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Monday, September 20, 2010

Mixing art and closure...

So we discussed the concept of closure relative to a simple marketing problem.

Closure as I use it here is basically a mathematical concept and not the sort of thing that you would expect a graphic artist to really grasp.  For that matter, some programmers struggle with the concept. 

So the real question becomes how do you manage to do something like VDP or transpromo with just artists running an application like GMC, ISIS Papyrus, PageFlex, etc.?

In the answer to this question is really a larger problem.  Bottom line is that you really cannot expect this to work in an art context - you really need programmers to do this reliably and professionally. 

The larger problem is this:  Why does the print/graphic arts industry promote technologies like VDP and transpromo that are really well beyond 90% of the companies in the business?  I've thought about this quite a bit over the years and have come up with some troubling answers.

I think one element is that the "professionals" that run the various news, trade support organizations, and equipment (software, hardware) really need the industry to be in a constant state of change in order for them to maintain their jobs.  If the industry remained relatively static than there wouldn't be much to do.  Now I don't mean there wouldn't be tradeshows to write about and new about people and companies changing around - but there wouldn't be much exciting going on.

When I was in the mailing business in the mid-90's the industry was very much like that.  There wasn't much technologically going on at the time so the trade shows, industry groups, and such really didn't have too much to talk about.  This was just before the introduction of the first Indigo and Xeikon color digital presses.

I distinctly remember these devices when they first appeared.  Long, long lines at the Indigo booth to get a sample, gushing press, call that this was "the future of printing" and "the future of direct mail".  But these calls weren't from the grunts in the business - these were calls from the industry and product leaders - all folks who needed this for their own success.

Now I am not trying to be cruel here or discount the value of what an industry group does for an industry.  But in a technical sense no one that I recall ever published a single paper or gave a single talk on the technical resources and skills required to make these devices work effectively.

Over the last many years I have also collected a lot of anectodal supporting evidence to support this.  One thing I learned is that large companies at the very top of the food chain who sell color print devices and/or software will often end up "doing the work for their customer" in order to have success.  A lot of times this means installing a technical guy on-site day and and out to get the work done. 

Another common practice was to sell, in this case software, a product at a very low price and provide, along with the sale, a "technician" to "do the work for the customer".  This was common in the "web-to-print" software area.  Often a year of work would occur and nothing would get done.  The real purpose of the sale was to squeeze out the competition for a year irrespective of the fate of the actual customer.

I couple this type of evidence with the basic fact that this technology was being sold to people who were not really equipped in a technical sense to use it effectively to make my point.

I see little evidence today that things have changed.  Transpromo is more complex than basic VDP yet its being "promoted" as something for printers to think about.  The reality is that the only printers that can really think about it are those that are in the process of becoming another type of company (other than printing).

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