If you don’t already know, RGB is model based around light (Red, Green and Blue) which is why this is used for things like web pages, hence backlit screens.
When using images for print based products it is best practice to use the CMYK colour mode. This is made up of the printing inks Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (Black taking the K for ‘Key’ colour). If you leave your artwork as RGB you run the risk of any bright colours being dulled down in the conversion process at the pre press stage in the printers. However if you can convert to CMYK beforehand you then have a better control and visual of what you will get in the final printed material.
Ok so with the technical stuff out of the way, how do you convert an RGB PDF into a CMYK PDF? This can be done in Acrobat Pro itself.
Open the PDF in Acrobat
Choose Tools > Print Production > Convert Colors
Select the RGB colour space
Select the FOGRA39 profile (this is a print industry standard)
Check which pages you would like to convert
Click OK and you’re done!
As you may see, the colours could change slightly or drastically depending on how the artwork was initially set up. If you are happy, you are now have a CMYK PDF. If not you can always go back to the original artwork source and amend the colours to CMYK and adjust at that stage.
I have worked in the print trade since 2000 so getting to be a bit of a dinosaur! The amount of RGB artwork that come through the door is pretty incredible, I do hope this little bit of advice can help a few people and provide an understanding of these colour modes.
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In recent times we have witnessed an increase in the customer preference of choosing online batch printing services, as opposed to the more traditional method of using local or national print firms in order to source their required products. The reasons for this appear to be purely financial.
On the surface it seems that the consumer is being offered a product that is cheaper and possibly quicker to obtain using the online batching method. Although, when we delve a little deeper into how and why this is happening the picture is a little murkier.
One example of a firm that has obtained a noticeable market share has its headquarters in Wurzburg, Germany and operates in at least fifteen countries. The firm has created an annual turnover of over £280million; however, it is operating at a loss, in the U.K. print market at least. The reason it is able to do this is because a powerful parent company is providing financial support which makes the operation sustainable.
One explanation as to why a firm would adopt this strategy is that it is creating a loss leader. This means that online batch printing is just one part of a larger business that is also selling other related or non-related products. It is a total sum of many parts that is overall profitable. The printing may be just a ‘loss leader` necessary to attract customers to other products and services.
Another reason why a firm may operate at a loss is to achieve Market Penetration. The strategy may be to entice customers into using a different method of obtaining goods and services. In the print industry this might be using the internet as an alternative to using traditional methods of orders and transactions which would be contacting a local print manufacturer. Cultivating personal contact and service, using local businesses and achieving repeat business helps maintain a healthy local economy. However, many consumers might choose low cost as the only factor in their decision making. This may be short sighted, by cultivating a strong personal relationship with local suppliers invaluable benefits can ensue in the way of customer service and satisfaction. Flexibility and trust can result in mutually beneficial arrangements especially regarding repeat transactions and developing strong supplier-buyer relationship confidence.
When a foreign company or multinational corporation penetrates the market of a specific industry such as printing there can be negative consequences for the host country. A Multinational Corporation (MNC) is an organisation that owns or controls production of goods or services in two or more countries other than their own home country. Therefore, when a MNC is a German organisation operating a service of online batched print products in the U.K. at a loss, in order to gain market share, the U.K. economy may not benefit from any capital investment made. This is because the revenues generated through its sales will be transferred back to Germany. It is a process known as the decapitalisation of local economies.
The threat to small and medium sized printing businesses in the U.K. manifests itself in aggressive price-cutting tactics from MNCs with powerful parent companies that are willing to incur losses in order to gain market share. They are looking to offset these initial losses by enticing customers to purchase other related or unrelated products through the internet. By investing in expensive, cutting edge Multidomain Master Data Management (MDM) solutions a MNC can expand by supporting multiple languages and currencies through highly efficient data storage. This can all be managed through a company H.Q. in Germany. As a marketing strategy this has proven to be successful, it is also true that progress has been made in efficient production and product development techniques.
This is clearly to the detriment of local printers here in the U.K… This example of globalisation through online batch printing processes is gathering pace and the MNCs that provide this service are increasing their market share. To some this may be an example of evolving technologies and business strategies revolutionising an industry which will benefit the consumer with lower prices and increased speed of delivery, from the point of order by the consumer. However, the potential dangers cannot be ignored. If small and medium sized printing businesses in the U.K. are forced to exit the industry because they do not have the financial resources to operate at a loss during a sustained price war then the industry may become monopolised, to an extent at least.
For the sake of this blog the e-commerce giant in question will be known simply as The Firm. To begin with it must be noted that powerful Wall Street investors have a long-term growth strategy regarding The Firm. Therefore, as the company gains stock and the share price increases, it is free to pursue a policy of expansion regarding market share using aggressive price-cutting tactics to gain a stranglehold and eliminate competition. A lack of effective ‘antitrust’ regulation, as well as lax tax laws and state subsidies will only exacerbate the problems and challenges faced by smaller retailers and manufacturers.
Further analysis reveals that since advanced capitalist economies such as the US and UK adopted neoliberal policies under the Regan and Thatcher administrations, there has been a fundamental shift in emphasis regarding antitrust regulation. Previously, concentrated market power was considered deleterious and antitrust, state regulation was structured to prevent monopolisation of industries and markets. However, the new ‘laissez faire’ era of neo liberal economics has led to a strategy of ‘maximising economic efficiency’. This should be questioned on the basis that there is a risk of an open market being supplanted by a privately controlled one. It is clear that The Firm which is the subject of this blog is under no pressure from its powerful investors to make any real profits. Indeed, the core strategy is to incrementally expand market share, so why is this?
One theory is that the long-term goals of investors is to eliminate competition and then exploit their monopoly-like power and exercise pricing and margin pressure on both consumers and suppliers. It is feasible that rival manufacturers and retailers could be reduced to third-party sellers on an online platform. Indeed, The Firm of today could be compared to a 19th Century railroad baron controlling which businesses get to market and what they have to pay to get there. Short-term consumer gains in the form of driven down prices can be more than off-set as competition is eliminated leading to widespread job losses and business closures that will do immeasurable harm to local communities.
As traditional retail jobs are replaced by warehouse workers in huge distribution centres, strategically placed around the country, it is important to expose the way long-standing employment contract norms are being undermined. Many of the vacancies are filled using subcontracted temporary workers, with minimal employment rights. They are described as ‘seasonal’ though in reality they are year-round ‘permatemps’. Further down the supply chain a delivery network has been established using sub-contracted drivers who are paid by the delivery, rather than by the hour. They must cover their own fuel, insurance and maintenance costs. This circumvents minimum wage laws and allows the firm to absolve itself of any responsibility regarding employment protection and all the benefits associated with it.
If The Firm can obtain a 50% or more market-share of every £1 spend online in the UK it is important that the possible negative effects are explored and exposed for the general public wellbeing. Firstly, the longstanding economic model of ‘perfect competition’ is undermined.
Two key conditions of this model are:-
All buyers and sellers are small relative to the market.
There is free entry into and exit from the market.
It is obvious that if the firm in question has market power to the extent it commands at least 50% of all online sales, then it is no longer ‘small’. The vast network of warehouses, uber-like delivery network, global investors of vast wealth expecting no profits in the short to medium-term, as well as government subsidies and tax breaks then this can no longer be described as ‘perfect competition’. Any competition is unlikely to be able to match the speed of delivery and free delivery for long, if at all.
Furthermore, manufacturers have little choice but to use the firm in order to sell its products on a level playing field regarding access to the market. Rival retailers, both online and in the form of traditional stores face unrelenting pressure from The Firm to lower prices in order to compete. The result is, widespread closures of local and independent businesses up and down the country.
By and large local independent manufacturers and retailers have to survive and compete with little help from the state. They also pay their fair share in taxation which helps local and national society. However, it can be revealed that The Firm generated £4.2 billion in sales in 2012. Astonishingly, in the same year it paid only £2.4 million in corporation tax by using a subsidiary in Luxembourg. The Firm is not a UK based company and in exchange for investing in its UK operations, managed to obtain £2.5 million in government handouts. This legalistic hocus-pocus is surely unethical, although not illegal and prevents revenue from being recycled into the local UK economy.
Combined with its powerful investors who are willing to forgo short and medium-term returns, The Firm is in a position to implement a predatory pricing policy in order to eliminate competition and extend its monopoly power. Once this has been achieved it can ruthlessly prey on suppliers rather like a cheetah would hunt a sickly gazelle. Suppliers need access to the market place in order to survive, if The Firm is the only feasible way to get there, this otherwise felicitous and symbiotic relationship quickly becomes a one-sided power relationship. The firm can keep demanding discounts knowing that, unlike them, suppliers cannot operate at a loss for very long. Therefore, local businesses have to shed jobs and lower wages. Ultimately causing even more misery for local communities and the UK economy as a whole.
Blog by Simon Jones
Look out for my next blog in the coming weeks which will focus on how the UK printing industry is suffering from the ruthless tactics in relation to online batch printed product orders.
Edward Johnston and Eric Gill – The Two Typefaces of Britain
There are two terms that often get described as the same thing. Though this is untrue, a typeface is not a font which depicts the size and weight of letters and numbers. A typeface however is a letter and number design which is completely different in respect to designing visual text. Typeface is vitally important when designing any printed presentation. Historically, over the last century or so there are two typefaces which are ubiquitous throughout the UK and appear very frequently in every town and city. They are Johnston and Gill Sans. Typography is interesting because it can phase the emotion of the message and the importance and the meaning of the information presented. For example an advertisement for a funeral directors would not look appropriate if it appeared in a zany, comical typeface. Of course a more formal, sombre typeface would be much more suited for such a service.
One of the first problems with ununified coordination concerning typeface and signage to emerge in public life, can be traced to the development and expansion of the London Undergrown system in the early part of the 20th Century. Each new station had its platform walls plastered with the advertisements of many goods and services as well as the vitally important information for passengers and commuters which revealed which station they were actually at. The fact that there was no coordination between stations meant that the official signage was different at every stop. This made the rail network look unprofessional and disjointed.
A man named Frank Pick was responsible for managing the publicity and creating the brand image for London Underground at this time. It was decided that in order to create signage that would cover the entire network and be clearly identifiable as the official London Underground brand a typeface would be in ‘Sans-Serif’ rather than just ‘Serif’ which had been the case for the signage and advertising used so far. The difference between the two is that in typography if the lettering is ‘Serif’ a small line is attached to each letter or symbol. If this stroke is removed from the typeface, it then because ‘Sans serif’. This is derived from the French word sans which means without. The man commissioned to create the new Sans Serif typeface, for commercial printing use regarding the London Underground was a calligraphy expert and lecturer called Edward Johnson. He was identified by Pick as the creative and artistic individual who could be entrusted to complete the modernisation and rebranding required at the time. This calligrapher introduced the Sans style based on the Roman Square proportions of ancient times, focusing on narrow width strokes contains within each letter design. This new clear and bold lettering was introduced throughout the London Transport system in 1916 and was protected from use by any other organisation or business because the print firms contracted were forbidden to use the design text for anyone else.
This new typeface rebranding was a complete success for both London Underground and the London Bus networks. Standardisation of all signage and information soon led to the easily identifiable official information throughout the entire public transport network.
However, the evolution of another new typeface was soon to emerge from a former student of Johnston’s. His name was Eric Gill who was an architect and stone cutter in the early years of his career. It was while he was studying calligraphy that he became interested in developing a new Sans Serif alphabet. He did this by using relatively new method of printing technology at the time known as ‘casting’. This was now available on an industrial scale due to the success of a company called Monotype based in Surrey.
Although Gill’s new typeface was inspired by and similar to Johnston’s original, he added to it a new ‘Art Deco’ style. The difference between Johnston’s and Gill’s design was subtle and effective. Gill used more symmetry to letters and numbers and added slightly more curve to create a more stylish Roman or Trojan visual effect.
Monotype was now able to create text in many different sizes in large volumes due to the development of a machine called the Supercaster. They identified the ‘Gill Sans’ style as the new method. They needed a new customer to secure large contracts for widespread use. Fortunately for them the LNER (London North East Railway) wanted to rebrand at the time and Monotype secured the contract to provide the nameplate on the newest and speed record breaking iconic locomotives of the time which were the Mallard and the Flying Scotsman.
The new typeface broke from the confines of London to go nationwide and the Gill Sans print typeface was then applied to shop signs, timetables, information posters and even menus which were now printed with this new stylish typeface. It became ubiquitous throughout the country for information and advertising and is still used widely to this present day.
In this day and age it is normal and contemporary to equate pamphlets with everyday advertising and marketing of goods and services. Although you may receive relevant material on the high street concerning local, national or international issues there is nothing very subversive or radical in the general content.
It was not always so, if we go back to the early 1830s in America, the wealthy New York city merchants Tappan Brothers invested in the latest print technology. This was in order to engage in the dissemination of pamphlets with the overt intention of influencing public opinion against the slave trade. This activity was so subversive at the time, it inflamed southern conservatives to the extent that they broke into post offices, seized and burned mail on the streets in front of cheering mobs.
The campaign was abandoned as impractical after such extreme tactics by those wishing to preserve the status quo regarding slavery. However, the tactic can be considered as very effective as far as raising awareness. Abolitionists then concentrated on petitioning members of congress directly. The material produced in pamphlets was incredibly graphic, it depicted the horrors of slavery and all its cruelty and depravity in an illustrated form. Most slaves at the time were illiterate so this visual illustration was important regarding awareness for all sectors of society.
Although a campaign by pro-slavery advocates to ban the pamphlets, failed to be enacted in law in the US Congress, local postmasters and officials confiscated printed material locally. The Anti-Slavery Society realised a point had been made and therefore changed tactics. The printed pamphlets had already achieved the objectives of causing controversy and raising awareness regarding injustice and cruelty. The printed pamphlets did make a significant difference and impacted public opinion.
If we go back to the late 18th Century, here in the UK pamphleteering had a direct and significant effect on a form of dissent and activism that was to increase momentum towards abolition that would hurt wealthy merchants who benefitted from sugar slavery, where it mattered most – in their pockets.
Democracy was in its infancy at the time and great swathes of the population did not even have the right to vote, including all women. Therefore, activists decided to act in the form of a consumer boycott, so as to energise the Abolitionist movement. Although the moral argument against the fundamental injustice and evil practice of slavery had already been achieved, Parliament was dragging its heels regarding a ban and a bill that would outlaw the slave trade failed to be passed.
In 1791 a young high society gentleman and intellectual by the name of William Fox published his seminal pamphlet entitled ‘In Address to the People of Great Britain’. It was essentially an anti-sugar pamphlet against imports from the Caribbean which had risen by a startling volume. In Liverpool alone sugar imports from the West Indies had risen from 760 tonnes in 1704, to a staggering 46,000 tonnes a century later.
The pamphlet was a stunningly successful piece of marketing and ran to 25 editions selling over 70,000 copies. As a result, hundreds of thousands of households up and down the country gave up sugar all together as a protest, or voluntarily bought more expensive sugar produced by ‘free labour’ in the East Indies.
This expression of consumer power as a form of dissent can be directly linked to the print industry. It is an example of how printing has historically played a part in progressive social justice ideals and helped to evolve and educate society. This paragraph from William Fox’s pamphlet is a salient example of the power of print:-
“If we purchase commodity we participate in the crime. The slave dealer, the slave holder, and the slave driver, are virtually agents of the consumer, and may be considered as employed and hired by him to procure the commodity… In every pound of sugar used we may be considered as consuming two ounces of human flesh” (William Fox, 1791, in Address to the People of Great Britain).
On a final note, printing firms have historically played an important part in social change and helped many worthwhile causes, raising awareness in the public sphere. They can be the voice of the oppressed, dispossessed, those excluded and ignored by those with power. These examples have drawn attention to how printing played a part in ending one of the most grievous crimes against humanity and helped to end the evil practice of human slavery, perpetuated by two of the most powerful nations in the world at the time. The US and Great Britain.
UK Print Industry Performance and Productivity 2013 to 2017
The UK print industry can be described as a bellweather for the economy as a whole because demand is derived from the level of overall activity. Therefore, if the UK economic growth figures are stagnant or the economy has contracted, the print industry is likely to mirror the macro national performance. The industry serves all aspects of the economy which are:- central and local government, manufacturing, travel and tourism, retail, distribution and financial services. In 2013 the print industry generated around £14.5 billion in sales and approximately £7 billion in gross value added. Books, advertising brochures and leaflets made up the vast majority of the print products produced. Between the years 2008 and 2013 the industry went through a drastic period of consolidation and employee numbers fell by roughly 20%. The number of companies operating in the industry also fell by roughly 15%. By 2013 the industry utilised approximately 140,000 employees in around 10,500 companies spread throughout the UK. 90% of firms employed fewer than 20 workers and 75% of firms employed less than 10 people. Whilst only 0.5% of companies employed more than 250 people this did account for at least 25% of industry turnover which does indicate significant ‘economies of scale’ advantages for the biggest firms.
Within 2 years the industry turnover dropped by approximately £1 billion from £14.5 billion to £13.5 billion. The number of people employed dropped from 130,000 to 122,000 and the total number of firms operating to 10,500 to 8,600. GVA (Gross Value Added) from £7 billion to £6.1 billion.
It is significant that although the number of employees within the industry continues to reduce (116,000 in 2017 compared to 122,000 in 2015) and the number of firms operating follow a similar pattern (8,400 in 2017 compared to 8,600 in 20115). However, sales turnover has actually increased from £13.56 billion to £13.8 over the last two years.
The GVA has continued to drop which suggests significant improvements in productivity, probably in the shape of investment and training as well as technology and process improvements. This reveals that the print industry has outperformed most of the other sectors of the UK economy which continues to disappoint with sluggish productivity performance figures.
In is notable that total sales turnover has increased over the last couple of years in the face of a growing threat of substitutes. This has come via the grow of e-readers and tablets and digital advertising via the internet. Industry rivalry has intensified over the last five years and this has led to a further drop of approximately 20% of the total printing firms exiting the industry. The firms which have survived have done so by achieving a sustainable competitive advantage. This can be described as an evolutionary processed comparable with Darwin’s ‘Survival of the fittest’ theory of the natural world.
The market is a ruthless force of nature and those firms not best fit for the current economic environment have not survived. It can be explained as being adopted by the market in this new era rather than adapting to it. Inefficient organisations, managers and projects are ruthlessly rooted out and discarded. Difference between operating standards of competing printing firms are amplified as the market gives feedback in what has become a far more competitive economic environment.
The print industry can be described as operating in a structure of ‘perfect competition’. This means there are many firms with insignificant barriers of entry and exit provided the necessary investment can be sourced. There is not much product differentiation, homogenous product is produced by many firms and there are no impediments regarding the flow of information which comes from market demand.
Competition from substitutes mentioned above means that demand is elastic with respect to price. This means consumers are sensitive to price and may well choose a substitute product if they feel that they are paying too much. As the industry has become more concentrated in recent years with less firms operating, the power printing firms possess as buyers of raw materials has increased. At the same time, the power possessed by printing firms as suppliers has also increased.
Those firms operating at a loss as they desperately cling to survival generating sales at prices which were to low have now exited the industry to a large extent. Those who survived are not so desperate for customers at any cost, in current times. The industry is now operating in a more stable and pragmatic fashion.
So therefore over the last five years the print industry has undergone substantial changes regarding the amount of employees and firms operating which have continued to drop. However, total sales generated have been steadily increasing since 2015. This indicates that the industry is leaner and fitter. Organisations are operating with increasing management competency. Training appears to have improved and technological advances have enabled wise capital investment decisions. Productivity is on the increase and there is growing evidence of gaining competitive advantage through ‘economies of scale’. This may prove challenging for the smaller firms over the next years. Though it must be noted that the vast majority of printing firms are still small businesses and have proven themselves robust and resilient in the face of very turbulent economic times.