Archive for the ‘Design and Type’ Category

Bicycle Couriers

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Last November, I spent a night in Northampton, Mass., and no trip to Northampton can be complete without a stop at the Northampton Brewery. One of the specialties at the time was called the Juggernaut IPA, which was very good. (Hoppy? Well, it was rather like having one’s sinuses filled with thousands of tiny, hyperactive nano-rabbits.) I got to thinking about the word “juggernaut”—and well, why not?—which has always been one of my favorite words, if only because of its etymology.

The word means, says Oxford, “A huge, powerful, and overwhelming force or institution,” as in “WhatTheyThink is an industry information juggernaut.” The word comes from the Sanskrit Jagannātha, one of the names of Krishna. There’s a temple to Jagannātha and an annual celebration that comprises a procession of immense chariots. It has been said, apocryphally, that the more enthusiastic of Jagannātha’s devotees would hurl themselves in front of these chariots and be crushed beneath their wheels.

The ritual itself was first described to the West in the 14th century in a book called The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. The thing is, no one has ever been able to prove that there ever was anyone named John Mandeville who made these travels. In any case, a lot of the things “John Mandeville” wrote about were actually made up.

Be that as it may, it took a few centuries to percolate, but by the 19th century, the word juggernaut had come into prominent use. Charlotte Brontë used it in Jane Eyre and Robert Louis Stevenson used it to describe his titular Mr. Hyde (Jane Eyre and Mr. Hyde—now there’s a mashup I’d love to see!).

H.G. Wells wrote this passage in his 1895 novel The Wheels of Chance:

Anon Mr. Hoopdriver found himself riding out of the darkness of non-existence, pedalling Ezekiel’s Wheels across the Weald of Surrey, jolting over the hills and smashing villages in his course, while the other man in brown cursed and swore at him and shouted to stop his career. There was the Putney heath-keeper, too, and the man in drab raging at him. He felt an awful fool, a—what was it?—a juggins, ah!—a Juggernaut.

The Wheels of Chance is a far cry from what Wells is typically known for (Victorian science fiction) and is subtitled “A Bicycling Idyll.” It was written during what was considered to be “the golden age of bicycling,” those halcyon days before the invention of the automobile. The bicycle had just recently come onto the market and took Europe like…well, like a juggernaut. (If you’ve ever walked in New York City, bicycle couriers almost regularly run down pedestrians like those ostensible devotees of Jagannātha.)

The bicycle went through a bit of an evolution before it became commercially successful, but the precursor was something called the “Laufmaschine” (“running machine”), invented circa 1817 by Baron Karl von Drais. It has been suggested (more via circumstantial evidence than anything else) that von Drais was motivated to invent the Laufmaschine because of a climate anomaly. 1816 has been called “The Year Without a Summer”: due to a combination of low sunspot activity and a series of major volcanic eruptions, global temperatures plummeted by as much as 1.7°F. Indeed, in Europe, it snowed in the summer of 1816. This caused agricultural disasters, which led to the starvation and slaughtering of horses, and thus—among other things—a transportation crisis, since at the time everyone pretty much needed horses to get anywhere. Hence the need for something horseless, and the “horseless carriage” was still a ways away.

Von Drais was a flamboyant character and his life later took a few bad turns: he was fired from his day job as a forester as he was deemed “unfit,” and he got embroiled in retribution for a political murder. For a complicated series of reasons, he had to spend much of his later life in exile in Brazil. He died penniless. The Laufmaschine and what it eventually led to were his legacy—even if he didn’t profit from it in his lifetime—but so is one other thing. He also invented the typewriter. Well, okay, a typewriter. Well, yes, okay, not even a typewriter, really, but more of a shorthand or stenography machine. Wikipedia says that it was the first typewriter with a keyboard, but that’s not really true.

Von Drais invented and marketed two typewriter-like devices, a 25-character model in 1821 and a 16-character model in the early1830s. Von Drais used to claim, in good PR fashion, that his device was capable of typing a thousand characters a minute. Wrote typewriter historian Michael Adler in Antique Typewriters:

That kind of flamboyant extravagance was consistent with the inventor’s well-documented character and, if at all credible, must surely be related simply to the maximum number of random marks the machine was physically capable of making using all fingers…and perhaps a few toes, for good measure (Messenger, 2014).

Ouch. Poor Von Drais; even among his contemporaries he was the Rodney Dangerfield of inventors. At an exhibition of his machine in Frankfurt in 1831, one wag described it as “eine mechanishe Narrheit und Alberne Erfindung” (“a mechanical madness and an absurd invention”). Double ouch.

The typewriter as we know it (assuming there are people who still know what a typewriter is!) was invented by Christopher Latham Sholes. Or, to be more exact:

The fifty-second person to invent the typewriter and the first person to call it that, was Christopher Latham Sholes (Romano, 1986).

The dominance of the typewriter for written communication led to a number of typographic conventions that still remain with us—even if they are anachronisms in today’s word processing, desktop, and online publishing worlds. One of my pet peeves is the tendency to put two word spaces after a period. This is said to date from the Age of the Typewriter, but that is not entirely true. Back before any kind of automated typography, if you wanted justified text, you had little recourse but to noodle with word spacing, and typesetters used to routinely add entire en and em spaces after periods. (Today’s desktop publishing programs noodle far more deftly with a combination of word and character spacing to justify text.)

The practice of adding additional space after periods was later adopted by typewriter users when typewriters were only capable of using monospaced typefaces like Courier. With such faces, each character and each word space has exactly the same width, which adversely affects legibility. The two-word-space convention was thus a visual cue to make it clearer that a sentence had ended. CreativePro has a nice essay on this, saying:

It’s a question of balancing the white space bound up in each character with the spaces around them. In addition, a single word space simply lacks the visual impact to cue the reader that a sentence has ended. The punctuation mark alone, in short, isn’t enough to punctuate the texture of the type flow.

Makes perfect sense in retrospect. But, alas, it makes little sense when using a proportional-width typeface like Times.

Monospaced typefaces like Courier (or a similar typeface called, cleverly enough, American Typewriter) are still common; in fact, they’re required for professional playwrights and screenwriters (monospaced typefaces and standard script formats make it easy to gauge timing). Those of us who have done electronic prepress are no doubt intimately familiar with the infamous “Courier substitution,” or what RIPs used to put into page layouts—or on expensive film—when the correct font wasn’t available, although the advent of PDF has largely made the Courier substitution history. (I remember around late 2000 or so I picked up a print edition of my local newspaper, The Saratogian, and on the front page, every headline and photo caption was in Courier. In the Help Wanted ads, I noticed a big ad saying that the paper was looking for a managing editor. I bet.)

Why was Courier almost always the default font? Why not something more appealing or less obtrusive?

Courier was designed by Howard “Bud” Kettler in 1955 and later redrawn by Adrian Frutiger for the IBM Selectric Composer series of electric typewriters. The typeface had been commissioned by IBM, but the company chose not to copyright, trademark, or patent it—unlike other typefaces—so Courier has always been completely royalty-free. Ergo, this is why it has become so ubiquitous and remains so. No one has to pay for it.

Why the name Courier? It was originally called Messenger, but, Kettler once said, “A letter can be just an ordinary messenger, or it can be the courier, which radiates dignity, prestige, and stability.”

I’m not sure that Courier—or even couriers—still radiate those traits, but that was the thinking.

So thanks to IBM’s decision to not patent or copyright the typeface, Courier, for better or worse, has become a typographic juggernaut.



James Felici, “To Double-Space or Not to Double-Space…,” CreativePro, August 24, 2009,

Robert Messenger, “1000 Characters a Minute! The Karl Drais ‘Typewriter,’” OzTypewriter, Australian Typrewriter Museum blog, January 14, 2014,

“Juggernaut,” Oxford Dictionaries,, accessed December 31, 2014.

Frank J. Romano, Machine Writing and Typesetting, (Salem, N.H. 1986), p. 1.

Tom Vanderbilt, “Courier, Dispatched,” Slate, February 20, 2004,

H.G. Wells, The Wheels of Chance: A Bicycling Idyll,

“Courier (Typeface),” Wikipedia,, last modified December 30, 2014, accessed December 31, 2014.

“John Mandeville, Wikipedia,, last modified December 29, 2014, accessed December 31, 2014.

“Juggernaut,” Wikipedia,, last modified December 25, 2014, accessed December 31, 2014.

“Karl Drais,” Wikipedia,, last modified September 16, 2014, accessed December 31, 2014.

“Year Without a Summer,” Wikipedia,, last modified December 2, 2014, accessed December 31, 2014.

It’s More Than Just Price: How To Position Your Service Value

Friday, November 21st, 2014

At the end of the day, price is the elephant in the room. On the business front, it traditionally carries the most weight in any Leadership Team’s decision-making process. We know the budget-savvy CEO will ask herself: why pay extra for a service when it’s offered half price elsewhere? This tends to be the case in many business transactions.

However, other points of value have increasingly entered the conversation: turnaround reliability, industry specific knowledge, creative innovation, etc. If a service provider is able to effectively communicate their multiple points of value, chances are that budget-savvy CEO will pay a little more for the higher quality service. The webinar “Transforming Price into Value for Your Service,” hosted by InfoTrends’ Barb Pellow and sponsored by Canon Solutions America, breaks down how service providers create meaningful conversations in order to achieve long term partnerships with clients. John Smilanich, National Sales Director at First Edge Solutions, expands on Pellow’s overview with concrete examples on how his company has solidified their position as a partner versus vendor. The webinar covers topics including: what buyers want, price versus value delivered, the evolving definition of ‘value’, and how to communicate that value.

Specifically, I found the section on the differences between ‘vendors’ and ‘partners’ to be quite helpful in understanding how to position one’s business goals to a client. As outlined, vendors promote or exchange goods and services for money; however, partners go a step further to participate in a relationship in which each member has equal status regarding a project. Vendors have customers; partners have clients. Vendors provide data, but partners take their provided data and interpret it, analyze it, and make recommendations. Vendors take orders and make sales, where as partners work to build mutually beneficial relationships and to determine why their clients want what they ask for.

Once the service provider has determined what role they want to play, i.e. vendor or partner, it is important to present additional components of value to the service already requested. Helping the client understand these additions in real dollar value can only strengthen the service provider’s position against a competitor’s. As Barb highlights: “Value is now associated with setting up the business model. You now help set up project data bases, manage campaigns, and help execute or market the campaign.” To accomplish this, John suggests to “make it as individual as possible.” By defining your buyers and by defining your niche, you create a knowledge base that down the road surpasses the weighted value of ‘price’.

Not only were Barb and John’s tips helpful in breaking down the price barrier, but their examples, case study references, and self-assessment questions offer tremendous insight on how to increase value proposition. If you’re looking to broaden your communication skills and positioning insight, this is a must see!

Transforming Price into Value for Your Services from Canon Solutions America on Vimeo.

The Right Data and the Right Time

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Fall is here and the holiday season is upon us. For many businesses, this season correlates to the most profitable quarter of the fiscal year. Every year holiday spending numbers continue to grow as buyers become more and more informed on what businesses offer. It’s no coincidence that consumer spending has increased; the proliferation of marketing media—both print and digital—has become more prevalent in the customer experience than ever before. This enhanced customer experience directly equates to an increase ‘buy-in’, producing larger financial returns.

The Canon Solutions America PressGo! webinar, The Right Data at the Right Time, unpacks how this trend has surfaced and offers advice on how to take advantage of the opportunities it presents. InfoTrends’ Lisa Cross discusses the importance of data collection and analysis in the advancement of an enhanced customer experience. Cross defines the customer experience today, explains the value of the right data, and offers tips on how to harness the right data to drive results.

One key take-away Cross highlights early in the webinar surrounds the concept of “me-marketing”. With stark competition vying for consumers’ attention, me-marketing plays an intricate role in appealing to an individual customer’s wants, needs and values. “If you want to get someone’s attention, make it about them,” says Cross. Personalized and targeted messaging creates a stronger line of communication, which in turn fosters a stronger relationship with the individual consumer.

So what kind of data drives me-marketing? Data that quantifies and qualifies consumers’ likes, interests, purchasing behaviors, lifestyle, and so on. Data can be structured, i.e. numbers that fit into a spreadsheet nicely, or unstructured, i.e. text and multimedia data that require extra steps for organization and analysis. It is not difficult to collect these types of data. Rather, the challenge lies in identifying which data have meaning and in deciding how to effectively apply this information to improve returns and advance consumer engagement. According to a recent study, 66% of marketers believe data-driven marketing promotes positive value to companies today. By collecting customer and sales data, marketers are able to consolidate, profile, rate and analyze the information in order to create the most appropriate marketing campaign for their target audience. There are a number of technologies available to achieve data collection and analysis: analytics, infrastructure, open-source, to name a few.

Keeping true to the trends, the print industry as well has entered the data-driven marketing space. Printers are in the mix of providing data services in management and analytics. Not only does the printer provide the means—or channel—of a communications piece, but also the printer is able to actively participate in running the marketing campaign. Clients now partner with print providers for data list acquisition, programming, campaign dashboard creation and response tracking & management. These services are vital towards achieving a client’s marketing goals, and thus, larger returns.

As the trend continues to emerge, it will be interesting to follow how print providers respond to the call for data services. If you want to learn more about data-driven marketing and the challenges in executing personalized campaigns, be sure to check out the full webinar here!


It’s Academic – Scholarly Journals are Big Business

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Digital content platforms attracted financial and strategic buyers last month, as increasingly sophisticated online systems drive information to centralized providers that automate the design, hosting and distribution of content. That content may or may not be printed, and often times will be printed only on-demand as the final consumer sees fit for their needs.

Academic journals caught the interest of private equity investor Accel-KKR, which acquired a majority interest in HighWire Press. HighWire, formerly a venture of Stanford University, has been spun off and launched into the competitive world of PE-backed companies. HighWire provides an open electronic platform for universities and other publishers of scholarly journals to develop and host their academic journals. Long noted for high page counts and short runs, academic journals were a natural and early adopter of online publishing. Notably, there is no actual printing press at HighWire Press and the content managed on its platform is delivered in digital form.

Across the country at another august institution, Princeton University, the ripple effect is being felt, with the announcement last month that the California Princeton Fulfillment Services, publisher and distributor of about 340 books for Princeton University, will be winding down and closing by this time next year. As the investment in digital publishing platforms continues to improve the management and delivery of online content, Princeton University Press has decided to outsource the hosting and fulfillment of publications to Perseus Distribution Services. Perseus boasts its own digital distribution services, linked to short run and print-on-demand partners, as well as over a million square feet for warehousing pre-printed books. The partner in the Princeton operation, The University of California Press, will be moving its digital journal content over to HighWire.

Two trends evident from recent transactions appear unrelated at first, but may in fact be connected, as larger companies invest in sophisticated customer-facing software platforms, and draw business away from the small mom-and-pop shops. Staples, the national chain of office supply retailers, acquired PNI Digital Media, a provider of digital print software that provides easy online ordering of consumer and corporate printed products. This follows on the heels of other recent transactions in the web-to-print space, such as Vistaprint’s acquisition of Pixartprinting last month. Over the past couple months, we have noticed an increase in the number of small local commercial printing and copying centers that filed for liquidation under Chapter 7; we found six that filed in May. This is in addition to an unknown number of small printing company owners that just gave, up, closed the door and walked away without the expense of actually filing bankruptcy. I expect that we’ll see more closures of independent small print/copy shops, driven in part by the increasing ease with which customers can go online and purchase their printing.

The buyer of the Boston Globe and the Telegram & Gazette, acquired last August in the spin-off from The New York Times, sold off the Telegram & Gazette which serves the mid region of Massachusetts. The buyer was Halifax Media, backed by PE firms Stephens Capital Partners and Redding Investments. In a twist of fate, the sale to Halifax brings former corporate cousins back under the same management, since Halifax had previously purchased and still owns the former New York Times Regional Media Group which consists of newspapers primarily located in the southeast US.

In another newspaper industry transaction, the Baltimore Sun Media Group announced that it is acquiring The Annapolis Capital and other local papers in Maryland. The Baltimore Sun Media Group is likely to find itself as the target in the near future, as it is owned by the Tribune Co., which also owns the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times and has announced that it plans to divest its portfolio of newspapers.

Wide format printers were targets in several deals in May, including the acquisition of wide format franchisor Speedpro Imaging in a deal backed by private equity investor Fairfield-Maxwell. The Garvey Group which as we reported in July 2013 acquired the western wide format division of Schawk, continued its growth by acquisition strategy with the purchase of retail display and wide format specialist Troyk Printing located in Franklin, Michigan. Industry behemoth RR Donnelley acquired the relatively tiny True Colors, a wide format shop in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Photo Book

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Back in 1993, I took a series of multimedia courses at New York University, learning programs that no longer exist to develop interactive content for media that became obsolete even before the courses ended (remember the “interactive CD-ROM”?). So it goes.

One of the classes I took taught a program that does actually still exist: the venerable Photoshop. This had been a semester of working with Photoshop 2.5, and literally on the last day of class, the instructor came in waving a CD, saying, “Photoshop 3.0 is out—and everything’s different!” That was my crash course in how ephemeral any working knowledge of software could be.

(I suddenly have a line from a commercial going through my head: “Remember a time when Photoshop didn’t have Layers? Pepperidge Farm remembers…”)

Anyway, I mention this because for a least a decade after that, I used to religiously upgrade Photoshop, back when I was doing more design- and graphics-related work than I do now—that is, more actual print production than just writing about print production. I love the Adobe Creative Suite and still use it for various projects, including the layout of the five books I have written with Dr. Joe Webb, the most recent being—plug plug—This Point Forward, being launched at Dr. Joe’s Graph Expo breakfast on September 30. I haven’t upgraded the Creative Suite since version 5.5, primarily because I really dislike the subscription model of software pricing. At some point, though, I expect whatever computer or device I end up working on will no longer run the Creative Suite versions I currently use and I will then be forced to upgrade to the Creative Cloud (or whatever supplants the Creative Cloud by the time I am ready for it).

“Like it or not, we’re now in the age of rental software,” writes Lesa Snider in the brand-new second edition of Photoshop CC: The Missing Manual, the latest in O’Reilly’s “Missing Manual” series, a review copy of which just arrived on my doorstep.

(“Remember a time when manuals were included with software? Pepperidge Farm remembers…”)

Lesa Snider is perhaps the preeminent Photoshop guru today, and once remarked to me, shortly after a Photoshop Conference in Las Vegas, “What happens in Vegas gets photoshopped out,” a line I wish I had the opportunity to steal more often. I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on Lesa’s Photoshop tutorial sessions at various shows over the years, and I’ve always picked up some new productivity-enhancing—or just plain cool—tips or tricks. Even though my Photoshop needs are fairly modest these days—and I have yet to avail myself of features in the latest version—it’s nice to stay reasonably current and learn new things.

In this day and age, the “computer book” is kind of an endangered species, which is a shame. Now, I admit, when I am working in a program and can’t figure out how to do something, or some “feature” is driving me crazy (yeah, I’m looking at you, PowerPoint), I just Google my question and can usually find an answer pretty quickly. But what this approach lacks—and what a good book boasts—is the ability to inspire creative ideas. No one reads these kinds of books cover-to-cover (at almost 1,000 pages, it’s almost like James Michener’s Photoshop), but even just flipping through at random during idle moments, or searching out specific tasks, it’s easy to come across things that can juice up one’s creativity. And even after all these years, it’s still possible to say, “I didn’t know you could do that in Photoshop.” For example, the new version supports 3D printing.

Photoshop CC: The Missing Manual covers the 2014 release and is an invaluable resource for the old veteran who thinks s/he knows everything there is to know about Photoshop, as well as for newbies who may be working with the program for the first time. It also provides a good rundown of what’s new in the latest version of Photoshop. Lesa also has an informal, often funny, writing style that makes what can often be a dry read quite entertaining.

By the way, if you are in the Boulder area on September 21, Lesa is having a book release party, info here. And remember, if things get out of hand, they can be photoshopped out.

FOLD of the WEEK: Angel Iron Cross Invitation with Layered Die Cuts

Friday, August 1st, 2014

This week we offer a creative spin on a Fold of the Week favorite – the Iron Cross Fold. Produced by Trabon and designed by VML Advertising for The Children’s Place Angels’ Gala, this dramatic invitation features a detailed angel-wing-shaped die cut on every panel. The layered panels create not only a lovely reveal, but also a space in the center to hold the invitation and response materials. Shimmery pearlized foil and attention to every design and production detail makes for a fabulous presentation.

Are You Printing Fewer Spot Colors Lately?

Monday, July 14th, 2014

As I have poked around the industry, gathering comments and insights regarding print quality from print buyers and designers based on the What They Think / Unisource “Digital Print Survey,” I received an interesting comment in a LinkedIn print buyer’s group.

The issue of spot colors in digital print isn’t as important as it used to be, he said, because fewer designers are specing spot colors, whether for digital or offset, based on cost.

Here is the comment, posted in the Print Buyers & Procurement Group, by a managing director of a design and print management firm:

To be honest Heidi, I have had very minimal use for printing spot colours on digital presses. . . Designers seem to shy away from spot colours these days, but I guess this is largely due to cost rather than design quality. It is a shame there are not more designers specifying really bright oranges, greens and deep blues which can look so good but are out of the 4-colour process colour gamut. It is about upselling the design and print I suppose and convincing a client the value of something different from the norm but again it comes back to getting over the price barrier.

Does this match your experience? Are you seeing fewer spot colors these days? If so, do you agree with this designer / buyer’s assessment of the situation?

Get Your (Augmented) Reality Check!

Friday, June 13th, 2014

You’ve heard about Google Glass(es) before, right? But have you seen those magazine advertisements that come to life on your smart phone? You might be thinking of QR codes, which isn’t too far off, but I’m referring specifically to a leading-edge technology that facilitates the most digitally enhanced communication pieces. The technology, Augmented Reality (AR), consists of software integrations to marketing pieces that add layers of digital content (photos, videos, sound effects, games) to a printed advertisement. With AR, a traditional print ad becomes an interactive communications tool that can be used to further inform consumers, gather consumer information, offer promotions, and create deeper brand experiences. At the end of the day, AR helps maximize ad shelf-life and foster consumer dialogue.

To get a better understanding of key applications and examples of AR, I encourage you to check out the recent webinar sponsored by Canon Solutions America titled “A Reality Check: Augmented Reality.” The webinar defines and exemplifies how AR interacts within both print and marketing communities. Barbara Pellow of Info Trends leads a conversation with Martin Ahe (Partnerships Manager at Layer) and Deborah Haskel (VP of Marketing at IWCO Direct) surrounding AR value and its implementation process.

Today, there are five critical trends associated with AR technology. The first involves an embedment of AR technology in ‘wearables’. Google Glass(es) are just one example, where the ‘wearer’ issues a verbal command to scan and perform a certain task. The second and third trends leverage AR to enhance the brand experience in retail and at live-events, like concerts. The fourth surrounds AR involvement in the educational space with do-it-yourself learning tools, like books and student projects. Lastly, AR has patterns of success in the automobile industry specifically. From sales brochures to owner’s manuals, brands like Ford, Volvo, Nissan, and Audi are using AR to interact, inform, educate, and strengthen relationships with their customers.

With AR growing in popularity in a variety of fields, you might be asking: “How do I start the implementation process today? And what does that process look like in conjunction with direct mail or printed communications pieces?” One way to start is by consulting the firm Layer, who is at the forefront of the AR industry. Ahe explains that the implementation process unfolds in a couple of simple, user-friendly steps:
1. In Layer Creator, upload a page that you wish to make interactive
2. Drag, drop and specify what you would like to link
3. Click publish

It’s important to remember, however, that the majority of customers are new AR technology. Thus, make sure to keep your blends simple, intuitive, and user-friendly. Haskel highlights: “In order to make effective use of AR, you have to help your clients understand the best way to use it. Think quality over quantity.” Content size (video, imaging, etc.) and the appropriate ‘call to action’ are two major components in creating a successful AR experience. And be sure to educate your audience. Many consumers are used to scanning QR codes where you only scan the small square with your smart phone. But with AR, you scan a larger area, usually the entire printed area, with your smart phone. Since this is a relatively new technology, it’s helpful to provide some direction on your printed piece for the consumer.

Get started today by checking out the webinar for classic examples and further details on the implementation process. It’s no wonder AR is here to stay when a brand can tell a story like this! Consider this your (augmented) reality check!

Raising the Standards with the Océ ImageStream 3500

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

The end of May marked a turning point in inkjet printing history with Canon’s announcement of the Océ ImageStream 3500. This continuous feed color inkjet press is the first of its kind with the ability to print on standard offset paper stocks. With both digital and offset capabilities, the technology of the Océ ImageStream 3500 removes the need for two different types of paper. Thus, high-quality inkjet printing is more streamline than ever before. Print Service Providers no longer need to rely on treated paper or add-ons to achieve high-quality print production. In coordination with paper mill partners, Canon has tested the print and image quality on a range of paper sources from uncoated to gloss. Notably, all have yielded positive results.

For commercial printers aiming to make the transition into digital printing, this could be your solution. With dual-functionality, the press handles a digital or conventional run up to 160m/min at 1200 x 600 dpi and features a flexible droptlet modulation for higher perceived image resolution. In terms of applications, the Océ ImageStream 3500 is fit for high-end book production, brochures, magazines, personalized catalogues, as well as direct mail pieces. The press itself is the most compact in its class: 10-50% smaller than other production system, which translates to a major save on floor space.

That transition from offset printing to digital, or even inkjet, printing… it just got a little bit more tempting.

All in all, the standards have been raised with the announcement of the Océ ImageStream 3500. We will just have to wait patiently until 2015 for its launch. For further details, check out the recent posts on WhatTheyThink? and InfoTrends.

All new Fold of the Week!

Thursday, May 15th, 2014
What should a company do when it wants to change its name? Throw a great party, of course! This week’s selection, designed by Prismatic ( and produced by Lawton Printers ( of Orlando, offers a really fun modification to the always exciting and varied tulip fold format. By adding a reverse panel to the cover, the opening experience is entirely fresh. The piece is dramatic in scale and features holographic foil, too. It’s a real winner. Cheers!

Super-Cool Fold of the Week!

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Brace yourselves for the most amazing feat of direct mail and digital print. This week’s selection was a spectacular find from HP’s DScoop Conference in Orlando. From Motioncutter in Germany and printed on an HP Indigo press, this pop-up self-mailer has an exciting secret – high-speed variable laser-cutting with personalization! Yes, imagine a different, highly-detailed laser cut name in EVERY mailpiece, produced at speeds of up to 6,500 per hour. Skeptical? You can watch their demo video, too. Mind = blown.


PODi reviews PRISMAprepare

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

PODi recently independently reviewed the Canon Océ PRISMAprepare workflow suite and authored case studies and product briefings on these workflow solutions. The overview from PODi:

“Canon’s Oce PRISMAprepare simplifies and streamlines document make-ready processes to efficiently compile, correct, personalize and program print applications. This includes various layout and tab programming, spine printing, color splitting and releasing to production presses. While it can be integrated with other software packages, PRISMAprepare can also be used as a completely self-contained stand-alone make-ready solution.”

PODi completed their analysis by posting a series of podcasts reviewing PRISMAprepare capabilities including:
• Document Editing
• Page and Image Editing
• Personalization
• Make-ready Automation

For more information – visit PODi’s site here.

Stay Ahead of the Curve with Automated Web-to-Print Solutions

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Want to learn how to keep your print services on top within the fast-paced marketing community? If so, InfoTrends’ Kate Dunn offers insight and recommendations on how to adapt and automate print services for your clients. Sponsored by the PressGo program of Canon Solutions America, this webinar gives you the information needed to bolster your online business.

You might be asking, “What are some of the web-based market models out there?” For starters, there is the standard Ad-hoc Send-and-Print, which most printers already have in place. This allows the customer to upload a single file, receive a cost estimate, and send the file to print. The Catalog and Template based models mainly surround business communications, sales and marketing collateral, and direct mail, which are customizable to certain degrees. The holy grail of models is Process Automation, which integrates an enhanced supply chain with fully customizable print ordering.

OK, let’s apply a model to a real-life scenario. With an automated template process system, a realtor can sign-in online, choose a business card template, select copy that pertains to his property sales pitch, send the card to print, as well as have the business cards packaged, postmarked, and mailed to recipients. Accomplished all in a series of clicks without having to juggle communications with a number of service providers.

Let’s review: why are automated print services so important? Well, InfoTrends predicts that 40% of all printed materials will be procured over the Internet in the coming year. Customers are asking for automation services in order to streamline their supply-chain and maximize profits. In short, web-based automation adds value for both you and your clients. Today’s marketing supply chain consists of multiple, interconnected suppliers that an organization relies on to produce materials (print, promotional, and point-of-sale) to market their products and services. It’s astonishing, however, that 70% of businesses surveyed have no way to track or predict obsolescence within their supply chain. The last thing any client wants is a loss of control over their brand! That’s where a web-based approach is applied to fix the gap. Some of the benefits include: customer access 24/7, increased print accuracy, reduced customer service workloads, and enhanced volume production. Sounds like a nicely packaged offer to me.

If you want the complete list of benefits, the stats, and further insight into web-to-print solutions, view the webinar here:

Looking forward to 2014!

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Every year, I like to think of my trip to PRINT/Graph Expo as a preview of what the coming year will bring. This year, we asked Madison Advisors to jot down their notes about what PRINT indicates will be big in 2014. Here is what they offered:

According to Madison Advisors, expect to see growth in digital color continuing through 2014. The firm’s recent engagements have shown an increase in production color printers in both in-plants and service bureaus. Outsourced print providers without high volume color capabilities are reviewing the market for the best solution to meet the needs of existing and new client opportunities. Most understand the need to have the color devices in place when bidding on color jobs as the learning curve is too great to take an “if they come, we’ll build it” approach. Creative sales approaches are needed to get these placements so the service bureaus can control their capital expenses while building volume.

Madison Advisors is also forecasting growth for outsourced customer communications platforms. As the IT department at more than one large company has observed, it is increasingly difficult to hire, train, motivate, and retain skilled IT professionals in the area of document composition. When the guy next to you is working on a cool mobile application, it’s tough to get excited about putting dots on paper. As a result, we see an increasing number of companies outsourcing their document implementations and ongoing operation to external vendors.

Custom packaging and product labeling is a growth area for commercial printers and there were a number of products at PRINT 13 geared toward this, again, many inkjet-based. The opportunity here is two-fold. For the printer, digital packaging printing allows them to respond quickly to changes in labeling from their clients. Short runs can now be profitable as you can print fully customized single units. For the marketing manager, digital printing of packaging and product labeling allows them to customize the messaging on each product to a specific micro market or respond to an outside event with special packaging.

The message from PRINT 13 was that color digital print is the future and the industry is prepared to deliver solutions to streamline the production process. Printer vendors are investing in new print technology, software providers are taking what they have learned over the years and investing in new solutions that are more user-friendly and easier to support. 2014 will be an interesting year as these new print solutions get into the hands of users and we can see if they deliver on the hype.

Coloring inside the Lines – Designing Business Communications in Highly Regulated Industries

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
From Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

From Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

Most designers look at regulations the way that Don Quixote looked at windmills – as an adversary that must be defeated or circumvented.

In fact, regulations are just one of several boundaries on any designer of business communications. Designs are also restricted by:

  • Corporate Identity Guidelines
  • Postal Regulations
  • Production Processes

And just as windmills are not giants, boundaries don’t need to be the designer’s enemy. In fact, identifying these factors in advance can help to focus attention on the goals of the design and also apply a filter to the process of finding solutions. The ability to understand and design for these constraints can actually become a strategic advantage for the designer.

Do you need to be an expert on every regulation? Cam Shapansky, Partner at Canada-based marketing agency Blue ID says “I don’t think the designer should become the regulatory expert, but we’ve always tried to view the regulators as a friend.” At the end of the day, compliance departments and corporate counsel exist for a reason – they are the legal experts. What is critical is that designers understand when they are working with a communication that is subject to regulatory compliance and that they engage the appropriate experts as early in the process as possible. Some designers may be tempted to simply lift-out the regulatory language that is currently used. This is a problem for several reasons; first, the product or business changes that were the catalyst for redesign might have negated the need for specific disclosures. Second the regulations (or cited regulatory agencies) may have changed or be pending change – recent examples include the renamed FINRA (replacing NASD in the footnotes of your U.S. brokerage statements) and the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB. Third, the company’s “compliance culture” or interpretation of the regulations may have shifted since the last time the document was updated. Some companies take a very conservative approach, erring on the side of legal protection to the corporation at the cost of customer experience. This can have a major impact on the design process as well as the design itself.

Another way that companies differ in their interpretation of regulations is in the placement of compliance messaging according to Michael Ellison. As the president of Corporate Insight, an analyst firm that uses live accounts at leading financial firms to benchmark communications across all major channels, Ellison reviews a lot of statements. “Some firms dump several paragraphs of legalese onto one page in very small type, creating a dense, uninviting reading experience that adds no value to the relationship. Others sprinkle the required language throughout the document. While still dense legal-speak, the language is at least a little easier to understand since it’s presented in proper context. A third – and in our view, optimal – approach transforms regulatory disclosures into readable, plain language, presenting this required text in a way that is not distracting to the reader.”  .

Progressive companies combine “point of need” messaging with plain language disclosures to minimize complex legal language and make sure that key information is placed where it is most useful to the reader. Some language may still be clustered in one area of the statement if it is general information that is not frequently referenced. According to Shapansky, “We consider the meeting with corporate counsel to be one of the most important meetings we have with any client. You know within the first 30 seconds what type of regulatory interpretation the company is going to follow and whether they are progressive or not. “

Working directly with a firm’s compliance expert provides a much-needed opportunity to advocate for innovations that make the language and positioning more customer-friendly. Sometimes the boundaries need to be pushed and interpretations need to be challenged for the benefit of the customer – and ultimately the corporation as well. Often in challenging specific compliance “rules” it is determined that they are not rules at all but simply “guidelines” defined by some long-retired employee of years gone by.

In designing business communications, you must have a strategy for dealing with the boundary conditions you face. Will the design process be based on rigid instructions or will there be a dialogue? Will the process lean toward the customer or toward a bureaucratic norm? Will you color well within the lines or will you color right up to the outside edge of the line?

Keys to Success:

  • Understand the current interpretation. Why was the regulatory language handled in this particular way? Has the corporate or regulatory climate changed?
  • Understand the corporate culture. Do they take a conservative position or a progressive position? Do they actually have a position or are they just doing what they’ve always done?
  • Make your case for any requested changes. Will your approach have a significant positive impact on customer experience, cost or risk exposure? Can you back your claims up with competitive benchmarks or research?
  • Provide several options. There may be more than one way to make improvements. Don’t end up with the status quo, legalese interpretation because you weren’t willing to compromise.
  • Engage with compliance representatives in person (and have your corporate sponsor on board with your recommendations first.) Remember, it’s easy to say “no” in an email. It’s much harder face-to-face.
  • Document the discussions and factors that drove the decision to take a particular approach. This will help to make the decision stick and avoid revisiting issues multiple times when and if new people join the project.

Most importantly, remember that regulations are intended to inform and protect the customer.  They also protect the corporation from potential liability.  Regulations are not the enemy of design, they don’t need to be defeated or circumvented. They need to be understood and implemented in a way that serves the intended purpose – and the same could be said of any portion of content in any information design project. Once you learn enough to color inside the regulatory lines you’re much more likely to be able to influence where those lines are drawn.


Elizabeth GoodingElizabeth Gooding is the President of Gooding Communications Group and editor of the Insight Forums blog. She writes, presents and provides training on trends and opportunities for business communications professionals within regulated vertical industries.