Covid-19 collapse

medium_2015_Laurel B.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

Thanks to the corona virus there have been many casualities in the graphics industry and its supply chains over the last few months. Companies and individuals are facing enormous change, most of it pretty nasty. From the many staff whom the corona virus has made redundant, to the families and individuals losing loved ones, this virus has left none of us untouched. In the graphics industry we have already lost many printing companies, either to the receivers, closure or through consolidation. The industry’s shape is changing, moving faster away from the traditional analogue model towards a fully digital one.

Within the supplier and manufacturing communities life has been dramatically reshaped. Exhibition organisers are reshaping their business models to support the new post-Covid reality. Those who scramble without a plan or awareness of new expectations will struggle to gain the confidence of their target markets. Those who are proactive in trialling new online and hybrid models are in a stronger position to succeed.

Looking beyond the graphics industry’s boundaries event organisers are examining new ways to interact with customers. This inevitably means more online activities and finding new ways to build forums for common interests. In the graphics industry we hope to see more of this digital community development. We are looking for review sessions discussing industry events, opportunities for comparing experiences with different software tools, head to head presentations of digital printing systems, workflow and production control. We’d like to watch or join debates for instance discussing which colour space is best and when, or how designers can initiate colour management. And chat show type formats with industry luminaries, would be very interesting. Eventually these things can be ticketed and reach ever larger audiences on the basis of trust and loyalty, so there is a business model for them.

As long as the content is interesting and compelling and the access seamless, such online activities will all help the graphics industry to share and communicate more effectively. Willing and confident audiences for exhibitions can also be developed through this means. The process is already starting, but has a long way to go: not only do we have to invent new ways of interacting and sharing, but the new business model to support it must go beyond the conventional ad based systems. We also need to accelerate awareness of these new opportunities and to come up with some consistent models for interaction, be they Zoom, Skype or whatever. The online habit combining work with entertaining information delivery needs to be developed.

As the pandemic eases or when a reliable and proven vaccine is available, the graphics industry will look to rebuild. Before then there will be many more casualties in this industry, but many more success stories will emerge as entrepreneurial spirits and imagination kick in. What is clear is that the graphics industry will rely increasingly on digital technologies and automation for its reinvention.

– Laurel Brunner

This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, Fujifilm, HP, Kodak, Miraclon, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

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