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Digital Evolution: The State of Commercial Printing

Epson Digital Printer

Epson Digital PrinterJust as a pianist has affection and allegiance to the piano, a printer has a fondness for his press(es). The tune played as the various mechanical parts perform their individual functions in harmony will never be forgotten. But as the synthesizer and electric piano changed the scope of music and musicians, the digital press and toner have taken the industry by surprise creating a new breed of pressmen and press work. Being “mechanically inclined” is no longer a requirement, the future generation of pressmen are computer savvy, web surfing, toner wielding wizards.

Embracing Change

The idea that print is “dying”, as I see it, is simply a matter of wordplay.
The word “dying” provokes a negative connotation such as “ending, expiring or kicking the bucket”; wordplay. The truth of the matter is that print media is “changing, adapting and evolving”.

Lets take a step back and remember the faithful Letterpress. Slowly but surely faded away from print shops all over the world with the introduction of the Offset Press. Yes, there are many letterpress communities still in existence because there is still a passion for the art. But in business, passion alone does not pay the bills or fill the coffers.


Print Communication the Social Way

Digital Toner Wells

Communication has been in a constant evolution since the beginning:
Symbols drawn in caves; Eventually, the need for long distance and mass communication brought about the invention of telephones and printing presses. Furthermore, innovation and efficiency gave birth to the internet and social media.

The consumer is no longer to be considered one of many but one individual, changing the scope of business marketing and the tools it uses to target the consumer. This new Social environment requires marketers to change the message from Hello, everyone to Hello, you.


Digital Printing: Changing the message, one print at a time.


Our 2010 encounter with GraphExpo confirmed that there’s a new sheriff in town and he’s more efficient, has more abilities and is constantly growing both in capacity and awareness. This is the true current state of commercial printing.

Digital Press Speeding

Walking in, you notice the absence of the tantalizing aroma of press chemistry. The knocking sound; faint, lacking. Apprehension sets in, a slight shiver of concern triggers a bead of sweat to trickle down the forehead of many attendees.

As we entered, the modest noise level echoing the building pronounced the quantity of offset presses being displayed on the floor. Much of the collateral we amassed in our journey through the isles was about digital technology, Variable Data Printing (VDP), Digital Presses, QR Codes and PURLs.

The cover of “the magazine” distributed by the Printing Industries of America is riddled with QR Codes as are the interior pages and the title: “A Blueprint for Your Future”. If this does not warrant the fact that digital printing is here to stay, then nothing will.

Fear Not, Change is here!

There is no cause for alarm, this is fair warning.
No one in the industry expects to start seeing offset presses out on the curb tomorrow. Digital printing still has some work to do to catch up with the efficiency and cost that an offset press offers for large runs or even large format for that matter.

Print brokers, advertising agencies and designers are yet to really understand the advantages of Variable Data which is only starting to mature. Assembling a VDP campaign is no easy task at this point and collecting the data necessary takes time and lots of energy.

Until your local pizza guy can easily and inexpensively access the tools to create a database of his current customers, upload a picture of their favorite pizza and tailor a message to them specifically without breaking a sweat, it is the duty of the advertising agencies, print brokers and designers to promote and manage these types of campaigns.

This running sentence bears a very important question:

Is this a job for the printing company?

Some printing companies have already incorporated the “Print Agency” model. Everything from strategy to fulfillment is carried out by one entity.

Do you think that a printing company should involve themselves in the creative process?

Should advertising agencies start merging with print shops or vice versa?

We would really like to hear your thoughts on this subject,

please post a comment below…


Print and Design Expert


  • Sajan
    February 2, 2024

    Great advice! Finding a reliable local print shop is key to ensuring your printing needs are met efficiently and affordably. Whether you’re in Brooklyn or Madrid, exploring specialty architectural printers can be a hidden gem for quality work at a lower cost. Don’t underestimate the value of mom-and-pop shops that specialize in small printing jobs – a quick call to confirm their capabilities can save you time and hassle. When dealing with larger prints, like a 36″ wide black-and-white job, it’s crucial to get an estimate upfront and check the scale indicator upon pickup. This extra step ensures that your patterns are printed accurately to scale, providing peace of mind for your projects.

  • Ranjan
    February 2, 2024

    This insightful commentary beautifully captures the evolution of the printing industry, drawing an analogy between the pianist’s connection to the piano and a printer’s affinity for their press. The imagery of a harmonious tune played by the mechanical parts working in unison adds a poetic touch to the description of traditional printing processes.

    The comparison to the impact of synthesizers and electric pianos on music aptly mirrors the transformative effect of digital presses and toner in the printing realm. The narrative skillfully outlines the shift from a mechanical to a digital era, emphasizing the changing skill set required of pressmen, who are now envisioned as computer-savvy wizards navigating the digital landscape.

  • Mia Evans
    January 5, 2024

    I like that you talked about innovation and efficiency caused by the internet and social media these days. I guess those two things also helped various industries when it comes to their needs in order to gain more by being efficient and to cater to their clients as much as possible. For example, those offering commercial printing services would be able to get more clients if they can provide the demands even if there are multiple people or businesses getting their services.

  • Claudio
    May 4, 2018

    nice post thanxs for sharing.

  • jennie
    February 22, 2018

    Thanks for sharing

  • Aaron Stephens
    January 19, 2016

    I think you made some great points about adaptation versus dying. On that note, I wonder how long it will take printing services to offer 3D printing. It still seems very niche right now. It seems like that industry is just waiting for the consumer to catch on.

    • Dan
      January 26, 2016

      Aaron – you make some good points about the industry. Although 3D printing is a popular trend, it is still uncertain how consumers and businesses will ultimately use 3D printing. Right now it is still cost prohibitive, and designers are not as plentiful as standard 2D printing. But eventually I think consumers will use 3D printing to substitute traditional printing.

  • Thanks for sharing this great writing.

  • postcard printing
    June 19, 2012

    As the advent of the new era everything is changing day by day as far as the printing is concerned there is hell of a difference between the past printing and the present printing as the new advances in the technology new machine are coming day by day so the working and the quality of work changes on daily bases.

  • Victoria Smith
    December 2, 2011

    Everyone are on change now, just the same with printing industry. So I believe that printing press is dying. And you are right, its not dying at all because its evolving and adapting the new trend.

    Being adaptive and creative will make the printing press more successful at the end. Its not really dying at all, its still there but it changes as the time goes by.

  • Earl
    November 11, 2011

    I think the printing companies will have to become more innovative as more technology emerges, but I also believe it will weather the storm and be successful in the end!

    • Giovanni
      November 11, 2011

      Earl thanks for your comment. I agree with you 100%!

  • Thanks for the read.

    I think printing companies will need to involve themselves in the creative process such as offering graphic design services in the near future.

    • Giovanni
      June 6, 2011

      Thanks for the comment Gecko, you are absolutely right. With the growth of digital printing technology, printers now have the ability to offer variable data, QR codes and specialized direct mail services.
      Integrating the creative process into their business is a lucrative vertical that every printer should consider right away.

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  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sandy Hubbard, The Marsid M&M Group. The Marsid M&M Group said: Printers: #HelpPrintThrive by Embracing Change! Digital Printing, Variable Data, QR Codes, Personalized Direct Mail – […]

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