Is Technology Stealing Print’s Soul?
Hey! That's a leading question…
Computer technology has come to play a central role in the printing process. GOA recently posted a list of the 10 'Critical Core Technologies' that any printer requires to survive in the unavoidably techno-centric future.
The thing about this list, and the way it's presented, is that it makes the whole situation seem rather grim. Like the print industry has gone from craft to manufacturing process, and, in short, the romance is gone.
Examples of the soul being sucked out of printing may include:
- Loss of specialized jobs like type-setting.
- Loss of craftsmanship in areas that have become automated.
- Web-to-print eliminating face-to-face communication between both customers and printers, and printers and vendors.
- Variable data and 'personalization' creating an advertising culture of what is, in fact, absence of intimacy masquerading as personalization.
- The uniqueness of the industry itself being subsumed into just another IT job.
That being said, my position on the issue is STRONGLY DISAGREE. Print has more soul and personality than ever. Technology has connected us, and brought us together, via the web and around the print plant / office. As computers make it easier for us to do specialized jobs, we have more space to bring our personalities to our work and the community.
Around Hotcards, although we were one of the first companies to offer a complete web-to-print service, we still see our customers all the time. And because of the inexpensive nature of the printing process, we have more time and resources to connect with our community. For example, by offering free design and printing to our favorite small businesses in need of a little advertising boost.
While it may be true that computer technology is just a heap of metal and plastic, it doesn't take away the soul of the person, or the industry, that it works for. Quite the opposite. When we work with new technology, we infuse it with our spirit and energy – and the better the technology, the easier this is to do.
Old printing technologies may seem romantic. Certainly there is still a vibrant letterpress and silkscreen market. But on the whole, commercial printing 50 years ago was cumbersome, strenuous to use, and exhausting to produce. Computer technology gives printers more time and space to have a personality, and it connects once isolated markets to a global grid. Is it somehow sucking the soul out of our industry? Or is it, in fact, making us more lovable and adorable?