Innovation in how we match colors and apply inks  is just one example of how far print has come in the past few decades. But it’s an example that really shows the nature of our industry’s transformation.

Years ago, we were craftsmen, artists even, mixing paints and sampling colors until they looked just right. Today, we spend more time having conversations with our customers, helping them define their brands and plan campaigns. Sometimes it feels like we’re not really printers anymore, but here to help our customers tell their stories or solve their communication problems.

iStock_000022260489SmallThe offset-to-digital transformation has also changed our work unimaginably. Where we once spent time creating offset plates and monitoring presses, we now simply upload a digital file and hit “print.”

But it’s oversimplifying things to say that printers have it easier these days, or that “we used to do things by hand, now its all automatic”. Our workflows are now more automated than they used to be, which requires our software and machines to be more integrated than ever before. There are so many new things printers have to understand and do that it’s almost apples and oranges to compare our work then and now.

That’s because the nature of our customer’s requests has changed drastically, too. For example, a typical order 15 years ago might have been to “print X copies of Y brochure in Z color.”

Today, things are rarely that simple. These days, a customer might ask for tens of thousands of flyers printed and mailed to recipients fitting 10 different buyer profiles. A personalized message on each piece of mail based on customer insights. Color photos and a pull-out insert. Bulk mailing discounts, plus an extra discount if the sender is a nonprofit. And metrics on how a mail campaign performs over time.

Digital print has made our work easier in some ways. But has also opened the door for more complexity and choice. And that’s a good thing.

Steve 5-16-06
Checking registration and color in the shop about 10 years ago.

Automation isn’t just the way things are going—it’s the way they’ve already gone. We’re not going to resist that coming tide. We say, bring it on. That doesn’t mean letting computers put us out of businesses. Digital printers now handle tasks that once took up much of our time. Now, we can spend that time helping customers plan their print campaigns and advising them on the best ways to get their messages across.

That’s the most important thing for printers to realize as we think about our jobs 2, 5, 10 years down the line. The role of printers isn’t vanishing. But it has changed fundamentally and isn’t looking back. It means being not so much craftsmen, but businessmen (and women) and problem-solvers.

Not every printer is cut out for these new capabilities. And not everyone wants to be. But for us, it’s a change worth embracing.

Oregon is committed to great work no matter where the industry takes us. Get in touch to learn how we can help you with your next print project.