from illuminated manuscripts
to digital embellishment

Online was supposed to dominate our daily lives and be the most appropriate media replacing print forever.

Online was supposed to dominate our daily lives and be the most appropriate media replacing print forever. The dematerialization was due to be the essence of the evolution. This is true that some content is no longer printed and something of the past (eg user manuals, thick catalogues, many newspapers). But at the same time we need to agree that as TV did not replace Radio, Internet did not replace TV, iPads did not replace books and magazines and print is not replaced by online. Print is in fact now seen as one established and recognized channel available to convey information and emotion effectively.

The reaction to “all online” materialized quickly when consumers started to be literally bombarded by all kind of promotional offers and banners. The response was the raise of Ad Blockers and a strong decrease of the response rate to online promos. Some users even claim that they do not see the banners popping up. According to 68% of consumers do not pay attention to online advertisement. This is a sign of the time.

Moreover, and this is now recognized, when online, all looks the same, small companies and large companies, serious companies and the less serious one. Good offers are mixed among the less relevant one. No surprise to see major brands to revamp their marketing mix integrating print more systematically. Unilever Media Director Arne Kirchem recently said, “60 percent viewability for a campaign, I am sorry this is not enough”

The last 10 years journey demonstrates that online is a new communication channel not replacing previous one but forcing print to adjust to the new world delivering a relevant and emotional communication.

Print is evolving according to the Darwin law. The pages not adjusting to the new context are disappearing or declining. New pages are on the raise. Print evolved in stages adding one after the other. Initially, printing was aiming at the education of populations (major acceleration with Gutenberg), then information sharing was added to the print requirements (major development of print with newspapers and offset printing). Now we are adding new requirements to print with emotion and communication.

Print is now adjusting to these new necessities and the natural evolution (of the print species) is to make print cool, emotional, attractive and the best way doing it effectively is adding embellishment to the pages. Some can claim that embellishment as such is not new. True. It all started with illuminated manuscript centuries ago. What is however changing is that you now can print and embellish at the same time in one integrated workflow and all this can be done digitally from A to Z. This makes print to be a very effective communication channel enabling an effective and emotional communication.

When you refer to embellishment you need to add the ability to integrate into printed items all kind of digital assets including Augmented Reality connecting print and the online world. The new pages not only look good with raised print, special textures and effects but they can tell a complete story in ways never done before.

Again, some can claim such features are not new. What is now unique is that the prices to install an embellishment solution is rather low cost and the usage of embellishment is as well easy – like adding new colours into a document. These changes are not only taking place in commercial printing but in packaging and the all the equipment manufacturers increasing their offering. Moving away from undifferentiated mass production to a customized and emotional communication combining various channels including print is the new landscape.

In this context, digital printing combined with digital embellishment is going to be a requirement for Print Service Providers aiming for a sustainable future.

Let’s acknowledge that nice paper substrates in various type of format, with a customized content and selected embellishment can convey the offers and the values of brands in a much better may than a standard email or an online banner. A smooth substrate, a nice typeface, a nice raised print headline combined with an intriguing folding will address all your senses.

To conclude, I would like to draw your attention to an article I wrote in 2012 and which today is even more relevant. It was not prediction, it was based on the evolution of technologies appreciating that the print evolution I see is based on the Darwin law I was referring to earlier. The weak species disappear while the strong one grow. In other terms for print, what make sense will remain and what is no longer required will phase out.

From drupa 2012. “Rapid growth in mobile communication and cloud-based content empower consumers to choose from different consumption channels. In such an environment, print has the potential to play a valuable and compelling role provided it fully leverages the power of customization, relevance and just-in-time delivery. It is necessary to differentiate between tree types of pages. High value page, these pages are print-on-demand, web-to-print and customized printed pages used in direct mail communication and at POS/POP. Low value pages, pages with static content, low customer involvement, limited shelf time and generally produced in high-volume at low cost. New digital value pages, based on a user generated content such as photo albums, self-published books which will help share and preserve memories”.

If we only look at the development over the last 5 years, we can see how high-value pages grew and this is not over. Embellishment will further contribute to the high-value pages development. The one who did not adjust their print strategy to digital timely saw a strong decline of their business facing offset over capacity and reduced profit margins. The same will happen around embellishment.

There is no doubt that the digital (R)evolution has made an impact to the various print species and it will continue as the evolution can’t be stopped. Embellishment is now part of the landscape. Be aware and ready.


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