The Black & White (and Gray) of Color
Color management has been a debatable subject since the late 1980's when late-breaking technology increased the faith many publishers invested in print. Some 15 years later, its effectiveness in digital workflow is of significant concern. TrendWatch recently released a new 95-page report aiming to answer the question, "Where is color now?" The organization specializes in the assessment of trends and changes in graphic communications markets.
Known for its analysis of the graphic arts and graphic communications industries, TrendWatch Graphic Arts (TWGA), reports in "Color Management: Another Gray Area" that there is a correlation between PDF use and the demand for color management tools. TWGA also reports that color management is experiencing increased demand among commercial photographers and publishers.
"An increase in investment in inexpensive image acquisition hardware such as scanners and digital cameras on the part of creative professionals is one of several forces driving the need for color management capabilities," notes Vince Naselli, director of TrendWatch Graphic Arts. "As magazine and catalog publishers increasingly bring prepress capabilities inside they also have a greater need for color management. Where we see demand curving downward is in the commercial printing segments. We attribute this to the possible saturation of reliable solutions already in place and the diminished perception of newer technology warranting new investment."
According to the Report, larger, more technically savvy printers tend to be looking more toward color management capabilities than smaller printers. These larger shops tend to draw a larger quantity of critical-color jobs. Says Naselli, changes in proofing trends and a decline in "critical color" print jobs are two additional forces driving the decreased need for color management capabilities. Similarly, color management tools are planned investments for 33 percent for all creative professionals who are PDF users, 44 percent of graphic designers who are PDF users and 38 percent of corporate design departments. Commercial photographers are the largest creative market for both color management software and equipment in general, although planned investment in color management software is highest among publishers who are PDF users (25 percent), especially magazine publishers (30 percent) and catalog publishers (23 percent).
The report also claims that investment in color management is at 30 percent for firms that have incorporated cross media production, including designers (29 percent), ad agencies (27 percent), magazine publishers (29 percent) and corporate design departments (27 percent). Color measurement equipment (i.e., spectrophotometers) is a planned investment for 9 percent of all print businesses, yet for heatset offset printers, 11 percent are considering the investment. Direct-to-plate plants rated 13 percent.
The report also addresses color management as it relates to the printing, publishing, creative and Internet markets. Naselli strives to answer, "Is critical color in critical condition? Who decides what 'good enough' color is? How is color managed in the new workflow scenarios?"
The design of the report is intended to inform vendors about opportunities to offer built-in color systems that are better, cheaper and easier, as well as investments that can boost capital in the front-end of production. In addition, Naselli says the report aids marketing managers by outlining growth and mature segments of the market, justifying cost with the cost-savings typical of a more targeted campaign.
"Color Management: Another Gray Area," is available for purchase by visiting the secure TrendWatch Graphic Arts eStore online at www.trendwatchgraphicarts.com or by phone (866-873-6310). TrendWatch Graphic Arts eStore customers can download the report in PDF Acrobat format immediately after purchase.
-Natalie Hope McDonald