2019 Best-in-Class Innovator: For Classic Color, Nothing Is Impossible
Innovators don’t come to their plants in the morning saying to themselves, “Today, I’m going to innovate.” That’s not what innovation is about. It’s more a reflex than a behavior — a continuous state of mind that leads both deliberately and serendipitously to transformative results.
The printing industry’s innovators are energetic, inquisitive, and intrepid people who don’t wait for things to happen. Sometimes they strategize outcomes. At other times, facing threat or opportunity, they instinctively choose the right course of action. Either way, these relentless innovators always manage to achieve something that lifts their companies to new levels of capability, performance, and profitability.
The accounts of 12 businesses that exemplify innovation in the printing industry came together in the October issue of Printing Impressions. All of the profiles are based on interviews with the sources and on their responses to questionnaires filled out in support of their applications to be selected as Printing Impressions’ “Innovator of the Year” for 2019.
A person who gets his or her hands on a printed sample from Classic Color may have a tough time getting those hands off the sample and back to whatever they were supposed to be doing. That’s because the piece probably has been enhanced with one or more of Classic Color’s signature touches: eye- and fingertip-pleasing special effects that make print hard to put down, and no easier to glance away from.
Classic Color is in the business of providing “print that creates a brand impression by stimulating the senses,” Jeffrey Hernandez, VP, points out. It accomplishes this chiefly with proprietary coatings laid down at high speeds on 40˝ Komori UV offset presses that can print, according to Hernandez, on almost anything.
Substrates have included synthetics, plastics, and even “things that shouldn’t be put through a press,” such as velvet and canvas. “If I can sheet it, I can run it,” adds Hernandez, noting that the ability to print and coat on exotic materials lets companies have branded textures as well as branded colors: ingredients of the “brand alchemy” achievable with special effects in print.
According to Hernandez, no other source in North America provides more kinds or greater volumes of printed special effects than Classic Color. The company wasn’t always a print producer, having started as a prepress house in 1978. Presses were added in 1999 and, the following year, a trucking firm asked Classic Color to put a gritty veneer on some of its literature — the beginning of the specialty that accounts for the bulk of Classic Color’s activity today.
“We have worked hard to perfect raised coatings, canvas coatings, grit coatings, rubber coatings, glitter finishes, pearl finishes, wood finishes, and many more,” Hernandez declares. “You would be hard-pressed to find a finish that we couldn’t emulate.”
Many of its most striking effects are showcased in the fifth edition of “The Standard,” a resource for designers from paper supplier Sappi Fine Paper that Hernandez calls “the Wikipedia of coatings.” Classic Color also printed Sappi’s “A Communicator’s Guide to the Neuroscience of Touch,” a coffee-table-quality treatise on the physicality of print and its powerful haptic influence on the brain.
Classic Color’s Komori presses are custom-built, and many of its coatings — including those that change when exposed to sunlight, or to the heat of a finger — were developed in-house. Printing in expanded gamuts of six and eight colors draws upon the company’s traditional strengths in color management, which as a service for customers still accounts for about 30% of the company’s business.
With this combination of assets to offer, declares Hernandez, Classic Color is “a creative’s best partner. Anything a creative can dream up, we do.” That accords with his personal definition of innovation: “doing something that hasn’t been done before — innovation is constant change.”
All that’s needed is a challenge, and Classic Color, says Hernandez, is always ready to rise to one. “There’s nothing that’s impossible. We have yet to say no to anything.”