Today Ellen and I took it upon ourselves to visit as many different print companies we could in the afternoon we had free of any timetabled sessions. We had spoken about our research and the processes we had already carried out and decided that it would be much more beneficial to us to actual go and visit people and speak to them personally. We decided not to contact anyone in advance just because we were limited for time and didn't obviously want anyone turning us away.
We were extremely fortunate to be able to gather such strong primary research from today and I am really pleased with the outcomes of each of the visits. We aimed to reach LGP in Leeds having no idea at first where they were located. It was quite a long way from the centre of town but we were glad we had made the journey because we found fast signs along our way.
From the outside it became apparent to us both that they were a more commercial printer. This was ideal for us both. My idea at the moment consists of producing a mail shot from the government informing people about how they can be more sustainable in their choices.
When I went in I therefore asked the lady in there whether she would be able to help me gather some primary research concerning my brief. I started off by asking whether they actually print there or whether they just do the art work, and she said they do a bit of both. This was perfect for me. I then asked whether she thought it would be beneficial for me to design a mail shot which would be sent out by the government informing people about how to be sustainable, this would consist of stock choices, vegetable based inks and perhaps ways in which you can bind in a more sustainable way.
The response I got was the response I almost expected to hear. This is because I have already visited Hobbs repro graphics who hadn't initially sounded very enthusiastic when I asked them about their vegetable based ink printer. The lady said that she thinks their customers would be interested to know all about being more eco friendly, but at the end of the day they have to price up the costing of it all and this would be more expensive than using the machines they currently use. At the moment however she did say that they don't have any literature on it, which makes a part of me think it would be worthwhile creating but perhaps not how I had initially planned. She also said it all depends on the quality of the print because if it doesn't improve the quality, then clients would wonder what the point of it is.
Below are some photographs I took whilst I was inside of Fast Signs. These were taken in the main reception area and they illustrate the kind of work they produce.
In the entrance they had a timeline of their work, this interested me because when I called The Print Academy in Leeds not so long ago and asked them whether they thought it would be worthwhile to produce a mailshot and then a return form, which, if filled in people would receive posters to put up inside of the printers to let people know about them being sustainable. In response to this I was told that they only have certificates up at the moment so yes, the more information the better. Therefore, being able to see for myself that they have this up inside, shows that it obviously varies a lot from place to place.
After this visit we then both had a conversation about my brief and my idea and how it is looking quite likely that I would be fighting for a lost cause, especially as the initial mail shot would be sent to printers to persuade them, and in turn their clients to be 'green'.
We then came up with the idea that it could be aimed at printers who are opening new stores and could perhaps think twice about their choice of machinery and equipment that they buy in for it. I was still unsure at this point whether this would be a successful idea or not. I didn't panic though because I am quite enjoying all of the changes that have happened since the start of the brief and I am happy that the underlying theme of 'turning over a new leaf' is still present, even if the concept has adapted.
We then reached our destination, 'lgp' and luckily when we got there, the managing director was available to show us round and talk us through all of their processes and the machinery. We took lots of photographs on our way round and wrote down relevant notes that will be helpful to us for this brief and in the future. It was so interesting getting some first hand research from an industry professional and he was more than happy to show us around.
The initial stages of litho print
The process used now is called CFO (computer to plate) where a piece of aluminium goes through the printer and the background area is removed. The carbon becomes the image area and the background is water receptive and ink repellent. If no water is present it would start to mark the image area itself. The water from the rollers wet the plate and then the ink is applied as a secondary process. Straight from computer to plate allowing it to be produced in 14 minutes, which is a large improvement in comparison to the old method.
After being shown the litho print initial process I then asked for some responses about vegetable based inks. It doesn't really cost more money for people to use it, however corporate companies are those who tend to ask about it, whereas small clients don't because of the cost. It therefore boils down to money all of the time.
The machine below collates, folds, stitches and trims in that exact order. By simply setting the job to go it will do as many as required. I couldn't believe how many complex movements it made along the way, such an efficient machine to have especially in a commercial print industry.
Here he was just demonstrating to us how this had been printed using the other machine that folds more accurately to stop the paper from cracking along the sides and looking unprofessional. In this case the brochure was to promote the high spec chairs the company sell, which is why it is important that it is finished properly and to a professional standard. The photograph below shows how he ripped the edge of the design to illustrate to us how they had used a laminator to give a soft finish at the end.
A lot of the work they print for clients is similar to that photographed below. All of these pages are printed out in a special way to allow the ink from a pen to go through to all of them.
This machine was found in the finishing room. The machine itself is responsible for folding concertinas at a high speed and it can produce a vast quantity at a short speed. 25,000 can be produced per hour.
Below are images which were taken downstairs after we had been shown the initial stages of litho print. Each of the four different columns illustrated in the photographs are all different to produce an image or text made up of CMYK. The plate is therefore transferred though all of the different sections allowing it to then come out as full colour print.
This has been printed using litho print. The machine below is then used to check the levels of ink. What happens is, the printer will print out one of them and then place it on top of the machine to check the ink levels before setting the machine off to print the required amount.
This is an example of some work they have printed for a client which is actually printed first and then foiled to finish. It is then going to be mounted on to some thick card and distributed to Debenhams.
This is an example of some work they had produce for a client which had been die cut to form the folder itself and the folds on the inside which hold the paper/content, and then the text printed on the front had been done using gold ink.
This is what the die actually looks like when it is ready to be used. I found is fascinating to see in person as I had only ever viewed it on YouTube videos in the past, which are actually far less useful than visiting professionals and getting tips and advice from them instead.
This is actually a template for packaging which is made before the process can start. Whilst we were being told about how they work, I mentioned how much I love packaging design and we were recommended another place we should visit where they actually specialise in packaging nets.
This is one of the Die Cutting machines that he showed us, it was the smaller of the two. All of the paper here is stacked up ready to be cut in to in order to produce as much as they can in a little time.
One key thing that came up in conversation today was the fact that printers are interested in the technology that allows them to create as much as quickly as possible. This being said, being eco friendly in every situation would be impossible to do. A large factor which I thought about today was the fact that all of this machinery is powered by electricity, which in itself is a pollutant. So would I really be making a vast difference trying to create something 'green' to promote and encourage people to think twice about their choices.
On the side near the die cut machine there were some samples of boxes ready to be made which they make for special occasions such as weddings. Ellen and I were each given a box to take away which was very kind.
Conversation at the end of the visit
Once we had been shown round everywhere I decided to have a further talk with him about my project. I felt as though if I had left it there, I wouldn't have got as much relevant information as I could have done and thought I may as well essentially get as much information from him as possible.
We had a discussion about how the recession has made people become even more cautious about their money and as a result people don't necessarily want to spend extortionate amounts on print. He said that although he is extremely interested and concerned in a way with the environment, there is only so much we can do. They recycle and reuse paper as much as possible and try not to simply throw things away without a second thought. He said the other 22 people working there are just the same and they have been awarded with the ISO 14001 which means that they are extremely environmentally friendly in the way that they work.
This Environmental Policy commits them to:
- Comply with all applicable environmental legal, regulatory and other requirements.
- Monitor all business activities and their resource usage to identify opportunities to minimize waste.
- Purchase through a buying organisation that source paper product from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)
I felt as though the conversation wasn't going in the direction I had initially hoped for, as I would have obviously loved for him to say that making people aware of being more environmentally friendly in the way they have their work printed/even informing printers of how to be more sustainable would be brilliant, however the reality of it is down to the cost. Linking back to a seminar we had with Richard not long ago, you can only really be ethical if you have the money to be.
It suddenly became very clear to me that my concept needs to urgently be adapted to fit the audience. My audience was stood right there in front of me telling me how bad the situation is and how hard it is to encourage people to spend money if they don't have it. I therefore picked up on something he had said earlier when he said they hadn't really marketed themselves much and that he had been meaning to make a difference to the reception area as well to create a stronger identity. He had also said they don't have any promotional material to give to clients (I personally think that this is because they have their loyal clients who have used them for numerous years and as a result they don't actually need to promote themselves). In my opinion however, the more work the better. They are also very successful as they have just opened another place in Huddersfield I think he said, so it would be worthwhile marketing this as well.
As this became apparent to me, I asked whether he would be interested in me designing something for him which would illustrate all of the different services they have to offer. His response was very positive and he said he would love to see what I come up with.
I was then given contact details (a business card) and a notebook to take away. I was asked to email him straight away with requirements and I will do so tomorrow when I have more time to spend on it.
Once I had left there, I felt overwhelmed with all of the information I had taken in and it sunk in about what I had suggested to him. I then thought it through and considered how it would be more appropriate for a responsive brief perhaps, but then when I got home and had a good think about it, I realised that it is perfect in fact for this brief.
I now have an audience which is extremely focused, and this was an issue before hand, I have the relevant primary research, the branding sorted and just have to apply what I know to design to come up with an information pack which will consist of:
- A mail shot which will list all of their services
- The mail shot will arrive in an envelope which can be reused and posted back to them once completed, which acts as a request form to receive more information
- The information they would then receive would be in the form of another envelope or perhaps in the style of a graze box, and this would have samples of all of their finished work past and present
- Re create the note pad given to me with facts on each page about them
I was also really pleased when I received the business card from him and it was in the form of a concertina. This was my initial idea, to avoid binding and be a bit more sustainable in my design. I also think the fact that I am still able to reuse the envelope is great as it is allowing a consistent flow and idea to run throughout my development.
Colors May Vary
We then visited Colors may vary on the way home and I came across some inspirational design which is extremely relevant to this brief as well as my design process Fedrigoni brief. I will therefore be posting this on the relevant blog posts with more information.
Revisited Hobbs Repro graphics
On the way home to make sure that I had made the right decision about veering away slightly from the idea of sustainability, I went in and asked for their opinion on vegetable based inks and asked about their clients.
It made me feel completely different about the situation in hand when I was told that the larger companies that do get in touch actually only specify that they want to use vegetable based inks or perhaps the more recyclable and less harmful paper because they have to, for example the council have to. It is therefore not out of choice and these people don't feel passionate about the situation but instead they are forced in to making certain decisions.
Review of the day
I am really pleased with how today went. Visiting the four different places opened my eyes to other possibilities which I feel are actually much stronger now than my initial ideas anyway. I am excited to continue with my design process and put this in to practice.