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.

Long regarded as a print buyer expert and trade writer, Margie Dana launched her new business in 2013 as a marketing communications strategist with a specialty in printing and print buying. Now she’s on a mission to help clients build customer communities through carefully crafted content.

You may know Margie as the producer of the annual Print & Media Conference. Although she’s exited the event production business, she’s still publishing her Print Tips newsletter. She looks forward to helping companies create and style all of their content so their potential customers sit up and take notice. For details and to sign up for her Print Tips and new marketing blog, visit or e-mail Margie at
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  • http://KyleRichardson Kyle Richardson

    Margie, you pose a very realistic dilemma. I am a young guy who is selling print, and what I have seen from the younger print buyers is the notion that printing something is a luxury. They regard print as a "really cool, old-school, vintage" way to market. I try and let them know that print is alive, it is tangible, and it is vital for any marketing campaign. Thanks for the insight!

  • http://MargieDana Margie Dana

    You’re welcome, Kyle. I think about it a lot, too. I have half a mind to create a bunch of short info-videos for YouTube to show the "kids" how printing is made possible…in ways that will make them impressed and excited. Print really is alive, isn’t it.<br />
    <br />

  • http://CrankyPressman Cranky Pressman

    Could it be that great print, with a solid concept, beautifully designed, art directed, shot, written and produced is so rare today that the younger generation has seen too little to really appreciate and have a passion for the medium?

  • http://MargieDana Margie Dana

    Cranky,<br />
    <br />
    I don’t believe it’s because it’s so rare. The print manufacturing process/industry is totally hidden from the public eye. Nowadays, people associate "printer" with a laser or inkjet printer. To them, that’s "where it all happens" and that’s all you need to print. <br />
    <br />

  • http://Nani Nani

    A few professional schools, like Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts, offer classes in print production management, taught by working senior-level print management professionals. When I taught this class in the past, I was heartened by the curiosity, excitement, and ah-ha moments my students exhibited, especially when it all came together for them the night that we took our field trip to a large offset printing plant!<br />
    <br />
    I’d like to see more opportunities like these for young designers and production folks to learn about print! See<br />
    <br />

  • http://PrintPeddler Print Peddler

    Some items will always be produced by a commercial printer. Ever seen a presentation folder run through an office printer? Even in this age of downloadable PDF brochures, how many offices run out of toner in the middle of page 2?

  • http://PortlandPrintingServices Portland Printing Services

    I agree 100% with this post. Most people are not trying to get a degree for printing alone. Because of the way things have changed, the internet is king when it comes to advertising. But I do think it is very important to still understand the print game.