It’s no one’s fault that most people don’t understand what we mean when we say, “We work with printers.” Or, in my case, “I write about printing.” (Cue standard reply: “What is there to write about?”)
Defining printing when you discuss your work is tricky, n’est-ce pas?
The word printer means something entirely different to 99% of the population. As I Tweeted one day recently…they didn’t call ovens “bakers,” so why’d they have to call (peripheral) printers “printers?” A pox on them!
I imagine it’s easier if you’re literally a printer. “I run printing presses” is pretty direct. Most people would get that.
But, “I buy printing,” “I design for print,” “I source printing”? Not so much.
Printing has maintained a low profile for forever, it seems. It’s unfortunate that outsiders don’t see what we insiders see: beautiful showcases of technical skill, creative talent, and production expertise. They don’t know the hurdles you’ve jumped to get a job produced under budget and in days. They can’t know how difficult that shade of blue was to print – or what troubles that particular sheet presented to a pressperson, who, by the way, found a way to make it work.
I used to fantasize about inserting tip-ins in magazines and books with “How’d-we-do-this” play-by-play instructions, to show readers what it takes to get that text and those images in the piece they held in their hands. My hunch is that they wouldn’t really care. We’ve made it look so effortless.
I write this to remind new buyers and designers that printing is misunderstood by people outside of the field, and that there’s no easy way around it. You cannot get away with a 60-second ‘elevator speech’ when describing what you do.
Simply saying you buy print or design for print is ineffective. Dig deeper. Focus on the skills that are required to do what you do.
Another idea to consider: Put it into perspective. Printed materials are everywhere we look. They’ve become invisible because we take them for granted. How they’re produced is our specialty. Making that point to outsiders is our common challenge.
(c) 2010 Margie Dana. All rights reserved. No part of this column may be reprinted without permission