Keeping Print Relevant: Disruptive Thinking in Print

I recently joined a LinkedIn group. I am not sure why I was so drawn to the group, but without knowing anything about the group’s leadership, mission, or membership, I immediately requested to join. The group’s name is Disruptive Print.

When I deconstructed my reaction, it came down to the two words themselves: Disruptive and Print. At the risk of embarrassing myself, I consider these words about two of the sexiest in the English dictionary—now you can imagine how I felt when they were presented together. I had to be a part of it!

Thankfully, I was granted membership to the closed group and soon thereafter, I started thinking about ways to contribute. Surely, I thought, I would have tons to say and, moreover, engage with like-minded folks who understand the opportunity that is the nexus of thought leadership and capital investment.


Contributing to the Disruption

I came up with a handful of actions and investments made over my 15 years of playing in the database driven print space. Then I quickly started to realize that of these disruptions, only some were independent conclusions. Most of them were formed through thought leadership amongst a close group of peers. Keeping in mind that the word disruption itself is a relative term, some ideas or products will be more disruptive than others.

In my case, the disruptive mindset led us to adopt XML as our primary workflow; something which was virtually unheard of in 2004 in the commercial print space. Another was adopting database driven Flash in 1999. Interestingly, 13 years later, it is now all the rage in the form of personalized videos for cross channel marketing.

A disruption in manufacturing we adopted was the use of VDP in packaging, which allowed us to create personalized corrugated boxes for point-of-sale and direct marketing in 2005. A more recent one is the use of high-speed inkjet (HP T200) to reimagine how publishing companies can viably deliver decision-driven personalized print to drive higher revenues for both themselves and their advertisers.


Results May Vary

Over the years, most of the ideas worked out well, and others…let’s just say certain corporations (surprisingly, big ones) did not care for out of the box thinking. Disruptive thinking will always be challenged, as a vast majority of people are resistant to change.

This can’t be restated often enough: to the disruptive thinker, it is unthinkable to be satisfied with the status quo. Broadly speaking, disruptions and disruptive thinkers abound in industries that are in a rapid state of change (advance or decline). So, currently, the print industry is fertile ground—and one where massive opportunity awaits for companies and individuals willing to seize it.

Until next month, keep printing, my friends!


Sudhir Ravi is a serial entrepreneur who runs a variable data print practice within TVP Graphics at Streamwood, IL. Do you want to continue the conversation? Contact him at or 312-772-3191. Connect via Twitter @ThinkVariable. Learn more at