Augmented reality?…QR codes?…polyester paper? The world of printing has certainly been changing in the last few years.

There are new tools, new products and new applications popping up steadily. I attended a free seminar recently that reminded me that we all have to keep our marketing eyes peeled so we don’t fall on our typefaces. Here are a few of the trends we need to take into consideration as we plan our campaigns.

  • QR Codes: Quick Response Codes, or mobile barcodes, are images that can be scanned by a smart phones app that can read it and link the user to anything digital. It looks a bit like a digitized inkblot, but its use is spreading like a virus. Of what possible use would this have, you may ask? With the sweep of your enabled phone you can connect to company contact information, a web page, discount coupons, explanatory text — ad infinitum. You can drive your customers instantly to whatever you want them to do or see. Cutting the response time to zero means less time for them to forget your message.
  • Augmented Reality: This takes a real view of something in your world and adds computer-generated elements to it. I had never heard of this before, but I realized I had seen it many times in news, weather and sports programming; for example, when a sports broadcast layers a “finish line” on the actual, real time picture, or shows the trajectory of a ball, etc. This is an app that could really make a difference to the understanding of a product through visualization of the ultimate use, or viewing data that could be pulled up about what is being viewed in real time, or putting the user in the picture, for example.
  • Polyester paper: Synthetic paper, which may utilize polyester and/or paper blends for various uses in the printing industry, is becoming extremely popular for repeat-use products, such as signage, manuals, cards, etc. It looks and acts like paper made from wood pulp, but it’s durable, waterproof, fade-proof and recyclable. This would be useful for anything you print that you intend for heavy use or to be saved for future reference. Imagine, for example, traveling with a roadmap that doesn’t disintegrate halfway through your trip, or signage that looks just as legible, just as bright, in the rain.
  • Offset versus digital printing: This continues to be a topic for speculation. Although digital printing, with its speed, low-cost small runs and ability to personalize, is steadily increasing its share of the market as compared to offset printing, offset won’t go the way of the woolly mammoth. It will continue to keep the upper hand for high image quality and large quantity projects. We may be seeing hybrid offset/digital machines jumping into the fray very soon as well. The main point for us is to be aware of where the cost/benefits lie so we can make the best choices.

There are lots of interesting, information-laden resources out there on these topics: free seminars, paper-company websites, online topic searches launched into the unknown, etc. It’s worth at least catching up on the basic concepts so we’re not caught with red typefaces, right?