Author Archives: EFritsch

Designers Seek Help Gearing Up for the Internet of Places

When Big Picture magazine asked me to write a preview of the upcoming ISA Sign Expo 2015 April 8-10 in Las Vegas, they wanted more than a simple recap of details that anyone could easily find online. They wanted insight into how Sign Expo differs from other big trade shows that feature a huge variety of wide-format printing and finishing equipment. In other words: Why should Big Picture readers attend Sign Expo this spring when they could see some of the same exhibitors at SGIA Expo or Graph Expo in the fall?

Fritsch-BigPict-InternetofPlaces-LRHaving served as a Big Picture editor, I know that Big Picture readers have never feared pushing the boundaries. Like true entrepreneurs, they understand that growth comes from helping customers solve problems and innovate.

So, I recalled something that struck me at ISA Sign Expo in 2014. Attendees who didn’t make time to attend some of the educational sessions at Sign Expo missed an excellent chance to network with some important future customers and learn about the type of help they need from providers of architectural signage and large-format graphics.

At the 2014 Sign Expo, the Society of Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD) coordinated an enlightening series of sessions about the types of technologically sophisticated projects architects and their clients want to create. As mobile technologies bridge the gap between the online world and physical spaces, experiential designers are hired to create  branded, interactive “customer-experience” environments for corporate offices, museums,  healthcare centers, universities, and public spaces.

The relatively few people who attended the  SEGD sessions at ISA Sign Expo 2014 learned that experiential designers are actively seeking companies that help them fabricate engaging customer experiences that blend printed graphics, digital signage, and one-of-a-kind models. The goal is to ensure that a consumer’s experience with a brand continues beyond the website and throughout the physical facilities.

The SEGD presentations provided context about why the Sign Expo itself features such an eclectic mix of large-format graphics, digital signage, and equipment for making customized architectural signage.

“We are in the early stages for the Internet of Places — the digitization of our environment,” explained Clive Roux, CEO of the SEGD. “This is something far bigger than signs. Everyday places are about to get a whole lot more technologically complex.”

Experiential designers strategically blend digital communications with art, graphics signage, and other elements to help clients reinforce their brand mission, vision, and values, throughout the built environment.

“Experiential design is what makes visiting a building memorable to the user, beyond bricks and mortar,” said Kelly Kolar. “A user’s experience with a brand is affected at multiple touchpoints, including architecture, interiors, the branded environment, promotional and educational materials, websites, and apps.” Experiential designers work hand-in-hand with architects, space planners, and interior designers to “and help craft what the ideal experience really is. Then, experiential designers work with other partners to bring all the elements of the story together.

This year, SEGD members presented workshops at the Digital Signage Expo in March. But the educational sessions at this year’s Sign Expo will feature a full day of programming about digital signage, as well sessions on topics such as how to build a more design-centric company.

When visiting the Sign Expo show floor this year, I will have a fresh understanding of the types of projects that creative designers are being asked to produce for retailers, healthcare organizations, museums, hotels, restaurants, and city planners. (It’s very exciting!) Attendees who fear “digital signage” will displace large-format graphics need to take a broader perspective.

Big Picture readers helped grow the market for large-format graphics because they weren’t afraid to help creative professionals work through all of the technological challenges. I am already seeing evidence that a new generation of entrepreneurs is willing to participate in this next wave of innovation — reinventing the customer experience.

Even though Sign Expo, Graph Expo, and SGIA Expo all feature many displays of digital printing and finishing equipment on the show floor, the educational programs at each show provide insights into the diverse ways the equipment can be used.

For example, Sign Expo is more about outdoor advertising, architectural signage, and customized experiences within the built environment. Graph Expo is focused more on publishing, packaging, and integrated marketing communications. And SGIA Expo explores what’s possible with industrial printing, textile printing, garment decoration, dye sublimation, vehicle wraps, décor, and the emerging field of printed electronics.

So if you want to explore the huge range of business opportunities made possible by all types of digital printing, I would encourage you to attend all three.


Big Picture: ISA Preview-Internet of Places

ISA Sign Expo 



SGIA Journal Assignments Range from Licensing Logistics to Software Controls

SGIA Journal: Garment Edition-Summer 2014

SGIA Journal: Garment Edition-Summer 2014

One reason I enjoy writing for the SGIA Journal is that I never quite know what assignment I’m going to get next.

Having followed the evolution and diversification of SGIA for many years, I usually start with some fundamental knowledge of most of the topics the SGIA Journal covers.

But researching each topic always provides an excellent opportunity to talk to fresh sources. Inevitably, I learn how rapidly things are changing — both in the business and technology sides of digital printing.

Two recently published projects exemplify the wide range of topics the SGIA Journal publishes to serve the diverse interests of SGIA members.

The Logistics of Imaging Licensed Materials
(Summer 2014: SGIA Journal-Garment Edition)

This article gives newcomers to the T-shirt printing business a quick overview of some of the intricacies of the licensed apparel business.  According to the book “The Basics of Licensing,” by intellectual property attorney Gregory J. Battersby and Danny Simon, the licensing of brands, characters, sports team names, college logos, and artwork generates more than $100 billion a year at retail and more than $7 billion in royalties for license holders.

One source I interviewed for this piece was Trevor George, of Trevco Sportswear, a family-owned business produces about 150,000 T-shirts a month. When Jim George founded the company in 1990, Trevor says, “It was not difficult to acquire licenses” and screen printing was the most economical decorating process. In 2007, Trevco could only handle about 20 licenses, because they had to carry a certain amount of inventory in several body styles for each approved design.

Today, Trevco runs a highly automated facility with eight Kornit direct-to-garment printers. The company doesn’t have to worry about having leftover inventory because they print and ship each order as it comes in. As a result, Trevco Sportswear now carries over 400 licensed properties from such brands as Warner Brothers, CBS, Paramount, NBC/Universal and Fox.

I plan to touch base with Trevor for my upcoming SGIA Journal story about workflow automation, because Trevco’s workflow today is about 99% automated. I am interested to hear more about how they did it and what lessons they learned during the transition.

Using Software Controls to Reduce Ink Costs: Are the Benefits Worth the Risks?
(SGIA Journal, September/October 2014)

SGIAJournal-InkConsumption-RIPSCompanies that use wide-format inkjet printers to produce billboards, retail posters, museum exhibits, and trade-show displays can go through plenty of ink every month.

So in their quest to trim operating expenses, it’s only natural that they would seek ways to reduce their monthly ink consumption.

Fortunately, software developers such as Caldera, Agfa Graphics, ErgoSoft, and Onyx have developed some tools that make it easier for graphics companies to limit the amount of ink used on certain types of jobs.

These ink-limiting tools can be useful if the graphics will be viewed quickly and from a distance. But if you’re working on branding campaigns that demand the utmost in image quality and color consistency on every printed piece, then conserving ink might not be your wisest business decision.

Because I tend to “write long” after I interview multiple sources for a story, the SGIA Journal didn’t have room to publish the detailed sourcelist I compiled to accompany this story. If you would be interested in receiving an updated version of this sourcelist after I get back from the SGIA Expo Oct. 22-24, please drop me a note at


SGIA Journal





Graph Expo and SGIA Expo: Two Printing Shows Teem with Opportunities

Anyone who believes print is dying might be surprised by the spirit of optimism among the exhibitors at the 2014 Graph Expo trade show for printing businesses in Chicago last month. I expect to find a similar sense of enthusiasm among exhibitors at another big printing-related trade show, the SGIA Expo, which runs Oct. 22-25 in Las Vegas.

Experts I met at Graph Expo believe many in-plant print shops and commercial print businesses are on the verge of making substantial investments in new forms of digital printing, finishing equipment, and workflow automation.  That’s because brand marketing and corporate communications professionals and publishers are becoming increasingly aware that digital printing enables them to do things that weren’t possible with traditional printing.

As consultant Hal Hinderliter explained at the Executive Outlook Conference prior to Graph Expo, the adoption of electronic alternatives hasn’t affected all forms of print uniformly. While the amount of “print that informs” may be decreasing due to more efficient online methods of delivering information, “print that performs” will continue to grow.

As printing is used less for everyday communications, printed documents will gain a new sense of importance.

Print that attracts attention, drives traffic to online media, makes us feel special, preserves special memories, customizes our surroundings, helps us make purchasing decisions, or expresses our individual creativity will continue to be valued.  We will save printed pieces that look and feel distinctive.

A few years ago, Graph Expo featured big exhibits of commercial offset presses. This year’s show was almost exclusively digital–with a heavy emphasis on production inkjet presses and all sorts of automated finishing equipment, such as digital spot coaters and digital cutting and creasing machines that can add creative effects to prints and packages.

Before Graph Expo, HP sent out poster-sized, personalized direct-mail pieces that were scored, folded, and cut to stand-up like a tabletop display.

HP's poster-sized direct-mail piece was delivered in a wrapper with personalized copy.

HP’s poster-sized direct-mail piece was delivered in a wrapper with personalized copy.

Printed on the HP Indigo 10000 digital press (which HP featured at Graph Expo), the 20 x 29-inch accordion-folded print was much more attention-grabbing than an everyday postcard.


Statistics printed on the poster noted that:

  • Digital printing is expected by grow 250% by 2024
  • Growth in digital packaging and labels is expected to double by 2018
  • Personalized, variable messaging multiplies response rates from 2 to 5 times

HP demonstrated the capabilities of digital printing on a massive scale last summer when they teamed up with Coca-Cola to print personalized cans of Diet Coke. According to a report posted on MarketWatch, Coca Cola’s carbonated soft-drink sales rose more than 2% after they began labeling Coke, Diet Coke, and Coke Zero with the names of individuals. According to an HP executive, the high visibility of the unique campaign has captured the attention of other brand marketers who are eager to find imaginative ways to make their own packaging more remarkable.

At Graph Expo, it was clear that digital presses and equipment have been developed for all types and sizes of companies–whether they choose to do more short-run printing in-house or outsource all of their work to providers of publishing or marketing services that are equipped with higher-speed digital printing equipment.

Canon showcased its diverse portfolio of wide-format and production-printing solutions including the new Océ Arizona 6100 series of high-speed flatbed printers, the Océ ImageStream 3500 full-color continuous feed inkjet press, the new imagePRESS C800 series of toner-based digital color presses for small- to mid-sized firms, the Océ ColorStream 3900 end-to-end production inkjet printing system,  the imagePROGRAF iPF785 MFP wide-format printer/scanner combination for technical documents, the Océ VarioPrint 6000+ for ultra-high-volume sheetfed production of monochrome books and financial documents, and the Niagara, high-speed, sheetfed, full-color digital inkjet press.

The printing plant of the future will be highly automated, and may include high-speed production digital presses such as Canon's Niagara full-color inkjet press that can produce up to 3,800 duplexed B3 sheets per hour and up to 8,500 duplexed letter sheets per hour with volumes of up to 10 million letter-size images per month.

The printing plant of the future will be highly automated, and may include high-speed production digital presses such as Canon’s Niagara full-color inkjet press that can produce up to 3,800 duplexed B3 sheets per hour and up to 8,500 duplexed letter sheets per hour with volumes of up to 10 million letter-size images per month.

Canon’s booth also showcased the wide variety of innovative products made by Canon customers. Canon’s goal was to remind Graph Expo attendees that digital printing equipment enables “creativity without boundaries.”

Some observers believed Graph Expo attendance seemed smaller than in previous years. Perhaps that’s to be expected. As some traditional printing businesses have gone out of business, surviving companies are scrambling to not only to be more innovative, but also become more automated. The number of employees involved in selling, setting up, producing, finishing, and shipping printed jobs will fall as businesses continue to add more automated devices.

Because Graph Expo and SGIA Expo are held only three weeks apart, I wondered if it’s only a matter of time before the two shows merge into one gigantic digital printing show.

But after touring Graph Expo and mingling with attendees, it’s clear that the shows still serve distinctly different audiences with different backgrounds.

Many devices at Graph Expo were geared for printing text-centric documents in corporate offices, in-plant print shops, commercial and publishing facilities. Equipment geared for digital package printing and finishing was also on display because Graph Expo was co-located with the Converting & Package Printing Expo. (You can read more about all the digital printing devices on display at Graph Expo in the Show Daily. Digital versions can be downloaded from the Graph Expo website.)

The SGIA Expo of Specialty Printing and Imaging Technology serves many companies that started out either in screen printing, photo printing, or wide-format display graphics.  The SGIA Expo attracts a broad spectrum of graphics producers, sign shops, garment decorators, as well as industrial users of digital printing equipment, including producers of textiles, printed electronics, promotional products, interior décor, and manufactured goods. The range of digital printing and finishing equipment at SGIA Expo will also be extraordinarily diverse.

And yes, some overlap does exist between the two shows, particularly in terms of marketing and display graphics. But as digital printing technology continues to mature and diversify, some potential uses of digital printing are just beginning to be commercialized.

As consumers, we are about to experience a golden age of creativity in printed communications, packaging, publications, and promotions.  Enterprising individuals and visionary companies will be able to build entirely new businesses around some of the customization and personalization capabilities that digital printing can provide.

So is print dying? Not at all. It’s just evolving. Print will live on — just in different forms and formats. As a writer who has covered commercial digital color printing from its earliest days, I can’t wait to see what’s next.



Graph Expo


Fresh Perspectives on 3D Printing in The Big Picture Magazine

I was delighted to see that the ISA (International Sign Association) recently tweeted a link to the article on 3D printing I wrote for October issue of The Big Picture magazine.

6 Simple Truths About the Hype About 3D Printing

"3D Printing: 6 Simple Truths Behind the Hype" October, 2014, The Big Picture Magazine, ST Media Group,

“3D Printing: 6 Simple Truths Behind the Hype” October, 2014, The Big Picture Magazine, ST Media Group,

Having witnessed the emergence and evolution of large-format color graphics printing technology, I wrote about some striking similarities between the early days of wide-format and today’s explosion of interest in 3D printing.  It wasn’t difficult to find sources who shared my view.

Yet, 3D printing really isn’t about “printing.” It’s really more about how the technologies can be used to revolutionize fields such as manufacturing, healthcare, retailing, and construction.

Perhaps one of the main similarities between “digital graphics printing” and “3D printing” is that 3D printing might soon enable on-demand, on-site printing of highly customized products. For example, you could get a pair of shoes custom printed at your retailer, or download the design from the store’s website and print the shoes on the 3D printer in your home.

3D Systems and United Nude Collaborate on 3D Printed Shoes

A lot of the hype about 3D printing seems geared toward expanding the maker community and encouraging more students and young designers to learn how to design structurally sound three-dimensional products (instead of flat, two-dimensional graphics). Plus, entrepreneurs and researchers want to be the first to discover the ultimate “killer app” for 3D printing.

While 3D printing has long been used in rapid prototyping, efforts are underway to make it more practical to print all sorts of usable products including prosthetics, topographical maps, home accessories, building materials, movie and stage props (and costumes), fashion, and replacement parts. Because many signmakers are experienced in three-dimensional design of custom-made signs, it’s easy to see why 3D printing might appeal to signmakers.

After submitting my article manuscript to The Big Picture in mid August, I have continued to follow developments in the fast-changing field of 3D printing. For example, check out this news release from The UPS Store:

The UPS Store Expands 3D Printing Nationwide

To get a real sense of just how rapidly the field of 3D printing is evolving, subscribe to the newsletter of the 3D Printng Industry News portal. Each day the newsletter delivers news about printers, education programs, and creative applications. Search the 3D Printing Industry News website for news about HP, and you’ll find articles such as this one:

Will the HP 3D Printing Talk Prove to Be White Noise or Game-Changing?

Finally, while researching my article I learned that today’s new breed of digital marketing agencies has begun experimenting with 3D printers, partly because part of their role is to help their clients understand how to benefit from new technologies. One of the funniest videos I’ve seen on the potential applications of 3D printing is entitled: “ReThink: the Agency with the Most Awards in the World.” Enjoy!

One other source I recommend that you follow is the blog published by John Hauer, the CEO of, a Cincinnati company that that envisions the future of 3D printing as a service.

One of the great things about writing a story such as this one is that every source I interview inevitably suggests other interesting people I should talk to on the subject. If you have suggestions for follow-up coverage on this topic, please let me know!


The Big Picture: 3D Printing: 6 Simple Truths Behind the Hype

ReThink: The Agency with the Most Awards in the World

3DLT Blog: 3DLT Visits HP

3D Printing Industry News


Interviews with Design Execs Show Agencies Are Evolving

Technology is an equal-opportunity destroyer. Over the past 20 years, I have seen it disrupt the traditional business models of photo labs, printing companies, and publishing firms. It has also altered the careers of people involved with those businesses, including photographers, designers, and writers. Some people adapted, embracing new opportunities and overcoming the obstacles and uncertainties associated with new technologies. Others simply fell behind.

So when I went on an “Agency Crawl” organized by AIGA Cincinnati earlier this year, I wasn’t surprised to see that the traditional “ad agency” business model has vanished. As technology rapidly alters how information is created, delivered, and shared, creative design firms have adopted new missions and updated their services. It was fascinating to see how creative-services agencies are reinventing themselves. So I proposed writing a series of articles on contemporary design agencies. recently published the first two articles in the series. In one article, I interviewed Brian Keenan, a co-founder of Openfield Creative. I met Brian when I visited Openfield Creative during the AIGA Agency Crawl.


For the other article, I interviewed Kelly Kolar of Kolar Design and two of her team leaders Mary Dietrich and Bill Thiemann. I met Kelly at the ISA Sign Expo, where she gave a presentation as part of an educational program organized by the recently renamed Society of Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD).


Both agencies actively help their clients adapt to ongoing changes in how brands and organizations communicate with their customers, partners, and employees.

At Openfield Creative, designers are currently helping brand owners engage customers through easy-to-use websites and apps. But Keenan was reluctant to pigeonhole the firm as an “interactive agency.” He noted that if the Internet disappeared tomorrow, Openfield Creative would still be focused on helping clients develop strategies for dealing with change.

Kolar Design focuses on design elements that affect the type of experience clients and employees have when they visit or work at a cleint’s facilities. Experiential graphic design (formerly known as environmental graphics) uses a combination of art, printed graphics, signage, and interactive technologies to help clients from the public, private, and healthcare sectors reinforce their brand mission, vision and values through the built environment.

Kelly’s Sign Expo presentation on experiential design for healthcare facilities was an eye-opener for any graphics-printing firm seeking insights into the changing needs of their customers.

Now that the first two articles in the series have been published, I am contacting other design firms to hear their stories. Because I continue to write stories for magazines that cover the ongoing transformation of the printing business, I realize how easy it can be to make generalized, outdated assumptions about designers and ad agencies.

What I am discovering is that each creative-services agency seems to be as unique as each reinvented printing business has become. Change has disrupted us all and we are reinventing ourselves in different ways.


Profile of Kolar Design

Profile of Openfield Creative

Kolar Design Article on

Openfield Creative Article on

AIGA Cincinnati Organizes a Fantastic Design Week Program

One joy of contributing to in Cincinnati is being able to observe the remarkable progress that has been made in revitalizing our urban core and attracting and retaining young creative professionals.  Not that long ago, young design-school graduates seemed to believe that the best career opportunities for creatives existed only in New York, Chicago, or LA. That has changed.

CAWDeignWeeklogoIn preparation for an assignment to preview  Cincinnati Design Week (July 21-26), I participated in an “Agency Crawl” on July 10. Many participants were students or recent grads looking for internships or job, But I enjoyed visiting the agencies because I had recently read reports such as: Adobe’s survey on “The New Creatives” and the SoDA Report on the outlook for digital marketing in 2014.

I was amazed to learn that a lot of pioneering work in digital marketing, mobile strategy, user-experience design, and motion graphics was happening right here in my hometown. These new digital agencies are experimenting with all sorts of new technologies to see how they can benefit their clients. Below is a quick overview of the four Cincinnati agencies we visited.

POSSIBLE: The Cincinnati office of Possible is one of 25 offices on five continents that is creating innovative ways to use new technology to bring measurable results to global brands. Many projects are designed to engage consumers and remind them that brands can help make our lives better. During the presentation, they talked about an app they developed for a P&G brand and a social-media campaign for Coca-Cola.

Hyperquake: The creative pros at this brand-evolution agency explained how they are  helping brands evolve, embrace change,  experiment, and stay relevant.

Openfield Creative: To cultivate connections between brands and people, the designers at this agency blend strategy, design, and technology.

Foster & Flux: The two young entrepreneurs behind this start-up animation studio are passionate about crafting storytelling videos that change the way people interact with brands. The creative partners focus on doing one thing very well: putting great design into motion.

When I wrote the Design Week preview for, I was impressed by the diversity of presentations that AIGA Cincinnati had pulled together, with support from the Contemporary Art Center, 21c Museum Hotel, TEDx Cincinnati, and Creative Mornings. Some presentations are being led by local creative professionals. But some keynoters include architect Jin Liu from the SO-IL architecture firm in New York and Debbie Millman, president and CMO at Sterling Brands in New York.

Barcelona-based designer Hector Ayusa has put together a full day of programming that brings artists and designers from around the world to share ideas and inspiration at OFFCincinnati.

Here’s the Design Week preview I wrote for

As a writer, I love being able to connect with people all over the world and do interviews via Skype from the comfort of my home office. But I also like getting out and meeting innovative people here in my own community. Their stories and insights give me a richer, deeper perspective when I work on technology-related assignments for national trade associations and other publishers. And the writing I do for my blogs and other publishers brings additional context to the stories I write for It’s all fun!


Proud to Be a WCPO Insider

WCPOInsiderMonthlyCover-350pLast week, I attended a meeting at the headquarters of WCPO, a Cincinnati TV station that promotes itself as “9 on Your Side.”  WCPO is one of 19 television stations included in The E.W. Scripps Company’s portfolio of television, print, and digital media brands. Based in Cincinnati, Scripps also owns daily newspapers in 13 markets across the United States.

WCPO hosted the meeting for freelancers just a few days after released its first issue of “WCPO Insider Monthly.” The “Monthly” is a 30-page collection of some of the best articles posted for subscribers (“WCPO Insiders”) over the past month.

Laid out like magazine feature stories, the articles in “Insider Monthly” make it clear that WCPO is developing content for news junkies who want to learn more about what’s happening in the Tri-State region than they can get from tweets, headlines, sound bites, and news briefs.

I received the inaugural issue of WCPO Insider Monthly, because I not only subscribe to’s content, but also contribute to it. I am one of the 30+ journalists and community team members WCPO has added to its digital reporting team over the past year.

The articles I write for my weekly “Cincy is Creative” series are published on Sunday mornings as part of the growing volume of original, local stories that WCPO is producing on topics such as local crime and justice, politics, business, health, education, and the arts.

For my series, I interview local artists, photographers, authors, designers, and filmmakers who are fulfilling their dreams of doing work they love.

The Changing News Business

Readers of can still get free access to breaking news, public-safety information, weather, traffic, iTeam investigations, all newscast videos, photo galleries, and WCPO’s popular “Don’t Waste Your Money” consumer-news segment. But all items marked with “9” logo are for WCPO Insiders only.

While many local and national newspapers (including the Cincinnati Enquirer and the New York  Times) have started charging people  to access some content developed for their websites, was the first Scripps television station to erect a paywall on their online news site. It was a gutsy move, considering that the station didn’t have an existing base of subscribers, like a newspaper or magazine does.

People who sign up today can sample the WCPO Insider stories for $0.01 for four weeks. After that, they can opt to pay $7.99 per month or $79.99 for a yearly subscription.

Keeping Contributors Informed

At the meeting at WCPO last week, the editorial team that launched the WCPO Insider program talked more about their ideas for the next phases of implementation, and suggested how we could answer some of the questions we all have received since the subscription program launched February 12. 

As a writer who has adapted to many technology-driven changes to mass communications since I graduated from Ohio University’s journalism program, I am excited to be part of WCPO’s forward-thinking initiative.

WCPO is giving freelance contributors like me the flexibility to manage our workloads and the incentive to deliver stories that will help expand its base of “Insiders,”

I applaud the leaders at Scripps and WCPO for believing that good reporting and original content still matter. They pay freelancers more than the “content farms” that expect writers to churn out dozens of stories a week, simply by rewriting online content that others created. So I don’t mind at all if my articles are published behind the paywall. 

While the contributors work to uncover and report great stories, the publishing team is testing different ways to let potential subscribers see the stories we develop. For example,as a subscriber, I can download “WCPO Insider Monthly” in PDF form and share it with friends and neighbors who haven’t yet subscribed to

If you think about it, charging online readers for access to additional content isn’t much different from selling newspapers and magazines at a newsstand. After people skim through the cover slugs, headlines, and table of contents, they willingly buy those publications that pique their interest in learning more. I believe that many readers will choose to do the same with the Insider content.

Every day we are all growing more accustomed to getting news on our mobile devices. Likewise, we’re also starting to realize the value of subscribing to sites that offer something extra.

In the not-too-distant future, few people will ever know (or care) whether the text, photos, and videos were gathered by journalists who began their careers writing for newspapers, magazines, or broadcast news. Soon, most journalists will be digital journalists.

As a long-time lover of magazines, I was impressed when WCPO introduced Insider Monthly. In the brave new converging world of online multimedia publishing, broadcasters must be prepared to compete not just with other broadcasters, but also with newspapers, blogs, content marketing, social media, online video, and magazines. 


Scripps Press Release: Cincinnati Television Station Ramps Up for Premium Web Content Subscription Service

Screen Printing Is Alive and Well

As a freelancer, I am never quite sure where my next writing assignment will lead me.

After being dazzled by the advances in digital printing technology displayed at the PRINT 13 show and SGIA Expo last fall, I spent November and December researching two articles on screen printing. Both articles were recently published and confirm that screen printing is still valued, both as an art and as a method of decorating garments.

SGIA Journal: Old School Screen Printing in the Digital Age

SGIAJournalOldSchoolScreenPrintinginDigitalAge-300pFor the Winter 2014 issue of the SGIA Journal, I wrote about “Old School Screen Printing in the Digital Age” and the resurgence of interest in hand-made screen prints for concert posters and T-shirts.

The article originated after I interviewed some young screen-printing enthusiasts here in Cincinnati.  They are part of the much larger maker movement that is evident at events such Flatstock Poster Shows and  Renegade Craft Fairs in cities throughout the U.S. and Europe.  (Both the Flatstock Poster Show and Renegade Craft Fair will be held March 13-15, 2014 in conjunction with the SXSW Music Festival in Austin.)

Erin Dollar of Renegade Craft Fairs told me, “Interest in buying beautiful, handmade items has grown in the past decade, Screen printing has always been a popular medium for artists because it’s an affordable production tool that offers opportunities to create multiples without investing in a lot of expensive equipment.”

For the SGIA article, I talked to: Aaron Kent of DIY Printing and Pat Jones and Ben Nunery of Powerhouse Factories in CIncinnati; Carolyn Hartmann of OpenStudio DC in Washington, DC; Bill Fick of Supergraphic in Durham, North Carolina; Carlos Hernandez of Burning Bones Press in Houston; and Andy MacDougall of Squeegeeville in Vancouver, British Columbia.

They shared insights about the many different ways art schools, community art centers, and co-op printmaking studios are serving the growing number of designers and artists who want to try their hand at screen printing. Andy MacDougall has even written a book, called “Screenprinting Today: The Basics.

Hartmann told me that the designers who attend her screen-printing workshops like getting a little messy after spending all day at a computer. Hernandez notes that digitally savvy designers who can build a website in a few nights seem to relish the challenge of learning a medium that takes some time to master.

Read the full article here: SGIA Journal: Old School Screen Printing in the Digital Age 

The SGIA Journal is published by the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association, a trade association that originated as an association for screen printers.  The 2014 SGIA Expo will be held October 22-24 in Las Vegas. 

Wearables Magazine: Fast Screening

Fritsch-Wearables-FastScreening-300pFor the February, 2014 issue of Wearables magazine, I wrote about computer-to-screen (CTS) devices that merge the efficiencies of digital imaging with the cost advantages of high volume screen printing.  By inkjet-printing an image file directly onto an emulsion coated screen, a CTS system eliminates the need to make film positives.

Some of the newest CTS devices use industrial inkjet printheads to keep pace with the screenmaking demands of apparel-decorating companies that use one or more automatic screen-printing presses to produce higher volumes of decorated garments every day. If the automatic presses stand idle while employees make screens manually, companies can’t maximize the return on their high-speed presses.

For this article I talked to equipment manufacturers such as Lawson Screen & Digital Products, the M&R Companies, and Exile Technologies. I also spoke to employees of screen-printing companies who use the equipment.

Read the full article here: Screen-Printing Success: Fast Screening

Wearables magazine is published by the Advertising Specialty Institute for 25,000+ suppliers and distributors of promotional products such as T-shirts, tote bags, and other gifts imprinted with an advertiser’s logo or message. ASI studies show that promotional products such as custom-printed T-shirts, tote bags, and caps can be powerful advertising tools because recipients of these items keep them for months and wear them where the brand message can be seen by thousands of other people.  I wrote about the ASI study on my Creatives at Work blog: T-Shirts Can Complement Your Online Marketing.

 Screen Printing Magazine

Writing these two articles was a fun way to for me to learn how the screen printing process continues to be used.

Before I was named editor of The Big Picture magazine about large-format digital printing in the mid-1990s, I served as an assistant editor for Screen Printing magazine for a short time. In that role, I never became an expert on screen printing, but I did learn the basics. At that time, I spent a lot of my time studying how and why screen-printing studios might want to move certain types of projects to first-generation models of wide-format inkjet printers.

So, it has been astonishing to witness how rapidly inkjet printing has advanced from very slow, first-generation plotter-speed devices to fast, highly automated production-grade flatbed and superwide roll-to-roll presses that can handle a lot of the work formerly done on screen-printing presses. 

But screen printing technology has advanced, too. The process wouldn’t be attracting so many young artists and designers without the substantial progress that has been made in making the process more environmentally friendly.

Getting Connected with TEDxCincinnati

What’s your favorite TED Talk?  The TED Talks I like include:

While I haven’t spent a whole lot of time watching TED Talks, I do admire for successfully creating a whole new type of media platform for spreading their own brand of content. The 1500+ videos that have been posted on their website since 2007 have been viewed more than 1 billion times.


In a world in which so much information (and misinformation)  is spread by argumentative pundits, special-interest groups, negative political ads, and snarky tweets, TED gives speakers up to 18 minutes to present the best speech of their lives.

The speakers come from all walks of life. They don’t stand stiffly behind a podium, reading their notes. Nor do they repeatedly plug their books or websites. They simply present their ideas, experiences, and research in an informal, heartfelt, human way.

TED Talks cover everything from agriculture, art, business, economics and education to medicine, science, technology, violence, work, and youth.

One thing I love about TED Talks is that the speakers aren’t interrupted with “gotcha questions” by know-it-all, fame-seeking news anchors. Nor are their words filtered by reporters who have their own personal biases. Instead, TED organizers presume that the audience is intelligent enough to decide for themselves which messages ring true.  

In July, on an assignment for WCPO Digital, I met a woman who told me that watching TED Talks online isn’t nearly as exciting as attending a TED Conference live. Jami Edelheit has attended several TED events and tells me that a lot of the magic comes from interacting with the other attendees, and discussing some of the ideas that were presented.

Jami is so enthusiastic about the TED brand of content that she has organized TEDxCincinnati, which is producing its second Main Stage event, “Sound Ideas” on October 3. She has lined up an incredible program of speakers and performers. I look forward to being there.

Graphic design students at Cincinnati State created the "Sound Ideas" logo, postcard, other materials, and a 'Paint the Town TED' campaign for TEDxCincinnati.

Graphic design students at Cincinnati State created the “Sound Ideas” logo, postcard, other materials, and a ‘Paint the Town TED’ campaign for TEDxCincinnati.

One person I encouraged to attend “Sound Ideas” is Craig Beachler, a Cincinnati resident I met on another assignment for WCPO Digital. Craig was inspired to take action after watching this TED Talk about urban gardening that a friend had forwarded to him.

Ron Finley: A Guerilla Gardner in South Central LA

This week, I submitted a second TEDxCincinnati-related assignment to WCPO Digital. This story is about the talented team of graphic design students at Cincinnati State who develop a “Paint the Town TED”  branding campaign for TEDxCincinnati and promotional graphics for the “Sound Ideas” event on October 3.  Jami invited me to be in the audience when the students gave their final presentation of all the web and print graphics they had created for TEDxCincinnati.  The work the students came up with was fantastic, and the experience has prepared them well for the type of cross-media projects that employers need help with today. 

Getting connected to TEDxCincinnati through WCPO has been an eye-opening experience for me. It has made me aware of how many innovative thinkers, doers, and performers are making a difference right here in my own city.

If you like watching TED Talks, but can’t attend a TED conference live, I encourage you to support your local TEDx organizer. TED launched their TEDx program to to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences locally. TEDx events are planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis. So far, more than 7,000 TEDx events have been held in more than 1890 cities worldwide.



WCPO: TEDx Aims To Connect Tr-State Resident with Ideas Worth Spreading

WCPO: A Field of Dreams for Fido and Friends Blooms As a Community Garden in the Heart of Cinincinnati

WCPO: Cincinnati State Students Paint the Town TED



Why I Love Blogging

BlogTree300pixI have been blogging since 2006. Both my Great Output blog (on blogspot) and Creatives at Work (on WordPress) are personal projects.

Great Output started out as a way for me to post extra content that complemented the bi-monthly magazine I was editing for photography professionals. Great Output originally focused on helping photography pros learn how digital printing could help them grow their businesses. I have expanded the content to cover additional ideas for photographers who want to gain greater exposure, learn new skills, or increase their revenues.

Creatives at Work is designed to help artists, designers, photographers and writers recognize how technology is changing the markets for their work. As the demand for some types of creative services disappears, new options continue to emerge.

So far, I have published more than 750 posts on Great Output and 450 posts on Creatives at Work.

As a writer, blogging feels as natural as keeping a journal. It’s a fun way to expand my skills, knowledge, and contacts. Blogging lets me discover, evaluate, and promote new ideas.

Blogging keeps me abreast of fields I want to write about.
When I was a magazine editor and my inbox overflowed with news releases, it was easy to spot trends that merited feature stories. Today, when I visit online news release sites to find blog-post ideas, I also identify trends and expert sources for future magazine articles and book projects.

Blogging sharpens my editing skills.
Unfortunately, many online news releases don’t seem to be written for real people. The writing is stilted and awkward, as if a committee wrote the release and fed it through an SEO “best-practices” grinder. Sentence structures are convoluted, the quotes sound unnatural, and basic reader questions are unanswered.

I read news releases from the perspective of a “Generation Flux” creative professional who is seeking inspiration for the type of work I might want to try next.  When reviewing news releases, I ask six questions:

  • Why should readers care about this?
  • What problem does this idea help solve?
  • Can the writing be streamlined?
  • Do the ‘quotes’ sound human?
  • What insights or additional information can add value to this release?
  • Should I contact the source for clarification or more information?

Blogging helps me connect with new sources.
Blog publishing gives me a reason to reach out and interview people who are doing interesting things. It also attracts inquiries from bright, ambitious people with interesting stories to tell.

Blogging provides endless opportunities for continuous learning.
When I first started blogging in 2006, blogs were primarily regarded as tools for political expression and Blogger was the primary platform. Because blog readership was miniscule compared to that of print publications, many traditional publishers and corporations dismissed blogs as not worth the effort. As the readership and influence of blogs has grown, PR firms reach out to me like they reached out to me as a magazine editor. The transformation of publishing, marketing, and public relations has been fascinating to watch.

Publishing blogs on two different platforms has helped me learn about plug-ins, widgets, image editing, web hosting, graphic design, online advertising, SEO, embedding videos, affiliate marketing, and analytics. I haven’t yet used many of these capabilities to their full extent, but that’s OK.

Blogging lets me help others.
As a magazine editor, I loved seeing how reader-oriented publicity could benefit small, well-run companies with good products and ideas. As a blogger, I can freely publicize whatever companies and products intrigue me without any consideration as to whether they might advertise.

Helping deserving authors, artists, start-ups, and entrepreneurs get additional exposure and opportunities makes me happy. It’s also fun to be able to help friends and acquaintances who aren’t sure how to get started in self-publishing, blogging, photography or other creative fields.

Blogging comes naturally.
Blogging is the form of social media that feels most authentic to me. In addition to allowing me to share news that intrigues me, it adds a sense of routine to my day and immediate gratification. I express my thoughts more clearly in written form than orally.

My blogs are works in progress.
The SEO consultants who offer their services seem surprised that I’m not overly concerned with “getting found” or following a rigid set of “best practices.” Maybe someday I will hire an SEO expert. But for now, my blogs are more about knowledge-gathering, experimentation, and independent publishing.

Over time, blogging helps me make sense of the flood of information that is engulfing us all. When I get excited about certain topics I discover through blogging, I can pitch them as story ideas to professional publishers who have invested a lot of time and effort in SEO and are more serious than I am about “getting found” online. Plus, I am in the process of collecting some of my blog posts and converting the content into e-books.

According to some studies, organizations sometimes have trouble coming up with enough ideas to keep their blog updated. Actually, ideas are everywhere. If you need tips on how to keep the content flowing, I would be happy to help!


Great Output

Creatives at Work

Creatives at Work: Generation Flux