Until recently, jobs in the graphics arts industry were highly specialized and design expertise was left to a small few of skilled craftspersons. But as electronic—or desktop—publishing began to grow rapidly, more often, color control, proofing and workflow knowledge became a requirement for practically everyone involved in the printing and publishing process. Art directors, designers, service bureaus and prepress suppliers each embarked on what would become state-of-the-art production practices replete with sometimes advanced lingo and technological prowess. Not having an integral foundation in these parts could therefore mean missed deadlines, expensive mistakes and poor-quality end products—problems that trickle into virtually every aspect of the industry. That's why Bruce Lanzerotti of the Primesource Group and Dennis Balas of Quad/Graphics decided to make production 101 not only more accessible to every faction, but do so void of pitches. They began a new group called BRIDG's (Basic Requirements for International Design and Graphic Solutions) that would address production using short, simple, easy-to-read books. According to Balas, the group already published two of these texts, one targeting color proofing and the other, concise color theory.
"We saw a need for basic graphic arts materials to give to customers," Balas explains. But the outreach didn't stop there. He adds that designers, educators, students, CSRs and sales people have also been established as a wide demographic for the series. "We have already reached 11 or 12 colleges around the country," he says. Each of the schools, such as City University of New York and Montana State, have art and design programs. The goal of BRIDG's is to not only educate persons already working in the industry, but to get a headstart with the next generation. To reach these goals most effectively, Balas says that the manuals are non-denominational, meaning that while major companies have donated time and insights, the books do not address specific products or pitch sales. Instead, the books focus entirely on theory, a contrast, says Balas, to many of the outdated, public relations propaganda that already exists.
"The information we provide is similar to manufacturer's books," says Balas, but notes that it's been scaled down to read more lucidly among a wider audience of users. "We wanted to make the books shorter and clean with no brand names to influence readers," he says, or that "are out of date in six months." To help launch this project, both founders have kept the group small to cut-down on complications in what should or should not be addresses. Since last year, the group is packed with major industry players who donate their time and expertise, including Debbie Hutchinson of AGFA, Alan Darling of Western Laser Graphics, David Niles of Sappi Fine Papers North America, George Ryan of GATF and many others ranging the printing, paper and design markets.
Recently, Balas and two other BRIDG pioneers gave a seminar for the Dallas Fort Worth Production Club. Mark Geeves, president of Best Color, and John Sweeney of Graphic Microsystems each took turns explaining the BRIDG's books to demonstrate their accessibility and industry effectiveness. "The introduction was catered to color 101," says Balas. "And already Imation's [a participating company] ordered 4,000 copies."
The first book, published in January 2001, was followed two months later by the second installment. The third, says Balas, is expected to reach readers by December. It will focus on color management and workflow. He explains that the 24-page layout will be both colorful and distill information that is applicable to groundwork operations. At Quad/Graphics, second print runs satisfy the steady interest in the BRIDG books. Balas explains that since the books are written to outlast specific technology brands, the manuals are printed on 6 or 8pt. stocks with 70lb. bodies with coated covers featuring, not surprisingly, famous American bridges. The stock art is supplied by Fuji Film's Larry Warter, also a member of the small BRIDGs committee.
Balas admits that the demographic already benefiting from BRIDGs books are those people who are entering the industry unconventionally. He says, "There are so many people coming into design new ways. There are computer people who are moving into graphic arts more than ever before." He says that because they don't have traditional backgrounds, the books supply critical context to design-related topic that compliment their preexisting knowledge of technology and brands.
Balas also reports, "We use the books internally [at Quad/Graphics] in our training department. We always like to think the customers need the training, not us!" He's found that the books have more than bridged this gap, it's beginning to set precedents in organization and training.
Plus, he says that to truly make the books accessible for diverse audiences with ranges of production knowledge, Nancy Hereid acts as editor because, "Frankly," says Balas, "she's the only one of us who can actually spell."