Catalog Production in the Digital Age
Digital workflow for print catalogs is hardly futuristic; in fact, it’s downright mature.
Following the dawn of computer-to-plate (CTP) manufacturing in the early 1990s, digital workflow technologies flooded the market to support the CTP ideal.
Print industry vendors and developers brought tools such as digital asset management solutions, preflighting programs, high-speed RIPs and Internet-enabled file transfer services to market in a relative blink of an eye. Since those first-generation solutions were unveiled, they have evolved to support the rapidly changing demands of catalog print production and manufacturing.
Perhaps the best demonstration of continued evolution of an early-day concept is preflighting. As printers moved to CTP platforms, it necessitated that their catalog customers follow suit, abolishing film from their workflows entirely, thus relying more heavily on the digital exchange of print pages.
Initially, what the industry saw unfold was a modest concession among the print supply-chain partners. Catalogers largely agreed to supply content digitally (and adopt things such as digital proofing), but usually in native application file formats, such as QuarkXPress.
As the digital relationship continued to evolve between catalog publisher and manufacturer, responsibilities began to shift, as well. The onus began to swing back to the content creator — that is, the cataloger — to supply the printer with properly created digital files that would more seamlessly integrate with the manufacturers’ CTP workflow systems.
If a printer could ensure that its customer would provide files in formats that met the printer’s own specifications, it would help clients significantly reduce prepress costs (native application files tend to require manipulation at the printer); ensure better and more consistent quality; and allow the printer to focus on its core competency, putting ink on paper.
Printers, which had quickly adopted file-verification (or preflighting) tools for their own operations, began evangelizing preflighting to their catalog customers who, for the most part, were quick to see the benefits. Solutions from developers such as Markzware Software, Enfocus and Extensis provided relatively inexpensive desktop tools that ensured the integrity and exact specifications of catalog page files before they were submitted to the printer.