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Innovation in print

Innovation is not the exclusive preserve of digital. New stuff happens in print too, and there is an exciting array of new techniques that publishers can use to enhance the impact and appeal of their print publications. Darrel Crowley lists thirteen of them!

By Darrel Crowley

Keep it under your hat… Mum’s the word… there is a quiet revolution going on in the UK publishing sector, a hushed approach to the printed word, an evolution in the beauty and functionality of the printed magazine, using the latest developments from the power of print, finish, design and new technology and, contrary to what the print doom-mongers are saying, there is a lot of innovation going on!

In a previous article, I explored paper selection and also touched upon finishes, such as foil block and embossing. This article explores a greater plethora of print finishes and focuses on innovative production concepts that stir four of the five human senses - sight, smell, touch and hearing.

I was going to add that the fifth sense, ‘taste’ in print production, evades me, however at the time of writing, Volkswagen have just printed an edible advertisement in the South African edition of Auto Trader!

The ad campaign for VW Golf entitled ‘Eat the Road’, with the headline ‘Seriously, eat it’, features a close-up of a road surface, although it’s not clear from the ad whether you eat the whole road or just part of it! Not sure if I would take print that far, but certainly it’s an interesting concept.

Some of the techniques mentioned not only have great aesthetic appeal, but also sound commercial use; such as the ability to drive traffic from the printed publication to digital media, thus allowing print to truly interact with its digital relatives in this technologically expanding age of cross channel marketing and content driven media.

Here are thirteen techniques to take note of:

1. Metallic and Fluorescent Inks

Although used for some time in the publishing sector, these inks still offer the visual impact to enhance cutting edge design, a bold logo or beautiful typography.

A recent Fusion Media project featured a strong and universally well-known brand logo printed on the front cover of the magazine in a stunning fluorescent green; a powerful message, designed to catch the potential reader’s eye on the newsstand.

2. Textured Spot UV Varnish

This is the ability to create a gritty, sandpaper feel, leather or even a glittery, sparkly look and touch to enhance the appearance of type and / or design to make a magazine stand out from the competition.

A good recent example was Digital Arts Magazine published by IDG Communications. The magazine used a grit varnish to create a unique feel and creative angle on the cover of their April 2011 issue. As a specialist publication targeting the creative design profession, Digital Arts was keen to apply a different finish to the cover, to promote articles within the publication.

Likewise, Condé Nast applied the same principle combined with matt lamination for the successful relaunch of the UK edition of Wired magazine.

3. Metallised Board / Card

With the use of specialist lamination on board, combined with traditional print methods, amazing visual effects can be created. The National Magazine Company’s Esquire employed metallic board with black and white foil and an additional die-cut finish to reveal a section of one of 20 exclusively designed, limited edition covers beneath. The 20th Anniversary cover created an eye catching, visually striking and contrasting effect.

The January 2011 front cover of Wired magazine featured the remake of the classic 1980s sci-fi film Tron. With the use of metallic mirror board, the colours of the main cover image were significantly enhanced to create a stunning metallic blue and reflective visual impact. There are a significant number of different laminated board finishes available to publishers that include holographic and textured effects.

4. High Build UV

Employed by some creative publishers for their front covers, this process creates a raised texture by using a UV coating that is twice the thickness of conventional UV varnish. Although at first glance, it’s similar in appearance to embossing, it has the added tactile and visual impact of UV varnish. It can be used to embellish a logo, image or main area of type, to produce a striking effect.

5. Soft Touch Lamination

A rich matt feel and luxurious to the touch - soft touch offers a contemporary middle ground to the conventional gloss and matt laminate favoured by many publications. It’s less likely to scuff than its matt relation and can be used in combination with other cover finishes to generate a stunning contrast.

6. Fragrance burst

Fragrance burst, or ‘scratch and sniff’ as it is more commonly known, has been used in magazine advertising for some time, generally for sampling perfume and aftershaves. However, there are many more opportunities for publications to be enhanced by the addition of fragrance burst inks.

From delicious mint chocolate through to rubber (if that’s what provokes your senses!), most scents can be reproduced to stimulate the reader’s awareness.

On the subject of rubber, Dennis Publishing's Bizarre, the fetish and oddities magazine, featured in their April 2011 issue a model in latex pants, which readers could "scratch and sniff" to release their rubber scent.

The front cover featured model Natalie Blair wearing thigh-high PVC boots and latex underwear, accompanied by the words "Sniff my knickers! Scratch Natalie's bum… Smell the rubber!"

A similar, albeit slightly more mainstream approach was applied to the publication Welcome to Lincoln. The Christmas 2010 edition was designed to appeal to potential visitors to Lincoln and featured a scratch and sniff cover with the aroma of mulled wine, which became stronger in fragrance, the more it was rubbed.

7. Thermochromic

By using heat sensitive inks that are responsive to touch, the printed publication becomes an interactive device. When touched, the hidden image or message beneath is revealed. As the inks are available in varying temperatures, this process can be employed for moisture, chill, cook and heat reactions, as well as touch.

This is an innovative print finish that could be applied to cookery publications for full visual and tactile effect.

8. Photochromic

These inks remain invisible until exposed to daylight or UV sources. When placed in daylight, they change dramatically to create significant colourful elements that fade away when removed from UV containing light.

9. Lenticular Printing

Lenticular has been around some time, but it’s not been widely applied in the magazine publishing market. However, with recent developments in this field, greater depth and motion can be offered, with short video sequences now also available. The five key effects are ‘Flip’, ‘Zoom’, ‘3D’, ‘Morph’ and ‘Animation’; with the best results gained from using only one of these effects. It’s important to note that adequate time must be given to the design stage, in order to get the right end result.

Future Publishing employed this technology on the front cover of Total Film to promote Superman Returns. The cover flicked between an image of the original Superman actor, Christopher Reeve and one of Brandon Routh.

10. QR Codes

Although still relatively small in application within the UK, in comparison to the US market, these clever codes are enabling media savvy publishers to create a unique link via smartphone and relevant app software for their readers and / or advertisers to access PURLs (Personalised URLs), specific website pages and also to download and store important contact information to their smartphones.

In a recent study conducted in the US, QR scanning traffic in the first quarter of 2011 increased 4549% compared to the same quarter in 2010, with 35-44 year olds using this technology most.

Fusion Media recently employed the use of QR Codes inside a printed publication. The 164 page magazine had QR Codes printed within certain sections and on various pages. This created an interactive link to apps that could be purchased and then downloaded to a reader’s smartphone or tablet.

One of the more bizarre uses for QR Codes has been in the States, where a headstone manufacturer has created new burial markers so visitors can learn more about the deceased and… leave messages for them!

The QR code is stuck on the monument and after scanning the code on a smartphone, visitors are redirected to a website built by the deceased’s family.

Each site can then be personalised with memories, comments from friends, pictures, videos, family history and a map to the grave’s precise location.

11. Digital Watermarking

Although similar to QR Codes in terms of their application within a printed item, digital watermarking is invisible to the naked eye.

Data is encoded into the printed piece at the design stage with no specialised printing or finishing required.

This information is then read via a smartphone and app. It can be used to integrate print and online material without the need for barcodes or QR codes.

Recent users of this technology have included Dennis Publishing’s evo magazine, as well as a number of leading UK newspaper publications, whose advertisers have employed it in their ad campaigns.

12. Augmented Reality (AR)

By using overlay digital information on top of an actual environment, this technology allows a webcam to create 3D animations. With the aid of an AR marker printed on covers, editorial pages, advertising or inserts and with the aid of a webcam, campaigns literally come to life and are truly interactive.

National Magazine’s US edition of Esquire published an ‘Augmented Reality Issue’ featuring Robert Downey Jr. When the cover was tilted towards the webcam, Downey clambered on top of the box on the front cover and sang a song.

13. Printed Electronics (PE Applications)

Although it may appear to be something out of an episode of Dr Who, by using highly conductive metallic inks and hi-tech printing techniques, electronics can be printed on to any traditional printing surface to create printed software.

While still in its infancy, the UK is currently the world leader in this area. When this technology is perfected, it could include in-built printed computer chips, sound, speakers and network links.

Ultimately, anything that is printed could be turned into a computer with unfathomable interactive applications.

Just imagine applying that technology on the front cover of your magazine!