Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

I recently read an article about technological change written by Martha Beck. She says it’s no longer appropriate to ask, “Is your life on track?” She says that technological and cultural changes are happening so fast that there is no track anymore.

She suggests adopting a new metaphor—a kayak instead of a train—to more nimbly navigate into new, as-yet-uncharted waters.

I love print, I really, really do. I love knowing a process down to its minutia and guiding a project through to great results: A tactile object that’s as good as I can possibly make it, given time and budget constraints. Something real I can hold in my hands, examine, and know that it is beautiful. Something that has a start and a finish.

But the print world I love is changing fast. Over the past few years I’ve monitored the “Is print dead?” conversations as print industry insiders and commentators pondered whether the decline of print was just a part of the economic downturn or a permanent paradigm shift. Whichever it is, it’s not the good old days anymore.

Sightings from the bow

What I know first-hand is that print-related jobs are less plentiful than ever, especially for those of us whose passion is artisan print, not humdrum commoditized printing. So the chances of my spending the remaining years of my career in this specialty alone are shrinking by the day. For a long while, I have been deeply sad about that.

Now the time for sadness is over. The time for reinvention is upon me. My kayak calls.

But I don’t want to throw the “print baby” out with the bath water. I’m discovering new ways to use my writing and project planning skills to help designers and creative companies. And gradually, I’m discovering how transferable a print production manager’s approach to creative problems really is.

By nature, I ask:

  • What steps are needed?
  • What steps are most efficient and workable?
  • Can we skip some?
  • How do all the pieces (words, images, graphics) fit together?
  • Do the product and the creative brief align?
  • Is the product on brand?
  • Does it align with the designer’s creative vision?
  • Does it function well for the user?
  • Is it beautiful?
  • Does the visual hierarchy work?
  • Does the quality measure up?

Drift or navigate?

So I float my boat toward a new, more liquid medium with intangible products that are never really done. Sometimes the water is surprisingly smooth. Other times it’s choppy, with unexpected currents and rapids.

But what about my wonderful tools, rubbed to patina through long use? I’m bringing them aboard, not leaving them behind—while leaving room for the new ones I’m adding as my journey continues.

© 2010 Nani Paape