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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Archive for the ‘Printing’ Category

Commercial Printing: Four Print Jobs, One New Client

Sunday, August 9th, 2020

I recently had the opportunity to provide pricing for four new custom printing jobs for a prospective client. It’s a writers’ organization that provides educational and promotional services. This group was open to my interest as a commercial printing broker since I have produced perfect bound print books for one of theipackager members for almost ten years now.

My Prospective Client’s Printed Products

This particular client has an interesting mix of products:

  1. A twice-yearly catalog. Currently it is 8.5” x 11”, saddle stitched, 40 pages, with a press run of 11,000 copies.
  2. A twice-yearly perfect-bound book of poetry, in 8.5” x 11” format, with a length of 140 pages and a press run of 1,000 copies.
  3. A once-yearly, 80-page, perfect-bound book with a format of 5.8” x 8.3” and a 150-copy press run.
  4. A twice-yearly promotional letter with a #10 envelope, a #9 envelope, and a business reply card (BRC). The press run is 3,000 copies with a match mailing.

The first thing my prospective client asked was whether I could suggest a single printer that could do all of these jobs. I said I thought that would be unlikely (or at least somewhat limiting) for the following reasons:

  1. When I looked closely at the sample catalog, I saw that it had been printed on what looked like a newspaper stock (rough and a bit dingy; that is, the whiteness and brightness of the stock, along with the coarseness of the halftone screens and occasional press roller marks, suggested that it had been printed on a dedicated newspaper press, not a conventional offset press. Most printers that own a newspaper press focus exclusively on groundwood products like newspapers and catalogs.
  2. The book of poetry was easy. Almost any printer could produce this print book, although based on the press run I assumed it would be printed most economically via offset lithography.
  3. The 80-page book would need to be produced via digital custom printing, since it had a press run of only 150 copies. To use offset printing for such a short run would make the unit cost prohibitive.
  4. The promotional letter required a lettershop. A lettershop focuses (often primarily) on producing large volume mailings (3,000 is small) along with inserting services, addressing via inkjet, processing the mail, and entering sorted and metered promotional pieces into the mail stream.

Under the circumstances, my client understood that I could find a better match for the jobs if I found the proper printer for each job (with the best equipment and pricing) rather than looking for a one-stop shop.

How I Approached the Bidding Process

As with anything else in life, the best approach is to break down a complex job into successive logical steps. So that is what I did.

  1. I identified at least two printers I trusted to do each of the four kinds of work. In some cases I chose three, but I also was on a bit of a schedule, so I wanted to get at least something back to my prospective client relatively quickly. I knew I could do more shopping if I could keep my client’s interest (i.e., provide good initial bids and quality samples).
  2. I composed a list of specifications for each job, everything from the finished size and press run to the paper specs and use of color, binding, etc. I sent these to my client for her approval and additions or changes.
  3. I composed a spreadsheet noting the overall price (including shipping) and unit cost for each vendor’s job estimate. I did this so I would have one spreadsheet with which I could determine both a cost comparison and also a comparison of the specifications. (Different printers provided not only different pricing but also slightly different specs on the jobs, and I wanted a way to see exactly how the costs—and what they were based on—compared. That way I could determine what additional information I would need from each vendor.)
  4. I sent an RFQ (request for quotation) to each printer and waited for their response.

What I Received from the Printers

The first thing I found was that one of the newspaper printers I had chosen “no bid” the job. It didn’t fit their schedule or equipment. It is possible that the size of the catalog was a problem (8.5” x 11”), since the other printer offered 8” x 10.75”, full color throughout, saddle stitched, as an alternative.

I knew which newspaper press my client was currently using (she had told me), and I also knew that local newspaper printers were few. Therefore, I chose to accept this printer’s specifications and pricing for my vendor pricing grid.

Depending on my client’s reaction to the price and the format, I knew I could always expand my search. After all, an especially attractive price might induce my client to change the format slightly.

One of the other printers (whom I had worked with for almost twenty years) didn’t respond to my initial RFQ or my follow-up email, so I assumed they were not interested (too much work or other issues). It was unfortunate, since this printer could have produced the offset work (the 1,000-copy poetry book), the promotional letter and mailing, and the digital perfect-bound print book.

A third printer offered especially attractive pricing on the promotional mailing and the digitally printed book, but unfortunately they were high on the offset printed poetry book.

A fourth printer was expensive overall.

A fifth printer that focused exclusively on print books was the low bid for the offset-printed book of poetry. Fortunately they were not just lower but almost half the price of the next lowest bid. My guess was that they did not have to subcontract anything (they had all necessary equipment in house), and since they are in the Midwest, they may also have a lower pricing structure based on their local economy.

Then I updated the spreadsheet.

Next Steps

It is a truism that almost every bid from every printer includes a mistake, an omission from the RFQ, or a substitution, so I went through all bids again and again. Then I went through them again, comparing everything to the original specification sheets my client had approved. Each time I found something else, and so I made a list of questions for each vendor. Some of these had to do with paper substitutions (not a problem as long as the paper specs–such as the brightness, whiteness, opacity, caliper, etc.–matched my requested paper). Other issues had to do with missing specs (including the cost of inserting all elements of the promotional campaign in envelopes, for instance, but not including the cost of address inkjetting).

I sent email lists of questions to each vendor, and again I waited.

Then I incorporated the adjusted specs and/or adjusted pricing into my master spreadsheet, so I could still compare each vendor’s price (overall cost plus unit cost) to the other vendors’ prices. When all was said and done, and when I had checked everything twice more, I wrote to my client. I presented the pricing spreadsheet and a list of specifications the winning bidder had sent me for each job (so my client would see any changes in specs the printer had made before bidding). I also listed the changes I had found plus my reactions to everything (random thoughts, views about each printer’s strengths, response to any changes printers had made to the specs, etc.).

If my client shows interest in the pricing, I plan to have the printers send out printed samples for her to review.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

This is a complex process. That said, it may be a process you yourself must engage in during your work day. Consider the following:

  1. Not all printers will bid on the same specs. Look for changes in size, paper specs, color, cover coating, etc.. Look for any omissions, such as omitted physical proofs or missing shipping costs. Make sure you have composed a detailed, complete specification sheet (review it multiple times) before approaching the printers for the initial bids. Then compare the spec sheet to all estimates multiple times. Remember that your printers will probably provide their own version of your specs in their bids. Also, each printer will list the specs in a slightly different way (different wording as well as—in some cases—specs slightly different from the ones you had submitted for the bid).
  2. Quality is better than quantity. Only get bids from printers you trust completely.
  3. Realize that for specialty work—such as newspapers—your printer may very well change the specs. He may have a newspaper press that prints only certain trim sizes (for tabloid or broadsheet work). So keep an open mind. He may also be able to position full color on only certain pages of a newspaper as well. You may need to sacrifice color and page format for price, or you may choose to pay more (at another vendor) for more options.
  4. Remember that price is only a starting point. It is very important that you like the printed samples and that you feel comfortable interacting (via email and phone) with the printer. After all, you need to know that the final printed product will meet your needs.
  5. If possible, with a new printer, start with a small job and then build up to larger, more complex jobs once you and the vendor trust each other and have a good working relationship.

Infographic: 8 Different Types of Color Printing For Businesses

Friday, August 7th, 2020

color printing

Have you ever come across an eye-catching banner outside a shop? What attracts your attention is not just the content, but the impact of color also. There are various options of color printing services that you can opt for. Banners are some of the most common types of promotional items used by businesses. Billboards can create a significant impact when created with perfection. Ensure that you opt for the right material to create a long-lasting impression. Book covers speak a lot about what they are about, about the authors and how people perceive them. Want to make brochures an identity of your brand? Ensure that they are printed using the finest quality of material. (more…)

Business Card Color Tips for First-Time Businesses

Friday, August 7th, 2020

Business Card

Designing business cards for your company can be fun, but it also involves making many important decisions. While some business owners don’t find the appearance of business cards a priority, it is actually more important than many might think. Not only is what information on the card is vital, but also the colors.

(more…)

Commercial Printing: K&B Rapida 106 X–Offset Printing Is Still Alive

Monday, July 20th, 2020


from https://www.koenig-bauer.com/en/products/sheetfed/sheetfed-offset/medium-format/rapida-106/

I’m always pleased when I see, in an increasingly digital world, that offset commercial printing is still relevant. Interestingly enough, this is because OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are paying attention to their customers’ needs for speed, economy, and quality.

I read a Koenig & Bauer press release this week about the new Rapida 106 X. This is a “high-performance sheetfed offset pres for the medium format 740 x 1060 mm.” (K&B press release, “Koenig & Bauer Introduces the Rapida 106 X for Industrial Printing”). Translated into inches, this is a 29” x 41.73” press, large enough for efficient printing. (Longer multi-page press signatures mean fewer press runs, and larger press sheets allow for more large-format jobs, like flat pocket portfolios before their being folded and glued.)

But it’s not just the press-sheet size that makes the Rapida 106 X special. Here are the benefits that K&B notes in its press release.

Benefits of the K&B Rapida 106 X

“Shorter makeready times—faster into print” (K&B press release, “Koenig & Bauer Introduces the Rapida 106 X for Industrial Printing”). Offset lithography has to compete with digital commercial printing to earn its share of customers. One way to do this is to minimize one of the major drawbacks of offset lithography: the long makeready process. K&B has achieved this goal on the Rapida 106 X. This press can perform “simultaneous plate changes in less than a minute with unbent and process-free plates” (K&B press release, “Koenig & Bauer Introduces the Rapida 106 X for Industrial Printing”). This means that the Rapida can perform parallel, autonomous makeready processes, not only within a job but between jobs, doing the plate changes without operator intervention. All the pressman has to do is monitor the process via the digital interface. If he tried to make these plate changes by hand, it would actually take much longer.

What This Means

The K&B press release uses a 350-sheet job to illustrate the point. Normally, a job this short would go on a digital press (toner-based or inkjet). But what if you need the slightly higher quality of offset lithography? Or maybe you need precise PMS colors instead of 4CP process match colors. You could still do the job efficiently on the Rapida 106 X, even factoring in multiple plate changes (removing the old plates and loading the new ones automatically during the press run).

“Higher speed—even faster in production”
(K&B press release, “Koenig & Bauer Introduces the Rapida 106 X for Industrial Printing”). One of the main benefits of offset lithography is that it’s fast. Once you put the time in up front to set up the process, the 18,000 to 20,000 sheets-per-hour commercial printing speed will outpace even the fastest of the larger-format digital laser or inkjet presses. In this case, the Rapida 106 X will not only print up to 20,000 29” x 41.73” sheets per hour, but it will do this in perfecting mode (printing both sides of the press sheet simultaneously, which usually slows down overall throughput).

What This Means

When you’re perfecting a print job, you don’t have to bring the pile of finished press sheets (printed on one side) around to the front of the press (once the ink has had time to dry) and send all of the sheets back through the press to print the other side of all press sheets (called “backing up” the sheets).

In addition, the digital interface (such as K&B’s Job Optimizer) links all processes (prepress and press functions) based on “technological or press-related considerations” (K&B press release, “Koenig & Bauer Introduces the Rapida 106 X for Industrial Printing”). The press electronically chooses the best workflow (order of jobs based on press form size, sheet size and format, paper weight and surface coating, etc.). According to K&B, this can shorten make-ready times by an additional 30 to 50 percent. Moreover, by closely and instantly tracking all operations, managers can precisely measure the exact cost of all processes.

“Reliable processes—stable in production” (K&B press release, “Koenig & Bauer Introduces the Rapida 106 X for Industrial Printing”). Quality is everything. Speed by itself isn’t good enough. Using cameras (either one for straight-line printing or two for perfecting) on press, the K&B Rapida 106 X can accurately control color, instantaneously and continuously monitor the press sheets, and compare the press sheets with prepress PDF files (via QualiTronic PDFCheck or QualiTronic PDF HighRes). The Rapida 106 X uses QualiTronic ColorControl to read ink densities on every sheet (as opposed to every 10 sheets, or whatever other number had been chosen, as was the case when I was doing press inspections in the 1990s). The software can check the color bars on each sheet and make adjustments every ten sheets. When getting the press “up to color” (i.e., getting the color densities exactly right), the press scans and registers the good sheets and then compares all subsequent sheets to this target. It can scan the sheets at either 100dpi or 290dpi (using additional cameras), so any variance between the press-ready PDFs and the press output can be corrected immediately.

What This Means

When the flaws show up immediately, and the corrections are made automatically, the whole process goes much faster. The K&B Rapida 106 X comes up to color much faster than prior presses, and the number of waste sheets used in the process drops to between 25 and 50 sheets. (And on a completely different note, this process monitoring can be done remotely on a mobile device using the Rapida LiveApps ErgoTronicApp.)

“Less maintenance—more time in production” (K&B press release, “Koenig & Bauer Introduces the Rapida 106 X for Industrial Printing”). Since all performance data is logged in real time, the Rapida 106 X makes maintenance and repair much easier. More specifically, before a repair is scheduled, the log can be accessed remotely (along with photos, videos, and audio files), and many problems can be resolved from a distance.

What This Means

All of this means less downtime. When the press is running, the printer makes more money, and the clients get their jobs on time. Moreover, using artificial intelligence along with camera footage from the press, operators and maintenance engineers can analyze trends and identify faults in the operation in real time, while keeping the presses running.

Why It’s Good That We Still Have Offset Custom Printing

Ultimately, time equals money. If you’re producing a short-run, simple job, you’re going to choose digital commercial printing. This will involve either laser or inkjet technology. The quality level is now extremely high, particularly when compared to what it was when I was an art director in the 1990s.

That said, if you’re producing a long-run print job, then an offset press that can print up to 20,000 sheets per hour (with, perhaps, a 16-page press signature of a book being imaged on each press sheet) is a blessing. The job flies through the press. And the more you print, the less each copy costs. It can’t be beat.

You can also print on a much greater variety of press sheets with a greater variety of press finishes.

Or maybe you want to print a metallic ink. Or maybe you have specific corporate colors that you need to match with PMS inks. Offset lithogaphy is your best choice in both cases.

Finally, as good as digital printing has gotten, in my own humble opinion, the detail and color accuracy of offset lithography just can’t be beat.

So all of the artificial intelligence, camera-monitoring, trend analysis, and automated workflow and plate management additions K&B has introduced to the Rapida 106 X have leveled the playing field, allowing you to choose either offset or digital technology for even a short press run.

5 Best Custom Printing Services to Drive Business Growth 

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Most businesses today are looking at the digital world to provide solutions to gain an edge over the competition. What they do not realize is that custom printing services provide a cost-effective way of promoting a business and in turn drive growth through increased sales. Five of the following services have proved effective for different successful businesses.

Stickers can Promote the Business Brand

Stickers can be a low-cost billboard for a business, but unlike billboards, they are able to move around. If a business is looking for affordable custom printing services that still make a huge impact on their brand, then stickers would be a great option. The stickers however need to be well designed. They can be put on car bumpers so that wherever the cars go, they publicize the business and create awareness.

Brochures can Serve as a Presentation Even in the Absence of a Representative of the Business

A well-designed brochure will contain all the necessary information that a sales representative would use to make a presentation. These brochures can be left in strategic public places where people are likely to have time to read like waiting rooms. The more people a business can have read the brochures, the more presentations the business will be making, eventually, they may see increased inquiries from people who have been reading the brochures, even without a marketing team, brochures can make a significant impact.

Business Cards are Effective Tools for Starting Marketing Conversations

Business cards are often given very little thought and yet they are great conversation starters. A business can use a business card to provide a summarized representation of who they are. if it is catchy, that could be the start of a conversation that can lead to a marketing relationship. What’s more, business cards can be distributed to hundreds, even thousands of people and when those people need the service or product that business provides, they will look for that business card and contact the business.

Branded Gifts Induce top of the Mind Awareness

Top of the mind awareness is how businesses gain leverage over the competition. It may not be enough to simply give gifts and think that it is enough to get people to remember a business. Brand the gifts that you give out to friends, clients, and prospective clients, imagine the impact a branded calendar has on whoever is given one. Every time they turn to the calendar to see the date, they also see the logo of the business as well as contact information. The chances that the individual will call the business when they need their service is much higher than if they do not brand their gifts.

Postcards Add a Personal Touch to Communication with Clients

Direct mail is still an effective marketing tool. Clients can feel more appreciated when they get a personalized postcard. Instead of auto-generated messages of major holidays and on the birthday of a client, send them a personalized postcard. This can cement a relationship and ensure customer loyalty.

In Conclusion

There are hundreds of ways custom printing can be used to grow a business. With the right designs and branding techniques, this can help a business grow significantly.

Plethora of Custom Printing Companies For Your Business

Friday, June 26th, 2020

There are different ways to start off getting custom prints from a printing company. An acceptable way of dealing these days is to ask for quotes from different printing companies in the world. However, instead of you spending too much time, it is best if a single company acts as the intermediary between you and the print company. In other words, let the intermediary ‘Google’ the most suitable printing companies for you at the best prices.

You will only get to interact with qualified print companies

Once you start searching on Google, you will realize that there are far too many printing companies out there, which would be many times over the number you may have imagined. It is the job of the intermediary to shortlist the custom printing companies that are most suitable as per your requirement.

Any image that you want can be printed on a surface of your choice, and this is known as a custom print. Whenever you place an order for such a print, it will always be prepared exclusively for you. An average of 3-5 business days is required to complete these prints, on an average.

Printing services should focus on trending products

A lot of work is being done in order to keep businesses relevant during the current COVID-19 crisis. It would be great if reputed printing companies start considering the print of other products as well, other than books, magazines and the like. At this time, many people would be really interested in buying custom T-shirts for different fund-raising events. If you are providing groceries, as an example, you may require signages, which in turn will require printing services. In the current crisis, if you ask for various COVID utilities to be printed, these might incur high charges.

Get brochures printed to promote your business

A brochure is an example of a custom print since it will not be used by any other company. You can make your brand really popular amongst your clients by giving them well-designed and printed brochures. No matter how much the digital medium grows, print brochures will always an impact on any customer. The use of colors in your brochure will impart a sense of professionalism to your company or institution. In fact, there are a number of brochure printing companies willing to take up such a job.

It is a great idea to have high resolution images in your brochure, as high quality and range of services will certainly impress clients about your company. At the same time, the logo on the brochure must be prominent but not too big. It would also be a good idea to put in pictures of your team, just to show the human side of your company.

To get a print done, all you need to do is a place a request with a reputed printing intermediary that acts as a middle man between the printing company and you. A variety of shortlisted printing companies will then send you their samples and price quotes, based on which you can select the most suitable one.

4 Things To Remember When Hiring A Printing Service Provider

Friday, June 19th, 2020

Are you in search of a printing services provider for printing your magazine? To ensure that you get a satisfactory quality of service, you will need to choose one of the best magazine printing companies. First and foremost, identify the service that you need. Figure out the exact type of service you require before hiring a company. All printing companies do not require the same companies.

Check the quality of material that the company is using. Ask them to provide you with some samples. Search for a company that offers a satisfactory quality of customer service. The firm you hire should address your concerns related to the project and ensure that it is completed according to your specifications. Keep the cost factor in mind. Ensure that the organization you hire offers a high value of service that justifies their service charge.

4 Advantages of Hiring A Professional Printing Service Provider

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

Do you need professional assistance to publish a book? If you do, then you should look for a company that offers thebest online print solution. Online printing service providers offer high-quality printing. Therefore, you can rely on them to ensure that the end product you receive lives up top your expectations. These companies will provide you with options to enhance your project, based on aesthetics. Their layout artists will make your book look more appealing.

The quality of printing material will reflect the image and level of professionalism of your company. So, it is essential to have premium printed materials which you can take pride in. By hiring the services of a reliable company, you can get a large volume of books printed and save a lot of your valuable time.

5 Steps You Should Take to Find the Best Print Company

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

Summary: Here are five things that should be of concern to you when you are looking out for a print company.

From the time Gutenberg invented the first printing machine, there are so many changes that occurred to printing machines. Printing machines did evolve greatly, and they are helping us to get print material much faster with better quality and fewer errors. So many companies are offering print services today than ever before. But, this has created a lot of confusion than good.

If you check online, you will find so many printing services websites. Take some time to pick one that is best among all the options available. You need to check some things before using print services. Not many people know what exactly they need to consider.

Here are some tips or insights to find the best print services:

Visit Their Office: Now, this is one of the first things that you should plan on doing once you identify a printer. You do not have to visit all the printers in the city. Visit only them that have the best name in the market.

Avoid visiting the facilities of print companies that do not have an excellent name. If the facilities are well-kept, it only means they care about quality. Hence, you should take the time to check this aspect. The presentation of the facilities should be of concern to you.

Quality of the Work: You should take the time to check the quality of the work. Get some samples from each of the printing companies that you are planning to use. Go through their work to see if it is upto the mark. If yes, you should plan on taking things further. If not, you should continue to search for the best printing company. You should never skip this step if you have a determination to find the best print company.

The Customer Service: Yes, this is one more thing that should be of concern to you. You should take the time to find a company that provides excellent customer service to their customers. You do not want to work with a company that does not care about your priorities and feelings.

Now, this is the main reason why you should check for companies that try to understand your concerns and problems. A good company will prioritize customer service above everything.

Service They Provide: Yes, you must understand what kind of services a print company is offering. Take the time to check the printing services websites to get an idea of this thing.

A company that has vast experience will provide you with an array of services such as printing brochures, flyers, posters, magazines, and so forth. If the services they are giving is apt for your requirements, you should plan on using their assistance.

Check the Prices: Lastly, you need to take the time to check the prices for each of the services with various print companies. Take the time to understand the market pricing and to compare the costs with other vendors or print companies. Once you have a clear understanding of things, you should proceed forth to award the contract to a print company.

Custom Printing: Two Cool Samples (and Why They’re Cool)

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Every so often I receive a unique printed sample in the mail or pick one up in a mall. Sometimes it’s the folding technique that grabs my attention. Sometimes it’s a particular paper coating or even a unique custom printing technique or substrate material that piques my interest.

Over the last few weeks I have picked up two such samples. First, I’d like to describe them to you and then I want to explain why I think they are noteworthy. Why? If you design anything that is printed, then it helps to understand the strengths of print vs. online communication. Then you can ensure that your design work stands out from the crowd, because you will be playing to the strengths of this tactile medium.

The Chapbook

One of my clients is a husband-and-wife publishing team. They produce print books of fiction and poetry, and as such they have many other friends and colleagues who also publish books of this kind. Most of their readers are middle aged and above, so they have grown up with physical print books, and they appreciate their physical nature.

The particular print sample of which I speak is a “chapbook,” a small book of literature with a simple design, created to be shared with other poets and writers. This particular book is 4” x 6” in format, 80 pages in length, with almost nothing but text inside (black text only), with a 4-color cover coated with a matte film laminate, and perfect bound.

The cover has as its main visual motif a sculpture of a man with thumbs in his ears, wiggling his open fingers. He looks like a child, double-dog-daring someone to approach. (He also looks a bit like a moose, since the hands with outstretched fingers also look like moose’s horns.) According to the editor of this anthology about reading poetry in front of groups, the image may be of Syrophoenician origin. Apparently the statue recently sold at Sotheby’s. The open-fingered hand motif is reproduced in the text of the book, twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of the print book (sort of like bookends).

The typeface for the text is a simple, light sans serif with ample leading, justified. Because of the ample leading, I don’t mind that the single column of text is justified. It is still easy to read. The title of the book and the titles of the essays in the text are set in some variant of American Typewriter or Courier, with the letterforms slightly filled in, just like type from a typewriter.

The statue on the cover, unabashedly challenging the reader, is printed in full color over splashes of bright yellow, turquoise, and burnt sienna.

Why This Works / Why It’s Noteworthy

Here are some thoughts:

  1. The small format makes the book stand out in a world where most print books are closer to 6” x 9”.
  2. Although the book is small, the statue on the cover faces the reader and challenges him, much like David challenged Golliath. That said, there is an element of humor in the image (the “Na, na, na, na, nah” challenge set against the psychedelic colors and the distressed typewriter type). Humor sells because it puts the reader at ease.
  3. The matte film laminate is easy on the eyes in a world where many, if not the majority of, books have mirror-bright gloss cover coatings. So this one stands out, and it also feels good in the hands—not just because the book is so small but because of the soft-touch coating.
  4. The design is simple, and it reflects the contents. The book is an anthology of short essays about reading one’s poetry in front of groups. So it is fitting to have the typeface for the essay titles in what looks like typewriter type. Even though the grunge factor of the somewhat filled-in letterforms detracts from readability, all use of this typeface is for a few words here and a few words there. So you get the humor and irony, but you can still read the words.
  5. The book is a tactile experience, particularly because of the cover coating. You can’t simulate this on the Internet. You need a physical print book.

The Flexible Vase

As noted above, humor does sell. My fiancee and I received flowers recently in what would normally be called “flexible packaging.” You’ve seen this in the grocery store. When I grew up, tuna came in a can. Now it comes in a flexible pouch with edge-to-edge marketing text and imagery. And apple sauce used to come in a bottle, just like milk. Now apple sauce often comes in single-use servings in little pouches with quick-release nozzles for pouring out the contents. Again, you can print all over them, edge-to-edge.

So the printed sample in question, the plastic flexible vase for flowers, when opened and laid flat on a table, is in the shape of a very wide vase. It curves in and out at the top like the neck of a vase. It is wider than usual because when filled with water and flowers it becomes more of a cylinder. (At the moment, it is unfilled and flat on the table.)

Except for the top, there is heat welding all the way around, attaching the front of the vase to the back.

What makes this adorable is that on the front and back the printer has reproduced Vincent van Gogh’s “Cafe Terrace at Night.” I just looked closely with a 12-power printer’s loupe, and I didn’t see the rosette pattern of offset lithography, but I did see halftone dots of various sizes. Since inkjet printing uses a spray of minuscule dots, I can only assume this was done on some variant of an electrophotographic digital press (maybe something like an HP Indigo). Perhaps the plastic substrate can take the heat. It seems rigid when flat, so this might have been the technology used. I would think that flexographic printing would contain halftone dots that, like offset printing, would produce a prominent rosette pattern, and I could not see any rosette patterns on this printed bag.

Why This Works / Why It’s Noteworthy

Here are some thoughts:

  1. People still expect flowers to come in a glass or solid plastic vase, even if juice and apple sauce now come in bags. So what makes this unique is that it challenges one’s expectations. The viewer doesn’t expect a flexible vase, so she/he looks again and does a double take. (It’s a little like the Pop Art soft sculptures of the early 1960s.)
  2. People especially don’t expect a famous painting printed on a vase. To me, paintings of the masters suggest “old school” values. So it’s humorous (or at least eye-catching) to see new “flexible-package-printing” technology used to print a famous painting exactly where you’d never expect to see it. This entire product calls attention to itself as the offspring of modern technology, perhaps touched by the old-school sensibilities of Vincent van Gogh.
  3. This could not have been done without current commercial printing technology. In a world that sometimes touts the death of print, that’s gratifying to know.
  4. With digital custom printing now capable of printing on physical objects (direct-to-shape or DTS), plus the ability to print on glass, it will not be long before a digital inkjet press will be able to copy a Vincent van Gogh painting onto a glass vase (perhaps with UV inks). Then again, since they can already print directly onto the surface of a football, maybe it’s already possible to print a van Gogh on a rigid glass vase.
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