Archive for June, 2010

I am very weary of hearing “experts” tout the global environmental damage done by print media. This issue is so emotionally charged that reason, logic and facts are ignored for the convenience of appearing to be “green” and pushing a political cause. Here are a few FACTS that should not be ignored:

  • 4,000,000 trees are planted daily in the U.S. – 4 Million per day! (1) More than 1.5 billion trees are planted in the U.S. each year, almost half of them by the forest community. (2)
  • 57% of paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling in 2008. (3) Compare that to the 18% of the three million tons of electronic waste in the U.S. being recycled. (4)
  • 48% of the energy used in New Page mills (largest domestic mill) comes from renewable bio-fuels. (5)
  • 24% Annual Growth of energy consumption at U.S. data centers – servers use lots of energy! (6)
  • 42% reduction in energy use per product unit by the U.S. pulp and paper industry in 25 years. (7)
  • 12% of all CO2 emissions in the U.S. come from aircraft. (8)
  • 62 Trillion Spam emails are sent every year, contributing greenhouse gases equivalent to two billion gallons of gasoline. (9)

(Spam also clogs the internet’s arteries, it takes energy to generate, screen and delete spam. Tough to measure, but it stands to reason. Think of the sheer volume worldwide. 186 million web sites, 1.3 billion e-mail users, 24 hours a day. Every day. Do the math. The energy that Spam email generates annually has the carbon footprint of driving a car around the globe 1.6 million times. {9})

  • We have 12 Million more acres of U.S. forestland today than 20 years ago (10).
  • Over 200 million items of e-waste are thrown away every year in the U.S.: Monitors, printers, computers (4).
  • 70% of toxic waste in U.S. landfills comes from e-waste. (4)
  • Burning a CD produces 4 times as much CO2 as printing a single annual report. (11 & 12)

    More than ever, it’s important to find the right balance between the environment and your communications budget. And please consider the facts the next time you engage in dialogue about the “evils” of print media.

1. Sustainable Forestry Initiative Program
2. Hardwood Plywood & Veneer Association
3. Environmental Defense Paper Calculator
4. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
5. NewPage Corporation, Miamisburg, OH
9. McAfee, The Carbon Footprint of Email Spam Report
10. Forest Landowners Association

Protectionism in Print

According to Wikipedia:
Protectionism is the economic policy of restraining trade between states, through methods such as tariffs on imported goods, restrictive quotas, and a variety of other government regulations designed to discourage imports, and prevent foreign take-over of native markets and companies. This policy … contrasts with free trade, where government barriers to trade and movement of capital are kept to a minimum. The term is mostly used in the context of economics, where protectionism refers to policies or doctrines which protect businesses and workers within a country by restricting or regulating trade with foreign nations.”
On a micro level, and within the confines of our borders, the policy of protectionism is thriving in print. It manifests itself whenever “out of state” printers are penalized with a tariff penalty added to their bid (as do the states of Virginia and West Virginia); or when a Procurement Officer states “we favor local printers”.

The real questions are:

  • What are the economic and social benefits derived from the state with such policies?
  • Does it really keep the local printer in business?Regarding the second question, I would argue “no”. The printing and paper industries have been global industries for decades. Most recently, the escalation of the price of paper is largely because of the Chinese demand for pulp, at higher prices than U.S. domestic markets will pay.The escalation of the cost of paper affects our company in PA as much as it does a printer in West Virginia or Massachusetts. If material costs are rising (along with health care, energy, etc) companies that are less competitive (with or without the benefit of a competitors’ tariff) will not survive. If you are trying to secure local business, you already have the advantage of much lower freight costs, which can be a 5% advantage to begin with. Add in a tariff, and if you need a 10% advantage to get the order, and have to compete with out-of-state printers, and given the advancements in e-procurement (which can be a competitor or an ally), you will not survive.Regarding the advantages of supporting the local economy (and the societal benefits as well), one can argue the “trickle down”  of that money will only provide for a stronger state and local economy. But, if that printer is non-competitive in out of state proposals, how long will they survive? And how much more money will the state have spent in the meantime, trying to keep a business above water that was doomed to fail?

    Protectionism may work in the short run, but in the long run it only encourages inefficiencies and delays the inevitable:
    non-competitive companies always fail.

There are common problems that resurface almost daily with graphic design file submissions. The accuracy and completeness of those files are the responsibility of whoever prepared them. Recently, a new industry study confirmed what printers already knew: over 70% of files fail preflight. In the previous study, some 6 years ago, the figure was 75%.  Why is this still happening? First and foremost, many graphic designers simply lack the adequate training and experience to understand and apply the software applications they are using. Simply put: they are not really professional graphic designers (let’s be honest: many are free-lancing and not on the permanent staff of anyone, which lends to less accountability). A professional knows their craft, its’ responsibilities and is able to perform their job with a clear understanding of how their job and the work they perform affects others. For example, a framing carpenter has to check the squareness of their work (using a calibrated level or laser), even when the human eye would not notice any degree of imperfection? Why? Because he can create a nightmare for a dry-waller who has to deal with walls that are not plumb.

Print designers have to realize that the final product is ink (oil based) on paper (less expensive than proofing paper), not toners on cast coated substrates. They must also realize (and accept the responsibility for) the way in which they do their job affects the final results, and the printer (hopefully ) has a much more sophisticated and expensive calibration method and equipment than the designers does, or should need. We have over $26,000 alone invested in spectrophotometers, densitometers, monitor calibrators, and G7 calibration (the international proofing standard) costs. Not to mention that 3rd party contractors monitor and audit our proofing system to the same international standards.

In addition, the fundamentals of Offset Printing, color theory and many other technical issues in printing are no longer taught in design school, or even by employers in the industry. The digital age has made it so easy to create files that the fundamentals are not understood. Let me give you a simple example: when reviewing color proofs, designers will often question why the printers’ proofs do not match the one they created on their office output device. The primary reasons for this are: calibration,  the proofing device(s) used, and the inks or toners used for the proof.  They are comparing the proof created on a $500 printer with that created on a $10,000 device. Why is the price important? Because a $500 device cannot be calibrated as accurately and produce proofs as consistently as a $10,000 device.  Secondly, the designer simply has to attempt to create a proof that they like, without regard for the actual color gamut that is achievable with a given set of process color inks.  It is that gamut that determines what the final product (ink on paper) will look like. But how many designers actually know what the color gamut is? Or how can it be increased? Unfortunately, not very many…
This is an illustration of the various color gamuts achievable with our human vision (the color capabilities of the cones and rods in our eyes), what offset inks can reproduce, what a monitor can reproduce and what PMS color capabilities are. ie. just because I can see it on a monitor does not mean that it is reproducible with offset inks; nor are all proofs (in an uncalibrated system) reproducible using only C-M-Y-K.

color gamuts

Various Colors Achievable, Depending on the Media Used

A proof that is made from a high quality (expensive) inkjet proofer is generated from either a dye-based or pigment-based ink.  The ink used on the actual lithographic printing is an oil based pigment, with a vehicle, pigment and additive components.  So, the job of the printer is to CALIBRATE their shop conditions to the type of proofing paper, inkjet inks, job stock and process color inks so they all match (in addition to their monitors in Prepress). If I am a designer, I can (unfortunately) simply color correct and use varying levels of saturation on my proofer and in Photoshop in order to achieve ONE COPY of what I like. Is it reproducible accurately? Who knows? It is like creating a copy of the Mona Lisa using acrylic paints on a canvas, handing it to the printer and saying, “I want 10,000 exactly like this”  – and by the way, you cannot use acrylic paints or a canvas substrate”.  See the problem? Two very different worlds: The creativity and labor of a “one-off masterpiece” vs. the needs for an appreciation of the technical aspects of mass production on an economical scale.

The industry will continue to be required to train customers in the technical aspects of lithography, which is still both art and science. While the science may not be as interesting to someone who is creative, without an adequate knowledge of it, the designer will become frustrated and often disappointed in the results. My suggestions?
1. Make sure your salespeople understand these issues, and can explain them eloquently.
2. Tell your client what color profile to use in their desktop applications, or provide one for them to use.

More to come …