services).
  2. Since we use our branded bags, cups, and t-shirts on a daily basis, we are exposed to their messages a remarkable number of times. In contrast, much of what we see online, I think, becomes background noise competing with other background noise since there’s so much of it.
  3. Digital commercial printing has captured a sizable portion of the label-making market. I personally hadn’t realized it was this high a percentage.

“On Your Way to Work”

The Minuteman Press infographic includes store signage, flyers, posters, and stickers in this portion of the day, and also includes these statistics:

  1. “50% of customers learn about a local store through on-site signage.”
  2. “Consumers get 11 hours of exposure daily to outdoor advertising.”

What We Can Learn from the Infographic

The take-away is that people buy brands they recognize. Granted, most people spend a lot of time surfing the web and reading peer reviews, but you need to actively search for brands on the Internet. In contrast, as you are driving around, or walking, or taking the bus, you are exposed to a huge amount of signage. In many cases this, along with what you see in the store windows, will interest you in a new store, product, or brand, and influence your buying decisions.

“In Your Office”

The Minuteman Press infographic includes printed checks, brochures, stationery, and USB promotional drives in this portion of the day, and notes these statistics:

  1. “The market for stationery products is projected to exceed $226 billion by 2020.”
  2. “18.3 billion checks were written in the U.S. in 2012.”
  3. “79% of brochure recipients either read, keep, or pass along to friends.”
  4. “45% of U.S. consumers own promotional USB drives.”

What We Can Learn from the Infographic

The take-away is that people do not just communicate over the Internet. A surprisingly large number of people still write paper checks, send physical letters in addition to email, and read and keep physical brochures. There is something permanent and perhaps more weighty about a print version of a letter or brochure. And regarding the USB drive noted in the infographic, any promotional product you use daily will put someone’s logo before your eyes again and again and again.

“When You’re at Lunch”

The Minuteman Press infographic includes printed menus, branded corporate wear such as uniforms worn by food service workers, table tents, and food packaging, noting the following statistics:

  1. “In 2015 corporate workwear was projected to be a $4.4 billion industry.”
  2. “52% of consumers are likely to make repeat purchases from a merchant that delivers premium branded packaging.”

What We Can Learn from the Infographic

Certain kinds of products cannot be duplicated online. As long as there are retail stores and food service workers, there will be branded uniforms, and this will involve commercial printing. In addition, anything purchased will need to be packaged in something (particularly food and pharmaceuticals), again involving commercial printing.

“On Your Way Home”

In this part of your day, the Minuteman Press infographic includes promotional writing instruments, branded sunglasses, printed drinkwear, and even branded power banks (to charge cell phones) and printed air fresheners (to hang from the car’s rear-view mirror). The infographic notes the following statistics:

  1. “The car air fresheners market in North America is projected to be $952 million by 2020.”
  2. “26% of U.S. consumers own mobile power banks.”

What We Can Learn from the Infographic

Between custom screen printing and pad printing, you can pretty much print on anything. So if you are a marketer, all you need to do is observe people’s habits. Watch what they do and what tools they use repeatedly, and then print your company logo on the product, whether it be an air freshener or a back-up charger for a cell phone.

“When You Get Home”

The Minuteman Press infographic includes catalogs and direct mail in this category, noting that:

  1. “In 2015, advertisers spent $46.8 billion on direct mail, compared to just $2.3 billion on email.”
  2. “90% of consumers use catalogs to learn and get ideas about things that interest them.”

What We Can Learn from the Infographic

Consumers are not just learning about products online. In fact, many people want to research potential purchases both online and in a catalog. Perhaps they like the luxury of paging through a physical book, something more tangible than a web page.

I’ve seen modern catalogs referred to as “look books,” and they may not always include order forms, but they are print products, and they inform potential buyers before they purchase an item they want.

The dramatic difference between the amount of money still spent on physical direct mail vs. online email shows just how important it is considered to be in the consumer’s buying decision (i.e., it may cost more to print something than to create an online ad campaign, but marketers are willing to pay the extra expense).

The Take Away

Even if you never want to become a Minuteman Press franchise owner, you can still benefit from seeing their infographic. Here is a link: http://bit.ly/print-is-everywhere. It will show you through thought-provoking statistics just how alive print really is. (The infographic also includes all sources for the statistics I’ve included.)

Book Printing: Checking the Final, Delivered Print Job

Monday, January 9th, 2017

I just received advance copies of a print job I had brokered. It’s a 6” x 9” perfect-bound textbook, but it actually could have been any printed product. My approach would have been the same. I did what I always do first, whenever I receive samples. I checked them thoroughly for any flaws.

What to Look For When Checking Your Print Job

(For this kind of a job–a print book–this is how I always proceed):

  1. First I checked the overall physical status of a sample copy. That is, I checked to see if the print book had been trimmed evenly and squarely. I made sure all pages lay flat with no ripples in the paper. I made sure the binding glue had been evenly applied and was secure. Fortunately this was a sheetfed offset job, so there was no chance of web growth. (This is a flaw that occasionally appears when the web-printed interior pages of a book begin to grow beyond the flush-trimmed, sheetfed-printed cover. This is due to the heat of the web-offset ovens removing all moisture from the text pages and then the pages reabsorbing moisture after the text and cover have been trimmed.)
  2. I opened the book and flipped through the pages, first checking to make sure the pages all aligned. To do this I checked the running headers to make sure they didn’t jump up and down (like the pages of an old flip book) when I paged through the text.
  3. I checked the cover coating, and was pleased that it was of a high gloss, evenly coated, and without cracks at the folds. It made the 4-color imagery on the print book cover really “pop.”
  4. I checked the extensive reversed copy on the back of the book. Fortunately the background was a single PMS color, so there was no chance of any color plates being out of register. This would have potentially made the small reversed type hard to read. Reversing the type out of a single PMS color averted this potential problem. All text was crisp, and the bounding rule of a text box was clean (no ink spatter in the areas that should be white).
  5. I noted that the 4-color imagery on the front cover had a a good range of tones, from light to dark, and the photos were crisp and in focus. Even though the cover was a montage of three separate images, all of them looked good together in terms of highlights, shadows, overall value, and color.
  6. When I opened the print book again, I made sure the pages were tightly held in the binding and that they turned easily (i.e., the paper grain was parallel to, instead of perpendicular to, the binding).
  7. I checked the screens, bleeds, halftones, and text “color.” The text was all black throughout the book, but it was also evenly inked, so the overall “grayness” of the type was consistent on every page. The halftones had a good tonal range from highlights to shadows, and the area screens (on page dividers and within charts) were even and smooth. Overall, there was a sense that all halftones in the print book had a similar look, with no halftones overly light or dark. The same held true for changes in tone within maps and charts. I could see adequate distinction between the 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, etc., screens.

I expected this level of quality from this book printer, and I was pleased to see it. I felt confident when I contacted my client to see how she felt about her print job.

I Checked a Flaw My Client Had Identified

My client had initially reviewed a hard-copy color proof of the cover. She had then made changes and had requested a revised PDF virtual proof (or screen proof). Unfortunately, the type on the screen proof appeared to have thin rules around all type elements. Understandably, this concerned her. There wasn’t time in the schedule for her to see a revised hard-copy proof, and the printer assured me that the apparent rule lines were only an anomaly. They would not appear on the final, printed covers. They existed only on the virtual proof. So when I saw the final printed book, I checked all type on all covers.

What We Can Learn from This Case Study

  1. The first thing to remember is that when the cartoned print job arrives, it is your responsibility to check closely to ensure its high quality. If there are unreasonable flaws, this is the time to address them with your print rep to determine whether a reprint or discount is in order. Check a number of random copies in a number of randomly chosen cartons. In most cases everything will be fine, but in the few instances when it’s not, you need to address the issues immediately.
  2. Approach all jobs this way, not just books. Look closely at your printed newsletters, screen-printed t-shirts, posters—everything. Make sure they are exactly as you had expected.
  3. Check both the physical properties (size, paper, folding, trimming, etc.) and printing qualities of a job.
  4. Look critically at all color work. Check trapping and register and the overall look of 4-color imagery. Check the evenness of screens and color solids. Make sure any repeating elements, like color bars, are consistent throughout the job. And make sure the overall appearance of full-color photos is lifelike and consistent with the original artwork.
  5. Make sure that any issues identified during proof reviews have been corrected to your satisfaction.
  6. Take the time to do this thorough review immediately upon receipt of a print job. The job is not yours to distribute—or pay for—until you have taken delivery and accepted the product.
  7. Keep in mind that in most cases you will be pleased with the job as long as you have chosen the printer wisely, checked references, and reviewed his printed samples carefully.
  8. If something does go wrong, a good printer’s rep will do everything in her/his power to remedy the situation to your satisfaction.

Custom Printing: Digital Signs, Posters, and NFC Chips

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

My fiancee and I were in the car at a stoplight today, and I noticed a large digital sign on the side of a building. It was promoting a local campus of a major metropolitan university. I thought about what I liked and didn’t like about the sign, and about whether offset or digital custom printing could be used to achieve a similar effect.

A Description of the Sign

First of all, the digital sign must have been about thirty feet wide and twenty feet high. Obviously from where I was (sitting in the car), I couldn’t measure the digital sign, but I will say that it was large enough to stand out from all other distractions. It was about twenty feet up on the side of a university parking building.

What I remember the most is the effectiveness of the sign’s illumination and the drama of its constantly changing imagery. Since I’m used to static signage, the first thing I noticed was that the digital sign provided a number of messages, from a general tagline for the university plus the university logo, to a Facebook icon sending you to the Web for further information, to a list of some courses of study the university offers.

Although there was no sound, the movement and visual variety plus the bright colors and the backlit screen grabbed my attention.

What Didn’t Work for Me

Unfortunately the side of the parking building was exactly perpendicular to the road. Therefore, anyone driving by the sign would need to turn her/his head to read the message, and this would put their safety at risk. (I was lucky. I was a passenger at the time, so I could look at the sign for as long as I wanted.)

Granted, a less-traveled road intersected with this main road creating a “T” at the parking building. Drivers coming up to the intersection and about to turn left or right could look directly at the sign. They would not need to turn their heads. Moreover, since the sign was bright, drivers would be engaged with the presentation and the message of the sign for a while, from the time they first caught sight of the digital image until they turned left or right at the intersection.

How About the Print Version of a Sign?

I thought about how a few years back I would have seen a large format print sign hanging from the building and been equally surprised and engaged if the sign were large and dramatic. To a certain extent we have become so accustomed to static signage that advertisers can increase our “engagement” with their message with the bright lights and movement of digital signage.

However, there are new technologies that can add an extra dimension to large format print signage as well. A technology called “Near-Field-Communication,” or NFC, will allow you to tap your phone against an NFC-chip enabled poster and be directed to an online interactive experience.

Much has been written in recent years about the power of multi-channel marketing, and a large format print poster that can send a viewer to a website for further information, to do research, to sign up for text messages or emails, to see a video, or to respond to the poster and leave a message, can be a powerful marketing tool. This NFC chip technology can create a more personal connection with a prospect and even initiate a dialogue.

Granted, if the digital sign on the side of the parking building had been a static, large format print image instead of a series of changing digital images, you could not have tapped your phone against the print signage. However, you could have achieved the same result with a large QR code printed on the large format poster. Scanning the QR code with your phone camera and a downloadable phone app could send you to a website for similar interactive content, videos, or a place to request further information.

What We Can Learn from This Experience

Here are some random thoughts:

  1. Anything that captures your entire field of vision will draw you into an advertising experience. (Think about the large size of a movie screen in a theater compared to the much smaller TV in your house.) Also, the darkness of the movie theater helps you lose yourself in the experience. For an advertisement outside in bright sunlight, you can increase its attention getting power by making it huge. In fact, a grand-format inkjet image wrapped around a building could actually attract more attention than the digital sign I saw on the parking garage building. The building wrap’s sheer size could make up for its static nature.
  2. Movement trumps static imagery in attention getting power. Back-lighting also trumps reflected light illuminating a poster. However, you can overcome these limitations by using QR codes and NFC chips to bring the viewer of the poster or other large format print signage into an Internet-based experience.
  3. Such a transition from the print poster to the website can do a few things even digital signage might not achieve. For instance, once a marketer has brought a prospective client from the poster to the website, she/he can request contact information from the prospect. The web-based portal can also track the online experience of the prospect. In this way a marketing executive can collect marketing data regarding the effectiveness of the signage: who is viewing it and when, as well as whether the prospects are responding to the offer and requesting further information. Print signage enhanced with NFC technology or QR codes can facilitate two-way communication between the company and the prospect.
  4. Field of vision is important. If you’re designing static posters, digital signage, or posters with NFC chips, you need to capture the viewer’s full attention. The digital signage on the side of the building, perhaps, would have been more effective if it had had two angled screens (one facing either side of oncoming traffic). For a static poster, it’s important to locate the image where it will be seen. Make sure it is large enough to completely fill the viewer’s field of vision. Either increase its size, or put it closer to the viewer.
  5. Since a conventional large format print poster usually consists of only a slogan, an image, and a logo, adding NFC chip technology to direct the prospect to the Web can give the viewer much more information than a large format print poster by itself.

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