In San Diego, California, the color management conference COLOR22 kicked off at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines. Running Jan. 23-25, the conference is a comprehensive look at everything color, with sessions geared toward everyone from seasoned professionals to those who are just putting the first toes in the water. Whether they are press operators, work in the prepress department of a print shop, or manage national brands, attendees have come together with a single goal: get better, more consistent color.
Kicking Off COLOR22
To kick off the conference was keynote speaker Gerry O'Brion, branding strategist and franchise expert, What Big Brands Know. With a background as a former marketing executive, including being part of the team behind the Coors "Frost Blue Liner" campaign and branding that positioned the light beer as the coldest on the market, O'Brion gave attendees a better idea of how important color is when it comes to getting noticed, and why it's so critical to keep it in mind.
He asked attendees to think about, "how does color influence people to buy from you?" He stressed that while this is something brands are acutely aware of, it applies to everyone — to print shops looking to attract and keep new customers, to managers looking to convince young professionals to come work for them, and even to individuals looking to convince their boss of a great idea. We are all, he noted, looking to "sell" something to someone.
That said, no one, he said, "buys" anything — they make a choice between several options. The goal is to give them a reason to choose you. People make emotional decisions, and then look for a logical reason why it was a good decision. They want to justify it, he said, so giving them your "because" is critical. "You should buy from me because..." he said. "Or 'you should work for me because...'"
While there are many different ways to stand out from the crowd, color is a critical component. Blue feels cool and relaxing. Red feels energetic. Yellow feels happy. Choosing the right color can help cement the qualities a brand wants to convey, and for a printer, knowing how color impacts the buying decision can help them position themselves as experts who can help clients achieve their ultimate goal — that can become the "because" statement of why this print shop is a better choice than any other option.
O'Brion noted that there are four questions that everyone should ask when it comes to every project, no matter how large or small:
- Who are the ideal customers? Who are you trying to influence with this project? Who should buy this product? Who should use this service?
- What insights can you glean about these people? What do they like? What do they not like? What are they looking for when it comes to this product or service?
- What is the desired outcome? "People care about 'what can you do for me," said O'Brion. Customers don't want to buy a drill bit, he stressed, they don't even want to buy the hole — they want to buy the bookshelf that will be mounted on the wall. How do you help the brands reach that goal?
- What is your "because"? Why should a brand work with you? What sets you apart from your competition. And if you say high quality, or fast speeds, things anyone else can claim as well, then you aren't giving them a reason to work with you, you're just confusing them with a sea of nearly identical options. You need to have a "because" that is truly unique to your business and sets you apart.
A Wide Range of Educational Options
Following the keynote, the next several hours saw attendees presented with nine different sessions in three tracks, broken up into three time blocks. Each one aimed to cover a different segment: Print & Production, Brand & Design, and Not on Paper — which looked at color management for more difficult substrates such as textiles.
Each session was headed by an expert in that field, bringing a wide range of depth and knowledge to attendees. One of those was Dan Gillespie, director of technical services for Alder Color Solutions. He ran a session titled "Color Measurement in DTG Printing" that aimed to give attendees a better idea of the differences and difficulties when it comes to measuring color in textiles versus other types of substrates. One key tip he stressed is that not color measurement devices are equal, and making sure to use the right tool for the substrates and ink type is critical to getting truly accurate color readings. The aperture, in particular, is a specification he stressed everyone should pay close attention to. "Every spectrophotometer has an aperture you need to know before you buy it," he said, "and that is one of the key factors to getting accurate measurements on textiles."
Another color management expert who took to the stage was Patrick Herold, manager of tech support at CHROMIX, with a session titled "Shhhh, It's a Secret." In it, he shared tips and tricks with attendees that he has learned throughout his career. "It's assumed people just know these things, but people don't always know them," he said, especially those who are newer to color management.
One of the things he shared is that GRACoL and G7 are not the same thing, although he often hears them being used interchangeably. To truly understand color and color management, he said, attendees need to understand the differences. GRACoL is a color space, he noted, "it's how much color you can produce on a substrate," while G7 is a device-independent definition of a constant greyscale appearance. He gave the analogy of a puddle. "GRACoL can be considered a specific sized puddle [in the middle of your path]. G7 is the bicycle you use to ride around that puddle," he said.
Mark Bohan, director of color solutions; and Wilson Howe, national industrial and production print specialist, Konica Minolta Business Solutions, hosted a session titled, "How to Become a Color Sleuth," which focused on what to do when you've done everything right, but there's still a problem.
They pointed out that before doing any color management, the first thing a shop should do is check the press conditions. "Color is process dependent, and can be impacted by environmental factors," said Bohan. Making sure the conditions are correct and that the press is stabilized - producing consistent work from run to run, and day to day - is the first step in getting consistent, repeatable color.
The second tip they offered was never to trust that a profile is right. Even if you think you did everything right, followed every step correctly, it is still critical to verify the color management profile before rolling it out to the press. Something as simple as the wrong default in a single element can through the profile off later. "Every time you create a profile, you have to check and verify it," noted Howe. "Don't just assume it works."
A Netflix Color Story
The day ended with keynote speaker Kevin Laurino, art & print/creative marketing production, Netflix. He took to the stage to talk about his own journey with color, and how he took the Netflix marketing department from disorganized to getting serious about color quality worldwide.
When he first joined the company several years ago, he noted, "there was no approval process or even awareness [of color.] It would go from the screen, to the printer, and then out the door with no one at Netflix even seeing it. And they didn't comprehend that what was on the screen wasn't what was getting printed."
He slowly took control by first building trust, which is a key element. He stressed to attendees that the first step when working with anyone from in-house teams to outside vendors, to brands and customers is to first establish a baseline of knowledge and build trust. He started by just bringing the teams in and having proofs up on the wall side-by-side so they could see for themselves the differences in color and quality, and gain a true understanding of why he wanted to get serious about color. From there, they began to come to him for advice about creating the files and the colors used, and eventually trusted him to make decisions about the assets himself. At this point, he had the confidence of his own team, and was able to start making internal changes, such as standardizing the proofing setup not just in his own office, but in all of the Netflix marketing offices worldwide to ensure everyone is looking at the same thing, and talking about the same color.
When it comes to working with his print vendors, originally, he noted, the proofs coming from the shop were the "hero" proofs that everyone else was trying to match. As he took control of the process, he flipped that, installing an Epson printer and software from GMG to help streamline the process and ensure high-quality proofs. At first, he just required the vendors to match his output, making the proof coming off his machine in Los Angeles the "hero" proof that all printers and locations need to match. He has started asking the vendors to not just match the color with their own setup, but to match the equipment and software he is using as well to ensure consistency from start to finish. it is an ongoing project, but for an organization that didn't think about color at all, it has been a massive shift.
The process, he said, "took a lot of patience and the right vendors and advisors to help make sure we didn't get too far off track while trying to solve complicated problems." When it comes to printers in particular, he said, "as a trusted vendor, you'll be part of the conversation, and they'll bring you along for the ride" if you are the one helping them figure out color and improve the quality of their work across the board. It might take time and effort, but brands are looking for true partners who can help them with everything they don't know that they don't know - they don't even know what questions to ask, especially in the beginning, so having print vendors who can help guide them establishes a level of trust that can't be replicated.
As day two of COLOR22 begins to dawn, it will bring a wide range of new sessions to attend, new powerful keynotes, and a range of valuable networking opportunities. To learn more, and to keep an eye on when you can register for next year's event, visit https://color.printing.org/.