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An unforgettable year

Dec 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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What will you remember about 2009? I will never forget crowding into our company's small kitchen one morning this past January with a dozen coworkers and feeling the tension mounting as the picture flickered on the color television temporarily installed on top of the microwave. Could we adjust the picture in time? Yes, we could.

As the presidential oath was administered, one woman openly wept. It was such an ordinary room, with the DOL posters, the counter with the battered coffee station, and the toaster oven with the burned-on crud on the racks and the sink with the malfunctioning garbage disposal. But for a little while, the room was utterly transformed.

Goodbye to Grandma's Magnavox

Electronic marvels mushroomed in 2009. Sleek, wall-mounted flat screen televisions displaced massive entertainment centers in many Americans' living rooms. Some analog holdouts replaced the rabbit ears on their old sets with converter boxes. But old-fashioned console televisions, some the size of Shetland ponies, littered suburban parkways and city alleys as the digital television transition took place.

Apple's iPhone, first introduced in 2007, became ubiquitous in 2009. Amazon's Kindle hasn't achieved similar consumer popularity — yet. Several rival e-readers were announced this year, including Barnes & Noble's Nook, which boasts a color touchscreen.

Social media exploded in 2009. Grown people signed up for Facebook and some started Twittering, too. LinkedIn, a business-networking site, gained traction.

Despite hopeful talk of a business recovery, we remain stuck in an economic quagmire. This was the year of bank bailouts, Cash for Clunkers, and soaring unemployment rates for most states. The printing industry has been hit hard, with many companies consolidating and some closing their doors entirely.

What will 2010 hold? I don't know. But Bill Carver, vice president of integrated solutions at Vision Integrated Graphics Group unknowingly provided me with some much-needed inspiration. Carver, an industry veteran, explained his company's marketing strategy: “We try to come across as a strategic partner,” he says. “We're not here to sell you a product, we're here to understand how this product fits into your global market initiative.”

The Chicago-based company's IPrint division has a 15-person team with web developers, graphic designers, business analysts, project managers and sales specialists. Vision Integrated Graphics isn't moaning about commoditization or competition from new media. It's inventing the future.

Fostering print's future

Brian Regan, president of Semper Intl., is now contributing our Education in Action column. Regan and I met in person for the first time at Education Main Street this past fall. Education Main Street debuted on the PRINT 09 floor as a complimentary section the Graphic Arts Show Company (GASC) provided to educational organizations and institutions, organized by the Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GAERF) (

“This dedicated space let exhibitors make valuable connections with students, alumni, and industry personnel,” says GAERF director Eileen Cassidy. “In addition, attendees seeking well educated, talented industry newcomers made Education Main Street a ‘must-stop’ destination.”

Regan applauds GASC and GAERF for making Main Street a reality. “Talent pipelines should not be taken lightly,” he says. “The print industry, largely made up of smaller firms, is not always able to focus on or find the resources needed to handle programs that nurture talent. This Catch-22 is something the industry has lived with for quite some time. Add the pressure the industry is facing amid the changing media mix, and there is a significant challenge to attracting top talent.”

Brad Scull, principal at York Printe Shoppe, works with Marwen, a Chicago-based nonprofit student art program on its annual report and related projects. The firm caters to the design community, a group that Scull credits with “pushing us to be better printers.”

Scull, a graduate of Ferris State's printing program, actively recruits from his alma mater and hosts student tours.

Marwen alumna Elizabeth Requena painted Chicago's historic Water Tower on the cover. She is now a sophomore at Columbia College studying film and a mentor to two other Marwen alumni.

We have met some amazing teachers, students and industry champions in 2009 and look forward to showcasing more of them in 2010.

You can follow me on Twitter at as well as on my new blog: KOB on Commercial Printing at