Enter Design Thinking in the Printing Industry

Forbes explains design thinking as “a process—applicable to all walks of life—of creating new and innovative ideas and solving problems. It is not limited to a specific industry or area of expertise.”

Design thinking in business uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match

1.   people’s needs with what is

2.   technologically feasible within a

3.   viable business strategy – 

all of which converts into customer value and thus a market opportunity.

The core of design thinking is ideating (brainstorming) how to solve customers’ problems discovered through an empathetic investigative process. This is followed by prototyping and testing the solutions. You might look at design thinking as +brainstorming+.

The Need for Design Thinking in the Printing Industry

Design thinking is already used effectively to cope with the rapid rate of disruption caused by digitization in communications, education, retail, manufacturing, healthcare and many other industries. However, its use in the printing industry is sparse.

The printing industry is traditionally manufacturing driven – not customer or solution driven. The digital world has changed that.

Many printers have recognized the importance of positioning themselves as marketing services providers by incorporating capabilities that meet the expanded needs of their customers beyond print, bind and ship. Database management, list maintenance, variable data, PURLs, mobile apps, web development, social media management, marketing campaign management, web-to-print and much more are all required to properly service today’s customers. This requires digitally driven equipment, digital workflows, and the people to operate them. It also requires the ability to develop solutions that satisfy the customers’ needs with what is technically feasible within a viable business strategy (profitability). Enter design thinking. 

Implementing Design Thinking in the Printing Industry

Much of design thinking is common sense, and many good sales reps, and sales and marketing managers use aspects of the concept day in and day out. Its great potential is when it is all put together as a process that will result in more sales, higher profits, and more satisfied customers.

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Hello digital printers – welcome to the world of Imagineering.

We cannot avoid the fact that many of us are now competing with present and former customers – the advertising and marketing agencies. They traditionally have played the role of being the innovators and creators of great (and not so great) marketing campaigns. That’s where the high-value profits have been. That’s where we want to be.

How do we compete with these entrenched agencies? We digital printers (aka marketing services providers) have never had so many new-to-the-world products and services that can help our customers succeed. However, in order to use them effectively,  we need to think differently. We need to become creative. We need to “imagineer”.

Some  excellent answers on how to become a creative and innovative organization  can be found in the book “Borrowing Brilliance” by David Kord Murray. It presents the six steps to business innovation by building on the ideas of others. Frankly, it’s the best business book I’ve ever read, and I heartily recommend it to every sales and marketing manager and every rep in the industry.

What are your ideas on how to convert from printer to marketing services provider?

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No longer is print just for reading.

Interactive print is any technology that connects print to the digital world or allows a human to interface with it.

No longer is print just for reading. It has become a sophisticated communication transfer medium. How so?

  • Image recognition technology via smart phone (and smart tablet) cameras connects print to the digital world.
  • Electronic circuits printed on a traditional printing press (screen, flexography, offset and gravure) not only connect us to the digital world but also allows for human interaction with the substrate itself.

Here are a few interactive print solutions we are aware of. They have different capabilities and permutations and some overlap each other. We have taken the liberty of inventing new-to-the-world terms in an attempt to clarify the classifications.

 Print-to-web – here a camera scans an image and image recognition software connects the device to the digital world. Three categories of print-to-web are:

  • mobile bar codes or 2D codes.
  • scannable stand-alone printed images (as opposed to QR codes™ and tags .)
  • print-to-device touch systems.

QR codes™ and Microsoft tags are examples of mobile bar codes. Scannable stand-alone solutions are Blippar, Digimarc and Documobi. Touchcode is a print-to-device application. An electronic circuit is actually printed on the substrate and is activated when the printed piece touches the screen.

Print-to-us – is a “human touch” application. Novalia, a solution from the U.K., enables electronic devices such as sensors, lights, speakers, printed batteries and various communication devices to be activated when the printed piece is touched.

Join us at the Linkedin Group “Interactive Print“.

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Stop this digital world. I want to get off! Or do I?

In the olden days, we had time to become educated on all things print. You could read and investigate about typesetting, engravings, the printing process (letterpress), paper characteristics, binding methods and mailing. Once you absorbed what you read, you had it nailed – for a long time. Like years!

Today it’s not so easy. Often I find myself in a milieu in which I can’t follow the conversation going on around me. The only person I know that seems to know all things about all things print is Frank Romano. Now there’s no doubt that Frank is a bright fellow, but does he really know everything about the “print” industry? He probably knows more about the industry than anyone in my circle of friends and acquaintances, but I think Frank will admit that trying to stay abreast in this rapidly changing world of new technology is nigh unto impossible.

So what is a man or woman to do who isn’t as bright a Frank. How do you possibly keep up with not only what’s happening with print technology but, more importantly, how do you keep up with how this technology can be  applied to customers’ marketing efforts?

The answer is you don’t. The second answer is you need to focus. The third answer is you need to filter.

Your in trouble if you have even a touch of ADD. With so many internal and external forces acting upon our industry, it is imperative that we stay focused on the task at hand. Each of us has a current knowledge set that we can apply to those tasks and solutions. But like always, even before this exponential explosion of digital and technical expertise and knowledge, we still had to keep an open mind and an ear cocked to those things that might affect or enhance any current projects. We can’t go down the road with blinders. We have to go down the road with “filters”.

The ability to filter helps us to focus and stay on track. Here’s what I try to do:

  • This may sound trite, but I always have a more productive day when the first thing I do is exercise.
  • I read about “new stuff” at the start of my day. I’m able to more easily filter out what is not worthwhile – plus I retain a lot more
  • During the day, I filter what I read both on paper and on the screen. If it doesn’t look like it will be helpful, it immediately gets tossed or deleted.
  • I try to defer reading about “new stuff” to time set aside for precisely that.
  • Listen to and keep an open mind with vendor sales reps. They are there to help your business prosper, and often have valuable things to share.
  • Avoid being an email addict.

Now I’m one of those so-called consultants who has time to investigate new stuff, and I can’t imagine how someone with a ton of management, sales or production responsibilities can stay in step with all that’s going on.

Frankly, Frank would say, it’s a very, very difficult task.

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