What Does the Future Hold for Paper and Print?

An industry veteran offers insight on evolving in the digital age

From budgetary challenges to societal shifts, the changing face of the print and graphic communications industry is affected by a wide variety of external forces. We spoke with PRINT 18 speaker and veteran designer Daniel Dejan, Print Creative Manager for North America at Sappi Paper, about what he sees as the biggest hurdles today’s print professionals must overcome and how to move forward into a profitable future.

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

Daniel Dejan: First of all, I think we live in a different business model today than we have in years past. In light of recent recessions in 2004 and 2008, we have shifted from a marketing-driven model to a finance-driven model. Consequently, one of the major challenges we have in the print industry is that finance people are making aesthetic and marketing decisions. This doesn’t mean we, as designers and marketers, throw up our hands. Rather, it means is that we have to understand that the way financial people make decisions is different than the way we do. We are motivated by the aesthetic and making sure something looks fabulous; they are motivated by ROI. Therefore, when we address budgets—projects that have to be approved and budgeted for—we have to learn how to address the decision makers in a language that they understand and help them see the vision and the true value of great design. Great design can do so many things: It can engage, educate, inform and motivate. Great design cuts through the noise and captures and engages someone’s attention. But often the cost of great design is excessive. We need to overcome that challenge and help the people in charge see the value of spending on quality specialty printing processes.

The second challenge is a much larger issue, currently, the United States ranks 28th in the world in reading comprehension. The larger concern is that it’s all well and good to print all these extraordinary pieces—direct mail, catalogs, magazines, etc.—but if no one is reading them and if we’re not incentivizing young people with the pleasure and delight of reading, then we are not reaching anyone. Just as the sporting goods industry or the fashion industry sponsor events to promote their products, the print industry needs to sponsor events that promote our product, which, fundamentally, is reading.

PRINT 18 Team: Truly fascinating and absolutely a much larger issue that needs to be addressed! How do you think digital has affected this even further, and where do you see print fitting into the digital world?

Daniel Dejan: Studies have shown that over the last 15 to 20 years we have split our minds so that the way we read ink on paper is extraordinarily different than the way we read on a device. When we turn on a device, whether it be a laptop, smart phone, etc., we go into skim mode; we don’t read with depth or take the time to extract the nuance, context and intent. We have taught ourselves to speed read. So, if I have a marketing message I’m trying to convey digitally, in many cases people aren’t getting it.

Still, print and digital do complement each other. At Sappi, we did a deep-dive market research project that produced a book, “Print and…” (find it on www.sappi.com), and the bottom line is that print and digital together create a truly complete user experience. What we talk about is a shift in strategy. The reality is that the print community—particularly those in marketing and sales—have to change strategy to use print as a springboard for digital. We need to use print to engage people visually and through copy, get their attention and then get them to a digital vehicle for more information and action. Personally, I think augmented reality is the perfect way to do this, and now that the technology has evolved and is not as expensive, it is a great way to capture attention quickly.

PRINT 18 Team: What do you see are key print and graphic communications trends?  

Daniel Dejan: If we are looking at truly disruptive innovation, I’d say it’s variable data printing. Customized, personalized printing has extraordinary potential, and I don’t think we fully design for it yet. The idea that I can not only change the reader’s name, but that because I’ve done my homework, I can change anything piece by piece given all the demographic and psychographic information I have on my target audience, is phenomenal.

PRINT 18 Team: Can you expand on your PRINT 18 session topic – The Future of Paper and Print? Who should attend and what do you hope they take away from the session?

Daniel Dejan: Normally, I do presentations on something that is print-production based. This time, I’m doing a session that is more strategic in terms of marketing and sales, so I expect that at PRINT more marketing and sales people will attend. What I hope resonates the most is how important print is to getting an audience to read your message. If they truly read it, they will have greater comprehension and a greater likelihood to take action. With a well-designed, well-targeted, well-researched print piece, the reader’s valuation of the authorship increases, and they end up with an increased value in the company and in the brand.

Daniel Dejan will present “The Future of Paper and Print” at PRINT 18. Be sure to add this to your PRINT 18 agenda.

As an educator, designer, humanist, mentor and lover of all things graphic arts, Daniel Dejan has been an evangelist for the power of paper and print for the span of his career. He is the face of the etc (education-training-consulting) Group at Sappi Fine Paper North America where he delivers etc services to Sappi’s wide range of clients. With more than 40 years of design, production, print buying and on-press experience, Dejan is always ready to share his knowledge of the successful and effective marriage of print and paper.

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