Printology - the appliance of science

December 01, 2019  •  Leave a Comment


Not a word I’ve used before, but printology exists, and perhaps it should be used more often in our working environment. I don’t know who came up with it, or why, but it seems to be defined as the convergence of operational technology with sophisticated machines that produce and/or manage documents. For me that’s a bit more realistic than print facilitators as we were once characterised, making us sound like just some convenient go-between.

The trouble  is that’s just what we have become in the eyes of many customers, empowered with their mobile phones and tablets, and failing to appreciate that turning their electronic creations into hard print requires a little more expertise than that of just pressing a button.

Printology, as I understand it, implies the matching of some practical traditional skills with the  

technical knowledge of the new digital software and hardware, a knowledge that’s under continual development.  

A printologist needs to be both an IT specialist and a hands on mechanic to handle intelligent devices alongside nut and bolt working machines. Oh, and an ability to mind read and second guess customer’s requirements also comes in handy. 

 We know this because it is why it’s so difficult to find and train staff. I’ve said before that more needs to be made of the printing process to raise it’s public profile.So why not flag up printology ? After all if an ad for sofas can claim on ‘ology for simply designing something to recline on, and baking cakes can draw a television audience bigger than an olympic sport, turning a series of mathematical equations into something magically real deserves a little more recognition.

It is a modern irony that the popular media raises comparatively simple things into major operations, while more complex and creative ones are allegedly made more simple by buying the appropriate gadget. 

So you can reinvent the whole history and tradition of photography simply by buying the latest phone and it will do all the marvellous complicated stuff for you. In fact when you have your own personal drone at your service you won’t even need to leave that comfy sofa, it will go out on it’s own and bring you back a full pictorial record of all the things you might have done with your life.

And not just would be photographers because we also have chefs and hairdressers who think they are designers with the help of a little app on their mobile, while we would never presume to cook a full course meal for a restaurant, or bleach someone’s blonde roots.

No- it’s time for customers to be made  aware that there is something  more scientific in this application of technology than opening a file and pressing print. That’s if they want anything more than a no frills, get what you got service with no personal professional attention required. But there is a barely a job these days that is that simple it doesn’t need some adjustment.

Usually it’s a matter of printing being a shade or two darker than expected from being viewed on a bright screen, so it’s a matter of common practise to set  the printer up to print ten per cent lighter by default. But anything more complicated does require a technician with at least some level of skills who understands that it’s a little more complicated than just taking a little red out as might have been in copy shop days.

So here is where the science comes in. We are printing with composite inks, whether toner or inkjet, so every hue is made up by variations of the mixture of those basic inks, not the solidly defined colours that appear to be displayed on the screen. So to make any changes in colour you need to alter the colour information in the file, or the colour profile you are sending to the printer. You can do both but there is a real danger that you will go round in circles chasing your tail and end up back where you started from. Better to keep one standard and alter the other.

And while all printers have a good number of choices of colour profiles for different paper stock, it is better to keep with a consistent one and make alterations to the file because that it the thing you are looking at on the monitor.

Current photo editing software is immensely powerful and that’s where the professional studio has the advantage over the phone app operator because you are able to access tools beyond the amateur budget or skill. Most people will rely on an automatic camera setting, especially on a phone, so the odds are this will need some attention. 

This is editing that needs a big screen, and quite a bit of practise and expertise to match the performance of the visual software with the production of hard copy print. It’s a specialist job - why not give it a special name. Printology sounds as good as any !



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