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Printing Industry Exchange ( 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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Custom Printing: Infographic Shows “Print Is Everywhere”

January 16th, 2017

Posted in Infographics | Comments »

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: 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.)

Posted in Infographics | Comments »

Book Printing: Checking the Final, Delivered Print Job

January 9th, 2017

Posted in Book Printing | Comments »

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.

Posted in Book Printing | Comments »

Custom Printing: Digital Signs, Posters, and NFC Chips

January 2nd, 2017

Posted in Digital Printing | Comments »

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.

Posted in Digital Printing | Comments »

Custom Printing: Consider the Cost of Digital vs. Offset

December 26th, 2016

Posted in Digital Printing | Comments Off

I had a conversation today with the director of operations and the sales manager at a local printer. We discussed options for a digital print job for a print brokering client of mine.

A client had requested pricing for 500 copies of a full-color, 488-page print book. She had specifically asked for offset printing, assuming that the quality would be superior to that of the same job printed digitally on an HP Indigo press.

The director of operations at the printer had noted that he’d be pleased to take the (approximately) $30,000.00 (his “off-the-cuff” guess) required to print the job via offset lithography, but he wanted to remind me that the digital option was closer to $10,000.00 (again, his initial guess), and the quality of the final print book would be just as good.

A Momentary Discourse on Price

To be fair, this $30,000.00 price for offset printing is very high. It is only one price from one vendor, reflecting his particular equipment (sheetfed offset presses) and his print shop’s pricing structure. I had bid this job out to a number of other printers, some with web-fed offset presses and some with sheetfed offset presses. For shorter-run options, I had also requested prices for digital printing.

In various options addressed over almost a year’s time, the press run for this job ranged from 500 copies to 10,000 copies.

Pricing for offset-printed versions of the same job never came in below $18,000.00 for 1,000 copies. This low price was for a job printed via offset lithography on a full-size heatset web press. Pricing for sheetfed offset lithography was higher. And again, the “off-the-top-of-the-head” pricing from the director of operations noted above was high at $30,000.00. His presses were all sheetfed offset presses. So the overall collection of estimates from all printers did have a surprisingly large range.

(On another note, two of the web-fed offset vendors would not print fewer than 1,000 copies via offset lithography. But assuming the cost for the 1,000-copy range, and factoring in the percentage of the total cost that would be attributable to make-ready, I would assume no less than a $16,000.00 or $17,000.00 approximate price for 500 copies printed via web-fed offset lithography–from most other vendors. And, to reiterate, the greater portion of this amount would be for set-up costs.)

Why Is It So Expensive?

First of all, the issues related to this print book would be equally relevant if the job were a magazine, a booklet, or any other signature work (4, 8, 16, or 32 pages laid out on a press sheet, printed, and then folded and trimmed into a bindable stack of consecutive pages).

In this particular case what had driven the cost up was the “full-color throughout” specification. Each of the four plates (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) would be necessary for all 488 pages plus cover. Even if the book signatures were 16-page forms (with eight pages on either side of the press sheet), there would be more than 30 press runs comprising the 488 pages (actually 30 16-page signatures plus one 8-page signature, with four plates each).

This would involve a huge amount of plate-making and press wash-ups. That’s why the director of operations at the printer I spoke with had floated an initial ballpark estimate of $30,000.00. For a press run of 40,000 copies, this (or even more) might be worth it. (After all, the high price would be spread out over a substantially longer press run, yielding a lower cost per copy.) But for 500 copies, the price was staggering. And it was due to the plate-making and plate-handling expenses.

Options to Reduce the Price

During our phone conversation, the printer’s director of operations and sales manager suggested that we go back to the HP Indigo digital option with 4-color throughout the book. (To initially keep prices low, we had included only 60 pages of color. Many of the pages my client had designed to be black with a highlight color of blue had become black only.) My client liked the 4-color-throughout option, and she now had new funding for her project, which is why the budget for the print book had expanded.

The discussion with the printer’s director of operations and sales manager yielded the following options for me to share with my client:

  1. Printing the entire job via offset lithography with 4-color ink throughout
  2. Printing the entire job digitally on the HP Indigo with 4-color ink throughout
  3. Printing the cover via offset lithography and printing the text digitally

To this we would add an option for a soft-touch laminate on the cover. This would make the print book feel good in the reader’s hands, which is why someone would choose a print version rather than a digital version of this book in the first place.

I did, however, note that my client’s request for 4-color offset printing prices reflected her assumption that digital printing was of a lesser quality. So the printer offered to send me samples of the same job printed digitally on the HP Indigo and also via offset lithography on a traditional press. He believed this would convince my client that no quality would be lost in choosing the digital option.

(To put this in perspective, if the initial guess by the printer’s director of operations holds true, and the job estimate is for $10,000.00, the unit cost would be $20.00. Digital pricing from other vendors have ranged from $19.00 to $34.00 per book for a 500-copy press run. Ironically the highest price came from a popular online vendor. Again, ironically, another printer would charge closer to $26.00 per book for a digital version—and, based on this printer’s specific digital press, I think it would be of lower quality than the Indigo-printed job.)

How About Larger Offset Presses and Automated Plate Hanging?

Some printers do have much larger offset presses. This means that instead of 16-page press signatures, some printers can produce 32-page or larger signatures. This means a 488-page book can be produced with fewer press runs. In addition, newer offset presses have incorporated increased automation into the workflow. This includes automated, closed-loop color control and automated plate hanging. Such improvements have made short-run offset printing more competitive with digital printing.

What We Can Learn from this Case Study

This case study offers a wealth of information:

  1. Consider the press run when deciding on digital printing vs. offset printing. In this case a 500-copy, 488-page book was more appropriate for digital printing due to its short press run, high page count, and extensive 4-color ink coverage.
  2. Choose a printer who actively makes suggestions to give you the best product for the best price. This particular printer acted as a consultant and partner, making suggestions to help my client.
  3. Get samples. Nothing will convince my client that her print book will look just as good produced digitally as seeing a sample job printed both digitally and via offset lithography.
  4. Exploit the benefits of the technology you select. For instance, there will be an oversized, folded insert in the print book. In a digitally produced product, the insert can be placed anywhere (it will need to go between pages 18 and 19 to be ideally placed relative to the text). On an offset press it might not be possible to easily place an insert here. It might not fall between press signatures. More specifically, on an offset press you print 4-page, 8-page, 16-page, or 32-page signatures, but on a digital press you can print and bind in increments of only two pages. This is a benefit of digital printing. It’s wise to take advantage of it.
  5. Not all digital presses are of this high quality, but there are more and more out there. I used to only like the HP Indigo press. Now the Kodak NexPress and some other digital presses are matching or exceeding offset print quality. But to be safe, always request printed samples.
  6. Remember this approach is prudent for all signature work, including magazines, books, or any other multi-page job.
  7. There is a sweet spot (an ideal combination of color, page count, and press run) for economical and efficient digital, web-fed offset, and sheet-fed offset work. Ask your printer what he thinks would be appropriate for your particular job.
  8. New automation of offset presses is worth watching closely. This includes automated color control, automated plate hanging, etc. Such improvements will reduce costs (and probably also printing prices), making offset lithography more competitive with digital printing for shorter press-runs.

Posted in Digital Printing | Comments Off

Large Format Printing: A Standee Light Box Case Study

December 19th, 2016

Posted in Large-Format Printing | Comments Off

My fiancee and I received a request from our California broker yesterday to install a lightbox standee in a local movie theater. The movie the standee promoted was Fifty Shades Darker, the next film in the Fifty Shades of Grey series.

To give you an idea of what a lightbox standee is, picture a cardboard rectangular box, taller than a soda vending machine as well as a bit wider. It is black, with a transparent graphic panel on the front and a light source within. The goal is to backlight the graphic image. As with a computer monitor, this backlighting gives the graphic image incredibly vivid colors. In addition, the whole box stands out from among the surrounding movie standees because it has a light source and is therefore brighter than the other standees, even the larger ones (called “theatrical standees”).

To add drama to the aforementioned description, the image on the lightbox is of Christian Grey holding a lace carnival mask over Anastasia Steele’s face and eyes. Everything else on the graphic panel is typography, promoting the film and providing marketing and film-opening information.

On a Deeper Level

It seems simple enough: an especially large format print poster, similar to the smaller “one-sheets” (posters with one image on the front and a reverse of the image on the back of the poster to intensify the colors when the poster is illuminated in a lightbox).

As my fiancee and I assembled the large format print lightbox standee, I thought about the benefits of such a standee for marketing purposes, about how such a structure fits into the “functional printing” category of commercial printing, and about exactly how the product was produced.

From a Marketing Perspective

I mentioned earlier just how dramatic a backlit standee can be. Many standees actually have their own light source, in my experience, but often these are just rows of LEDs, which highlight the three-dimensional image but don’t dramatically illuminate it. These are decorative, whereas a lightbox turns an image from “reflective” art into “transmissive art.”

To explain these two terms, think of a photographic slide, which in graphic arts terminology is called a transparency. Light from behind creates the image, much as an image is created on your cellphone, desktop computer or tablet screen, or your television. Since these images are created by transmitted light, the colors are brighter and the color gamut (number of reproducible colors) is larger than that of a printed poster. In contrast, a poster can only be seen when illuminated by reflected light coming from the front of the poster. For instance, in the movie theater lobby, a large format print banner is visible because of the ambient light.

From a marketing perspective, this makes for highly dramatic backlit images on lightboxes. When paired with a good design, this kind of display option enhances the marketing effect. In the case of Fifty Shades Darker, the simplicity of the graphic image, along with the focus on Anastasia’s face, benefits from the backlighting. The light makes her face “glow.” On a purely functional level, this is because there is only a thin film of bright, transparent ink (presumably inkjet ink) on the clear acetate base, in the area of her face, so the five banks of fluorescent light inside the cardboard lightbox structure come through this portion of the graphic in full intensity, drawing the viewer’s eyes magnetically to Anastasia’s face.

So from a marketing perspective, this clearly works. It will distract passersby from all of the other standees, presumably selling tickets (or at least sparking interest in the movie).

From a Functional Printing Perspective

“Functional printing” is all about physical products that include ink or toner on a substrate. Your car dashboard with its knobs and buttons is functional printing. So are elevator panels and computer keyboards. And so is an inkjet printed circuit board imaged with inks that can transmit an electric charge.

Functional printing involves the physical properties of an object, in this case a promotional lightbox. The box is an object in space. When you assemble one, you first build the back, walls, top, and bottom to create a “trough” that is larger than a bathtub made out of cardboard. The paper walls fold back over themselves to strengthen the paper board, and everything is held together with die cut tabs inserted in die cut slots (all prepared on a special die cutting press).

A separate unit, which is a scored and die cut piece of white cardboard, has holes for wires, which come out of 12” fluorescent tubes that are attached to the backing board with die cut cardboard clamps. When the fluorescent lights have been attached to the board, the white cardboard light panel is lowered into the exterior “trough” to which it is then attached with screws. At this point, the only commercial printing is the flexographic black ink laid down over all of the exterior panels of the lightbox, plus the white printed on the front of the light panel. The black draws the viewer’s attention away from the exterior of the lightbox, and the white background of the light panel enhances the reflected fluorescent light within the box (i.e., behind the transparent graphic panel covering the front of the box).

The transparent graphic panel is then screwed onto the exterior perimeter of the lightbox (like a swimming pool cover is stretched over a pool at the end of the season).

What made this particular lightbox standee interesting is that instead of printing white ink on the back of the printed graphic panel (of Christian an Anastasia), the standee creator had included a white plexiglass panel to position between the light and the graphic panel in order to diffuse the light.

(If you look at the back of a backlit display image in a cosmetics counter lightbox in a department store, you’ll see that the artwork of the model is printed on plexiglass or other thick plastic, and there is an opaque white film over the side of the image facing the light source. This diffuses the light so it will be of even brightness over the entirety of the graphic image. Without such a barrier, you would see brighter light–or brighter imagery–in those areas of the graphic panel immediately covering one of the illumination lamps. Diffusing the light with a backing of white ink behind the graphic image avoids that problem.)

In the case of the lightbox standee, the transparency (the large graphic image of Christian and Anastasia) had been printed on a thin sheet of plastic. My fiancee and I had to sandwich the additional sheet of thick, frosted white plastic between the cardboard lightbox frame we had just assembled and the thin, transparent graphic panel. We did this, and then we screwed the graphic onto the lightbox assembly with nuts and bolts. (In fact, due to the weight of the graphic panel and the plastic diffusion sheet, we had to first put several screws in strategic places around the perimeter of the lightbox to suspend the heavy plastic image evenly, and then fill in the remaining screws. It was not easy.)

However, once we had folded the exterior flexographic printed panels over the backing paper and plugged the lights into the wall socket, the overall effect was profound.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

I think the take-away from this case study is threefold:

  1. Commercial printing extends far beyond flat brochures, annual reports, and posters. In many cases printed press sheets are converted into three dimensional objects. These include product packaging and movie standees. In these instances, if you look closely, you can see the finishing operations of scoring, folding, pattern gluing, and die cutting. When you’re designing such a promotional piece as a movie standee, you have to think in terms of creating a physical object. You also have to think about the weight of the product (how the graphic panels will hang on the lightbox, for instance, and whether they will be too heavy to be supported by the cardboard structure).
  2. You also have to think about printing technologies that fit your purpose. In this particular case, the outside walls of the cardboard structure would have been crushed by the pressure of offset press rollers, so the printer had to use a flexographic press. For the transparent graphic panel, presumably the plastic sheet would not have gone through an offset press without shifting, so my assumption is that the printer had used large format print inkjet technology to produce the transparent graphic panel.
  3. In spite of the limitations inherent in creating a physical product, the overall effect has to be stunning. In the case of this lightbox movie standee, the designer and printer used two printing technologies, a lot of die cut cardboard, and lighting materials from the hardware store to promote a fantasy and create an image that captivated the viewer.

Posted in Large-Format Printing | Comments Off

Custom Printing: A Primer on Corrugated Boxes

December 8th, 2016

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A client of mine is printing a 6” x 9” perfect-bound textbook with a press run of 3,000. But this article isn’t about her print book. It’s about the cartons in which her books will ship.

It’s easy to forget that the finest custom printing job (whether books, brochures, or whatever) is useless until you get it into the hands of your clients—in pristine condition. Thus, the cardboard box that contains your job and protects it in transit is an especially important component of the entire job.

My Client’s Boxes

Most boxes are a standard size. Whatever that standard size may be (there are a lot of options), it is usually still larger than my client’s boxes need to be. She needs each carton to contain 20 of the 6” x 9” textbooks, and she would like to have descriptive information (the title of the print books, a tagline, an address, and the number of books the cartons contain) printed right on the box—not on a label.

Last year there wasn’t time for the box printing, so she had to make do with self-stick litho labels. They looked ok, but they were not as attractive as information imprinted directly on the cartons.

Why is this important? Because the first thing my client’s clients will see will be the cartons, not the print books. And as a consultant once told me when I was an art director, “Everything that a company sends out is an advertisement for the company.” Back then it was a novel concept. Now it is a concept I live by. And my client lives by it, too. So the guiding rule is that the boxes are advertisements for my client’s company, and they have to look good.

So far, so good. But when the deadline arrived, my client still needed a number of supervisor approvals, and so the art file for the box imprint started to get a little late. I was concerned. Here’s why:

Specialized Work

Cardboard boxes need to be printed and then converted. They can be screen printed. They can be printed via flexography (for simpler art), using rubber printing plates and water-based ink. Or they can have offset litho-printed liners glued to the fluted, interior ribs of the corrugated board. The last option is the most expensive (and it provides the highest quality of printing).

After the flat corrugated board has been printed, it has to be diecut, folded, and glued. At this point the carton printing run exists as flat carton blanks that are strapped together and shipped. Once delivered, the flat cartons can be opened and folded into final boxes by the user. (Imagine the boxes you buy and then assemble when you move to a new house.)

The problem is that very few companies do this kind of work. In most cases, printers need to subcontract box printing and conversion. It’s harder to control subcontracted work, and it often takes longer than expected. In many cases the carton subcontractor has a backlog of jobs from many other custom printing suppliers.

Tight Schedules

In my client’s case, what this means is that printing the entire 6” x 9” textbook run of 3,000 copies will take three weeks, but within this time frame the carton printing and converting will take a full week, or one third of the entire production schedule.

Firm Deadlines

My client needed approvals, so the box art went to the subcontractor a little late. In addition, my client wanted to see a proof. Granted, this is a reasonable request. I would always encourage a client to see a proof. However, a hard-copy proof would have taken extra days for the box converter to ship to my client and for her to return via FedEx. So we opted for a PDF virtual proof.

The proof came via email, but it had to be reviewed and approved. Due to the tight schedule, my client had about forty minutes to get all office-staff approvals she needed. Fortunately she was able to do this. And at the exact close of business that day, I gave the approval to the customer service rep at the printer who was subcontracting the box production. That was too close for comfort.

What would have happened if we hadn’t made the schedule? If the box proof had gone back to the corrugated box manufacturer the next morning, my client might have lost her press slot to another client who had met the quick proof turn-around deadline. My client’s schedule might have been lengthened by a day, two days, maybe more. There’s no way to know. Since many box printing clients skip the proof entirely, then requesting a proof and holding it is a risk.

The Future of Corrugated Boxes

Things are changing in the field. If you read the press about the recent drupa printing trade show in Germany, you’ll see that packaging is a growth industry, and digital printing and converting are improving in leaps and bounds. Even now some vendors are able to inkjet your art right on the box. (The pressure of the offset printing rollers would crush corrugated stock, which is why screen printing and flexography are usually the ways boxes are decorated.) After the inkjet printing step, digital converting can use lasers to crease and cut the cardboard blanks instead of relying on metal dies (rules that take days to manually construct for the die cutting).

What We Can Learn from this Case Study

  1. Box manufacturing takes a long time and requires highly specialized skill. It involves subcontractors that usually require tight proof deadlines. This is not a buyer’s market. So submit your box art early and turn the proofs around immediately.
  2. Read the trade journals and keep abreast of developments in digital printing of corrugated boxes and digital box conversion. It will make your life much easier.
  3. Find out early from your commercial printing vendor whether your corrugated box will require custom work. Even if the price is low, the schedule might be daunting.
  4. Consider labels as an alternative. Your printer can buy standard boxes, and print and apply the labels in his own plant, avoiding any custom work by subcontractors. This may not look as nice, but in a pinch it’s often a good alternative.

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Book Printing: Always Respect Book Print Schedules

December 2nd, 2016

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I am brokering the custom printing for a 272-page, 6” x 9” perfect-bound textbook, printed on 70# opaque text paper with a 12pt UV coated cover. The press run for the print book is 3,000 copies.

Initially, I negotiated a three-week schedule with the printer and my client. The cover of the book would be ready on a Friday, and the text would be ready early the following Monday morning. Three weeks from the initial Friday start date, my client would receive her books.

Once the job had been finalized and awarded to this particular book printer (who was actually among the higher bids, and was chosen primarily on a past record of quality and timely delivery), there was a delay. Both the cover and the text were uploaded to the printer’s website on Monday at close of business. (So the clock really started on Tuesday morning.)

The first thing I did after confirming that the book printer had received all files was to confirm that the slight delay would not jeopardize the three-week printing and delivery schedule. Since this particular printer had in fact successfully met a two-week schedule in prior years, our customer service rep was not worried. However, it was important to have confirmed this.

The printer’s rep delivered text and cover proofs about 48 hours after my client had uploaded the print book art files. This was a quick turn-around. Normally, my client would have shipped the proof back to the printer the following day (a Thursday) for receipt on Friday, but she needed the approval of a supervisor who was away and who would return the next day. My client wanted to return the proofs on Friday for a Monday (8:00 a.m.) delivery. She asked me if this would compromise the schedule.

I checked with the printer’s customer service representative and was told that plating of the files was scheduled for Monday afternoon, so an early Monday receipt of the marked-up proofs along with resubmitted PDF pages (three corrected pages, it turns out) would leave time for corrections, revised PDF proofs, and plating.

What Does All of This Mean?

As mundane as all of this talk of schedules may seem, it illustrates the tight coordination of time and processes within a book printer’s plant. Here are some thoughts:

  1. First of all, your job is not the only one your printer is producing. Therefore, it is extremely important to discuss any changes to the schedule with your customer service rep as soon as possible. If the schedule is tight (for example, prior years’ two-week press schedules for my client’s book had no room for an extra day for proofing), this is doubly important. After all, your book and other clients’ books must all go through the manufacturing process and must all fit in the time allotted based on available equipment and labor.
  2. That said, there is usually a little wiggle room built in. The book printer’s schedule for my client’s job had plating scheduled for a week after submission of final art files. Since my client didn’t need all of this prep time, her late submission of files by a day and her late return of the proof by a day (to allow for her supervisor’s oversight) didn’t break the schedule. In some cases it’s possible to make up time.
  3. Some of the more tightly scheduled vendors might not have been able to hold this schedule. Many of my client’s other estimates were lower, and in some cases these vendors would have had more jobs coming through the pipeline. Even a day’s delay in these cases might have broken the schedule.
  4. If you have a long-standing relationship with a book printer, you are more likely to be able to overcome a delay. That’s not a guarantee, but your vendor wants you to come back with more jobs. So he will usually do whatever is humanly possible to accommodate your scheduling needs.
  5. If things get tight, your printer may be able to send you some advance copies, or a partial shipment. This comes with limits, however. Keep in mind that in addition to vying with other clients for time on press and post-press equipment, you are engaging in multiple complex processes (more so for books than for brochures and other small projects). For example, printing the book has to be done all at once, as does binding and packing the books. You can’t economically produce a portion of the press run and then go back to complete it later.
  6. Your book printer assumes that your final files are accurate. My client was a little late in submitting her files, but she only had three corrected pages (out of 272) that needed to be replaced in the printer’s imposed, press-ready files.
  7. When all else fails and your schedule has been compromised, you may be able to make up time by forgoing hard-copy proofs. In my client’s case, she received the proofs 48 hours after submission of files. The book printer delivered her the hard-copy proofs, and then she returned them via either FedEx or UPS. This added a day. If the schedule had been compromised, there would have been the option of handling all proofing virtually through an online server. This may not have been as precise as a hard-copy proof, but virtual proofing does eliminate any proof-shipping delay since the proofs are transmitted online instantly. In your own print buying work, you can always request a hard-copy proof for color work (like the cover) and then rely on virtual proofing for less critical pages.

Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off

Book Printing: A Book Print-Buying Case Study

November 23rd, 2016

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I’m brokering a print job at the moment for a print buyer who used to be my assistant, long ago. Ironically, I used to design, produce, and buy the printing for this particular print book. What goes around, comes around.

The Print Book Specifications

The product in question is a 272-page perfect-bound textbook, 3000 copies, 6” x 9” format, produced on 70# opaque white uncoated stock with a 12pt cover. Since the front and back covers will print in four-color process ink plus one PMS, and the interior covers (front and back) will print in 4CP ink as well, the cover stock will be a coated-two-side (C2S) sheet. The text prints black only, so the 70# opaque stock will be adequate, if not generous. That is, the 272-page print book will have bulk due to the 70# text sheet (rather than a 60# text sheet, which also would have worked). Since the interior will be on a heavier text paper, it makes sense to print the covers on 12pt (instead of 10pt) stock.

My client initially gave me a page count of 270 pages for the text. This is not divisible by 4, 8, or 16, so the printer needs to add pages to complete the press signature. That makes a complete 272 pages (seventeen 16-page signatures), which is what the five printers to whom I bid out the job used in their print estimates.

I also added to my client’s specifications that three to five divider pages within the text bleed on all sides. In some cases, based on the size of the book (in this case 6” x 9”), the size of the press signature (in this case 16 pages), and the size of the printer’s press, there might not be enough room for the laid-out book pages, the printer’s marks, and the bleeds on a press sheet. To remedy this, a printer might move the book to another, larger press, and this might drive up the price. So I wanted the printers to know about the bleeds before estimating the job.

On the exterior covers, my client had requested a UV coating. Some printers do not have this capability. Instead they have chosen in-line aqueous coating equipment. Others would prefer to laminate the covers. In all cases, I just asked the book printers to be specific if they needed to deviate from the specs.

This was also true about substitutions for the text paper. My client had specified 70# Finch Opaque (or comparable). The printers had different “house” sheets (which would cost less, having been purchased in bulk for numerous clients). So what I did was ask the printers to be specific in their estimates, and I would let my client decide. (One printer bid on Finch, one selected Accent Opaque, and one chose Husky.)

Since I chose five printers located anywhere from the Midwest to the Eastern states, I knew that freight would be a consideration, so I provided the specific ZIP Code for the delivery.

How the Printers Responded

The first thing I noticed was that all printers responded immediately, acknowledging receipt of the specs. Many years ago, when I had my client’s job and was producing this book myself, it was not unusual for book printers to respond within 24 hours rather than immediately. Times have changed. Businesses are lean and hungry.

All bids but one arrived within 24 hours from my submission of specs. One printer’s rep was on vacation but she recovered immediately and actually submitted the low bid.

What I saw immediately was that three of the five bids clustered around an average price of about $13,500 plus freight. All of these were to be produced via sheetfed offset lithography. One bid was about $3,000 lower, but it was to be produced via web-fed offset lithography. (When I shared the prices with my client, I noted that web-fed offset runs the risk of web growth—text pages absorb moisture from the air and grow out beyond the trimmed covers. To pay less, she would have to understand this risk.)

When the final bid came in (from the printer’s rep who had been on vacation), it was about half the high bid. Why (particularly since she didn’t realize it was so low)? Personally, I think it is because the printer is located in a region of the country where prices (and salaries) are particularly low. Fortunately, when I saw the freight charge, I was pleased. It was higher than the rest of the bids from the other printers, but the total cost of printing and delivery was still lower than everybody else’s price.

To complicate matters, my client was on a tight schedule, and paper is not always immediately accessible (it has to be bought from the paper mill under acceptable terms and transported to the printer to be on hand for the press date). Therefore, the web-fed printer’s estimate was only good for a day (for this book printer to meet my client’s tight schedule, my client would need to make a commitment by the next morning; otherwise the paper would not arrive in time).

What We Can Learn From This Case Study

  1. Actually, as a print broker, I’m just like a print buyer (in the eyes of a printer, that is). I have access to information and pricing from multiple vendors, and yet many individual printers have far more knowledge of their own capabilities and pricing and less information about other vendors’ capabilities and costs. So if you are a print buyer, make it your business to know your printers’ specific equipment. Understand what equipment and printing technologies are most appropriate for your particular jobs, and then find a handful of printers that match your needs. Then develop partnerships (not adversarial relationships) with them.
  2. Consider printers located outside your geographical area. But keep in mind that if something goes wrong and you can’t resolve it over the phone, you may want to meet with your printer on-site at his plant. Keep in mind also that freight costs will be higher the farther away your printer is, so you’ll have to compare total costs (manufacturing and freight) to determine whether it’s worth it to go outside your immediate area.
  3. Allowing your printer to substitute paper may yield substantial savings. But make sure you know what paper your printer has included in the bid, and ask for printed samples to be safe.
  4. It’s easy to forget packing and shipping costs. If you need specific packaging (my client needs 20 books per carton), make it known and ask for the cost. To get a freight cost, provide a ZIP Code, a breakdown of all delivery locations, and whether the delivery locations have a loading dock (or are inside office deliveries). Breaking down a skid of books and then moving the cartons up the office elevators to another floor will cost more than a loading dock delivery. Don’t be caught off guard. Specify this early and discuss it with your printers.
  5. Consider the schedule. If you need the book immediately, you may have fewer options, since paper must be found, secured at favorable terms, and shipped before your printer starts the presswork. It’s better to contact your printers early and let them know a job is coming up, even if you don’t yet know exactly when it will be ready.

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Custom Printing: Expanded Ink Sets for Offset Printing

November 14th, 2016

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As Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once said, “The more things change the more they stay the same.”

In the case of custom printing this definitely holds true. I was amused to see (when I was reading “Key Themes at drupa 2016 Bring Industry 4.0 to the Forefront” by Cary Sherburne, 6/27/16, on that “fixed color palette printing” was one of the major trends in commercial printing.

The reason I found it amusing was that I had seen essentially the same (or perhaps similar) technology when I was an art director in the 1990s. Then I thought the concept was intriguing; now I’m pleased to see its return.

The Science Behind Color on Press

When you produce a job on an offset press you have a few options for adding color:

  1. You can add no additional color. That is, you can print the job in black ink only, or with additional screens of black (i.e., gray).
  2. You can print the job using the four process color inks (i.e., cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). By overlaying halftone screens of the four transparent process color inks, you can simulate a large range of hues.
  3. If you cannot quite match your chosen color with a process color build, you can add one or more PMS inks. These are special colors mixed by ink companies or in-house ink specialists. You print a PMS color using one of the inking units on press rather than simulate the color by overlapping transparent screens of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink.

The problem is that you just can’t simulate all of the possible colors within the PMS color gamut using only cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink. If your corporate logo color (for instance) has to be an exact match, you often need to add a PMS color to your CMYK (process color) ink set to make the match. (You can also use an additional “touch plate” of a PMS match color–say a deep blue–to enhance an offset litho reproduction of a fine art piece, or an intensely colored fashion, food, or automotive poster.)

The reason adding additional colors is problematic is that you need a larger press with more inking units (perhaps five or eight units rather than four). And this will raise the commercial printing price of your job.

From the point of view of the printer, shifting a press ink configuration from four colors to 4CP plus additional PMS colors can be time and labor intensive as well, because he will need to wash up the ink units to change the ink configuration. This will take time, so he will lose money (or need to raise his price).

The Idea Behind “Fixed Color Palette Printing”

To remedy these problems, ink companies have been working on expanded color sets—for a long time.

Back in the 1990s when I was an art director, one company I worked with added orange and green to the four process colors and called the result “Hexachrome” (apparently this became a Pantone-trademarked process). Another company had a version of the process they called “high-fidelity color.” Back then, the goal was to create the widest possible color gamut and match the most PMS colors. Saving money on wash-ups seemed to be less of an issue.

Now, according to “Key Themes at drupa 2016 Bring Industry 4.0 to the Forefront” by Cary Sherburne, the technology is back, known as “fixed color palette printing” or “extended gamut printing.” To quote from Sherbourne’s article describing the fixed-color offerings shown at drupa, “Companies including X-Rite Pantone, Esko, Asahi Photoproducts, Kodak, Heidelberg and more shared thoughts and solutions about this process printing technique using up to seven colors (CMYK plus orange, violet and green or blue) that enables more than 90% of Pantone colors to be achieved.”

What This Means: The Implications for Customers and Printers

Here are some thoughts:

  1. First of all, it’s interesting to note that between my experience of Hexachrome or Hi-Fidelity Color in the ’90s and the present moment, we have had a huge improvement in digital custom printing. For many years I have seen inkjet presses with “extended color sets.” That is, in order to expand the number of colors a large-format inkjet press can produce, manufacturers have added light versions of cyan and magenta; different black inks; orange and green; or red, green, and blue inks to the usual cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. In other words, by adding these colors (and creating a seven- or eight-color ink set), inkjet press manufacturers have dramatically enhanced color reproduction capabilities in large-format inkjet presses.
  2. The trend toward bringing this color management technique back to offset lithography and flexography tells me that the more traditional press manufacturers are trying to stay relevant by addressing the customer’s need for more accurate color.
  3. Moreover, a printer running presses with a fixed color palette can avoid extra wash ups and also gang together a number of jobs on press. In the past, with some jobs printing in process colors and other jobs printing in black plus one or more PMS colors, it was usually not possible to lay out a number of different customers’ jobs on the same press sheet. With fixed color palette printing, as long as all customers’ jobs are on the same paper stock (which is conceivable: say a 70# white gloss sheet), the only major determinants as to whether the jobs could be ganged up would be the dimensions of the jobs and the available room on the press sheet.
  4. Custom printing multiple jobs simultaneously and avoiding wash-ups by always using the same inksets will save the printers money and time. Quicker make-readies and ganged jobs will reduce the use of expensive materials, speed up the printing process, and therefore make offset printing more competitive with digital printing for shorter press runs. And for longer print jobs with no personalization, there will be a market demand for which offset lithography and flexography will still be the most cost-effective solutions.

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Commercial Printing: Two Old-School Printing Options

November 7th, 2016

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I had two “Aha!” moments recently about the commercial printing field, and I’d like to share them with you because they reflect the current values of popular culture and the commercial media.

An Actual, Physical, Post-Office-Ready Letter

As a printing broker I’m always looking for new clients, usually by referral because it just works better that way. I was given two names by a former colleague, and after researching their companies, I drafted a letter to send to each describing the services I could offer them.

But when I was ready to send the emails, I couldn’t do it. Their websites had no email contact information. There were just phone numbers. One led to an answering machine, and the other led to a receptionist who didn’t have the potential print buyer’s email address.

I was stumped. What to do next? I considered these two potential clients to be warm leads, since my former colleague had spoken well of both and had said they would be good people for me to know.

Then a lightbulb went off over my head. Send a letter. Of course. A physical, hand-signed print letter. I had the address for both firms. Why not?

What We Can Learn From This “Aha!” Moment

First of all, most people get well over 100 emails a day. I personally do whatever I can to glance at and then delete as many of mine as I can. They all look alike. They all have a subject line that looks the same. I wouldn’t blame my two potential clients for avoiding contact via email.

But a letter is personal, physical, something to hold in your hands.

Those of you who get upwards of 100 emails a day probably do not also get 100 pieces of physical mail in the mailbox. If you’re like me, you at least look briefly at each of the pieces of physical mail that arrive. The more personal they look, the more attention they get. A letter is hand-signed. It’s printed on paper with a pleasing texture and color. It has a presence. It has a duration (it’s permanent, even if it gets wet or torn) unlike the evanescent email.

Think of these things when you need to communicate with someone, even if it is a marketing effort that will reach hundreds or thousands of people:

  1. If you choose a memorable medium for the communication, either letters or print postcards, your message will stand out more than one of the hundreds of emails that reach your potential client’s in-box each day. It will have more impact because it will have less competition.
  2. Making a letter seem more personal involves the paper choice (color and texture). It also involves the weight of the paper (thicker paper gives a message an air or importance, so consider a 70# text stock or thicker, perhaps with a texture or “tooth”).
  3. You can get precanceled stamps through your Post Office. Direct marketers have found that people are more likely to open mail that has a stamp instead of a permit indicia or postage meter mark. It seems more personal. So ask about precanceled stamps.
  4. Signing a marketing letter means there’s a real person behind the machine. It makes the letter more personal, even if you offset print (or digitally print) the signature (I realize this is cheating). You might also consider using more casual, readable, and even “friendly” typefaces for your marketing design.
  5. Finally, consider print postcards as an alternative to letters. The postcard has one advantage over a letter. The recipient doesn’t have to open it. The message is immediately visible.

So if you can’t reach someone through email, and the phone rolls over into voice mail, consider the printed, hand-signed letter or postcard as a viable and perhaps even more personal, direct, and effective option.

Direct-to-T-Shirt Photo Printing

When I first read the term “direct-to-garment” printing in a commercial printing journal, I envisioned inkjet and dye sublimation printing on the clothing of jet-setters, literati, and models. I imagined high-end fashion venues and catwalks.

So when my fiancee and I were strolling on the boardwalk at the beach, I was surprised to see a small t-shirt printing store offering to print photos “directly from your iPhone” onto their t-shirts.

Now this really is a measure of the current zeitgeist (the mood or tone of this particular period in history). It is the marriage of the “selfie” and the t-shirt. Moreover, it reflects the glorification of the amateur photographer. These aren’t professionally shot images of romantic beaches. They are your own photos on your own t-shirts, photos shot by you (maybe even photos of you).

What We Can Learn From This “Aha!” Moment

In sales, they say that to a prospective client nothing is more pleasing to hear than the sound of his or her own name. This is probably true. In this case, we can assume that to a lot of people no image is more pleasing than their own. The coining of the term “selfie,” as well as the proliferation of “selfie sticks” that allow you to hold the camera far enough away from your face to take your own photo, will attest to this.

So if you’re a marketer, keep this in mind. Consider also that people like to wear t-shirts that make a statement. For those who don’t wear suits to work, the t-shirt has become the new “power tie,” an opportunity to make a personal and even political statement about one’s likes, dislikes, values, aspirations, etc.

If you add to this the recent advances in direct-to-garment (DTG) printing, you can basically take the world’s favorite canvas (the t-shirt), use the world’s easiest to master printing press (the inkjet printer), add the world’s favorite image (one’s own face), and make a truly personal statement.

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Printing Industry Exchange, LLC, P.O. Box 2238, Ashburn, Virginia 20146-2238, (703) 729-2268 phone · (703) 729-2268 fax
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