The Problem with the Printing Industry is that We Don’t Know What to Call Things

I’m wild about the printing industry—the advanced technologies, ever-evolving companies, incestuous relationships and the wacky people. I think it’s a great business to be in. The one thing that drives me crazy though is that we’ve developed a poor lexicon to communicate together. A lexicon is a vocabulary of agreed upon terms. An industry as rich in technology and as specific in manufacturing as ours requires its own language. Our problem is that we don’t know what to call things.

A typical example of our poor lexicon is the word offset. This word of course can refer to several different things, including a type of printing or a printing problem. Vastly different meanings.

And it’s not just homonyms that are a problem. As new technologies or services emerge, we have to create words that describe them. As the service or technology evolves, sometimes the vocabulary doesn’t evolve with it. Here are some examples: What exactly is an e-procurement solution or a print management company? What about digital printing? A wide variety of solutions or technologies are lumped into the same phrases, which can be incredibly confusing.

Let’s have fun here. Tell us which words you find flawed. Bonus points if you can suggest a better word.

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  • http://JB JB

    Not really a flawed word but I have noticed lately most of my printers now refer to 4 color process (pronounced prah-cess) as 4 color process (pronounced pro-cess). I have no idea why this started happening. Did I miss a memo?

  • http://KenL Ken L

    The problem is not the words.<br />
    It is in our own industry, not understanding them. Where have all the Journeyman gone? Where is the training?<br />
    How can you explain it to a customer if you don’t understand it yourself?<br />
    Printing Industry leaders:<br />
    "Unite", train, explain, invest in the Industries future…<br />
    Can management within each shop, truly say we have industry trained Journeyman?

  • http://Robert Robert

    I find some agencies still asking for a blueline and color proof. What they are asking for is a low res color proof on soso quality paper, whereas a color proof is high res proof on high quality paper. So shouldn’t a blueline become a colorline?

  • http://JF JF

    I sure do wish someone would straighten out the jargon for the different types of proofs. It is very confusing.

  • http://Catherine Catherine

    To address Suzanne’s example above, many of us now use "offset" to refer to the ink and the printing process, and "set-off" to refer to the printing problem (unwanted ink transfer). (Do I get the bonus points for this?)<br />
    In the ink industry, there also appear to be no standards for referring to clear materials – "varnish" could mean a topcoat that goes over printing, OR a raw material/vehicle that goes into our inks. Some people also use "varnish" to specifically mean an offset press-applied topcoat, as opposed to a fluid coating that is applied on a coating unit. Topcoats are referred to as coatings, OPVs, varnishes, clearcoats, you name it. <br />
    I think there have been attempts to standardize our vocabularies, but there is no way to enforce it.

  • http://MarkRice Mark Rice

    Canadians say "pro-cess", Americans says "praw-cess".

  • http://AES AES

    Web2print vs. print management vs. e print procurement…..or on-demand vs. digital….VDP vs. Personalized Printing…online proofing vs. web proofing vs. electronic proofing….even wide format printing is referred to as digital printing among many providers so what do we refer to digital printing that’s not wide format?<br />
    <br />
    There might be slight differences true…but in the end I believe printers like to play with words so that it seems they offer more services than they really do.

  • http://DavidSchwalje David Schwalje

    When I started in the printing industry as a sales rep, an older sales rep suggested I attend the trade union school and learn prepress and also how to run a printing press. Good advice. Workflows have changed with technology, however what remains the same is cash flow.

  • http://TD TD

    w/t is it work and turn or work and tumble? Having hired some new recruits in to the industry right out of high school programs, I find that they are not teaching these commonly used industry terms. A recent hire did not know what a PMS book was and wondered why we had 6 units on the press. They thought printing was 4-c process only. Most college programs are only teaching the designers side and not any press or post press. You are right about this industry and the demise of journey trades (persons) it has been losing talent for years. Companies must and do take over the role of schools in the training of new people in to the industry. We need more than just some photoshop experience. respectfully…

  • http://OmarYamoor Omar Yamoor

    I found myself making up words such as pixalated, jaggedy or bitamapped as it pertains to low resolution files that get printed. I’m sticken’ to using these words and I’ve heard some of my customers use them. It feels good to make up a word and to see how far it gets, maybe the next stop is Webster’s dictionary:)

  • http://BertMesselink Bert Messelink

    RE: Terms for Proofs- some of us grey hairs remember words like Silver Prints, Veluxes, bluelines, blueprints, and even Color Keys! Lot’s of continuing changes over the years.

  • http://Lesliellen Lesliellen

    Do not forget :<br />
    <br />
    "Preflight"or "Prepress" <br />
    <br />
    "Proofs" or "Sign-offs"<br />
    <br />
    "IT" or "Interactive Group"

  • http://Clete Clete

    Wow…do we even make bluelines any more? <br />
    <br />
    I work in prepress and haven’t seen a real one since we joined the digital revolution.

  • http://jt jt

    I want to scream every time I hear the term "booger glue" for fugitive glue.