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Printing the Future

My Take On Things To Come

By Clinton Richmond

pic of man looking at newspaper

Ok, Here's my take on the future of print (in ten minutes or less — give or take.)

Granted, the world is changing, and the access to information is no longer limited to ink on paper — I get that. The demand is dwindling for print in so many ways, but the way I see it, Print is just settling in to its own niche. Before the internet and all the social media madness, print was used to fill the gap for so many forms of communication that simply weren't available. But now, those other forms exist, and print can be honed into something for which it's more gracefully suited, or even repurposed in new and exciting ways. Now, we've seen a tremendous surge in personalization, print-on-demand and direct-mail like never before (just look at what Coca-Cola is doing.) And trade show banners and graphics, event displays, signage and posters are gaining momentum. But what does the future of print look like? Two technologies that are really starting to come into their own are augmented reality (AR) enhanced printing, and 3D printing (which I'll save for another post.)

AR printing is like a box of Crackerjack with the little prize hidden inside, only the AR prize is *much* cooler! Imagine having a printed piece, be it a poster, flyer, magazine or whatever (i.e something actually printed) and scanning it with an app from your mobile device. When you scan the page a hidden layer of digital content emerges that you can interact with. All of a sudden, your printed material is supplemented with web video, audio music, slide shows, social connectivity and other interactive content. With these enhancements, you're able to engage the consumer in a much richer experience. It's a beautiful synthesis of the old and new forms of communication, and it's catching on. Companies are popping up all over offering the be-all end-all solution to AR enhanced printing, and I only see the demand for it growing higher. That's 'Print 2.0' to me (or 3.0, no, isn't it 4.0? Whatever. I forget where we are with this stuff.)

There's just one thing that concerns me....what it *may* evolve into.

Right now, it's unobtrusive, meaning that the printed piece can stand on it own without the need to access digital content. You can still get pertinent information and enjoy the experience you've come to expect from print. The digital layer just enhances the experience, not drive the experience. My fear is that this will change. More and more companies and advertisers will insist that the consumer partake in the digital experience to gain access to specific, relevant information as a marketing ploy. Pertinent information should always be accessible with or without the use of technology. Digital content in this case should serve as embellishments, reinforcing the underlying message, not essential access points for acquiring content. But the 'wow' factor is hard to resist, so.... we'll see. I just keep getting this haunting vision of receiving a virtually enhanced flyer that simply reads:

"scan now before it's too late!"

And as I reach for my charging smartphone, the power goes out. Everywhere. For miles. And all I have is my pocket flashlight and this flyer. My head would just explode from thinking about it ..'too late' for what!?!

I'm just sayin'.

Clinton Richmond works as a Desktop Tech/IT Assistant at Printing Images, Inc., and he never sleeps.

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