The Future of Print, Variable Data and Cross-Media Through the Eyes of a Student

Written by Tim Orbanac
Student, School of Media Sciences, Rochester Institute of Technology

     “Why are you studying that?”
     “What are you going to do with that major?”
     “But isn’t print dying?”
I hear this every time someone asks me what I’m studying in school. My name is Tim Orbanac and I am a Media Architect in the School of Media Sciences at RIT. The technical name of my major is Media Arts and Technology. However, that’s a bit of a mouthful, so I say that I’m a printing major. The only downside is it doesn’t really encompass everything the program has to offer. The school covers graphic communications, focusing on print, and includes many different aspects such as web, mobile, design, and storage
So they ask, “Why are you studying that?” Well, to be completely honest , I ended up in this program by sheer luck. I started my college career studying Psychology. About halfway through my sophomore year, I had lost all motivation in my studies. Struggling grades and a lack of direction sent me to the university advisers. We discussed what I liked doing and what interested me, and eventually landed on the Media Arts and Technology program.
I started during my sophomore year and haven’t looked back since. Once I really started to see and work with the various printing technologies, I knew it was where I belonged. The next question I typically get asked is, “What are you going to do with that major?” My focus is mainly on printing and the technologies involved with it. I have a real passion for problem solving and making things work efficiently. Ever since I saw my first printing press, I was hooked on the idea of optimizing its output and pushing its limits for the industry.
So that leads us to, “But isn’t print dying?” My answer to that is an emphatic NO!
Print is changing. I have worked for both a major packaging printer and a small, extremely high quality print shop, and have seen first-hand that print is alive and kicking. The small print shop that I worked for was outside  NYC and served some really high-end clients. They did color and photo retouching as well as high quality collateral printing. They really represented and showcased the art of printing and prepress. They were a highly dedicated team with an uncanny eye for quality and the work was never-ending. The packaging printer I worked for ran at least 7 presses at 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As far as I can tell, package printing will always be around. A professor of mine loves to say, “It’s really damn hard to hold a bag of chips in bits and bytes.”
Print’s role in today’s media is definitely changing, but I don’t see the medium dying any time soon. I still see print as an integral part of today’s media and as a beautiful way to strongly communicate a point.
Cross-media campaigns that include high quality variable data printing, solid web analytics, and effective data storage strike me as some of the coolest applications of print. I took a class in variable data printing about a year ago and that concept has stayed with  me. The amount of variability you could automate into a print piece was astounding. You could create a piece so unique and so individualized that no one could tell it was automatically generated from a database. Combine that with PURLs and effective data management, and you have yourself a profitable cross-media campaign.
Wegmans, a Rochester-based supermarket chain (and quite an amazing one, if I may add!) does an incredible job of optimizing the effectiveness of their database through the use of digital print. They use intelligence based on customers’ coupon cards to customize weekly emails and variable data coupon books.
In my opinion, print is most effectively implemented in conjunction with a true cross-media campaign. With this pairing, the possibilities are vast, the applications are limited only by our imagination, and I  can’t wait to see what comes next.

Tim Orbanac is in his last semester at RIT. When he isn’t hard at work in class, he’s hard at work on the trails improving his mountain biking skills. Feel free to get in touch with him via LinkedIn or Email.

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  1. Kelly January 30, 2014 -

    I completely agree that print isn’t dying out- it’s just changing. Thanks!

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