Ok, so there really aren’t any myths to dispel when it comes to Daniel Dejan.  Basically, everything you have read about him, seen about him, heard about him or heard about him from others is true, and yes… he is THAT amazing. There are a few people that make my print geek knees buckle, and Daniel sits high on that list.  We had emailed back and forth a few times, so when he strolled into The Printerverse Booth at Print 13 with Trish Witkowski (another print rockstar!) I did my best to remain “professional” and introduce myself.

In a world where giant creative talent is usually accompanied by giant EGO, Daniel is the Zen Master. I can not picture him throwing one of his numerous awards across a room because his latte wasn’t hot enough (yep, I’ve seen it!), or even raising his voice. He has one of those quiet, commanding presences – something I’ve yet to get the hang of! – that captivates you from hello. We spoke briefly and in that short time I managed to ask him for an interview AND to participate in my PAPERCUTS Webinar series – both which he agreed to! Webinar info is here… but before you click over to register, take a few minutes to read all about him, you won’t be disappointed!

daniel-dejan-printmediacentrDC: Who is Daniel Dejan and what does he do?

DD: My Twitter description starts the story: Sappi educator, trainer and consultant; mentor; futurist; G7 expert, cultured bon vivant and Gentleman. I am a graphic designer by trade- although I am fascinated by all design industrial and otherwise, production manager and print buyer with an amateur expertise in color management (I say amateur because I am fortunate to be surrounded by color engineers and scientists whose knowledge greatly overshadows my own but I hold my own as a production mgr to produce color accurate reproductions which is why I made the effort to pass the IDEAlliance G7 Expert exams).

Due to my design background and experiences I have become a dedicated print evangelist. Through the generous auspices of Sappi and its extraordinary marketing and promotional efforts I have been able to be involved in some of the most beautiful, technologically evolved and profoundly significant print pieces produced in the commercial graphic arts industry which continually challenges my skills but most importantly offers me the tools to demonstrate how sensual, tactile and moving print communications can be in a world overwhelmed by digital experiences. In a consumer society attracted by the newest shiny technology it is easy to overlook how we got to this place. I love the Isaac Newton quote “If I can see further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”.  Print in all its communicative forms is the Giant that has enabled us to appreciate the digital world we currently live in.

Most people who know me well will confirm that I am an amateur gourmet/foodie with a love of great wines, a fashionista of my own design, adorer and admirer of any artistic undertaking whether it is literary, music, theatre (I am married to an actress) and painterly/sculptural endeavors that reflect the incredible intellect and capabilities of Man (and Woman),  seasoned with an enormous curiosity for the sciences. I am, by nature, curious and a voracious reader both in print and online.

sappi_etc_printmediacentrDC: Why Paper and not Pepsi?

DD: I was fortunate to be trained as a graphic designer in the old-world methods: type (I did an apprenticeship in a hot/cold type shop in Chicago in my teens), learned to appreciate typesetting/fonts, print production, which meant ink, paper, finishing, bindery, which led to layout and composition, color, etc. Through that experience I came to appreciate what a dramatic effect paper, its surface and finish, color and properties had on the finished print piece.  From a relatively young age I became fascinated with paper in all forms from origami, folding to its manufacture. I was also totally intrigued by the extraordinary promotional brochures and swatch books that the paper industry produced to support its sales and marketing. My father owned an advertising agency and I have vivid memories of when the paper reps would call on him and leave behind some of the most beautifully produced printed pieces. They were designed by the design deities of the time and as a designer I dreamed that one day I could participate in the design and production of such breathtaking projects.  I was fortunate through my own design studio to be involved with a number of paper mills in their design, production and events. Through my position in the paper industry I get to hang out with the folks I most relate to designers of all kinds, agency folks and printers. Can I buy you a Pepsi?

DC: What is your experience as a Print Buyer, and what are three things EVERY Print Buyer should know about paper?

DD: I have been involved in all aspects of print buying from small start up, non-profit, association work through large corporate print buying.  I am, by definition, a commercial artist, which in my mind means everything I designed was intended to be reproduced. There are so many pieces of advice, tricks of the trade, and recommendations- too numerous for a single quick response. That is in part why I love presenting seminars and workshops.

Sappi_swatchbooks_printmediacentr – a thorough understanding and appreciation of ALL of the characteristics of paper: the brightness/reflectivity and how paper mills achieve it chemically as well as whiteness/shade and color paper and how optical brighteners (fluorescence) affect what we see, how the haptics/hand/feel of the surface makes a subliminal difference and reaction of the viewer to a finished piece, how the finish of the paper (gloss, silk, dull, matte) needs to be carefully chosen based on the detail, tonal range, contrast and color saturation expectations of the finished reproduction, smoothness, basis weight and caliper/ bulk especially as it relates to direct mail and postal regulations, as well as the printability and runnability of the paper in regards to manufacturing.  In other words, the appropriate paper choice based on the expectations of the finished printed piece defined by the press it is to be run on.

– how the paper choice will impact the final color: ink + water + a specific paper + a specific color based on its chemical interactions.  Especially challenging when trying to reproduce specific corporate identity colors and product reproduction. i.e. color management as it relates specifically to paper and ink interactions. This is a very complicated topic and not for the faint of heart.

– what the manufacturing differences are between the different mills.  All paper mills spend an enormous amount of money in R&D and manufacturing to create what they think to be the best paper based on their specific manufacturing philosophy. Unfortunately, the differences in manufacturing will create very different end products even though the papers appear to be the same or sold as the same  “quality”.  Too many print buyers are sold a bill of goods based exclusively on what they see and feel in a swatch book or are ‘sold’ by their printers.  Printers do have an enormous amount of experience but are too often swayed by financial or throughput variables between different paper stocks.  Most have the best of intentions but are incentivized by cost and volume. Again, a much larger topic; one that would more require time than we have here.

DC: Recently you launched Side Bar, a new Sappi etc. blog. In your introduction to the platform you mention you intend to share some links to your favorite authors who are “fighting the good fight.” What is that fight, and who are a few of those authors?

SeekTruthDD: I believe the folks who are fighting the good fight are the ones who try to look through the market speak, the advertising pitches, who have a solid understanding of the process(es) and have the experiences to know that there are a lot of companies that are purely profit oriented and may not have the best of intentions or are trying to be competitive in an extremely challenging market. They seek the truth rather than just to be viewed or perceived as “right”.  There are so many superb sources and resources available to us now through the convenience and accessibility of the internet.  There are so many that I am always afraid of naming some and forgetting others. Please follow the blog and I will share my favorites with you over time so I can do them all justice.

DC: Speaking of Sappi etc., on the about page it says ” Learn Something New. Everyday.” What did you learn yesterday?

DD: I am so fortunate to be surrounded by extremely knowledgeable people in a wide array of disciplines whether it is color, printing, marketing, folding, economics, design, print production, etc. I am such a sponge of information it is hard for me to share exactly what I have learned.  I know that when I learn something new I store it for future use or I immediately go into one of the nineteen seminars/workshops I present and add it in so not to forget it but more importantly to be able to share it. I try not to have too many filters so that as much data, information, visuals gets in and can be processed into the many categories of interest that my mind can process and hold.  I am sure you can appreciate, based on what you do, that sometimes it is like ‘drinking from a firehose’.

DC: When I saw you at Print 13, I was going on and on and on about Print &, and especially the GLOVES! What is the importance of “&” and can you give us a teaser regarding our upcoming Webinar and who should attend!

Print&-printmediacentrDD: As I shared with you at the time, Print & is the first printed installation of an ongoing marketing research project spearheaded by Molly Foshay and Brooke Carey along with several others key figures at Sappi in collaboration with several market research firms that were hired to assist us. This book represents the first eighteen months of that research. Without giving too much away prior to the Webinar, the research showed through scientifically validated and intensive interviews with marketing and media strategy leaders that integrated marketing is the new, established marketing model being currently implemented.  As such the models clearly states that integrated marketing is a 360 degree market penetration with as many customer touch points as budgets will allow. Touch points are communication and marketing channels such as print, website, social media, mobile media, out-of-doors, television, radio, etc. The research quite definitively proved that print is not dead nor dying, it is evolving, and the concept of Print versus Digital is a concept perpetuated by tech companies who believe that the only way for new technology, their technology, to find its niche in this competitive market is to displace ‘legacy’ communications channels such as Print.  Historically what we have uncovered is that the communications environment grows and expands to accommodate all of the relevant communications required by the market, new and old. More importantly, research has proven that successful marketing campaigns use Print AND digital channels and medias in collaboration and synergistically, hence the name.

DC: Lastly, if you were giving the commencement speech to the graduating class of an Art School, what would be your message regarding the future of print design?

DD: Honestly, I would take the best talking points from Print &, of which there are numerous, and build a story about effective marketing communications, the ability to take that knowledge to build a solid and long lasting career (hopefully profitable as well), the extraordinary multi-faceted possibilities available to us as designers both in print and in the digital arena.  At its core, it is not just print that is being redefined rather it is the whole aesthetics and business of communications. As such, it offers innumerable opportunities and possibilities. Isn’t that a future we want to go head long into…? At any age? At any point in any career?

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Now it’s time to click over to the Webinar info! Register by NOVEMBER 8 to receive a copy of PRINT & from Sappi!

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