Pure Digital Summit Review 5th October, Amsterdam

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Digital print is worth less than 3% of all print. Isn’t it time for something different?

Einstein said that doing the same thing over and again and expecting different results is the true definition of insanity. And with this is in mind, the spirit of Pure Digital is to bring new people together to inspire new possibilities – and in essence, grow digital print. 

On 5th October we ran a Pure Digital Development Summit in Amsterdam with a high level group of senior digital print professionals, manufacturers, printers, and designers above the rooftops at the cool Glasshouse in Amsterdam.

The aim of development meetings is to bring together leaders and people that believe that connecting digital Printing with the creative industry is incredibly important, and to work together to create an event that creates new opportunity for digital printing. And this group were certainly committed to the cause of promoting digital print and growing its value in the market.

Regardless of whatever anyone may think, both the wide format and Commercial Printing markets are stagnating. People tell us that the existing shows that serve this sector offer nothing new. Exhibitors tell us that they meet no new people, visitors tell us that there is nothing new to see.

And meanwhile, digital print prints share of all print remains an unimpressive 3%. The group agreed this is a problem and that the concept for a new event is required to help grow demand and change perception in the creative industry.

The Benelux region is possibly the most innovative market in Europe for Printing for a variety of reasons - so running the event in Amsterdam makes sense. Not least because Frazer launched a very successful digital print show in Amsterdam in 2006 and we both  ran a really successful show in 2009 in Amsterdam.

During the opening presentation, we made the case for the need for a second curve for the industry. One that will push us all out of our comfort zone to do something new and grow demand for digital printing. This in itself will take leadership and courage to try something new whilst learning at the same time.

Clearly, for some exhibitors, there seems a level of discomfort with exhibiting at an event attended by designers, brand managers, creatives, and marketers as well as print companies. This, it was agreed, will require a different approach and for some of the group, this is not entirely comfortable but nonetheless important.

We also explained that it is a misnomer that creatives are not interested in digital print. In fact, according to our research, in a competitive creative pitch, any technique or media that is deployed to great effect either to grab the attention of the customer or provide a standout experience is of interest.

And as Terence Conran once said ‘a designer cannot claim to have designed anything until they know how it will be made’ - this is so true of print in general but particularly digital printing where these new possibilities are not being fully exploited by the creative industry.

But digital printing is not only of interest to designers. It is also of interest to Marketing directors, Creative directors, Brand managers, production professionals and creative printers. 

As Jan van Iwaarden form IWAARDEN (an organisation that works directly with designers and artists) said, that often designers want things that are simply not possible. So it is clear that there is a need for education for designers to become better educated with the possibilities of digital print.

Vincent Van Herk works with designers on a daily basis and is himself a creative digital print professional. Vincent suggested that designers should be involved in the curation and design of the event and that this is integral to the success of the event.

Ed Hoogendijk from PPP said that Creatives need help from the print industry and that this is  as they’re collaborative, it is not true to think of design as an isolated function. Inspiration often comes as a result of collaboration with professionals who are part of the creative supply chain.

This is where creative print professionals are needed in order to play a key role in the creative process.

This is a great point. So often print is seen as an afterthought. Everything else within an interior design project or retail campaign is considered and at the end of the process, the print is then discussed. Therefore it is not strategic, it is tactical, and that is fundamentally why much of print has become commoditised. This can and should change particularly as retail is in a state of structural change and therefore a media with a tactile presence that can appeal to more than one sense still has an increasingly relevant role to play.

Marco den Engelsman from Blok Boek stated that print companies should consider themselves as part of the creative industry and not separate. And we would venture the leaders in the market will believe they are part of the creative industry but many do not.

Still today, only a small amount of printers consider themselves to be part of the creative industry.

All at the meeting agreed that there is a divide between the print industry and the creative industry. This is mostly a result of history as Print has behaved more as a servant industry to the creative industry, as opposed to an equal. But we believe that in 2017, this doesn’t have to be that way.

Wouter Mooij from EISMA said that the event experience is essential. This must be at the core of what this event must be different to a standard print show. It is critical that exhibitors present exciting concepts and methods of really creating a special environment made by digital printing and where the creative industry can become inspired. This was widely agreed by the group.

However, some of the group I’m sure felt challenged as to how to exhibit, what to exhibit and to some extent how they would deploy an ROI. Pure Digital is not a straightforward buyer/seller show. It is a different concept with a unique mission. We want to bring people in to learn, to connect with new ideas, and to generate inspiring results whether they are marketers, designers, production professionals or printers and grow demand for creative digital printing.

The group agreed that the print and creative industry certainly doesn’t need another traditional print show. It’s not about same old, same old.

Patrick Bont from Xerox questioned whether the event was focused more on interior and retail print design as opposed to commercial print.

Whilst digital decor is in a strong state of growth through recent innovation, the fact is that the same problem exists in all areas of printing whether commercial or décor. There is a divide between these two communities when in fact they should be united.

For Pure Digital, commercial printing applications are as important as larger format. The graphic design community is very strong in Amsterdam. And we will be working with relevant groups and associations to ensure we reach this community to attend this event.

One of the takeaway points was made by Jeffrey Vermaat at De Resolutie regarding competition. And that working together with the industry with a common goal for inspiring end customers and new business with the possibilities for digital printing. Collaboration should be encouraged, and competition should be put to one side. At least for the duration of the show.

At the end, I had a clear action to implement which was to provide further insight as to what it is that creatives want from a digital Printing show.

So on 8th November, we will host another meeting at the Elicium, at the RAI to directly tackle this issue. What do Creatives want from a Digital Print Show?

Invitations have already been sent but we have a small number of places available for prospective exhibitors.