Printers used to mix ink by hand, walk the
type tight rope of ink and water balance, etch dots, set lead type, and focus on typography. In the past, printing was more about artistic creativity and craftsmanship to render human emotion and reaction.
Today lean manufacturing, process automation, six sigma, just in time inventory, have become the lingua franca. Controlling costs, minimizing waste, and maximizing profits all obviously have a place and a purpose. These tools have had a profound effect on sustaining print businesses during the recent economic ups and downs. In many cases, it has been the difference between steering the rudder in turbulent seas or simply being lost at sea.
The printers who remain, for the most part, are working from the same playbook. If everyone has roughly the same manufacturing capabilities, then pricing pressures increase while margins decrease. It is a zero sum game.
The problem is that the industry has spent years adopting technology to increase automation and thus reduce creative, critical thinking. All of the artistic skill sets originally needed in the industry have been replaced by button pushes and mouse clicks. This cycle has created a rulebook for automatons to follow that has stifled creativity. Thinkers wanted, robots need not apply.
The value of print is not in simple four color process. This type of application can readily be consumed over the Internet at near zero marginal cost where print cannot compete. The value is in the artistry. Die cutting, folding, metallic ink, foil stamping, embossing, coatings, and other techniques stimulate a tactile and visual response that is uniquely print. These are the print pieces that win awards, capture attention, and create measurable value in today’s media mix. (QR codes and pURLs are still welcome too.)
Maybe now it is time for printing to get back to its roots of craftsmanship and artistry? Lots of small and micro businesses are already rekindling their appreciation for letterpress.
Steps to Bring Back the Artistry
- Ask more questions, particularly of your employees and customers.
- Allow time for experimentation (Google is well noted for offering free time.)
Tell us how you are bringing back the artistry by dropping a comment.
photo credit: Herkie