In direct mail, color consistency is critical—both to producing the mail itself and for the impression it makes on the person who receives it. Mail for a customer campaign is printed using multiple technologies. Recipients expect it to have a consistent appearance; for production, flexibility is key—being able to seamlessly move jobs as needed without having to worry about whether or not colors will match between devices. Accurate color management is crucial to addressing both of these concerns.
Naturally, IWCO Direct’s creative teams have to be familiar with a variety of print technologies. With the adoption of G7 calibration and the implementation of the GRACoL print specifications across all our different print technologies, we’ve been able to achieve a shared neutral appearance across different paper substrates and different print output devices. That tells us we can accurately reproduce the truest color possible, no matter the technology we’re working with.
Events like the Printing Industries of America (PIA) Color Conference are also important to our color management practices. The Color Conference gives us a first look at the latest technologies and, just as valuable, the chance to connect with fellow color professionals. By staying current on the tech, trends, tips, and conversations guiding color management, we can stay on the cutting edge of new innovations that help us lead the direct marketing industry.
What We’re Watching from the 2018 PIA Color Conference
The technology that impressed us at this year’s Color Conference included advancements in the Alwan ChromaChecker and CHROMIX’s Maxwell, applications that can tie in with our current color process control software. These will help us assesses color-matching expectations across devices to make sure that the IWCO Direct creative vision can become an ink-and-paper reality for our clients.
Also of interest to the IWCO Direct team was how the advancement of XCMYK (X = extended color gamut with CMYK, by increased densities) would enable us to print some spot colors on a press as CMYK that were out of (reach) color gamut. Color Exchange Format (CxF), a print standard for taking a color reading (called “spectral data”) and embedding it into a .pdf, was another hot topic on the conference floor. With CxF, anyone could share color information—whether it’s a designer, ink vendor, or printer. Numerous companies are already incorporating this into their color branding guidelines, and we’re eager to see how it can augment IWCO Direct’s production capabilities.
Striving for Perfection with Color Professionals
While this year’s conference was full of useful information, a few presentations stuck with me:
- “The Psychology Behind Color, Design and Interaction” by Google’s David Hogue discussed the relationship between the human brain’s reaction to color and how marketers can “create better products and experiences based on psychological principles.”
- In “Color Expectations: What’s Reasonable and What’s Not?,” Don Hutcheson of HutchColor, LLC, stressed that even incredible breakthroughs in printing technology can’t guarantee perfection—but printers can still deliver quality that’s better than “good enough.”
- Keynote speakers Barry Sanel of DIAGEO (“DIAGEO: Anatomy of a Strong Color Management Program”) and Lisa Price of 3M (“Global Brand Consistency: How 3M Makes It Happen”) both offered case studies on the roles consistent quality and color management have in ensuring brand strength and longevity.
All of these presentations drove home one central concept: the importance of color standards. Trust in your vendors and suppliers is paramount; acceptance of tight color tolerances is expected; and today’s color management capabilities give printers the tools and abilities to succeed.
Looking back, this was one of the more active and informative Color Conferences of recent years. With a 40% increase in attendance from last year, 34 color experts from various fields, and 40 sessions to choose from, there were a lot of great opportunities to connect with industry leaders. We’re looking forward to watching these technology and thought-changing ideas influence the industry and tracking their impact at the next conference.
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