I spend most of my workday sitting on my derriere, pressing keys. I’m one of those get-up-often-and-move people, but still I mostly sit. We all do. So I was pretty excited last week when I had an opportunity to go on a press check with our senior production guy and the senior art director whose work was being printed.
It’s easy to forget the behind-the-scenes stuff. We come up with concepts and write, design, and present. Then a little later we get the tangible proofs of our work, mark it up a bit, and send it away again. With the exception of the production team and a few astute art directors, most of us don’t think about how the end product actually gets made. It’s like the grocery store. We buy a piece of meat, remove it from its Styrofoam tray and plastic wrapping, and cook and eat it without contemplating how it got to the grocery store in the first place.
What’s interesting in print advertising is that despite how high-tech the front-end of the process has become, the back-end is basic manufacturing. The manufacturing process may also be high-tech, but it’s other things, too. It’s logistics. It’s partly manual. It can’t easily be interrupted or changed. It relies on teams of people doing the right things at the right time, and complicated machinery running smoothly. There’s no room for error and timing is everything.
I’ve become blasé about technology, and I suspect you have too. We may not know exactly how things are done, but we’re sure that they can be. And probably at the push of a button. But it doesn’t work that way. Behind the gloss of intuitive GUIs and wireless access to everything is the old-fashioned reality of trucks and machines and paper and inks. And behind that is the expertise and experience of the people who do the work. And that’s pretty cool.