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Commentary & Analysis

Friend to the Industry Kip Smythe Has Died

Sadly, the industry lost one of its loyal behind-the-scenes advocates, Kip Smythe. His coordination of efforts involving industry research, statistics, standards, trade, and others, was appreciated by everyone who worked alongside him. Dr. Joe has a special remembrance.

By Dr. Joe Webb
Published: June 12, 2017

Kip Smythe of NPES, friend to the industry, passed away at the end of last week, after a long “peaks and valleys” challenge of cancer. No one deserves that challenge, especially, the families who suffer around their loved one. There are times when such difficulties illuminate one’s life and relationships, offering the opportunity to be an example of dignity and gratitude, however unwelcome that is.

Kip helped everyone who asked for his help. He was a tremendous behind-the-scenes advocate for so many contributors to the industry, in its statistics, research, and its standards. He treated everyone in the same positive manner, no matter their stature. I'm sure he had “those” days in his career, but I never heard a cross or angry word from him -- or about him. He was always kind and generous to me, always with great advice, with great sensitivity for the "right moment," always with honest candor, knowing when “not now” or “now” was when it wasn’t otherwise clear.

His health challenges these past years were always handled with great dignity, with a matter-of-factness about them, at least in public. He would chat about what he was facing, but would ask how you were doing, and how things were at home with the family. It wasn’t idle chatter, he really meant it.

Prior to this round of medical issues, Kip was a prostate cancer survivor. When I learned of a friend or acquaintance who was diagnosed with it, Kip was always willing to talk with them – total strangers from vastly different walks of life – about what he faced and the treatment choices he made. He spoke plainly, like he knew them for years. 

I first met him in 1981 at a NPES market research committee, not long after he started at the association. Some readers may remember the 1982 Process Color Study that NPES conducted with Battelle. It was the project where I met so many GAMIS and NPES friends  -- and I learned so much just by watching Kip work. He was able to travel the world -- which he loved, but it was sometimes a burden with extended trips of weeks and weeks away from family. On those trips he represented us, and our industry. I'd like to think that because of those trips Kip had friends and acquaintances and admirers around the globe. This was a very special man whom I will miss dearly and so will many others.

Dr. Joe Webb is one of the graphic arts industry's best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. He is the director of WhatTheyThink's Economics and Research Center.



By Cary Sherburne on Jun 12, 2017

I didn't know Kip well, and my life is poorer as a result. He made huge contributions to the industry as Dr. Joe has pointed out, and was a good and caring person. The interactions I did have with him were always positive. When he retired to Arizona to fight his battle with cancer, we all wished him well. And he put up a good fight, staying positive and inspirational throughout. My thoughts and prayers go to his wife, Cathy Byrne, in this difficult time. The outpouring of support from those who knew Kip means a great deal to her, I am sure. I hope others will share their thoughts here as well.


By Frank Tueckmantel on Jun 12, 2017

Very sorry to hear about Kip's passing. It was a great pleasure to know him for many years. He will not be forgotten. RIP Kip.


By David L. Zwang on Jun 12, 2017

A real loss to the industry. Kip was a tireless proponent, and a pleasure to work with and speak with. He will be missed.


By Joe Fedor on Jun 12, 2017

I'm sad to hear that Kip has moved on, but I'm glad for him too, because he's better off now than all of us. Though I hadn't had a chance to work or present with him for some time, I spoke with Kip whenever our paths crossed, and he was a really sweet guy. Definitely, he will be missed.

Safe travels, Kip.


By Mark Hunt on Jun 12, 2017

Kip was an entirely authentic guy: smart, hard-working, funny, friendly and an enthusiastic sports fan (don’t get him started on those Terps). As others have mentioned, Kip worked tirelessly on behalf of the print industry, and was always respected for his business insights, but most of all he was a pure pleasure to just shoot the breeze with. Kip, you’ll be missed.


By Scott McGowan on Jun 12, 2017

I was so saddened to hear of Kip's passing this morning. Kip was a great presence at the NPES market data meetings and market research committees through my years of reporting with ABDick and Multigraphics. His professional conduct was equally matched by his since of humor, warm smile and laughs at the many NPES social events. He left a great mark on the print industry and no doubt all those whom he crossed paths with.


By Gavin Jordan-Smith on Jun 13, 2017

I am deeply saddened by the news of Kip's passing. The comments above are so true for so many at all levels. He was welcoming, respected, consulted and looked up to by many. He represents the leadership, brand and person we aspire to be in this industry.


By Joe Webb on Jun 13, 2017

Printing Impressions has a nice remembrance of Kip


By Birgit Backofen Rothacker on Jun 13, 2017

It is not often that I open Industry News and have to take a deep breath and pause, trying to hold back tears. Reading Dr. Joe’s tribute to Kip was tough but wonderful. I first met Kip back in 1995 at one of my first NPES research meetings. He was my introduction into market research and to understanding the world of Graphic Arts. He provided me with guidance and advise for many years to come. His dry humor often left me with a blank face, wondering what he meant. We both had fun and much laughter overcoming language barriers. Godspeed Kip!


By Joe Webb on Jun 14, 2017

Details of the funeral arrangements are at http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/name/william-smythe-obituary?pid=1000000185802549


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