Prepress research

Lukas Engqvist

Well-known member
In a world where academics have the last word, and where a field is not academic until there is an area of formal research, I'm wondering what formal research is there in the field of prepress. Much of pushing the borders is done in software development, and to some extent in beta testing and trouble shooting... but this is not thought of too highly by institutions, and to be able to bring practical knowledge to institutions we first have to prove ourselves as academics.

Please I'd love to know what institutions have any formal education in prepress that can preform credible validation of informally acquired skills. Also am very interested if anyone knows if there is a list of current projects that one can be involved in.
 

Erik Nikkanen

Well-known member
In a world where academics have the last word, and where a field is not academic until there is an area of formal research, I'm wondering what formal research is there in the field of prepress. Much of pushing the borders is done in software development, and to some extent in beta testing and trouble shooting... but this is not thought of too highly by institutions, and to be able to bring practical knowledge to institutions we first have to prove ourselves as academics.

Please I'd love to know what institutions have any formal education in prepress that can preform credible validation of informally acquired skills. Also am very interested if anyone knows if there is a list of current projects that one can be involved in.
Hi Lukas, I would not trust academics that much to provide guidance. Of course it really depends on the field.

Some fields such as computer science, math, physics, medicine, aerospace, etc. do have academics that are at the leading edge or very close to it since they work with industry. Lots of money is on the line and performance is important. Therefore valid knowledge is important.

In the graphic arts field, this is not the case. There is not a lot of money spent and frankly more internal research in companies is done than at educational institutions. It is very difficult for vendors and manufacturers to get practical knowledge out of academic institutions.

OK, I am a bit negative about these things but what I tend to see is that academic institutions seem to be there for the sole purpose of making the director look good. Numerous technical papers are written and many have the head of the institutions name on it. Unfortunately many of these papers are useless. But it does make for fun trips to conferences.

It seems the purpose of the academic culture in the graphic arts is to produce technical papers but not solutions to problems. You have a couple of institutions there in Sweden. One I think has been doing research on "dot gain" for over twenty years. Dah. There are more in Finland too.

To develop better methods, you have to be a better academic than the ones in the institutions. You have to understand the physics better, conceive of a better approach to the problem and then follow through with the required software and hardware.

Forget what the academics think because they will not even understand that you have a better solution.

This is not to say that they are useless. If they are given a specific and limited issue to look at, them some interesting observations might result. But not necessarily solutions.
 

Lukas Engqvist

Well-known member
:) I'm hearing you... but also I am wondering how we can formalise the vast amount of knowledge we have. We can't just say academics don't understand us. Governments and ministries of education are tuned in to the academic institutions, they only listen to those who waver a degree to show their expertise, but if we do not formalise our knowledge and learning we will not be heard. As society is to day if you're not formally documented you don't exist, well they call it democracy, but the fact is you won't be considered on the same term as the experts and scientists even if your methods and knowledge are superior, your scientific method more rigorous unless you have an institution that has blessed you. (yes it does sound rather medieval). At the chemical level I hear of research, and even at the paper and pulp areas.

What seems to happen is that since typography is documented as an art and not a science "new" research is being made into typographic solutions for dyslexia, that any dirt-under-fingernalis typographer could have told you over coffee.

But prepress being a multidisciplinary field will be at the mercy of the crossfire between the artists and the (al)chemists (unless we can reincarnate Da Vinci, to settle the fight).

So while I hear you I am still trying to find out what there is (and I dream of some sort of joining forces)
 

Erik Nikkanen

Well-known member
:)

But prepress being a multidisciplinary field will be at the mercy of the crossfire between the artists and the (al)chemists (unless we can reincarnate Da Vinci, to settle the fight).

So while I hear you I am still trying to find out what there is (and I dream of some sort of joining forces)
My view is that prepress is mainly mathematics. It has little to do with the physics of the process in the sense that one only uses the rules of the remeasured results of the process and not the actual physical causes.

What is your real goal? To be apart of an effort to change prepress? To standardize it in some way? To learn about the state of the art or to create the state of the art?

What do you want as a final state? Do you have a clear idea of how to get there? Do you just want to be apart of some group that already has an idea?

I am not in prepress but I know what I would want to try to do. I have an idea of what the overall problem is and what might be a practical and effective solutions but without the details.

You may have your own view but I would suggest that one needs to be careful. Thinking of an improvement that is within a faulty method is not going to be so successful.

Avoid the advice of experts. Anyone that calls themselves an expert has a problem. To maintain their position as an expert means that they can't comment too much on issues that are not already accepted as true. I never say I am an expert in anything. That gives me lots of freedom to think and talk about things that are not known. It lets me make errors which I can learn from. Experts do not do this. Pioneers do.

If you have some specific ideas, make simple tests to test them. That is the way you will learn. But get an overall vision of what needs to be done and work inwards.

Find people who think in similar ways. Make a product that works. Don't worry about the academics. If your idea works and can be sold, the academics will find a way to agree. Remember, Jobs and Gates did not get a degree.
 

gordo

Well-known member
[SNIP]

Avoid the advice of experts. Anyone that calls themselves an expert has a problem. To maintain their position as an expert means that they can't comment too much on issues that are not already accepted as true. I never say I am an expert in anything. That gives me lots of freedom to think and talk about things that are not known. It lets me make errors which I can learn from. Experts do not do this. Pioneers do.

[SNIP]Don't worry about the academics. If your idea works and can be sold, the academics will find a way to agree. Remember, Jobs and Gates did not get a degree.
Wow. Great response Erik. Made me think of these bits of thought:

From the movie "The King's Speech":

Lionel Logue: [as George "Berty" is lighting up a cigarette] Please don't do that.
King George VI: I'm sorry?
Lionel Logue: I believe sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you.
King George VI: My physicians say it relaxes the throat.
Lionel Logue: They're idiots.
King George VI: They've all been knighted.
Lionel Logue: Makes it official then.

Laurie Anderson - experimental musician (paraphrased):

Now only an expert can deal with the problem
Cause half the problem is seeing the problem.
So if there is no expert dealing with the problem
It's really actually twice the problem.
So when experts say let's get to the root of the problem
Let's take control of the problem cause if you take control of the problem
You can solve the problem
Often this doesn't work at aII because the situation is
Completely out of control.
But if some of the experts say it's no problem.
Then all the other experts have to agree it is most likely a problem.
If the experts say it isn't a problem and everyone agrees they're experts.
And good at seeing problems then it's simply not a problem.

best, gordo
 

Erik Nikkanen

Well-known member
Wow. Great response Erik. Made me think of these bits of thought:

From the movie "The King's Speech":

Lionel Logue: They're idiots.
King George VI: They've all been knighted.
Lionel Logue: Makes it official then.
Gordon, this is great and almost true. Sad to say, I see this often when looking at thesis work that young engineers and others work on to get their degree from graphic arts oriented institutions. These young people are not idiots but are forced to be ones in order to get a degree. If they want to have a career in a graphic arts institution the pressure to not think independently is much greater.

This is unfortunately an industry where breakthroughs are scarce. Breakthroughs by young people is even less. There is a reason for this and it directly relates to how the young are educated. There is no foundation in rational and valid knowledge for them to make the next advance in thinking. No solid shoulders to stand on.

I am an engineer (BASC, Bachelor of Applied Science) which is a more theoretical engineering education and I have been looking at the offset process on and off for 25 years. I have patents, I have knowledge but experts in the industry don't want to listen to what I say. If they don't listen to someone with my background, why would they listen to some young student that has some new ideas. Not a chance.

I view most things as a problem solving process.

Advice from others can be helpful but not always when wanting to know how a particular technology or method works or in dealing with a problem. That is done on this forum all the time and many have been helped.

Problems that are pushing the boundaries of knowledge are a totally different game. You can't get valid advice from people who have no experience in this new area of the field. If you get advice, it is in the form of conjecture of what might happen because they don't really know. So with any advice one would get, that advice must always be confirmed.

Also your own view is a form of advice you give to yourself all the time. Don't trust yourself either. Never take a position where you think something is 100% true or 100% not true. One needs to deal with probabilities of something being true. This help one keep an open mind to something you might have missed. This is very important. One has to be humble.

So what do you use to confirm advice and ideas against? The laws of Nature never change. Physics is an attempt to describe these laws. Real processes have many phenomena happening at the same time. One has to break things down, always comparing them to the Laws and reconstructing a new picture of how things really work in that process. What is important and what is not. If successful, you have then developed a science for that field that can be used in a predictable way. Predictability is important.

Your tools are math, physics, observed phenomena, analysis, logic, imagination, mind experiments and controlled testing. Added to this is the need to do deep thinking about the problem and use the "Why" method of going deeper and deeper. Along the way, you will find out what you need to learn.

So this fits with Lukas's interest in thinking about prepress in new ways. He might also look at how other industries pass information around that results in predictable reproduction of parts etc.

He should not be scared in thinking that the problem is too big or difficult. One does not know if a problem is difficult or easy to solve until it is actually solved. Even if he does not reach the holy grail of prepress, he will have a much deeper understanding of the issue by trying to look for improvements. It does take patience. Long Swedish winters should provide that.
 
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seejay

Well-known member
Hi Lucas,

WCPC Home

I have had dealings with this facility - most of their research is press based, but I think that from time to time some of the research that they do crosses over into prepress. They also do a fair bit on consultancy work into several aspects of printing.
 

Lukas Engqvist

Well-known member
@Erik thanks for that second answer, it is getting closer to what I was looking for. What I am asking I guess is "why are (young) people forced to be idiots?" What does it take for institutions to wake up so that the energies spent on thesis are to gain for the industry? Is it our fault (the industry and the people, with ink under our nails, who probe the real problems with tools such as physics, maths and logic) because we did not describe our findings in the formal way of the institutions? I don't have a degree… but I have a vision, that if I was to get one it would be for some thing worth while. Perhaps spending some energy to work for an institutional renaissance involving restating the importance of inductive science and logic might be a what is the first step?

We also need to be allowed to fail in order to, after many failings, finally succeed.

@Seejay
Yes there is more research on press, ink chemistry, paper and coating (possibly since these more directly relate to mechanics, physics and chemistry). As far as I see prepress is the scientific art of navigating to a predicted goal, or at least be able to predict what goal is achievable, as well as stabilising the "launch platform" (removing unsecured cargo) as we aim for the stars (isn't that why it's called preflight?).
 

Erik Nikkanen

Well-known member
Hi Lucas,

WCPC Home

I have had dealings with this facility - most of their research is press based, but I think that from time to time some of the research that they do crosses over into prepress. They also do a fair bit on consultancy work into several aspects of printing.
That's interesting. In 15 years I have not seen anything of value come out of this group that was related to offset printing.

They do very little with respect to offset now. Most of their efforts are related to other areas such as gravure and flexo and the printing of electrical circuits.

Can you point to anything that I might have missed related to offset that was useful, relevant or even correct? They may have done great things in other process areas but I know something about offset and I don't find much of value there.

Maybe I have missed something.
 
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Erik Nikkanen

Well-known member
What I am asking I guess is "why are (young) people forced to be idiots?" What does it take for institutions to wake up so that the energies spent on thesis are to gain for the industry? Is it our fault (the industry and the people, with ink under our nails, who probe the real problems with tools such as physics, maths and logic) because we did not describe our findings in the formal way of the institutions? I don't have a degree… but I have a vision, that if I was to get one it would be for some thing worth while. Perhaps spending some energy to work for an institutional renaissance involving restating the importance of inductive science and logic might be a what is the first step?
Its nobody's fault and at the same time it is everyone's. I think the real issue is historical in that we are going through a transition from a Dark Age, where craft and some mixed science is used to one where eventually more and more is understood and rational explanations will rule in a more Enlightened
Age.

People confuse technology with science. They are not the same thing. In the Dark Ages, there was a lot of technology but what was lacking were clear explanations for how things worked. They lacked science. Along came the Enlightenment with its rational view of processes and advancements took off.

People in the Dark Ages didn't think they were in the Dark Ages and the same goes for the printing industry. In general they don't know how poor some of the knowledge is.

The printing community sees all this technology and might assume that there is science to back it up. There is science in it but not necessarily science that is about the process. Take closed loop colour control. There is science behind it but that science is supporting the operation of the control system and has little to do with the printing process. Closed loop control is a well known engineering solution and deep knowledge of the printing process is not required.

Right now people put most of their hope in following some method or standard without thinking about the capability of that method to do what is necessary.

It is going to take some time to get out of this, but starting to think that there should be clear rational explanations is a good start.

Start with a small group of like minded people. Play around with ideas and try some things.
I will give a starting suggestion.

Where is the starting point for prepress?
In my view it is the colour managed monitor of the designer. Not before.
At that point the person who designs the image says when they like what they have. That determines the specification for the image.

Now the question would be how to print that image on an inkjet printer or on an offset press (or any other device) and reproduce the colour of the image point for point or very small area for very small area.

Try to do that with the very same method for any device.

Don't use dot compensation at all.

Be sure to try to make every step have a rational explanation how it maintains colour.

Of course you will come up with problem areas. That's normal. Think of ways to deal with that without destroying the intended purpose.

Forget about standards, etc. Start from scratch and see what you come up with.

OK, this is just to get you thinking. Have some fun.
 

rich apollo

Well-known member
I don't see much of my experience lending itself well to academia. I root around to find repeatable solutions to problems, so PrePress seems more of an exercise in data- or project-management. You can apply TQM or LEAN or Continuous Improvement or The Theory of Constraints to improve PrePress throughput. If you have knowledge of the output process and can clearly define your goal, you can leverage that information to optimize your results.

The ability to clearly define goals is something that is lacking in PrePress, and Printing as a whole.
 

Lukas Engqvist

Well-known member
@rich thanks, yes general scientific thinking, designing trouble shooting are key. Let me post my concerns in a different way. In some circles Graphic Production is drifting to "Visual Design" or "Visual Communication", both which are not too far... but project that to how recruiting in institutions works, and we will soon find all the experts being those that have degrees in Communication Theory because they have more letters to attest their qualifications. The long term result will be that we will loose practical and implicit knowledge, all being replaced with knowledge based on statistical market analysis etc.
 

rich apollo

Well-known member
Ahh. Okay, rephrased I see where your question is leading.

In years past, here in the States, labor unions shouldered the burdens of training and certification. But, unions have turned on themselves. They also make for a difficult business climate.

I had a vendor rep (for a major manufacturer of consumables - plates, et cetera) who told me about his early days with that company. The company put him through an entire year of training before they allowed him to darken a customer's door. Eventually he moved on and the guy who replaced him...well...the company pretty much hired him and said, "Go sell plates!" The poor guy had no technical knowledge whatsoever.

What would you do for someone; be it a union, company, or benefactor that invested in your success?
 

Alith7

Well-known member
I'm in the midwest in the states, and print shops are everywhere here. There is a distinct LACK of any type of formal education for prepress, and it IS frustrating! most of the tech schools around here sell kids on a "multi-media" degree. they give them an overview of ALL designing programs from 3-D animation to web design to graphic design to photography, cram it all into two years and tell these poor kids they're now ready for the "working world". Sadly, most of them come out barely knowing their way around ANY of the programs, and most have NO skill in any one area. It's VERY irritating!

---as a side note, have had a chance to read all the comments, will read later today and comment more.
 

Lukas Engqvist

Well-known member
Thanks for your comments Rich n Alith. Today my thought has been if "silent knowledge" or implicit knowledge as some call it also goes under the name trade secrets...

I takled to a flexoprint teacher today, and we talked about how he came to be in the business. He told me he had trained to be a radio/consumer electronics repair person. My instant reflection was... aha he had the essential skills to do trouble shooting, (I should mention that after that he worked his way up in a flexo printing industry, before becoming a teacher)
 

BeauchampT

Well-known member
I am fairly new to printing, but am really fortunate to work in a shop that does two things very right: 1) Experienced workers don't guard their knowledge out of fear of being replaced (a motto at our plant is: Train yourself out of your job), 2) self-education is promoted - lots of textbooks, learning resources, etc available to everyone.

Though only a few years in printing, I am a relatively competent press operator, can do a good load of prepress work, and coordinate all of our colour management...all because we have good trainers and a lot of initiative.

I agree with what one of you said - young people are forced to be idiots to get a degree. I dropped out of high school, but am farther ahead than a university/college grad because I have good training/experience.

So, my opinion is if you want to be recognized as an academic discipline, start it yourself, don't go to a educational system. Far better to use communities (like this one) to get together and start doing testing as a group (isn't that how alot of large organizations like ISO and Fogra began??)
 

Erik Nikkanen

Well-known member
I agree with what one of you said - young people are forced to be idiots to get a degree. I dropped out of high school, but am farther ahead than a university/college grad because I have good training/experience.

So, my opinion is if you want to be recognized as an academic discipline, start it yourself, don't go to a educational system. Far better to use communities (like this one) to get together and start doing testing as a group (isn't that how alot of large organizations like ISO and Fogra began??)
Beauchamp, I made the comment you referred to but you are taking it out of context. Formal education is very important but it depends on where you get it. I was specifically referring to graphic arts oriented education which is a problem.

You seem to have the idea that formal eduction is of little value and I would just say that is a damaging view. OK you may not want to spend the time to get a formal education and want to learn what you think you can learn on your own. This may work out very well for you but it is a risky path. Most people will not put the effort in learning. Learning on ones own is not as efficient as a formal education. Learning on the internet is a hit or miss situation.

An education is only a starting point and not a final point. An education is something you get so you can learn more as time goes on.

You are lucky to be in an environment where there is a lot of support. If you weren't in such a great place you might be viewed differently. If you want to learn and continually have to ask questions about things other think you should already know, they might not view that as such a positive situation. Why invest in people who haven't invested in themselves.

So far your path seems to be working for you. That's great and I hope it lasts.
 

Lukas Engqvist

Well-known member
@BaeuchampT How should education have been different for it to be valid for you? What are we doing wrong in education and how can we make it different. How can we reform education to be what it was intended to be instead of increasing the divide of disrespect between academics and people with practical knowledge?

Some academics are asking for test prints and they design their test forms... in their papers they reference all the sources of formally documented research, but they don't humbly ask the printer the simple question if they are missing something basic. Designing test forms they don't ask prepress and press what kinds of test forms do you normally print to better understand your process... no they rely on formal knowledge. Now if they don't listen we have no choice, we have to bring our knowledge to them. Formalise it. Translate it to academic language. Make it available in their world.... why? Because we are moving to an age where those in power listen to the "wise" but the "wise" don't listen to those who have understanding. So those that have understanding need to be formally approved as "wise" so that they will be heard.... it's going to take years to get there, but we the only way to get there is to move in the right direction.

What status does FOGRA and UGRA have? The Altona Test suite, is it to commercial for institutions to touch it?
 

tmiller_iluvprinting

Well-known member
What if......?

What if......?

I wonder at times where an education at RIT, UW-Stout, or Ferris State would have taken me in this 35 year journey through printing? Or, would I have found different interests at college and pursued a different path all together? I set my first moveable type job in 1975 and from that point I was fascinated by the world of print. I don't feel I need a degree to give what I have learned and achieved credence. More importantly, I don't believe those who employ my services feel that need either.
Regards,
Todd
 

Lukas Engqvist

Well-known member
@tmiller iluvprinting2 ;)

Please don't get me wrong it is not for my own credibility or affirmation I am asking. But society is run by others than run those firms. Actually I think maybe part of it has been we been so fascinated with our own work we forget that others don't understand it. And when media and communications is discussed we don't stand a chance to be seen against other media such as newspaper and TV, and the latest craze of social media.
 

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