The second day of the definitive color management conference — COLOR22, being held this week at the Hilton Torrey Pines, in La Jolla, California — began with a fascinating look at how our emotions, and even our senses, are impacted by color.
Terry Wu is a consultant and speaker — the Neuroscience of Leadership, Sales, and Marketing, Neuromarketing Services. He opened the day with a session titled "Choosing Your Winning Color," which explored the ways that color impacts every decision we make. For example, blue, he noted, is generally considered the most relaxing color, which is why drugs such as sleeping pills and Viagra are colored blue, to help reinforce the effect of the drug. However, in Italy, the main soccer team has blue uniforms, and so for Italians, the color excites them, rather than relaxes. The same drugs sold in that country are purple instead.
"Color is complicated," said Wu. "Choosing the wrong color in business can be very expensive." To illustrate that, he took to a more familiar branding exercise: soda. The clear crave, he noted, that took over soda companies in the 1990s all failed because they quickly found that "when the color was gone, the taste was gone." Consumers at the time claimed the beverages "tasted funny" or "tasted wrong" when it reality they were the exact same formulas, simply without the caramel coloring. The same went for an attempt to launch a clear beer. Color, said Wu, influences our perceptions of the world around us, even to the point of altering what we smell and taste. Which makes it all the more imperative for brands — and the printers who work with them — to get the color exactly right, every time. A single misstep can not only confuse consumers, but can actually unconsciously turn them against the brand.
The Evolution of Color at Shaw Industries
Another popular session was given by Adam Thomas, the samples production planning manager for flooring manufacturer Shaw Industries. In a session called "Creating Discipline in the Process," Thomas took attendees through his journey to bringing order to the chaos, and how his company quickly realized that they didn't need to reinvent the wheel, but that there was a lot they didn't know they didn't know.
"There were inconsistencies, and multiple touches in the process," he noted. "We add a spin cycle — it could take hours, days, and even weeks getting the artwork together and everyone on the same page. And then in the proofing process, we would go through the same thing again with everyone wanted to see it — marketing, R&D, branding , etc. We were becoming a pain point for our suppliers, and we needed to simplify the process. It wasn't a good, dependable, repeatable process."
The problem, he noted, was trying to capture the exact color of various flooring options, so consumers could be confident if they saw a sample, or a printed example, of a particular floor, that was what they were going to get. The color was shifting, and the company was experiencing complaints and returns from unhappy consumers who weren't getting what they thought they were purchasing. To get control of the process, said Thomas, they began to look at the entire process and look for ways to simplify and streamline. The company works with a wide range of print vendors and wanted to continue to work with them, so they had to find a way to standardize and bring everyone in line. For example, he noted, at the beginning of this process, they found they were printing on 76 different substrates across their print vendors. Today, they are down to just seven, helping ensure they can control the end results much better, and get more consistent results no matter what shop does the actual printing, or what equipment they use.
The journey of slowly creating processes and getting control of color across Shaw Industries is ongoing, Thomas noted, with education being a main component. The company is working to educate both the team handling the color on how to better control the process, as well as the rest of the company about why it's so important, and what buy-in is required to get the best possible results. It will be the work of years, he said, but the company is already seeing fantastic results, better quality prints, and happier customers.
Getting Technical About Color
The rest of the day's sessions had a wide range of highly technical sessions led by industry experts, designed to give both seasoned experts and those new to color management new tools and skills to succeed. One example was "Achieving G7 on Direct-to-Garment," led by Bruce Ridge, Director of Technical Services, Nazdar Companies. "Direct-to-garment (DTG) and G7 aren't new," he told attendees, "but applying G7 methodologies to DTG is."
He noted that for textile printers, color management can be difficult, since as the light point changes across a textile, the color changes. When it comes to a lot of DTG printing, color management isn't necessarily about hitting an exact color, most of the time, he noted, it's about creating something that is pleasing to the eye and is repeatable across a run. There are a number of benefits to using G7 methodology when it comes to DTG, he noted:
- It allows you to meet customer expectations.
- It allows you to achieve a similar appearance across multiple machines.
- You can get faster color approvals.
- It is easier to troubleshoot problems on the press that do come up.
- You are using an established proofing process that has been tried and tested.
- You are participating in the global print community on equal terms.
As DTG printing continues to grow at exponential rates, he noted, this is an opportunity that printers shouldn't ignore. But establishing best practices and using methods such as G7 to bring DTG applications in line with the color expectations of the rest of the print world can go a long way toward making it a profitable vertical to move in to.
Another interesting session was "Saving Time and Money in Wide-Format with Process Control." Jim Raffel, color management consultant and trainer, and CEO of ColorCasters, noted that process control is all about "being able to predict your maintenance time, instead of waiting for a machine to break and need to be fixed in the middle of a big job." By putting a solid process control system into place, with all the necessary data, it is easy to spot problems before they become major issues, he noted, so machines can be taken down for maintenance on a schedule.
The key, he said, is that you "want to minimize all the variables in the print process, all the things that could go wrong that will impact the quality of your output." These variables can include everything from the temperature in the shop, humidity levels, the print heads, ink viscosity, ink contamination, substrate changes, and more. All of these are things a shop should be tracking, to make it easy to spot the variable that is going wrong or out of alignment when problems do occur.
One tip he gave attendees is that a good dashboard can make all the difference. Not everyone wants to dig deep into the charts, so having a simplified way to digest the information at a glance can make it easier for everyone in the organization to buy in to the need to track and monitor the presses and processes, while the more granular data is still there to be accessed when the dashboard shows a problem, to identify the solution.
These were just a small sampling of the educational opportunities to be found at COLOR22 this year. To learn more, and to keep an eye on when you can register for next year's event, visit https://color.printing.org/.