I remember back in the day….. a lot of print shops had a sign in the front lobby that said:

Price quality Speed

In a way, we all thought that was kind of funny, but in another way (quiet and stoic), it was the rule printers lived by. Seriously in 1991, could you imagine somebody demanding all 3 of those things? OK, fast forward 20 years to 2011, can you imagine a good customer not expecting (or demanding) all three?

For some reason at lunch the other day, I was talking to Bob about that old sign, we found it really funny. Then we started reminiscing about how we used to do stuff (and we were pretty cutting edge at the time for small print shops). First off, in 1991, 4 color presses were very big and expensive, and only the large printing companies owned that kind of equipment (color control sucked back in that day also). They just did not make (nor could we afford) small, compact, super efficient 5 color presses like we have today. So just to be competitive, a lot of us were running 2 color presses (think AB Dick’s and Ryobi’s) and putting this piece of paper through the press multiple times….Uggg, the thought of that just gives me the shakes.

Secondly, it all needed to be done in film, with some sort of color key proofs….yes, we were all masters of the stripping table, with multiple lay-sheets, pin register systems…. OK, you get the point, if you were in a print shop in the 80’s and 90’s, and we look back at how we did stuff, it just seems archaic.

Now, I look at what we are achieving in finished jobs, and it just blows me away. I keep writing blogs about cool projects we do, because it still amazes me what we can do. Of course, the digitization of content is behind so many of the changes, but maybe for fun we look a little closer at some of these changes.

The prep part of printing, or as we call it, the pre-press. Maybe this is the best part. When things were analog, all the different elements of a job needed to be on a separate layer, kind of like in photoshop, but in this case, each layer was a separate piece of film (with cool pin systems so that we could make sure that all layers registered, but had to be applied manually). The ability to put everything into 1 digital image that contains all tints, solids, and all the color separations is incredible when compared to 1991 technology….think Adobe PDF Print Engine 2.

And the actual printing part. And maybe this is the best part. Like with the prep portion, technology has really elevated the equipment. No more ink keys (ink profiles are picked up in pre-press and transferred to the press), infra dryers hold down powder and so on….Think Heidelberg PrintMaster.

Where am I going with all of this? The point is, if we don’t consistently deliver a good price, a high quality product, and turn it around real quickly, we can’t even come to the party. And then once we get there, we have to have friendly people that understand not only printing, they have to be creative enough to solve problems, have enough empathy to understand the customers point of view and so on. And this extends well beyond offset printing…. it goes for finishing, digital printing, mailing, wide format printing, promotional items and a lot more. In a way, it’s become simple enough….just take a digital image, and apply it where needed, as many times as needed and tightly control the process. And then do it for the Right Price, Make it Look Good, AND do it Quick!