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Archive for the ‘Magazine Printing’ Category

Custom Printing: Drupa Highlights Future of Printing

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Wikipedia defines “bellwether” as “any entity in a given arena that serves to create or influence trends or to presage future happenings.” In the arena of offset and digital printing, this word fits drupa perfectly.

drupa (spelled with a lowercase “d”) is the quintessential printing trade show. Held for 13 days in Dusseldorf, Germany, this event brings together experts from all aspects of the printing field to share knowledge and discuss trends. In many cases it is the top managers of various firms who attend, and since major commercial printing equipment manufacturers have booths at drupa, many of these managers order their new presses, folding equipment, and such, right at the drupa trade show.

In addition, according to the Packaging Europe website, this year’s drupa reflects an international presence, including more than 190,000 foreign visitors, with the highest number of attendees representing Germany, India, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Great Britain, the United States, Switzerland, and Italy.

What Does This Say About the Future of Custom Printing?

When you consider the international nature of drupa’s attendees and their “decision-maker” status, plus the list of new equipment on display by such vendors as Goss and HP, plus the high number of actual orders for heavy press equipment placed during the trade show, you can see that divining the trends at drupa can give us a global view of the state of printing.

These are my assessments based on reading I have done about this year’s drupa.

  1. Print is not dead. OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are investing heavily in new commercial printing processes and devices (digital and offset) because they have buyers for their equipment.
  2. Print is pervasive. The international nature of the attendees attests to the international market for custom printing.
  3. Major trends in printing reflected in drupa seminars and exhibits include the following: digital printing, printing of packaging materials, hybrid technologies mixing offset and digital printing, new technologies such as Nanography ™, environmentally sound printing practices, and automation in commercial printing technology.
  4. More workflow-oriented rather than technology-oriented trends include integrated media campaigns; the future of print books, newspaper printing, and magazine printing; dialogue marketing; and packaging.

On a More Global Level, What Does This Mean?

  1. Print must compete with digital-only media. E-books are creating an ever-larger footprint. Many newspapers are merging the staffs for their digital and print editions and reducing the frequency of print editions to a few issues a week.
  2. However, print (both offset and digital) can do things digital-only media cannot. Textured UV coatings (soft-touch and sandpaper) show that digital-only media cannot provide a tactile experience. And this is still important, on some level, for some printed products, to the vast majority of people.
  3. Print buyers are demanding a faster turn-around for more customized work. Equipment that offers both offset and digital capabilities can accommodate short, variable-data work on a tight deadline.
  4. Buyers, in general, will not accept being “talked at” by advertisers. Increasingly, advertisers are developing ways to interact with prospective buyers, through integrated promotional efforts involving digital and offset printing as well as various forms of social media. Studies are beginning to reflect the synergistic nature of cross media initiatives. For instance, combining a direct mail campaign with a QR code and a PURL can yield a much higher response rate than would a print-only or email-only advertising initiative. Clients want vendors to interact with them. Integrated media serves this purpose.
  5. Packaging isn’t going away. When we enter a grocery store or a computer store, the packaging contributes to the saleability of the products. That said, being able to create one box or 1,000 is becoming important, so digital custom printing technology has been making inroads into packaging work.
  6. Digital printing in general seems to be the wave of the future. Many of the high-end sheetfed digital presses are accommodating larger press sheet sizes (and in so doing are competing head-to-head with offset sheetfed presses). In addition, web-fed inkjet presses are coming into use for newspapers and books. The digital equipment is larger, faster, and better, increasingly rivaling or exceeding the quality of offset lithography.

So here we are. It’s an exciting time. The next drupa will be held in Germany in June 2016. Who knows what will be on display (maybe even some of the new 3D printers).

Custom Printing: Nanography, a Breakthrough Printing Process

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

I recently have been reading about a breakthrough custom printing process that will be unveiled in a few days at Drupa 2012, known as the “worlds largest trade fair for the printing and media industry.”

The process is called Nanography™, and it has sparked considerable interest and enthusiasm since its creator, Benny Landa, also launched the Indigo digital press back in 1993.

Why It’s So Special

Nanography will target the commercial printing, packaging, and publishing markets with its technology, which combines the varaible data management of digital custom printing with the quality and speed of offset printing, for a significantly lower cost per page than prior options could provide.

Here’s What It Involves

The Landa NanoInk™ used in Nanography contains exceptionally small particles of pigment tens of nanometers in size. (To put this in perspective, a human hair is approximately 100,000 nanometers wide.) Because these NanoInk particles absorb light so well, they provide image quality not seen before in digital or offset custom printing. The Nanographic process provides crisp, exceptionally uniform halftone dots, a high-gloss sheen, and an unmatched CMYK color gamut.

But There’s More

Durability: The process yields an extremely durable and abrasion resistant ink surface.

Varied Printing Substrates: Unlike many other digital commercial printing processes, Nanography allows for printing on coated and uncoated press sheets, recycled carton stock, newsprint, and plastic packaging film. Pretreating the substrate with a special coating is unnecessary, and no post-printing drying process is needed.

Cost-Savings: The thickness of the ink film (approximately 500 nanometers) is about half the thickness of a comparable film of offset ink. This significantly reduces the cost of ink for a job. Combined with the elimination of paper pre-treating costs and post-drying costs, the ink savings will add up to a dramatically reduced cost per page.

Eco-Friendly Process: Less ink benefits the environment. Moreover, the water-based process is also more eco-friendly and energy efficient than prior technologies, due to the combined benefit of reduced consumables and increased printing speed. Also, the Nanographic press is much smaller than other digital presses and tiny compared to offset presses.

Nanographic Presses

Landa Nanographic Printing presses are not just small and fast. They also are varied in their configuration. These commercial printing presses can be used with up to eight ink colors and can produce either 600 dpi or 1200 dpi print output.

The presses also come in both web and perfecting sheetfed versions, so in either case the presses can print both sides of the printing sheet simultaneously. And they’re fast: The sheetfed presses run at 11,000 sheets per hour, while the web presses run at up to 200 meters per minute (over 650 feet per minute).

What Kind of Custom Printing Work Will Reap the Benefits?

Due to the variety of press configurations (i.e., both sheetfed and web), Nanography should make inroads into all areas of custom printing, particularly general commercial work, books and magazines, direct mail work, carton printing, flexible packaging, and labels.

Due to the color fidelity, Nanography should even be appropriate for such aesthetically demanding work as food and cosmetics marketing.

Why Nanography Is Important

  1. One of the reasons electronic and social media have taken a foothold is price. It costs almost nothing to reproduce and distribute an electronic book relative to the cost of a print book. A new process, such as Nanography, that increases printing efficiency and quality while reducing costs holds great promise.
  2. A second reason e-books have taken a foothold is their speed to market. Nanographic presses can compete better with digital media because these custom printing presses are fast.
  3. Since Nanography is a digital, inkjet process, Nanographic presses can produce infinitely variable print pages, allowing for mass customization of printed products.

Why I Believe What I’ve Been Reading About Nanography

The short answer is the Indigo. I have found no better digital press. As a printing broker, I send more and more of my clients’ jobs to commercial printing vendors with Indigo equipment. Without question, Indigo rivals the color fidelity of offset. And if Benny Landa created the Indigo, I can’t wait to see how Nanography will change the custom printing industry.

Magazine Printing: Redesigning a Periodical

Friday, April 13th, 2012

A colleague of mine recently received the task of redesigning a magazine for a defense firm. She asked how I would approach this custom printing job.

General Approach to a Visual Make-over

I listed three starting points that I would use if I had just received such an assignment:

  1. I’d consider the goals, mission statement, and overall character of the organization. The redesigned publication should visually reflect all of these, consistently expressing them through all design elements, from typefaces to color usage to design grid to placement of white space.
  2. I’d compare the publication to a selection of current printed and online marketing materials from the organization (brochure printing samples, print posters, print catalogs, etc.). The redesigned publication should either complement these materials, or the other publications should also be redesigned to reflect the new visual identity.
  3. Finally, I’d compare the redesigned magazine to other marketing collateral from competing organizations. The redesigned periodical should conform to the general “look” of the custom printing work from other industry leaders, but it should also stand out in some distinctive way.

Specific Design Elements to Consider

Design comprises a set of tools, or building blocks, including type faces (serif or sans serif, old style or modern), type sizes (contrasts between body type and headline type), the design grid (the number of columns, and their relative size and placement), images, color choice and placement, use of white space, and so forth.

These tools work together to give a tone or mood to the design and to move the reader’s eye around the page spread, from the more important elements to the less important ones.

A Critique of the Initial Publication

When my colleague showed me a sample from the magazine printing run that immediately preceded the redesign, this is what I saw:

  1. The cover included a relatively small headline, the company logo, and a collage of photos. All of the photos held equal weight visually. It was impossible to identify the most or least important photo in the collage. There was no focal point on the cover.
  2. Inside the magazine, there were justified columns of type separated by vertical rules, with multiple screens, color bars, and photos scattered everywhere: a huge number of design elements. There was almost no unused space, and the overall experience was claustrophobic. Many of the design elements seemed to have no purpose other than a decorative one.

What I Told My Colleague

I made these suggestions to help my colleague approach the redesign of the publication.

  1. Choose a visual focus, particularly for the cover. Decide how the reader should navigate through the page. What should he or she look at first, second, third?
  2. Choose one page spread, and simplify the design elements within that one page spread. Take out anything that does not directly support the visual (and editorial) goals.
  3. Choose one typeface for the headlines (perhaps a sans serif, given the crisp, technical air of the defense industry content), and then choose a complementary typeface for the text copy (perhaps a serif face for legibility). Take out the vertical rule lines between columns of type, and make the text ragged right. This is easier to read, and it will provide more white space, giving a looser and less claustrophobic look to the magazine.
  4. Include more white space in general. It gives the reader’s eye a resting point, and it helps lead him or her through the content, from more important elements to less important ones.
  5. Choose photos that also direct the reader’s eye through the page spread. For instance, if the subject of a photo is looking off to the right, the reader will do the same. If there is a headline to the right of the photo, the gaze of the person in the photo will encourage the reader to look at the photo first and then the headline.

My Colleague’s First Mock-ups for the Redesign

My colleague showed me mock-ups for a dramatically improved magazine printing design. Here are some elements she included:

  1. The single cover photo was a composite shot of a group of people sitting in a semicircle, all looking at a globe. The title, the futuristic typefaces, the monochromatic color scheme, and the simplicity of the image all reinforced the expansive atmosphere and technological focus my colleague wanted to convey.
  2. Inside the magazine, the consistent typefaces and type sizes immediately reflected the relative importance of all editorial elements. Photos on the table of contents page were grouped (creating a simple, square shape that contained the four images). My client had positioned page numbers for the articles in the bottom right of the four photos, creating visual rhythm through this consistent treatment.
  3. There was significantly more white space than in the initial design of the magazine, which helped group similar elements and set them apart from type and images used in other magazine stories.
  4. Initial caps introduced the articles, immediately attracting the reader’s eye.

Overall, I’d say the redesign was excellent.

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Custom Printing: The Right Tools for the Task at Hand

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

I had two thoughts about printing that I wanted to share. They appear unrelated, yet they both address the appropriateness of custom printing vs. digital communication. And they both, perhaps, are good starting points for future articles.

Printing Can Stay Relevant by Cutting Costs and Increasing Quality and Speed

I’ve been reading a lot lately about new digital inkjet printing equipment development, and new equipment purchases by printing firms. Both areas are actually growing in spite of the rumored death of print.

The manufacturing and purchasing activity includes both grand-format (poster digital printing) inkjet equipment and super-fast web inkjet equipment. More and more wide-format digital printing is showing up on buses and the sides of buildings, while roll-fed digital inkjet presses are being positioned as a boon for transpromotional custom printing work. “Transpromo” is personalized invoice and statement material paired with advertising or promotional copy, which is targeted to the recipient based on demographic and psychographic information. Roll-fed inkjet manufacturers are also actually targeting some inkjet textbook custom printing as well.

The attraction of this new digital printing equipment hinges on its ability to change the content of every printed page while producing high-quality output faster than its offset predecessors.

In order to stay relevant, I think that commercial printing suppliers will need to do things more cheaply. Print will have to cost less. And I think this is happening. The newer digital presses, particularly the roll-fed inkjet presses, can print both sides of a sheet at once (i.e., they can print faster, which translates into cheaper). And each generation of equipment prints more quickly than the last and with higher resolution (i.e., higher quality).

In addition, presses already have closed-loop color correction (electric eye hardware and software that analyze the color on a press sheet and feed that information back into the computer to automatically adjust the color keys and bring any variance in ink flow back to optimal levels). This information can even be saved and “replayed” for subsequent press runs. Standardizing the color information across all aspects of print production (and coordinating the pre-press color data with the on-press color information) reduces makeready times, reduces makeready paper waste, and ostensibly reduces the number of people needed to run the equipment.

All of this translates into lower costs. And since electronic distribution of books, magazines, and newspapers costs very little (no materials costs or shipping costs for paper, no custom printing cost, and no delivery or mailing cost to distribute the material), anything that lowers the overall cost of putting ink on paper will make custom printing a more attractive alternative.

People still want printed materials. I don’t think that will cease. Think back to the advent of the desktop computer and the promise of the “paperless office.” If anything, we have more paper now than before. But cheaper, faster, and higher quality are all goals that are being achieved in digital printing and, I think, these will ensure a place for ink-on-paper.

Printing or Digital: The Environmental Imperative

I’ve also read a lot recently about the environmental issues regarding ink-on-paper vs. e-readers, tablets, and other virtual reading devices.

Clearly protecting the environment is laudable. However, I think the issues are more complex than they seem. Some pro-digital people say that reading print books kills trees, while tablets are the environmentally conscious choice. Perhaps, but manufacturing a digital device leaves a carbon footprint, as does operating it. And discarding a used digital device leaves waste that will certainly outlive the user, while a print book, magazine, or newspaper will quickly decompose in a landfill.

Trees may be cut down to provide paper for print books and magazines, but paper companies go to great lengths to replenish the supply, planting far more trees than they harvest. One could argue that trees forested in this environmentally conscious way are like a crop—like corn—grown, harvested, and grown again. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Forest Stewardship Council, and many other similar initiatives work to ensure responsible management of forests used for paper production (not only in the printing field but also in other fields that consume large amounts of paper products).

In contrast, consider the server farms needed for digital readers (or any computers) to operate. Vast amounts of energy must be generated to run this huge network of computers and storage devices. And even more energy must be expended to cool all the electronic equipment so it does not overheat and fail. All of this creates a carbon footprint as well.

All human activities have consequences, some positive, some negative. And things are seldom as simple as they seem. My personal view, as I read more and more about digital vs. print, is that a more relevant approach would be to determine the most appropriate technology for the specific task at hand.

Commercial Printing: Books and Magazines in the Future

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

I’ve been reading a lot recently about the future of print.

In a Book, It’s All About the Story

In an article by The Sun Daily, the author quotes The Ottawa Citizen: “All the arguments against e-books are about external incidentals—the feel of a book, the crinkle of the pages and so on. None of these things has anything to do with what makes a book worth reading—that it’s a well-written, thoughtful and compelling story.”

Granted, a book’s value arises from its compelling story; however, I think there’s more. I have been aware recently that several print books (as opposed to digital books) I’m currently reading appeal to me in part because their dust jackets are coated with a dull film laminate. I like the way they feel while I am reading them. It is part of the experience. It affects how I feel and therefore how I take in and absorb the information in the print book. I think others may agree.

A Print Book That Beats Its Digital Edition

Another article, this one in Publishers Weekly, describes a book by a Japanese novelist. Entitled 1Q84, this book, according to the article, has “managed to reverse another trend: it has made the book more popular in print than in digital.” More specifically, 1Q84 has sold 75,000 copies in hardcover and 25,000 copies in electronic format as of the date of the Publishers Weekly article.

Clearly, there is something here that people want. In particular, the article describes the design of the cover (the subtle interplay of text and photography) and also refers to a translucent vellum dust jacket. These offer a physical experience that reinforces the effect of the “well-written, thoughtful and compelling story” (to re-quote The Ottawa Citizen). Knopf, the publisher of 1Q84, has acknowledged a desire to make the print book “look beautiful” and “match the tone of the novel itself.”

A digital book may tell an engaging story, but the lack of packaging makes a difference as well. Think about the Mona Lisa without a frame, just a stretched canvas on an easel. The framing brings the viewer’s attention to bear upon the image. Consider also a Cartier watch thrown into a pawn shop case versus the same watch in a high-end jewelry store. For good or ill, people appreciate the trappings. They complement and augment the experience.

Magazine Printing: More New Titles

Here’s another item from a newsletter sent to me by a Midwest printer. It’s a bit old, referring to the first quarter of this year. The title of the article, “More New Magazines in First Quarter,” references MediaFinder, which notes that “54 new titles were launched this year versus only 25 in last year’s first quarter.”

Many of the periodicals I read note that magazine printing and newspaper printing either are being replaced by the Web or will be replaced by the Web. But the aforementioned quote suggests otherwise. More than twice as many new magazine titles were initiated in the first quarter of this year than in the first quarter of last year. Maybe this is a harbinger of an improving economy. Maybe it is a trend.

In my travels I also see a lot of stacks of newspapers and magazines here in Washington, DC, and elsewhere. Most are small tabloids or newsprint booklets. Clearly both are holding their own in niche markets. Maybe there are fewer magazine issues in some cases, but some of these are longer and more elaborate. Sometimes they are even joint ventures, with a print version and an Internet version.

No one has a crystal ball. Things are changing, but that doesn’t mean print is dying—any more than radio died when TV was born.

One Final Thought

One area that will most probably be transformed by digital imaging is school textbooks. High school, college, and graduate students in the not too distant future may carry around a single tablet computer containing all their textbooks loaded in its memory. Not only will they be able to search their electronic books for immediate answers, but they will feel relief in not carrying the weight of multiple physical texts. It’s also cheaper to produce textbooks this way.

When they enter the workforce, these students may be more used to reading on-screen text than we their predecessors have been. We shall see.

Magazine Printing: It’s Always Wise to Have a Back-up Plan

Monday, November 14th, 2011

About seven years ago, when I was a custom printing consultant, I received a crisis call on deadline night. I learned that a tornado had ripped off the roof of the business printing vendor that had already started producing a 64-page weekly issue of the Monday magazine. The printer couldn’t complete the job. It was Friday night at about 8:00 p.m.

The Fallback Plan

I spoke with the magazine publisher and mapped out my suggestions. A second business printing vendor was already producing a much shorter, daily magazine for the company. They wanted more work. They also had sheetfed equipment, in contrast to the printing company responsible for the weekly magazine. I told the publisher that the sheetfed printer was used to impossible deadlines. I also noted that sheetfed printing was of higher quality than web printing, and I suggested that the magazine’s advertisers would like the printed product. Their ads would be of a visibly higher quality.

For the magazine to land on subscribers’ door stoops by Monday morning, a decision had to be made immediately. The publisher concurred with my solution, and I called the plant manager of the sheetfed commercial printing company. I asked him to help. He was pleased by the vote of confidence.

The Execution of the Plan

The publisher’s advertising coordinator sent all electronic ads via FTP to the new business printing vendor. Film-based ads (it was seven years ago) went to the new printer by courier. The magazine editorial department diverted all text pages to the new printer, also via FTP. I had the editorial department send a back-up disk by courier. All of this occurred between 8:00 p.m. and midnight on Friday.

Needless to say, the new commercial printing company stepped up, printed the job through the night, and bound and addressed the magazine in the morning. Mail copies went to the Post Office Saturday afternoon, and the business printing vendor handed off copies for courier delivery on Saturday afternoon as well.

The Aftermath

The magazine cost more to produce. Sheetfed printing almost always costs more than web (roll-fed) printing. But the crispness of the color and the photography, the superior paper, and the fact that the commercial printing company had met all deadlines made everyone happy. To the subscribers, it was as though nothing had happened.

As soon as the contract with the first printer expired, the second printer acquired the new weekly magazine. New pricing structures were addressed, along with new schedules and workflows. The new commercial printing company proved itself beyond a shadow of a doubt. The rest was details. When I tell the story, I like to say that the first printer’s comment, “You’re on your own,” combined with the extraordinary performance of the second printer, created a vacuum that sucked all remaining work out of the web printer and into the new sheetfed printer.

What Can We Learn?

This is an isolated incident that happened to one publisher seven years ago. But it could also happen to you at any time. So it helps to have a back-up plan.

Consider the following:

  • The power could go out at your custom printing vendor’s shop during a deadline. What would you do?
  • The trucks that deliver your magazines could break down. What would you do?
  • A traffic accident could snarl traffic and slow down delivery of your publication. What would you do?

Disaster recovery should be a part of your plan. It is very reasonable to ask your commercial printing company about their disaster plan for a power outage, a hurricane, or a tornado. Do they have a strategic relationship with a comparable custom printing vendor? It is also prudent to either groom a second business printing supplier to take over in an emergency or at least to develop relationships with a number of local printers with similar equipment.

Custom Printing: Adding Marketing Cards to a Magazine or Catalog

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

When you read a magazine or catalog, you’re thinking about content: the message it imparts, the articles, photos, and perhaps even the ads. When the publisher of the magazine looks at an issue, he or she must think about ways to pay for producing the magazine. This funding may include ads other companies have paid to insert in the magazine, but it may also include marketing items for the magazine itself. Subscription offers fall into this category, and there are several ways to add these promotional cards to a print catalog or a magazine.

Bind-in Card

The bind-in card lends itself to either a saddle stitched or perfect bound magazine. Bind-in cards are business postcards printed on a card stock of acceptable thickness to the Post Office, allowing potential subscribers to mail the cards back to the publisher without custom envelopes.

If your magazine is perfect bound, the card will be glued between magazine signatures. If your magazine is saddle stitched, the bind-in card can be stitched either in the center of the book or between signatures. In this case, half of the bind-in card will be visible within a page-spread before the center of the magazine, and half will be visible within a page-spread after the center of the magazine. (That is, the card will have two parts, either a business reply card and an unprinted tag, or two complete business reply cards, one for the front of the magazine and one for the back.)

Blow-in Card

If your magazine is either perfect bound or saddle stitched with a sufficient number of pages to keep the cards from falling out, you can blow in your business reply marketing cards. Finishing equipment at your printer blows the cards randomly between pages during the binding process. If the magazine is not thick enough for the weight of the pages to keep the blow-in cards in place, they will fall out. Unlike bind-in cards, blow-in cards cannot be precisely positioned. If you want the cards to fall between particular pages to complement advertisements, you should choose the bind-in option.

Bangtail

A bangtail is a hybrid. It combines a business reply envelope with an application of some sort. Usually bound into the center spread of the magazine, a bangtail is removed from the staples, and the application form is detached from the envelope prior to its completion and mailing. (You have probably seen a bangtail used in a catalog as an order form.)

Tip-on or Bind-on Cover Wrap

Occasionally you will see a subscription offer printed on an exterior cover wrap (a wrap that goes around the printed cover as though it were an additional cover). Often it is printed on an uncoated card stock.

Printing companies can attach cover wraps to saddle stitched publications using the binding staples holding the magazine together. The wraps can either extend the entire length of the front and back cover, or they can cover only a portion of the magazine. Printing companies can also attach cover wraps to the front cover only, near the bind edge, using fugitive glue (a substance similar to rubber cement).

On a perfect bound magazine, business printing vendors can add a cover wrap using fugitive glue. Since there are no staples with which to affix the cover wrap, printing companies can place a strip of fugitive glue on the front of the magazine cover near the bind edge (for attachment to the front cover only) or on the spine itself if the wrap extends across both the front and back covers.

What makes fugitive glue an ideal substance for such a wrap is its ability to be easily removed. You can peel off the cover wrap, peel the fugitive glue off the wrap, and then complete and mail the business reply card portion of the wrap—all without damaging the card.

Talk with custom printing services you trust to decide which of these options will fill your promotional needs and fit your budget. Catalog printing vendors and magazine printers will be your best sources of information.

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