Eager to see the latest, cutting-edge printing technologies, but can’t swing a junket to Germany for this year’s DRUPA? Well, pack your suntan lotion, pastel wardrobe, and a few Carl Hiaasen novels for the plane and head to Miami Beach for Graphics of the Americas, now in its 33rd year. Run by the Printing Association of Florida (PAF), Graphics of the Americas will be held February 27 through March 1, 2008, at the Miami Beach Convention Center in the heart of South Beach.

This year’s show focuses on some of the hottest topics in the industry, such as variable-data printing and exploding “brand” security printing issues, such as counterfeiting. The ever-evolving mix of educational conferences also seeks to bridge the gap between design/creative, prepress, and printing, with sessions and exhibits that cover all aspects of graphic design and production.

An Ever-Evolving Show

Graphics of the Americas has evolved over the past several years from the premier venue for U.S. manufacturers and vendors to interface with the Latin American graphic arts market (now approximately 37% of the show’s attendees), a market that has burgeoned and exploded in the past decade. “In the 80s and 90s, Latin America was seen as the Third World, and no equipment manufacturer paid much attention to it,” says PAF president and CEO George Ryan. Since then, however, “they’ve realized there is an economy down there and it will explode. So manufacturers are now setting up shop.” It turns out that the Latin American printing markets—like emerging printing markets all over the world—are not settling for used, but are rather buying new equipment. Latin America plays into the “offshoring” discussion; according to a 2006 special report published by The Industry Measure, U.S. Census data show that Mexico alone is one of the top four countries from which the U.S. imports printed materials, after China, Canada, and the U.K.

While the Latin American market continues to be a strength, Graphics of the Americas’ importance among North-American based graphic arts professionals continues to grow. With 20% of last year’s show geared toward higher turnouts from creative community—that is, designers, ad agencies, and other print and media buyers—GOA has expanded this focus at this year’s show. “[The show] is a bridge between the creative side and the prepress side,” says Ryan, seeking to fill the void of a large national or international creative showcase left by the demise of the Seybold show. Plus, adds Ryan, “Miami Beach is a nice destination for creatives.” The candy-colored Art Deco architecture and bohemian vibe of South Beach are certainly a draw for those following the aesthetic pursuits.

Design Tips and Tools

This enhanced creative focus is represented in several of the seminar series. The InDesign Conference, The Pixel Conference, The Vector Conference, and The Conference for Adobe Acrobat comprise a five-day, 98-session seminar track running from February 26 to March 1, featuring half- and full-day tutorials that cover the waterfront of topics ranging from handling images, streamlining workflows, managing output quality, and honing their skills in Adobe InDesign, Acrobat, Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, and Flash. More than 30 speakers—graphic design and production experts from around the world, including such respected names as Bert Monroy, Sandee Cohen, David Blatner, Colin Smith, Mordy Golding, Claudia McCue, Chris Converse, Katrin Eismann and Anne-Marie Concepción—will share their knowledge with attendees.

The InDesign, Pixel, Vector and Acrobat conferences are organized by MOGO Media, developers of training events, conferences, and seminars for the global design community, and cover all the hot topics that designers and creatives are struggling with—using Flash, XML, HTML, scripts, color management, type and typography, tables, and more. The conferences also include tutorials on such topics as “quick start” primers for new users of InDesign, Flash, or DreamWeaver; creating forms in Acrobat; tips and tricks for using Illustrator; developing cross-media workflows; building interactive PDFs; and more.

Design for Variable-Data Printing

Creatives and printers eager to learn concrete strategies for providing variable-data printing services to clients will find a wealth of information in the Design for Personalized Communication Conference on February 29. This all-day event, led by noted industry consultant Steven Schnoll, will delve into such topics as removing the barriers to selling variable printing, reviewing the tools and technologies for producing variable campaigns, building the right business model, understanding strategic and tactical design considerations, creating a variable sales and marketing plan, and managing the additional value-added services required for personalized promotional campaigns. Speakers include John Hamm, Harvey Hirsch, Frank McPherson, Julie Shaffer, Paul Van Hoesen, and Peter Winters. The conference will also help teach printers how to organize cross-platform campaigns. “Creating and selling are things that they don’t have and need,” said Ryan.

Who should attend? The conference is designed for advertising agency staff, marketing specialists, graphic designers, digital printing professionals, printers, and prepress technicians.

Bogus Packaging—A Multi-Billion Dollar Problem

The pièce de resistance, however, is the Brand Protection Conference, taking place February 28 and 29. When most people hear the word “counterfeiting,” they immediately think of ne’er-do-wells in basements printing up faux $20 bills. However, what few people realize is that counterfeit packaging is a $700-billion-a-year problem, with at least $350 billion attributed to bogus print, packaging, and labels. And it’s not just a monetary problem. According to George Ryan, some years ago, frozen dinners bearing the counterfeited packaging of a major consumer product company entered the U.S.—with tainted food. This didn’t just ruin the brand name; it was also a health hazard. Medical packaging is also susceptible to counterfeiting, and hacked and forged documents have the potential to do substantial damage to consumers.

“Consumer products companies don’t want to talk about counterfeiting,” says Ryan, “ but it happens all the time. Cosmetics counterfeiting costs billions of dollars.” Growing out of a Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF) conference on counterfeiting, Friday morning’s session will include what has been called a “shocking demonstration” wherein Dick Warner, a security consultant and one of the premier graphic arts anti-counterfeiting experts, will lead a demonstration of how easy it is to use today’s digital tools to produce authentic-looking but bogus packaging. “It’s a hands-on demo,” says Ryan, “that includes the original package and the counterfeit package.” The goal of the session—and, indeed, of the entire Brand Protection Conference—is to not only alert consumer products companies, printers, packagers, and converters to the problem of counterfeit packaging, but to showcase the myriad solutions that can be implemented to protect brands, companies, and consumers. Specialty inks, holograms, near infrared dye taggants, and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags are some of the solutions that have been developed to help battle the problem of counterfeiting, and all of these technologies will be discussed in the course of the conference. Keynote speaker Paul Fox, Procter & Gamble’s External Relations Leader for Global Operations, opens the conference with the spine-chilling wake-up call “Threats that Companies Face from Counterfeiters, Knockoffs and Fakes,” while individual sessions will discuss the latest trends and techniques in anti-counterfeiting technology.

The Brand Protection Conference is sponsored by Graphics of the Americas, PAF, HP, TUV Rheinland, and Videojet, as well as Package Design, RFID Product News, and Converting magazines. Who should attend? Conference content was created for contract packagers, design directors, creative/art directors, structural/graphic packagers, production workflow specialists, vice presidents of production, production managers, and prepress managers.

Elsewhere on the Show Floor

The raison d’être of Graphics of the Americas is to identify the hot-button issues and technologies in the graphic arts industry and craft a program of educational sessions—both on and off the show floor—to spotlight those issues. “Instead of having a run-of-the-mill session program, we’re trying to theme the sessions around emerging issues,” says Ryan. “We look at where the industry is going and then decide what we want to address.” For example, inkjet technology is finally coming into its own, and the word on the street is that this May/June will see an “inkjet DRUPA.” But printers don’t have to wait until then; Graphics of the Americas will feature a number of inkjet-related manufacturers and sessions on the show floor. Wide-format printing will be well-represented, as will conventional and digital finishing solutions, flexo, short-run packaging applications and solutions, and more. Exhibitors represent a cross-section of the industry, and include Fuji, HP, IKON/Canon, Presstek, Ricoh, RISO, and many more.

Party Out of Bounds

It being Miami Beach, it’s not all work. There is an opening ceremony on Wednesday night, February 27, at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, an opulent Gilded Age mansion built in 1916 by agricultural industrialist James Deering and now a National Historic Landmark as well as a museum owned by Miami-Dade County.

Given the show’s creative emphasis, the show floor will also include a creative fashion show, the winners of the Advertising Federation of Florida’s Addy Awards, winners of PAF’s Florida Print Awards, and a host of other aesthetically oriented exhibits.

After the show Friday, February 29, there will be a South Beach party open to all attendees outside the Miami Beach Convention Center and featuring a nationally-known DJ spinning the tunes.

Complete information can be found at www.graphicsoftheamericas.com.