One of the great things about production inkjet is that it has staying power. If you ask, “how long will an inkjet system last” the answer is often “we don’t know yet because they’re still running.” You can find Ricoh 5000 series and HP PageWide 200 and 300 series and Canon JetStream and ColorStream devices out in the field that are approaching a decade in production.
What does this have to do with designers you ask? Well, here’s the thing. Many designers may have been introduced to production inkjet back when the primary market for it was transaction printing and high volume direct mail (of the not-so-fancy variety.) They may have decided that inkjet was not good enough for the type of work they do and so they don’t consider it for their projects. And that’s a problem, because designers and other creatives are also print buyers, or at least print influencers.
Creatives within a corporate communications, internal marketing or external agency setting can make, or influence the decision to:
- Choose print, digital or a combination
- Produce long run static or versioned/personalized work
- Consider toner or inkjet for digital components
So, if you have a more recent generation of production inkjet press with 4 or more gray levels, variable dot sizes with fine control, highly pigmented ink that pops you really should make sure that those potential customers on the creative side of the fence know what you can do. The other thing that many designers think they know about inkjet is that they can’t use the paper that they want. One of the other nifty things about the latest and greatest inkjet products is that they have a variety of ways to dramatically expand the palette of media that can be used. Some OEMs do this with UV or other sticky ink sets. Some use pre-coating or spot treatment. Some OEMs do more than one of those things to give you options.
All of the new approaches to achieving quality can require some technical savvy to allow the designer to take full advantage. At the very least, the wide variations in capabilities and quality across available inkjet solutions can be very confusing for designers. Note: confused designers are not our friends.
How Much Does This Matter?
It matters a lot. If you look at projections from I.T. Strategies for the growth of pages between 2017 and 2022, the market segments that are growing in double digits are the markets that are most greatly influenced by creatives. In the chart below, based on continuous inkjet volumes, the graphic arts segment is expected to grow by 42%. Of course, that is starting from a very small base – but I would argue that this segment could grow even faster with a focused effort on engaging and educating designers.
(If you want to know more about that “Other” category – check out this video from Marco Boer.) The above chart only considers the continuous feed inkjet market. Sheet-fed inkjet is another area that was a dead-end for designers until a few years ago. According to I.T. Strategies sheet-fed volume in North America just topped 4 billion pages in 2017 and projected to grow to 40 billion by 2022. Nearly 70% of that sheet-fed volume is expected to be produced by direct mailers and commercial printers.
In order to generate this kind of growth, or better, we have to get designers on board. The inkjet OEMs have spent the last few years ratcheting up their game. Now it’s time to let the designers know that the game has changed.
Meanwhile, there are several great tools for educating designers on Inkjet Insight like the downloadable inkjet tint book. Take some time, look around. Make a designer your friend.
Also check the video with Mary and I from the 2018 thINK conference on the release of the 2nd Edition of the Designer’s Guide to Inkjet.