Frank Romano has spent over 60 years in the printing and publishing industries. Many know him best as the editor of the International Paper Pocket Pal or from the hundreds of articles he has written for publications from North America and Europe to the Middle East to Asia and Australia. Romano lectures extensively, having addressed virtually every club, association, group, and professional organization at one time or another. He is one of the industry's foremost keynote speakers. He continues to teach courses at RIT and other universities and works with students on unique research projects.
The Museum of Printing gets tons of donations, and Frank shows some recent computer hardware equipment that the Museum recently acquired. There were three smaller-than-laptop computers and a host of plugs, cables, connectors, and converters to get you from SCSI to USB to even FireWire (if you need a cable, give him a call). A ZIP drive and even a CD-ROM unit were included.
Why did the Ludlow Typograph Company see an 800% increase in sales to printing companies in 1919, right in the middle of the Spanish Flu pandemic? While researching a book on the history of the Ludlow Typograph, Frank gains some insight into the 1918–1920 influenza pandemic and connects the dots between that pandemic and the printing industry.
Frank visits Greg Wallace at HPGprint in Waltham, Mass. HPGprint is a trade printer, a descendent of the “gang” printers of the past, and specializes in “value-added” printing, such as gold and silver, spot UV, etc. HPGprint is all digital and also acts as a dealer or reseller for equipment. Take a look.
2020 marks the 25th anniversary of what was a watershed year for the printing industry. 1995 was the year that the industry was at its peak (65,000 commercial printing establishments!), but the advent of the first Web browser and the maturation of the Acrobat PDF combined in that year to change the very nature of communication. Meanwhile, a paper shortage—which led to the Paperwork Reduction Act—hastened a switch to electronic media, especially among government agencies.
Frank was perusing an issue of “Inland Printer” from June, 1973, and discovered an article that he had written. In it, he summarized many of the typesetting trends that were taking place at the time as hot metal was transitioning to phototypesetting. Many of the technologies emerging at that time would play increased roles in the printing industry—and lay the groundwork for today.
While poking around the Museum of Printing’s archive of more than 5,000 Linotype Company font designs, Frank discovered that they had once created a font for Cree, the only Native American language for which there was a Linotype font. Why Cree? The search for the answer takes Frank back to World War II and the US military’s use of Native American “code talkers” to convey classified military information.
When PIA and SGIA merged to form PUA, they donated a huge carton of memorabilia to The Museum of Printing. One of the items was the show directory for PRINT 68 (hardbound! signed!). So as we enter the era of the virtual trade show, Frank waxes nostalgic about PRINT 68, the first major in-person printing show of the modern era.
Frank shows several examples of print that have survived the centuries. Books, newspapers, and other documents from 1300, 1350, 1493, 1781, and 1901 show how print has endured and is still accessible and readable after 700 years—or more. Will today’s digital files be as accessible and readable in the future?
Frank came across an article about the fastest shrinking jobs in the U.S. for each state, and he speculates on the causes for the loss of those jobs. Telemarketers in Colorado, Missouri, and South Dakota? Motorboat operators in Florida? Telephone operators in Illinois, Michigan, and Utah? Word processors and typists in Mississippi and North Carolina? Private detectives in New Mexico? Fortunately “WTT commentator” was not on the list.
Frank tries out his new stand up (or perhaps sit down) routine as he tries to digest the concept of Edible Notepads—a Japanese company has introduced pads of paper that can be eaten. This will not save trees as they now become a food group. Frank then riffs on the potential for other kinds of edible office supplies.
In the course of Frank’s travels across America, he has tried to seek out every statue of and monument to Benjamin Franklin. Take your mind off the pandemic for a while and watch his “home movie” of Franklin memorials. More than once, he had to ask someone “Where’s the Ben Franklin statue?”
Frank discovered a book about the WWII publishing program for the military called “The Best Read Army in the World” which discusses how F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel “The Great Gatsby”—which upon its release got mixed reviews and sold poorly—became a beloved classic. Frank segues into a letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to a cousin written during the 1919 Spanish Flu pandemic. Somehow it’s all related.
Frank previews an upcoming Museum of Printing exhibit showcasing original leaves from famous Bibles, including every Bible printed in Colonial America. The King James became the best known English translation—even if a printer’s error changed one of the Commandments to read “Thou shalt commit adultery.” The first Bibles printed in America were not in English—they were in Algonquin.
Frank discusses an old report he wrote in the 1980s called “The Evolving Markets for Type,” about changes in the typesetting industry. Typesetting used to involve dedicated typesetting companies setting metal type and delivering it to printers. Phototypesetting then allowed type buyers to do their own typesetting, and ultimately desktop publishing finished wiping out what had been an $8 billion typesetting marketplace. Technology changes everything.
This episode wins the award for most acronyms used at one time. Frank traces the evolution of American printing associations from UTA to GATF to PIA, from NPEA to NPES to APT, from SPA to SGIA to PUA. WHEW! (That’s not an acronym.)
Frank has lots of free time on his hands nowadays and is getting caught up on his reading. This week, he reviews two books. “Death of a Typographer” by Nick Gadd is a murder mystery with loads of typographic clues and gags. “Merg: The TRUE story of a WWII soldier's selfless act of valor and sacrifice that one town never forgot” by Peter Lion is the story of Ottmar Mergenthaler’s grandson George Mergenthaler, who joined the US Army during World War II, was sent to Luxembourg, and was ultimately killed by the Nazis.
Frank reviews a new book “This is What Democracy Looked Like: A Visual History of the Printed Ballot” by Alicia Yin Cheng, timely because of the current talk about mail-in voting and support for the postal system. Frank uses examples from the book to show how printed ballots evolved as printing technology changed over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Since the Museum of Printing in Haverhill, Mass., is, at present, closed to visitors, Frank is showcasing some highlights of the Museum’s collection. This week, Frank explores the Museum’s collection of miniature books including what Frank contends is the smallest book in the world. Smaller than a Tic Tac, it was bought at the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany.
Frank comes to praise newspapers, not to bury them. Starting with the front page of a 1923 New York City newspaper—a time when there were more than 20 newspapers in NYC alone—he comments on the decline in newspaper circulation and readership, which started around 1954 with the popularity of television. The erosion of printed newspapers accelerated around the year 2000 with the massive growth of the Internet. But what is really sad about the decline is newspapers is that it really marks a decline in local journalism.
Frank takes a trip back to a time before email and PDFs negated the need for in-person contact and old-time artwork and mechanicals, and waxes nostalgic for rubber cement. If there is one good thing about today’s self-quarantining, printers and their customers no longer need face-to-face contact in order to deliver artwork, see proofs, or deal with other issues. Special bonus: watch Frank email a file!
Newspapers. Periodicals. Directories. Books. Catalogs. Direct mail. Frank spans the print world and gives an update and overview of the printing industry by product category, and how the current COVID-19 crisis has impacted each—and the printing industry in general.
Frank argues vociferously that print is an essential industry and print businesses must remain open during this very difficult time in our history. Our trade associations have been active in contacting government representatives to plead our case.
Frank comments on the postponement of drupa and its effect on the printing industry. Vendors who were planning to introduce new technologies in Dusseldorf will now use fall events like Brand Print America and PRINTING United to do so—or, like HP, host their own virtual events. Regardless, the COVID-19 crisis is going to make this a challenging year for the industry, but hopefully we will come out on the other side.
Frank takes us on a short tour of the venerable Mergenthaler Linotype machine, which Thomas Edison called “The Eighth Wonder of the World.” It revolutionized typesetting in the early 20th century and was only supplanted by the advent of phototypesetting. The Museum of Printing has a Linotype Legacy Program to help preserve this device, as well as provide training and education programs on its operation and maintenance.
Frank talks about the Government Publishing Office’s move to rollfed inkjet presses to print the Congressional Record and other publications. He goes back in time to review the history of the production of the daily, ~1,000-page Congressional Record and how the technology has changed over the years.
Frank shows highlights from the Museum of Printing’s recent exhibit of “typographic ephemera,” specimen books and promotion pieces for typefaces. Researchers come from all around the world to delve into the MoP’s extensive type collection. The exhibit also included a 1930 magazine article from The Linotype Company called “Typographic Sanity,” bemoaning the fact that there were too many typefaces.
Frank offers a recommendation for WhatTheyThink’s “Printing Outlook 2020" special report, providing some historical context for the challenges of getting good data about the industry. He also comments on the sense of industry optimism conveyed in the report.
There is a surge in demand for printed books, driven by two trends: self-publishing and on-demand printing, both enabled by digital printing technology. Of the 700 million books produced in the U.S. last year, about half were printed on demand using digital technology. Frank Romano profiles Lowell, Mass.’s King Printing Company, which takes on-demand book printing to the next level.
Frank interviews Tom Campbell of King Printing in Lowell, Mass. King has been a pioneer in short-run book printing and now provides a major service for publishers big and small. Campbell discusses the trends in book printing and publishing today.
Will apps replace printed show directories? Frank shows off his drupa 1972 show directory and some other recent directories—and an app that served as the directory for a recent show. He has had his drupa directory for 48 years. Will today’s trade show apps be readable in 48 years? He feels that any trade show with the word “PRINTING” in its name should have a printed directory.
Frank has a shout-out for a company called InkPixi, a company that produces on-demand, personalized specialty items. Most importantly, they have great customer service. He recounts his personal experience with a recent order for a Christmas gift. If you’re looking for weird gifts for your family—and who isn't?—they are a go-to company.
Newspapers are moving to electronic versions and cutting back on or eliminating their print editions. As a result, they don’t need large headquarters, especially if they no longer have to house a printing press. So, many are selling their often-iconic buildings, which are then converted into high-priced condos and luxury apartments. You can buy a condo in the classic Chicago Tribune building for a cool $7.6 million.
While at PRINTING United, Frank stopped by the Kodak booth and was impressed by Kodak and Uteco’s development of an inkjet technology that can print on flexible film. He was especially impressed by the quality of the fleshtones—one of the limitations of flexography was its shortcomings in being able to print photorealistic images. He thinks that inkjet is now able to challenge flexography for certain jobs. He is also predicting that drupa will be the “Inkjet On Anything” show.
Frank talks about his three latest books which essentially comprise a history of his years in the industry—a personal, yet encyclopedic trilogy that covers the history of hot metal, the phototypesetting era, and desktop publishing.
Frank visits with Tom Furrier of Cambridge Typewriter in Arlington, Mass., one of the last typewriter repair services in New England. Over the past 15 years, he has seen a resurgence of interest in mechanical (but not electric) typewriters—in particular among young people. His business is booming; his repair services have a two-month backlog.
Frank is in a colorful mood this week, reporting on some color-related stories that caught his eye. First, Opaque Couché is declared the World’s ugliest color, for some reason, and in 1692, more than 200 years before PANTONE, an artist described every color imaginable—and even assigned them numbers. He also exposes “The Secret Lives of Color” via a recent book by Kassia St. Clair that traces the history of every color.
In part 2 of a two-part series on the future of the printing press, Frank visits Dallas, Tex.’s Summit Direct, which has one of the largest arrays of printing equipment—offset and digital—Frank has ever seen. He talks with president John Barber and VP of Business Development Mike Robinson, VP of Business Development, about their equipment portfolio, including the Konica Minolta AccurioJet KM-1 inkjet sheetfed press and the different kinds of work they are running on it.
In part 1 of a two-part series on the future of the printing press, Frank visits AM Solutions in Egerton, Wis., and talks with Dean Gille, president, and Mike Henning, vice president, about their Konica Minolta AccurioJet KM-1 inkjet sheetfed press. AM had been an offset shop that had to make changes as they adopted inkjet, and the two technologies literally sit side by side.
Frank visits the original Chicago location of The Oliver Typewriter Company, the edifice of which remains intact—even the logo of the company which appears about 40 times. Some of the architectural features of the structure are iconic and have long outlasted The Oliver Typewriter Company itself, which declared bankruptcy in 1928. In its heyday, the company was highly successful, as it was among the first to make typewriters that let typists see what they were typing as they were typing.
Frank talks to Chris Manley of Graphco as the company sets up the RMGT 9 Series, the only offset press on the show floor at PRINTING United. There are more than 70 of these presses installed in the US today. In 2014, when they first exhibited the press, there were only 3.
Frank reports from PRINTING United in Dallas, one of the largest domestic trade shows he has attended since 1997. He talks about how big printing trade shows have changed as print and print technologies have changed.
Frank met up with Shoshana Burgett, who is launching Colorkarma, a new website for graphic designers. Today’s creative professional must combine design with production skills. Although there is an emphasis on color, many aspects of the creative process for print or pixel are included. There is also a "safe space" where designers can post their past "fails" to help others improve their design skills.
Frank previews next year’s drupa 2020, taking place in Dusseldorf, Germany, June 16–25, 2020. It is his 12th drupa (you do the math). There will be 1,800 exhibitors from 50 countries, and 30% of them are new exhibitors. Frank offers his travel advisory.
Frank talks to the extremely famous Daniel Dejan of Sappi at PRINT 19 about his travels, educating people about design, graphics, print, and a new haptics book he and Sappi are launching. They also discuss the challenges of designing for variable-data printing.
Frank animatedly looks at an old industry segmentation chart he created ~12 years ago showing the overlap in services from many printing industry sectors—and finds that it is still relevant. It appears that everyone is getting into everyone else’s business.
Frank takes us on a quick tour of his extensive library of books, periodicals, and other memorabilia at the Museum of Printing. If you are ever in the Boston area, be sure to visit Haverhill, Mass., and peruse this unique collection. Information about the museum and upcoming events can be found at https://museumofprinting.org.
Frank recommends a recently reissued edition of Tom Standage’s classic 1997 book “The Victorian Internet,” all about the telegraph, which had the effect of changing the world in very much the same way as the Internet. Fun fact: How did Samuel Morse develop the Morse Code? He went to a printing company and counted the number of letters in a typecase to determine the least number of dots and dashes needed for a letter.
Frank comments on the decline in printed newspapers and the rise of digital editions. He shows that printed newspapers have been changing in size and circulation for the last 100 years. He laments not so much the loss of paper newspapers as the loss of independent local journalism.
Frank talks to Dave Seat, one of the few Linotype maintenance specialists. Dave travels America repairing the last group of working Linotype hot metal typesetters. He estimates that he repairs around 100 to 200 machines a year, a lot of them in museums eager to get them up and running as there has been a resurgence of interest in Linotypes in recent years.
Frank takes an archaeological excursion through a Charlestown, Mass., warehouse, built in the late 19th century in an attempt to compete for freight traffic with the Port of New York. Much later, when the Museum of Printing was searching for a home, the warehouse served as a storage facility for historic presses, metal type, typesetters, and early computer equipment—much of which still remains.
Where will printers make money in the future? Some say it will be from digital printing. But digital printing is usurping analog volumes and analog volumes are not growing. In order to grow, the printing industry must find new products and new services.
Frank tours the National Playing Card Museum in Turnhout, Belgium, located on the site of an 18th-century printing plant that produced the original playing cards for Europe and other parts of the world, such as China. The museum’s collection includes commercial and private brand cards, as well as antique presses from the plant’s history as it moved from letterpress, to lithography, and eventually film. The production process required special finishing equipment (to add rounded corners to the cards) and the company even produced its own packaging.
Frank discusses a batch of miscellaneous items: the time we spend on mobile devices vs. TV, the new Pantone color in memory of rock star Prince, and the sale of the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain. As you would expect, he has opinions on all these items—and would even like his own Pantone color.
Frank goes off on a mini rant about the latest buzzword in the industry. The industry trend toward diversification of printing services is evident—we print on more than paper. We need a better term that describes that trend.
Hoefler&Co at www.typography.com just released a new “security” font that has all black boxes for do-it-yourself document redacting. They also offer a typographic citation book so you can shame those whose type use offends you.
Paul Shaw is a noted designer and design historian. For three decades, he has researched and written about the history of graphic design with a focus on typography, lettering, and calligraphy. He recently gave a talk at the Museum of Printing in Haverhill, Mass. He talks with Frank about type and type trends.
Frank visits Howard Iron Works In Oakville, Canada (close to Toronto), and talks with Nick and Liana Howard. They have created an amazing printing museum. In many cases, they re-furbish historic letterpresses and make them operational. No one in the world is doing what they are doing to preserve the history of print.
Frank interviews Georgios from the University of West Attica in Athens who is researching the evolution of Greek fonts. He visited the Museum of Printing in Haverhill, Mass., to inspect the drawings for Linotype Greek fonts from 1908 to the 1940s.
Frank has robots on his mind. He talks about automation in general and how it has made organizations more effective, but bemoans the fact that such automation removes entry-level jobs from all industries. Will we see the movie “Planet of the Robots”?
Frank talks about the new WhatTheyThink “Printing Outlook 2019” report. There are no leading indicators for the printing industry, government data need a lot of interpretation, and yet printers need insight in order to make intelligent business decisions. This report will give printers meaningful information on where the industry is—and where it may be going.
Frank talks sweetly about custom-printed cookies, cakes, and other comestibles and how this could tie into personalized packaging. Inkjet-printed icing and edible material can create type and photographic imagery for many delicacies.
The EFI Connect Conference in Las Vegas attracts the second largest contingent of media and analysts after drupa. Frank took advantage of this unique audience to get a brief insight into print trends in some overseas markets. In this interview, he talks to Wayne Robinson, Editor, Print21 in Australia and New Zealand.
The Penrose Annual was published from 1895 to 1982. It was a time capsule that documented the evolving technologies that would transform the printing industry, from halftone printing to process color lithography. Frank visits the Kennedy Library at CalPoly which has in its collection the very rare first three editions.
The EFI Connect Conference in Las Vegas attracts the second largest contingent of media and analysts after drupa. Frank took advantage of this unique audience to get a brief insight into print trends in some overseas markets. In this interview, he talks to Editor and Publisher Darryl Danielli and Contributing Editor Jo Francis of PrintWeek UK.
Frank comments about shortages of printed books. At the end of 2018, bookstores— and even Amazon—ran out of inventory for certain bestsellers. Ebooks have not truly replaced printed books and we are still trying to find the equilibrium between ebooks, on-demand books, and long-run printed books.
Frank discovers a hotel lounge that uses the printed encyclopedia as part of the décor. The Hilton Fanueil Hall in Boston has 40 or more sets of various reference encyclopedias in a small room off the main entrance.
Frank celebrates the 25th anniversary of HP Indigo. What began as Benny Landa’s groundbreaking technology is now a multi-billion-dollar worldwide business. It ushered in the era of on-demand color printing, and, more importantly, the use of variable-data printing for personalized promotion.
2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the introduction of digital color printing by Indigo and Xeikon. The atmosphere at IPEX in Birmingham, England, that week in September, 1993, was electric. This week, Frank looks at Xeikon, and will cover Indigo in a subsequent video.
Frank visited Lead Graffiti in Newark, Del., and met with Jill Cypher and Ray Nichols who run a letterpress printing/publishing company. Their books and posters are works of art and they teach others how to print with wood and metal.
Frank comments about Glamour Magazine's recent announcement that it is ceasing its print edition. Most magazines have now gone online, which has adversely affected large printers who offered printing and logistics services.
Frank reviews “Introduction to Graphic Communication” by Harvey Levenson and John Parsons. This is more than a book. Using Ricoh’s Clickable Paper technology, it becomes a professor on call. The text and graphics are amplified by great audio/video clips.
JLS Mailing Services of Brockton, Mass., traces its roots back to 1918 when Elizabeth Joyce Braddock, one of America's first female entrepreneurs, founded the Joyce Letter Shop. She first discovered the benefits of communicating through direct mail while selling hay for her dad—and the company has grown to become one of New England’s largest direct communications companies. Frank—with Bill Hogan, a local historian—tour JLS's unique mailing museum.
Frank reviews “Creative Selection” by Ken Kocienda, who created the keyboard/Autocorrect feature of the Apple iPhone. Ken spent 15 years with Apple and worked on the development of the iPhone and other revolutionary technologies. His book looks at the Apple design process during the Steve Jobs era.
Frank was wandering the floor at PRINT 18 and sat on a bench. There he met Angela Pinch, co-owner of D&L Press in Phoenix, Ariz., with her husband. This small company specializes in on-demand books. Their website is author2market.com and they are enabling the revolution in self-published books.
Frank reviews “Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing...and How” by noted sales consultants Bill Farquharson and Kelly Mallozzi. They do a great job presenting useful information on markets and methods for selling digital/inkjet printing, and how selling digital differs from traditional print sales.
Frank recently ordered a mini voice recorder to secretly record meetings at the White House, but was more interested in the packaging and package contents. Between the various boxes used to ship and hold the recorder and the plethora of instruction booklets, he liked all the printing that was involved.
Frank attended the New England Author’s Expo, featuring more than 100 self-published authors. Frank opines that it was on-demand digital printing that made it all possible. He interviews Robert Uttaro, author of “To the Survivors.”
Frank plays with his newest toy: a model of an English common press, a design that improved upon Gutenberg’s original. He then takes a field trip to Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace, location of Edes & Gill, an 18th-century print shop that has a life-size English common press as well as other period printing equipment. There, he talks with Gary Gregory, executive director and master printer, and his assistant Tyler Kerr.
The Museum of Printing in Haverhill, Mass., has published a book of 175 covers from The Inland Printer which began publication in 1883. The covers constantly pushed the envelope to show what printing could do in terms of imagery and color as the industry and technology evolved.
Frank celebrates 25 years of Adobe Acrobat for printing workflows. Thanks to the Ghent Work Group and innovative suppliers like Agfa, PDF was adapted for the transmission of files for print in the 1990s and workflow has never been the same.
Frank opines about the recent HOW DESIGN LIVE conference in Boston. It has passed, but the memory lingers on about the changing nature of design and of designers and its move to the web and social media.
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