Being a first time attendee to Graph-Expo, I cannot compare the quantity and display size of the 2011 show to those in years past. What I can muse on is the focus of the vendors and the apparent direction of the industry.
As technology becomes an ever more important component of the print/publishing industry, the complexity and variability of the print process becomes more challenging and important. The ability to customize print runs with not only variable text and images but with variable die cuts, page sizes becomes more critical.
The increasing connectivity between each piece of equipment in the production workflow is a major source of investment, complexity and a future source of cost reduction. Being able to have unskilled laborers run equipment that a few years ago required highly skilled trades people is the future of the industry.
Just as computers in the 60s, 70’s and even 80’s were manned by individuals or teams, with expensive educations and high level knowledge, gave way to computers that were in nearly every home and office, the print production workflow looks to be heading in the direction of a smaller, commodity workforce that runs a growing array of equipment without needing high level skills.
The quantity of long, static print runs on large multi-million dollar presses is dwindling down. The future of printing, just like that of all other media, is moving to smaller quantities of highly customized pieces that target an individual or group with a laser like focus on a message that the recipient will respond to.
All of the customization is driven by raw data, the names and preferences of thousands and millions of individuals that marketers and business covet. The future of print will rely more and more on the efficient collection, storage and manipulation of that data, for it is that data that makes a printed piece worth printing.
Print, unlike other media such as TV, Radio, Email, Social Media, etc, has the ability to reach someone without the need for an intervening device such as a TV set, radio, or computer. When someone has a printed piece in their hands they are directly holding the message, they have a tactile connection with the sender and what message the sender is trying to convey.
As I walked through Graph-Expo 2011, one thing stuck out in my mind, the future of print rests on the ability of developers, manufacturers and production houses to create a personal, tangible connection to the person that will consume the final printed piece.
Written by Tom Horn, Production Manager and Jeff Williams, Director of IT
"The importance of new technology is not classified by how advanced the knowledge is, it is dependent upon its accessibility to you and your needs at this very moment."