Interview with IPA President Steven Bonoff

Steven Bonoff is president of IPA, The Association of Graphic Solutions Providers, which is located in Edina, MN. For more information, visit the association’s website at or contact him at Bonoff was interviewed by QP managing editor Karen Lowery Hall.

Q: What is the mission of the IPA?

A: IPA is an international trade association representing creative, premedia, and print service providers and professionals who specialize in delivering the highest quality digital and print media services through the utilization of state-of-the-art digital production workflows.

IPA is dedicated to the professional development of its members in the realm of digital workflow. The intent of our technical products and services is to ensure that our members have the right people, technologies, and processes to operate efficient and effective digital workflows. IPA management resources are designed to assure our members business leaders make proper strategic choices based on their market needs, available resources and workflow competencies.

Q: Who are its members?

A: IPA members are thought leaders in marketing execution and media production, using both business intelligence and technical expertise to produce much of the world’s leading marketing and brand communications materials and messages.

We feel that it is the best scenario for the CEO of the business to join the association, but then to take an assessment of the resources that we have to offer and feed them down to different levels of their staff to make them aware of those resources and to say, “I authorize and encourage you to participate.”

Q: Exactly what is a digital workflow?

A: A digital workflow is a production process that integrates the technical components from multiple vendors to improve quality and speed of delivery of digital and print media content. IPA resources help our members deliver content at the highest possible quality, at the fastest speeds; lowering costs of production and reducing production time from content creation to market delivery.

Q: Where does the prepress department fit in?

A: Prepress, or premedia, sits in the middle. This team must be able to manage the expectations and deliverables of the creative community and in some cases provide creative consultation or execute creative content development for customers, to assure their marketing objectives are fully realized. On the other side of the equation is the manufacturing facility that actually produces the final content carrier. Traditionally, we would have called this the pressroom and finishing areas, but in today’s graphic communications market, the manufacturing process includes not only these departments, but also wide- or grand-format output, content installation, online deliverables, and business/campaign analysis services.

Q: Do you see a PDF workflow as the industry standard?

A: PDF workflow is the de facto industry standard for premedia digital workflows today.

Q: Are there published PDF workflow standards that printers could use to help train their customers to submit properly created PDF files?

A: Yes, The Ghent PDF Workgroup has published PDF standards—they created the PDF-X, which is now part of most premedia software.

We have offered webinars dealing with those standards in the past, but don’t have one available right now. However, we have two webinars dealing with G7 standards, which are also quite helpful when working with color management issues.

Q: What about JDF, especially for small commercial print shops?

A: JDF and systems that leverage JDF are the most likely systems to enable the future of workflow automation and integration of manufacturing systems with MIS and other data driven systems of content delivery. IPA is actively developing educational programs and seminars for our members in the area of process automation. We feel that automation is a key to success in the marketplace and that self service job origination, submission, and tracking will account for well over 50% of content delivery business revenues in the future.

Q: What are the most commonly used prepress software packages for quick and small commercial printers?

A: Adobe Creative Suite is the most common set of tools used by all printers. After that, imposition packages from Preps and Dynagram are in many plants and often integrated with various front end prepress systems. The other common software component is a RIP package to drive inkjet proofing. The most common proofing RIPs are from CGS, EFI, and GMG.

Q: What are the pros and cons of computer-to-plate versus DI versus film?

A: Computer-to-plate is most common today for medium run lengths using offset printing. Film workflows are uncommon for offset, but are still used by some flexo printers, though adoption of CTP technology in the flexo market space is expanding dramatically. DI presses are better suited to shorter run lengths where the durability of offset print is required for the application. But in many cases, short-run work is handled more efficiently and cost effectively using digital presses.

Q: Do you think digital output will eventually replace offset printing?

A: There is still a great deal of difference in which process is better suited to particular run lengths. Both will likely have their own niche for some time to come. Of greater interest in the future will be the advent of manufacturing grade inkjet devices when they have the speed to compete with conventional offset.

Q: Where can small commercial printers go for advice and training on prepress issues?

A: IPA currently has over 60 online webinars available in a digital library, accessible 24/7, in the areas of color management, workflow, and business improvement There are also a number of great resources for seminars such as RIT and GATF. IPA has offered learning labs at our annual conference that are an exceptional value to our members, and we’ll be expanding this program in 2010.

In order to train and cross train a number of employees, the only cost effective approach is online training. For this reason, IPA now offers an online Color Management Professional (CMP) Certification Program. This is an outstanding introduction to color management that results in the certification of the individual taking the course after passing a rigorous exam.

CMP professionals represent a community of the top color management practitioners in the field, and using CMP certification as a criterion when hiring new employees ensures an organization has true color management specialists on its staff.

Q: What are the practical benefits of the CMP program?

A: Especially in a smaller type of operation, there will be one or two people who are charged with the color effectiveness of the organization. Sometimes that can be found in the production manager. But there is a twofold reason that we think companies should support the CMP program. From the CEO level, he or she wants to feel confident that they have an expert on staff who is up to date with the latest technologies and processes in color management. And it gives them a comfort that that person is skilled because this program has been produced by the experts in the industry, and we guarantee that if someone passes 80% of the questions, they are a leader in the color field. So that CEO level feels confident.

In addition to that, from a marketing perspective, they can tell their clients that “color is critically important to us. It’s so important that we ensured that we have on staff a certified color expert.”