The Object of Print Buyers' Affection
What's clear to me about serious, professional print buyers is not so much their skill and savvy; rather, it's their affection for print.
I've been hanging around print buyers for 25 years, and I've noticed that when they talk about their work, they're animated. There's the thrill of the daily challenge — what jobs will surface today, how will I ever get all of this stuff done on time, can I trust that new printer, and so on and so forth. Every day's a new day — and usually an exciting one.
But if they didn't genuinely care about print, they wouldn't be half as good at their jobs. I don't know if most printers realize this about their customers: for a number of reasons, they love print as a medium, and that's why they remain in the field, typically for life.
Some love typography. Some love paper. Some love the mix of magic and manufacturing that turns out printed piece after printed piece.
What concerns me is the "incoming class" of freshmen print buyers. I don’t think they'll major in print buying anymore. They will major in media or communications or marketing, with a minor in print.
They won't seek out jobs as print buyers out of a love for the medium. They will be generalists who must be comfortable with different media. Print will hold no allure for them, no mystery.
I worry that they'll be missing a key criteria for excellent print buying; that is, an appreciation for print. If they can't recognize stellar printing, why will they care who does the work — let alone how it gets done?
It's an issue we all face together. How do we pass on the affection for printing? Does it start in the schools, or at home, or in the curricula of colleges and universities? It feels like a Sisyphean task. But I for one have always loved a good challenge.