Industry Group “Gets It” in Terms of Recruiting the Best and the Brightest

sandy_hubbardby Sandy Hubbard, Print Futurist

When I walked into the TAGA conference last week, I saw something very unusual:

Lots of college students, lots of women, lots of people from countries around the world, lots of educators and academics, and lots of people talking to each other who would normally be off in their own cliques at other industry events. Everywhere you looked you found lots of energy, intelligence and passion.*

TAGA is the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts. This prestigious association held its annual conference and student event in Portland, Oregon. I was invited to the event by Dr. Mark Bohan, Vice President of Technology and Research at Printing Industries of America (PIA). PIA recently brought TAGA under its umbrella for the benefit of both organizations, although TAGA will retain much of its organizational structure.

Let me say right off the bat that TAGA members are brilliant.

They are the scientists, analysts and researchers who help us control our production processes and improve our print quality. The student members are, as TAGA Past President Paul Cousineau says, “The best and brightest students in our industry and our up and coming stars.”

The event began on Sunday with keynote presentations by Martin Schmitt-Lewen of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG and Gilad Tzori of Landa Digital Printing. Schmitt-Lewen dazzled us with a rapid fire list of technologies that Heidelberg is researching, prototyping and debuting, with the admonition that it was for our ears only. Then, Tzori zoomed way beyond general information about nano printing and delved deep into the technical processes.

Presentations, white papers, and technical innovation papers focused on science, data, quality control, process, measurement, and tools — with the goal of improving quality and predictability in graphic reproduction.

It was breathtaking. Literally. It took my breath away.

During the breaks, we viewed the student presentations. These presentations were the culmination of months of student-led research, collaboration, publishing, and presentation of results. Each table was piled high with student publications. Students described their methodologies, their challenges, and their victories.

With my publishing background, I was very interested in how the students presented complex data in an appealing written form, using charts, tables, graphics and photographs. The students creatively printed, bound and packaged their presentations.

Ball-State-University-bound-volume-TAGA> One publication, from Ball State University, was bound in blue jean material, using the thick side seam as the spine of the book.

> The team from Clemson University used a number of printing processes, including screen printing, to produce their book, which was packaged in a box with flap and die cut windows, and included a dry erase pen to mark (and wipe clean) their printed photo samples.

Cal-Poly-printed-circuit-student-project-TAGA-2

> California Polytechnic State University produced a beautifully designed soft cover book with an accompanying card using printed electronics.

> Western Michigan University produced a magazine-type book that had bound-in cards introducing the individual students on the team. The cards featured QR codes that linked to the students’ social media profiles.

Grenoble-package-with-pen

> The students from Grenoble Institute of Technology INP-Pagora, a school of print, paper and biomaterials in France, packaged their book in a form-fitting insert with a matching pen and bookmark.

> Appalachian State University spiral bound their book and used eco-friendly materials and processes.

Ryerson-swatch-calendar-TAGA> Students from Ryerson University hand bound their books with heavy board stock and used various hand processes to decorate it. A swatchbook calendar accompanied the book.

I won’t go into the content of these books. Most of the research is way over my head, for one thing. Instead I focused on the students and their role in the conference. I was so impressed with them in every way. They were professionally dressed with firm handshakes, confident demeanor, and strong communication skills. They had a good handle on how to access professional resources and be a good resource in turn. At every opportunity they mingled with students from the other schools and networked with veteran members and industry representatives.

I sat with Cousineau during most of the conference, and he focused on the students as well: “It’s so interesting to see students over the years gaining the confidence to ask questions and interact with the presenters. Then you see them refining their testing processes and giving their own presentations, knowing how they have progressed from their first experiences here, and now showing maturity, humor and confidence.”

What do I take away from this experience?

The technical information was top notch, of course. But above that, I came away with such optimism for our industry. If these students are the best and brightest, we are fortunate indeed. I was honored to be included, and I wish this association the very best.

Print Futurist Sandy Hubbard goes where mere print mortals fear to tread in her quest to cover industry trends for Print Media Centr.

*My elementary school principal once told me, “Sandy, please don’t use the word ‘lots.’ It’s very low class.” I persist in stubbornly using the word to this day.