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Commentary & Analysis

Roll Over, Jackson Pollock

by Guy Broadhurst July 28,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: July 28, 2006

by Guy Broadhurst July 28, 2006 -- For those of us involved in the world of commercial print, there's one thing we know for sure. Success is equal parts art and science. Nowhere is this more evident than in the growing use of digital color. Here, advanced printing technology--science--is enabling the increasingly strategic use of color--art--to add relevance and impact to documents. Research shows us--and we instinctively know--that color works. We respond to color because our brains are hardwired to be attracted to it. Color captures attention. It increases visual appeal. It accelerates comprehension and improves retention. Customers are more likely to respond to a direct mail postcard that uses color. They're more likely to pay bills on time when the amount due is accented with color. And they're more apt to retain complex information when it's presented in color. You need to have a color strategy, a focus on how to use color and how to drive the right result at the right price point. Moving to color can pay all types of dividends over the long run. For it to do so, however, you need to have a color strategy, a focus on how to use color and how to drive the right result at the right price point. When you do, you'll see positive benefits like cost savings derived from optimizing workflows, the elimination of costly pre-printed forms and inserts and the benefits of combining personalization with color to accelerate collection of payments and reduce customer service calls. Today, the good news for commercial print providers is that the cost of digital color is more affordable than ever. As color becomes ubiquitous, experts predict that it will progress from being a differentiator to an expected feature in most print applications. Meanwhile, as color becomes more accessible to more people, the temptation to use "all color all the time"--without regard for business objectives or the requirements of an application--is on the rise. For many document creators, the decision to use color is often a case of "too much is never enough" rather than "how much is enough?" This is where it pays to resist the impulse toward the unbridled use of color and apply just the right amount of color to get the job done. Making the most of color means using just the right amount to achieve maximum impact. Consider Jackson Pollock. The unorthodox genius of modern art made a name for himself by flicking, dripping, pouring and splattering paint on super-scale canvases to create breathtaking works of art. To many, Pollock's art appeared chaotic. In fact, it was the product of extreme control and finesse rendered in monochrome, monochrome plus a few carefully chosen colors, and of course, his more famous paintings, rendered in full, vibrant, electric color. The astute use of color that made Pollock's art resonate with his audiences has its parallel in the science of digital technology that enables just the right amount of color to add impact to modern documents. Pollock knew and digital print providers are learning that making the most of color means using just the right amount to achieve maximum impact. But how do you know what that is? The answer comes from knowing your options and using them to create cost-effective documents that deliver the desired results. How Much is Enough? A look inside many service bureaus and commercial printing operations reveals both color and black-and-white print engines, often only a few feet apart. Many of these machines were acquired to perform specific functions or run certain kinds of applications, each with its own business purpose. Monochrome units turn out bills, statements and book pages--applications where cost and speed drive the choice of machine. Full color machines turn out a broad range of work, especially marketing collateral and direct mail materials-- where the cost of the piece is justified by the expected outcome. Sometimes color and monochrome join forces, as in the case of color covers or pages for books or manuals that are merged and interposed with a monochrome book block. How much color is enough? Sometimes full color is essential. Other times highlight color may be more effective and appropriate. Most jobs today remain either full color or black-only. But, color doesn't have to be an all or nothing proposition. While full color is sometimes the best choice, for many applications it can be overkill. Yet, these same applications can benefit immensely from the judicious use of color--Job Appropriate Color. The secret to Job Appropriate Color--using just the right amount of color for the job--is based on answering some basic questions about the document in question. What is its desired effect? What does the appearance of the document communicate about a company? What is the document's business purpose, and how will the use of color add value? Consider whether color will make the document more effective. Will information, ideas, and concepts be conveyed more effectively with color? Will a document do a better job of teaching, informing, or selling by using color? If so, determine how much color is necessary and how it should be used. Sometimes full color is essential. Other times highlight color may be more effective and appropriate. The Different Types of Color Making the right decision about which type of color to use is easier when you understand the different types of color technologies and applications: Full color digital presses-- use precisely blended amounts of cyan, magenta, yellow and black toners to create a given color, including some from the Pantone® Matching System. While the amount of toner used varies, the cost per page can be up to six times as expensive as printing in black only. Even when printing only black, full color digital presses are less economical than monochrome or highlight color presses. In addition, depending on the vendor and the printer, they may require regular calibration several times a day to ensure consistent color reproduction. Other devices, such as the Océ CPS/CPT systems deliver consistent digital color quality with no calibration ever. Commercial printers have the flexibility to purchase only the color they need to make their documents effective Highlight color printing --is less expensive than full color because each color is not dependent on a precise CMYK mix. Instead, multiple shades of color can be used based on the density at which the print engine prints the color. In some cases, adding a single color to an otherwise black and white document may only cost a third more than printing in black only. Furthermore, the cost can be directly related to the amount of toner used. For specialized needs, many custom colors, such as those for logos, can be created for use on some leading highlight color presses. Highlight color also enables cost-effective production of documents that contain colors on some pages and black only on others. Job Appropriate Color --is an approach to digital color that frees you to choose exactly how and when color is used based on the business purpose of a document. Built on the premise that every document should fulfill a business goal, the Océ Job Appropriate Color strategy enables companies to enter the digital color market at the most affordable entry point with the flexibility to adapt as needs change. Commercial printers have the flexibility to purchase only the color they need to make their documents effective, and the company's business objectives and applications drive the choice of a device, not technology limitations. How Job Appropriate Color is Used Today, savvy companies are adding color to transactional documents to enhance the look and feel of statements and invoices and add eye-catching marketing messages. For example, Océ offers a broad palette of highlight colors through its CustomTone program, which can provide customers with corporate colors for use on all types of transactional documents. In addition to providing a higher quality appearance for transactional documents, highlight color can dramatically reduce the need for pre-printed forms and even some letterhead, reducing the costs of offset printing and warehousing. In certain cases, full color can completely change the nature of documents, transforming invoices and credit card bills from revenue recovery tools into revenue-generating communications. With full-color variable data messaging, a statement becomes a true marketing opportunity, merging customer information and purchase history with new offers to create a targeted message. Imagine a credit card bill that intelligently records your stay at a certain hotel, a meal at a certain restaurant, a specific car rental and more and then interprets those preferences--and entices you with a full color ad in your bill. As Jackson Pollock proved, the key to greatness is using the right amount of color to deliver the right message and have the desired impact on the audience. Imagine a full color ad to cross-sell or up-sell recipients with accessories tied to a large purchase made that month. It's good for consumers because it presents offers tailored to their preferences. It's good for the advertiser because it reaches its core audience with a highly targeted message. And it's good for credit card companies and printers because it generates new revenue streams. The challenge? It costs money--more than black and white or highlight color--to add full color to an invoice package. Therefore it requires a proof of concept. While the market for full color transactional marketing is still emerging, digital color technology like the Océ CPS family of systems makes it viable to run pilots on a small scale with a select group of top customers, prove the concept's effectiveness, and sell the service to partners. Force of Nature Color in business documents is becoming a force of nature in the commercial printing space. Color adds value to the vast majority of documents. In some cases, it adds eye appeal. In others, it makes documents more useful and easier to understand. In still others, it adds value that drives sales or contributions. As Jackson Pollock proved, the key to greatness is using the right amount of color to deliver the right message and have the desired impact on the audience. And if you notice, even he used different "base colors" when he created his masterpieces. Want to feel like Jackson Pollock for a minute or two? Visit www.jacksonpollock.org , click on the blank "canvas" and start creating your own Jackson Pollock masterpiece. Just for a moment, every one of us can feel like a virtuoso thanks to the convergence of art and science. In our next article, we'll explore how companies in different industries are leveraging Job Appropriate Color to drive results and boost the effectiveness of their documents. Give your feedback to Guy. He can be reached at guy.broadhurst@oce.com.



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