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Print Morphs Into Communication
London College in a digital context
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2005-10-31 12:42 (KST)   
The London College of Communication held a conference on future developments of printing during the recent show on a Digital Print World at Earl's Court in London. Discussion showed that the change of name from the London College of Printing has now been validated by a vision in print as part of digital communication.

Digital printing is now firmly established as part of mainstream print. This is the third year of an event supported by the British Print Industry Federation. A previous series of shows on Digital Solutions got confused with digital cameras and was not really supported by the print industry. Quark showed details of the forthcoming version with Job Jackets supporting the Job Definition Format. The work flow shown by companies such as Agfa is suitable for all forms of printing.

The agenda for the Futures conference was still based in print. John Birkenshaw from PIRA started from a study of emerging markets for digital print but then moved on to other aspects. He showed how digital assets could be managed to support web sites and email as well as direct marketing. He pointed out that the print industry has often been too interested in output to notice the software involved in photo setting or computer to plate. He suggested that data management will be central to future print operations. Personalized unique or short-run production represented high values, not cost reduction. He welcomed print companies who chose descriptions such as "a full service communications consultancy" and saw the future of print as "a software based process."

Andrew Pindar from "Vision in Print" compared the situation of U.K. printing with that of ocean liners around the time that air transport took their market. He pointed out that there are were more keels laid down in 2004 than in any previous year, mostly for cruises from Miami reached by jet. He was not specific about how the print industry will morph but was confident that print would continue alongside other media. Pindar Graphics had previously decided to support customers in using desktop computers for typesetting rather than "holding back the tide." The result had actually been an expansion in employment.

Marcus Kirby
©2005 AdFast
There was some resistance to aspects of the Internet. Marcus Kirby from Vertis PRS mentioned "those horrible spam emails" as the part he liked least. But the general message about advertising was that the traditional repro house now handles most forms of media offering "a synergized message across barriers." They now do production for radio and TV advertising as well as print. They see themselves as a Production Agency, supplying finished content for any locality. By the way, they have now done voice-overs in more than 100 languages and never failed to find a voice-over artist living in London. Work flows for websites are integrated with those for print. The trend is for budgets to move online, but there is probably still a future for TV. Print is now often proofed online with a procedure to make sure that the color space and monitor calibration have been checked.

Adobe did not have a stand at Digital Print World but Jutta Koch spoke at the LCC conference about creating JDF files from Acrobat and working with InDesign. The approach is similar to Quark's with Job Jackets. The "intent" may come from the print customer but the print service provider puts detail into the JDF spec, including the requirements for page design. Adobe will have a stand at IPEX next April so more details may become available later.

The final day moved away from print towards multimedia. Filipa de Chassey from Antenna Audio described how they create guides to exhibitions in museums and art galleries. Wireless networks can support mobile devices, for example on four floors of the Tate Modern. The interface is designed for each site and target audience. Some material is available online for download but there are issues around intellectual property. It can be very expensive to allow images to be freely available. Much future discussion will be around maintaining the value of collections while making material available to the public interactively.

Alan Sekers teaches on the multimedia courses and spoke mostly about the trends in computer capability. A chart of the calculations per second available for $100 showed a fairly steady trend for most of the last century with an "inflection point" and faster growth starting around the late 1990s. In his own experience, one striking thing was paying about 30,000 pounds in 1984 for a Quantel Paintbox. This had a screen of 640 x 480 pixels and it took eleven days to work out how to use it. The point was that it is hard to imagine now what will be possible over the lifetime of students at the college. Particular applications are not as interesting as trends.

There were some suggestions that the change of name was a mistake and that the London College of Printing name would still attract students. The proportion of Print graduates getting jobs is still high, often higher that for other courses. The "London School of Printing and Kindred Trades" started in 1922 following a move away from St. Brides, near Fleet Street. The print tradition is very well known in London and there are established exchanges with other print centers.

The change of name may have happened too early for some people, but the discussion is developing to show how it reflects the future of the printing industry. Ian Lacey from Deixis and the Print on Demand Initiative admitted he was being controversial in claiming that e-learning has not yet worked. The contributions from students took issue with this and suggested they would take the scope of "communication" even further.

"Media Morphosis" is an idea from Roger Fiddler mentioned by Tackwhan Kim in his recent book - 'Media Big Bang'. This covers the effect of digital technology and globalization on media in Korea. Print is seen as a continuing part of the scene. There are no clear guides yet as to how the "'morph" process will continue. Chris Linford mentioned that screen technology could improve to make e-book readers as practical as MP3 players. This is the sort of thing that will confirm a scope for the print tradition as part of communication.
More on the blog for IPEX 2002
©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

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