Diversity was once what brand owners required to stay afresh with new and inspiring campaigns, product designs, marketing efforts, but there is now a growing trend to reduce the number of suppliers that the brand owner uses in order to reduce the amount of effort required to manage them. Some pre-media companies have offered the brand owners the ability to manage their suppliers through their supplied portal at a management fee guaranteeing them at least some of the action, where as others have put up and shut up about being pushed to the side line because they didn’t cut the mustard, or they didn’t pay for the round of golf!
But today we see the suppliers (the pre-media companies) to the brand owners are facing a number of battles fuelled by disruptive technologies and spurred on by the technology providors. These battles can be labelled under one single term… PROGRESSION. Silly really that progression would become as much an enabler and a disabler. Lets take a look at what has been going on…..
Let’s face it, technology costs money, something a lot of companies don’t have a lot of at the moment, shareholders still expect returns, and automations has become the buzz word through out the industry, but how many of these companies have been able to break past the biggest disruption to pre-media so far? Who is able to step outside the boundaries of PDF 1.3 (or the various standards based on it such as PDFx-1a) Of those who have moved up to PDF 1.4 who are actually utilizing the features it offers? And what of PDF1.5, 6, and PDF1.7 what have these meant for our industry?
We see an industry with so much to offer, one that unfortunately is held to ransom by the lowest common denominator, who’s going to process your final file…. Yes ok so if you supply a PDF1.7 someone could open it in Acrobat 9 and print it, but how many of the workflow systems out there, those that look to increase your companies profitability, those who’s service offerings are based on the lowest cost of production can actually process and, wait a minute, guarantee that the final output is as was expected….
Well this is nothing new, that guarantee has always had it’s ups and downs, back in the day of film and plates when your imagesetter had to process the postscript it was supplied, you still needed to work on some sort of standard working practices, it was common place for printers to only accept TIFF-IT files to remove their accountability for the content, hell in some parts of the world this is still the case, just like people have widely adopted the PDF1.3 (and various standards based on it) to removed the possibility of something going wrong when different rips process a file of a specification above PDF1.3….. Transparency flattening anyone!
Being that the lowest common denomiator plays the largest part in your workflow, and that workflow needs to contain as few variables as possible, i.e. guarantee that the output will be the same however the final file is processed be that for print, soft proof, contract proof, viewed in Acrobat, converted for use in video etc etc companies have the standardize of formats that offer them the greatest flexibility with the minimum amount of risk.
Comfort zones are produced as the workflows require the guarantee that the final file will be reproducible, and thus technology updates become irrelevant in the whole process, I mean why will you need Acrobat 10 if you are still working with PDF1.3!
But the problem extends right the way across the supply chain and comes in various forms, look at the effect Indesign had on big businesses, suddenly all the small design agencies found a cost efficiencies in using the Creative Suite and thus swiftly moved their production (of creative designing) to use the wonderful feature Indesign offered, regardless of how the job was then reproduced later down the line, I mean that was someone elses problem, yet the big businesses didn’t have a need to use Indesign or have the inhouse skills to process the files and find the limitations of producing all these technology enabled features back to their guaranteed workflow of PDF1.3!
There are always some winners in this equation, those who are able to adopt the technology and use it across their business, but they still have to make compromises in the process, one such feature I have seen is the use of layers for packaging files, yet to produce hard copy proofs until recently had to have a process of creating multiple pdfs even though the final output channel could handle and process the supplied files!
The question is do companies hold onto the antiquated workflows because of a belief that the industry is not ready to transition, or is it that transitioning to new technologies on the whole just too expensive for companies to entertain with no control over the software updates required to make it all work….
Since Adobe will not be producing a PDF1.8 maybe as an industry we can start adopting new formats to empower our supply chains with the features that have been available for over 8 years now.
Author: Gary George
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.