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Navigating the Wide-Format Sea

(October 2009) posted on Wed Oct 28, 2009

Five industry experts scope out the year ahead.

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Williams: Photography has been under threat from inkjet for a number of years both on the narrow- and wide-format sides. Digital photography “liberated” the image from film and it now can be repurposed onto a variety of specialty items such as photo books, greeting cards, calendars, art, and even blankets, and printed using ink jet and electrophotography. Further, the image can exist virtually and can be viewed, shared, and saved on line. Photography is perhaps the first imaging technology to be replaced by digital—and it may not be the last.

Let’s talk green/sustainable printing: With the economic challenges of 2009 fully upon us, it appears that many customers and, hence, print providers, have put sustainable concerns in the number-two slot at best—do you agree? Will green bounce back once the economy does the same?

Marx: While it’s true that desperation is not the best conduit for environmental protection, companies committed to sustained growth should be focused on reducing environmental benefit. Although some companies start their journey toward sustainability for altruistic reasons or to make a difference, all companies ultimately find that the quest for sustainable practices brings significant, bottom-line benefits. Processes are streamlined, quality increases, “surprises” disappear, and the company is better positioned to face the future efficiently and effectively. Also, we find that large print customers (big box stores, for instance) have not put their environmental concerns on the back burner.

Williams: I don’t necessarily agree with the statement that print service providers have put sustainable concerns in the number-two slot. There is a group of print-shop owners in Europe and North America that have put the sustainability issue up front and live by it.

Florek: Businesses will become more environmentally friendly once business returns. Sustainable concerns, however, will not be the highest priority for print providers, nor even the second-highest priority. That’s because even when the economy was healthy, environmental considerations were outweighed by other factors. Image quality is likely to remain the most important factor for shops in the long run, followed by cost-efficiency.

Dundas: Green products and practices might not be in the center of the radar screen for many in the sign and digital graphics industries right now, but we expect this to change as economic conditions improve. Some strong incentives have already been created by federal, state, and local government policies for sustainable and eco-friendly practices.