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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A different kind of artistry...

I have been talking about what a database/programmer does to support the concept of personalization.

As I have been saying the requirements for personalization of any sort to succeed require extensive expertise in both graphic arts and programming.  You will find a lot of support for personalization on the training side if you are a graphic artist - there are courses, trade shows, vendor programs, etc.   Almost all are based to some degree on systems using a graphic-arts based product as the platform, i.e., as in say a Quark or inDesign-based personalization application.

What I have never seen is any sort of technical "IT-based" programmer/database training for this skill set.

I have been in the business for two decades and in all of that time I have never seen any type of training for IT-types related to direct mail, VDP, or other personalization.  I have thought about this over the years and there is really only one conclusion I can draw: The printing industry desparately needs VDP/transpromo/personalization to succeed and therefore drives training on its own side (graphic-arts based) forward.  On the other hand, IT doesn't need printing, and the number of IT professionals who would define themselves as "VDP/personalization-based" folks is probably very, very small.

By and large most programmers I know have virtually no knowledge of mailing, printing, color or any other of the most important issues associated with printing.  What I have experienced personally is programmers that get pushed into this sort of work.

Interestingly most follow the same sort of technical road:  Virtually all modern programmers have some experience creating a graphical UI for an application whether as a web interface or a programmatic one.  So their first experience with anything printing or VDP related is to treat it like programming for a computer display.  This means RGB, pixel-based X,Y addressing, and some knowledge of raster images.  For the most part the programming tasks of positioning items conditionally, placing images, etc. is the same - in fact web page programming can be considerably more difficult due to the ways browsers lay out pages.

These are the most common things you find in the IT world so there is no reason for a programmer to think that the world of print is any different - particularly since there is no one to tell them otherwise.  So the first kinds of print applications you see from a "programmer" - whether coding it directly in some way or via some sort of tools like a Quark, etc. is RGB-based.  There is no concept of "the cost to RIP".  The structure of the produced output is very rigid and inflexible relative to standard graphic art practices.

All-in-all not something a printer or graphic artist would want to deal with.

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