Preparing for the Future of Print and Graphic Communications

How to recruit and retain the next generation of print professionals

With new trends and challenges facing the print and graphic communications industry, preparing for the future means adapting to evolving customer needs and diversifying your workforce to meet the changing capabilities of the profession. We spoke with PRINT 18 speaker and author Diana Varma, graphics communications management instructor at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, about what she sees as the most pressing issues facing the print world and how to nurture the next generation of print professionals.

PRINT 18 team: What do you see is the most critical issue in print and graphic communications?

Diana Varma: I think there are two critical issues. The first ties into my session topic at PRINT 18: finding good, skilled, passionate people to take over for those who are retiring and leaving the business. Where’s the talent that’s going to take print to the next level? That’s where succession planning comes into play. The good news is that while some schools have seen a decline in students getting into the print field, my school has seen the number skyrocket, and there are more students than even before. It’s pretty exciting that so many people want to come in, and it proves that print and digital will continue to coexist and morph into the next generation. Finding good, skilled people is possible, and from my perspective, there is a whole lot of talent waiting to take the reins.

The second issue I see is articulating the value of print in an increasingly digital world. Print is tactile and memorable, but it can be hard to compete with the sleek, sexy digital world. Not to mention how much more difficult it is to track the value of a print campaign. As the industry evolves, it is up to printing companies to think hard about what our value is and really adapt the way we sell it.

PRINT 18 team: What do you see as the future of print?

Diana Varma: Print is so multifaceted—there’s packaging, direct mail, magazines, newspaper. The most obvious key piece that will make up the future is packaging—large format, high-quality custom work, and things we weren’t able to do in the past. Digital has really opened up the world of packaging. There are a lot of opportunities for marketers and designers to further integrate print and digital and discover how we can make the two work well together.

Further, because print is so multifaceted the one trend I can speak to best is custom, high-quality print on things we haven’t been able to print on before. Specifically, with wide-format inkjet, we can print on plywood, metal, cork, tile or all sorts of weird and wacky substrates. The world of digital print and high-quality custom work is really exciting.

PRINT 18 team: How specifically has print evolved as we’ve moved into a digital world?

Diana Varma: Aside from the obvious technological changes—desktop publishing in the 80s and 90s—print has evolved to better integrate for the digital world. One example I can cite is new technology that incorporates clickable paper into printed textbooks. You download an augmented reality app and scan an icon on the printed page and it launches content on a secure server. This way, if something changes dramatically in the industry, a new video can be uploaded without having to reprint the text. You see, print is not going anywhere, but digital is playing a role in print and print, in turn, is shaping digital. That’s really neat.

PRINT 18 team: Can you expand on your PRINT 18 session topic – Hiring the Next Generation of Print Leaders? Who should attend and what do you hope they take away from the session?

Diana Varma:  My session is about how to seek out, train and retain the best possible workforce. There are areas in hiring that are being overlooked: the value of diversity, bringing on people that may have been overlooked in the past but who have a true passion for the profession—introverts, minorities, people with disabilities—as well as the role women can play in print. Honestly, it’s still a male-dominated industry. Let’s look at how women can bring their unique skills and talent to the profession.

My session is for leaders—printing company owners and managers, HR professionals, anyone who has to do with sourcing new talent. It’s not only based on research but also on my work as an internship coordinator, working directly with students and helping hundreds of interns secure positions. I also address the importance of having an onboarding program, which is arguably more important than the hiring processing itself. There is some critically important information that leads to better talent that’s being overlooked, and I aim to present hiring ideas that management may not have thought of before. The goal is for anyone attending to walk away with actionable takeaways for their own business.

Diana Varma will present “Hiring the Next Generation of Print Leaders” at PRINT 18. Be sure to add this to your PRINT 18 agenda.

Diana Varma holds a BTech from Ryerson University and MA from the University of Alberta, both in Print Media & Communications Technologies. She currently works in Toronto, Canada teaching and co-ordinating interns at the School of Graphic Communications Management at Ryerson University. Prior to her current position, she worked for four years in the areas of Project Management and Sales at Webcom Inc. Diana writes a monthly column in Canada’s leading trade publication, Graphic Arts Magazine, where she has over 100 published articles about a variety of topics including printing technology insights, HR trends, and social media marketing for business.

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