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Ryerson University: A Model for Training the Future of Print

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Press release from the issuing company

Case study provided by the sponsoring company 

Ryerson University is consistently ranked as one of the most innovative undergraduate universities in Canada. One of its most reputable programs, the School of Graphic Communications Management (GCM), is the country’s preeminent undergraduate programs for aspiring graphics professionals. Graduates are heavily recruited into management level positions across numerous graphic communications industries and are often fast-tracked to upper management. A major reason for this is Ryerson’s commitment to teaching students not only how use and understand the most innovative technologies and practices to create high-quality products, but also to think critically, solve challenges, and make intelligent business decisions.  

Since the Ryerson Institute of Technology was founded in 1948 (the name was changed to Ryerson University in 2002), it has built a reputation for educating students to meet the needs of society. According to Ryerson Associate Professor Jason Lisi, “New technologies are constantly revolutionizing the way information in transmitted and received, and graphics professionals need to be ready to adapt on the fly to meet market demands and capitalize on new efficiencies.”  

For most GCM courses, time is split between the classroom and the lab, where students have access to industry leading design and premedia tools, digital, offset, and flexographic printing presses, binding and finishing machines, computer-based simulators and special material testing equipment. With approximately 40% of classroom time focused on technical training, 40% on business training, and the remaining 20% spent pursuing a liberal arts education, Ryerson students are groomed to be well-rounded thinkers and leaders ready to both operate complex machinery and adapt to challenges on the fly, not just technically but operationally and strategically. 

Lisi says: “We’re not simply training a person to be an extension of the print machine. We’re helping develop the people who will someday be at the helm of the industry, and providing access to a wide variety of academic disciplines is critical to make that goal successful.”

The Impact of Industry Partners

GCM continues to thrive and grow with enrollment up approximately 135% since 2003. Despite the increase in the overall number of graduates that correlate with increased enrollment, the program maintains its exceptionally high job placement rates for graduates as the print industry clamors for professionals with the skills and training like GCM graduates receive. 

Because of the quality of its graduates, Ryerson has developed close ties with a large number of graphic communications companies that have served to create a pipeline for employment after graduation and have allowed the curriculum to evolve even more closely with changing market demands. According to Lisi, “industry partners are an essential extension of our program. Their commitment to our work, and their support in all forms, really helps take our program to the next level and gives our students an experience and skillset that might be impossible to provide otherwise.” 

A particularly notable relationship is GCM’s connection with Kodak, which provides support in a multitude of ways, including physical equipment and software donations, expert guidance and technical support. The company understands that training the leaders of tomorrow is in the best interest of the industry as a whole, and has gone all in on making sure graduating students are ready to dive right into their careers. Kodak’s efforts here have been led by their Unified Workflow Solutions division, but there have been significant contributions made by the offset, digital and packaging teams, as platesetters, proofers and plates alike have also been donated. 

The coordination doesn’t stop at material donations, though, as Kodak experts are often on-site to provide technical training, lead seminars and guest lectures, and perform installations and service the equipment. Allan Brown, General Manager of Unified Workflow Solutions at Kodak, says that while donating equipment is important, the depth of the relationship is the most important. “There is no way to put a dollar value on our relationship, and it isn’t why we work so closely with programs like GCM’s. Yes, it is important for us to have professionals join the workforce ready to operate our equipment, but having full faith that graduates have a broad technical and analytic background far exceeds that need. It excites us that the future of our industry is in good hands.”

Putting Technology to Work

Outside of the regular undergraduate program of study, GCM operates the leading edge Print Media Research Center (PMRC), which promotes scholarly, research, and creative activities in GCM’s priority research areas of printing processes, premedia, and new technologies in the graphic arts. The PMRC is designed to foster and promote student and faculty research, and is one of the most prevalent areas where GCM leverages collaborative partnerships with the private sector and industry groups. As an example, Kodak provides raster image processing and workflow software for driving high-end platesetters and inkjet proofs that are critical to color management research and more.

For example, Kodak’s Unified Workflow, and in particular its Prinergy solution, were integral in research, testing and development around PDF/X-4 file formats and workflows. At the time, Magazines Canada endorsed PDF/X-1a exclusively for digital ad submissions to Canadian magazine publishers. The research was a joint project between GCM and Magazines Canada to see if a migration to PDF/X-4 would reduce output errors associated with the PDF/X-1a file format due to transparency flattening issues. 

GCM was provided several “problem files” from magazine vendors and also relied on testing files it created independently. These files were run through Prinergy both as PDF/X-1a files and as PDF/X-4 files. The conclusion of the research showed that in all cases, Prinergy was able to process the PDF/X-4 files using the Adobe Print Engine RIP without the output errors caused by the PDF/X-1a files. The findings of this research were published in a whitepaper, and disseminated through academic channels. As a result of this research, Magazines Canada now endorses PDF/X-4 as the preferred file format for digital ad submission.

Programs like Ryerson’s School of Graphic Communications Management are supplying tremendous benefits to the sustainability and long-term viability of the print industry. Industrial partners are working closely with higher education broadly, not for self-promotion or sales leads, but as an investment in the future of print. It’s not just about producing tech-savvy students who can create impressive printed products, it’s about training business leaders who can continue to grow the industry and share those great works. 

Graduates are learning to capitalize on technical innovations like workflow and digital presses to optimize efficiency and quality, and learning the key skills to lead a business. GCM is a unique program delivering top-notch graphic communications professionals who not only come in ready to meet today’s challenges, but to be claim leadership positions, think critically and strategically and guide print successfully into the next era.


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