The Print Industry Is Pretty Damn Cool

By Brandon Campbell (a “young” guy who just turned 30) Until I started working for as an editorial intern, I didn’t realize it. Before my summer internship, I had no idea what something like an offset digital press does--or that one even existed.  Turns out digital offset presses are great at printing high-volume, high-quality images from a plate to a rubber blanket, and then onto just about any surface you can think of. But now I understand that some of my favorite things, from the book I used to teach myself how to play bass guitar to the large, textured Van Goh self-portrait Scodix gave me during GRAPH EXPO earlier this month, can be traced back to a print shop. September’s gathering of the print industry’s finest gave me a peek at how my food is packaged (flexography), how the sign directing me to the subway is made (adhesive vinyl printing), or how QR codes work (some say it’s magic, but I’ve learned it’s simply a 2D barcode). So now everywhere I go, I can’t help but see the real magic is how ubiquitous and important the print industry is in my life. Some say print is dead, or dying. I think those folks need to take a minute and look around. My bedroom floor is littered with printed flyers advertising concerts at the House of Blues in downtown Chicago, someone paid to copy and print them. I’ve got CDs and vinyl records everywhere, and someone had to design and print those beautiful album covers. Last week I ordered a pizza and someone had to make the sturdy box that housed my delicious and fragile meal. Like I said, printers are everywhere. Print is dead? Really? I’ve got a mouthful for the next person who wants to argue that print is a dying medium. But the world is changing. Digital is creating itself a comfortable niche and traditional printers must learn to survive alongside the iPad, the Kindle, and my Android phone. Do these technological advancements spell certain doom for newspapers, books, or even toilet paper? Certainly not. But print suppliers like Agfa Graphics are thinking progressively by adapting, by finding new ways to integrate digital technology with traditional printing techniques. If you had a chance to attend GRAPH EXPO, I hope you saw their custom wallpaper and flooring designs. I want some for my apartment (but doubt I can afford them). I hate to end on a bit of a downer, but I wish the print industry did a better job of marketing itself. I just turned 30, so I’m not a kid, but I’m not quite old yet either. If I had trouble understanding how vast and important printers are, I bet my cohorts in Generations Y and Z do too. That’s a shame, because if you take the time to think about it, the print industry really is pretty damn cool.