Gretchen Peck

Gretchen Peck
Beyond the Recycling Bin

When it comes to the environmental footprint you leave behind in your catalog and direct mail operations, no doubt you want to do the right thing. But understanding the terms of the debate takes a bit of self-education. “The challenge is moving away from the arena in which we talk only about paper made of post-consumer-waste (PCW) recycled content, to a forum that’s focused on the new idea of the entire lifecycle of paper — from the time the tree is cut to the back door of the printing company,” says Scott Bond, senior vice president for Bulkley Dunton, a New York City-based

Catalogs Streamline the Print Workflow

Catalog print production has never looked so good. The past few years — actually, the past decade since computer-to-plate came on the scene — have been replete with technological improvements to the print production workflow. Gretchen Peck, a contributing writer for Catalog Success, spoke to four catalog creators to find out what their crowning achievements have been in the realm of print production workflow, the strategies they’ve put in place, the technologies they’ve embraced, as well as new challenges. The discussions revealed that, indeed, there’s been great progress in the areas of content capture and prepress, but there’s still room for improvement


The concept of approving a catalog proof that was anything but ink-on-paper seemed absurd back in the early 1990s. Sure, we’d all been soft proofing for years, eyeing up the way pages looked on our art director’s desktop display. But we looked at those images differently then. We saw them for what they were — a poor RGB imitation of what a CMYK-printed catalog would look like as the paper rolled off the press. Some things never change. “Soft proofing is a double-edged sword,” says Sarah Fletcher, creative director for Charlestown, R.I.-based Catalog Design Studios. “On the one hand, it is, by

Special Report: Printing, Production and Paper

Achieve a Better Production Workflow Hint: Expect more from your printer Consider the relationship you have with your catalog printer. Besides the quality of what it prints for you, how would you classify its workflow processes? Is it easy for you to submit jobs? Are you confident you’re saving as much as you can on prepress costs? Do you think you’re getting the best possible level of customer service? In tough environments such as this one — when paper and postage costs are on the rise, for instance — you must not be conservative in the expectations you set for

Technology Update: Hot Picks for 2005

When computer-to-plate (CTP) printing hit the catalog scene in the mid-1990s, it promised to revolutionize catalog production. And it has. But it didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t occur without the support and cooperation of vendors and developers who built tools to support the new digital way of printing. The development of CTP platesetters was just the beginning of the transition from film-based processes to a completely digital way of producing catalogs. Every year since CTP was first introduced, the catalog industry has grown more adept at using it to produce editions. And each sequential year has seen exciting new technologies that promise to

Paper-buying Resources: A Primer

Paper prices are expected to increase this year. Couple that with the still-uncertain U.S. economy, and you have a period in which making a smart decision about paper is tougher than ever. It requires both a fundamental understanding of the paper market and a willingness to rely on a little help from your friends. Think Branding First No matter the type of catalog you have — or the products or services it touts — the first step to take before choosing a catalog paper is to consider your brand, says Kathy Johnston, creative/production services manager at catalog consultancy J. Schmid & Assoc.,

Case Study: How NEBS Brought Prepress in House

Problem: Multititle business-to-business cataloger NEBS wanted to reduce catalog and direct mail prepress costs charged by its third-party providers. Solution: Bring prepress duties in house. Results: Prepress costs were reduced by up to 50 percent, for an estimated annual savings of more than $450,000. And production turnaround times have decreased significantly. New England Business Service (NEBS) has provided small to medium-sized U.S. businesses with forms, checks and promotional solutions since 1952. The Groton, MA-based company now boasts a customer base of more than 2 million. NEBS produces more than 40 catalog titles, with a total annual circulation of more than 57

Special Report The 3Ps: Printing, Production and Paper

Dollars & Sense: Catalog Co-mailings For catalogers, the past decade has been explosive with innovation. For example, desktop publishing led to computer-to-plate manufacturing and digital prepress. Files replaced film, and the process of print production became more streamlined and efficient. So much so, in fact, that catalogers now must look to operations outside the prepress and pressroom realms for cost savings, to what some consider a hard-numbers-based necessary evil: postage. “As postal costs continue to be an ever-increasing part of a cataloger’s total budget — and in order to stay competitive — they have to seek out new efficiencies in the process,”

Is JDF the Future of Catalog Print Production?

The printing and publishing industry’s transformation into a computer-integrated manufacturing platform continues unabated. “The artificial intelligence that’s being incorporated into technology reduces makeready times, reproduces color consistently and provides feedback on performance — ensuring the finished product is of the highest quality,” says George Ryan, executive vice president and COO of the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF). The artificial intelligence communication protocol Ryan is referring to is known as the Job Definition Format (JDF). And it’s a term you are sure to hear more about in the future. What is JDF? JDF is based on XML (eXtensible Markup Language), a standard

Shopping for Printers

Competition for consumer affection is more ferocious than ever in this uncertain economy. During times like these, cutting costs to save some much-needed cash may be in order. In that vein, some catalogers have taken the step of shopping around their print work. While that can be a smart move, it’s easy to lose sight of considerations other than that all-important bottom line. Choosing a printer based only on price can be a treacherous and slippery slope to travel. Francis Crowley, executive vice president of sales at Spencer Press, a Wells, ME-based catalog printer, admits it’s true that catalogers can cut great

PDF for Print, Proofing and More

Financial stressors are compelling many catalogers to take a minutely detailed look at production workflow and the technologies that will best support their print- and electronic-media efforts. At the same time, standards-based Portable Document File (PDF) exchange is largely leading the way in digital production and prepress. When many catalogers first made the leap to digital print production — migrating from the initial native application exchange scenario to more sophisticated (and reliable) standards-based PDF/X-1a exchange, for example — it seemed they had reached the pinnacle of their print efforts. Certainly, with film-based processes gone and a seamless digital workflow in place with prepress and

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. Preflighting Perhaps the best demonstration of continued evolution of an early-day concept is preflighting.

One-to-One Marketing

The average American’s trip to the mailbox isn’t as impersonal as it once was. It’s no longer status-quo to get mail addressed to “occupant.” Direct mailers have long been in tune with the benefits of one-to-one marketing, and some catalogers are following suit. Victoria’s Secret is versioning mailings to best suit customers. For example, the company monitors buying habits, and when a customer hasn’t bought in a set amount of time, she gets a catalog version that offers discounts. Other catalogers use their front and/or back covers to send personalized messages to customers, while still others produce titles with versioned inserts that introduce

The Team Approach

Despite a rocky 2002 economy, catalogers are forging ahead, turning their attention to new manufacturing practices to support—and, in some cases, supplement—their sales efforts. Order forms aren’t the only things you’ll find nestled in your favorite catalog these days. Increasingly, catalogers are partnering with third-party mailers to insert advertising into catalog pages. And the ads are taking myriad forms, most commonly as blow-in and bind-in inserts. (Blow-ins are loose ad inserts, while bind-ins are inserts that are bound into the book.) For catalogers, these initiatives often mean extra revenues. And for advertisers, they’re a way of targeting a specific demographic, while the cataloger picks

Special Report: The Three Ps - Beyond the Status Quo

Eddie Bauer opened its first retail store, Eddie Bauer’s Sport Shop, in Seattle in 1920. Just two years after the founding, the company established its creed: “To give you outstanding quality, value, service and a guarantee that we may be worthy of your high esteem.” To this day, the promise manifests throughout the organization, including production and manufacturing. The Eddie Bauer conglomeration consists of,,, a network of almost 600 retail stores (based in the United States, Canada, Germany and Japan) and a highly successful catalog division. During the course of the company’s more than 80-year history, it has celebrated