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A Graphic Designer Puts Print on Demand Through Its Paces

A report on the UnderConsideration blog outlines a fascinating experiment called Dear Lulu. From the blog coverage:

This past July, fourteen students attended a two-day workshop at Germany’s Hochschule Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences with Prof. Frank Philippin and London-based designer James Goggin. The brief, as explained by Goggin:

“My plan for the workshop is to investigate the visible and tangible parameters of graphic design — type specimens, halftone screens and, in particular, colour tests and calibration charts — and make a book of our own self-produced tests which we will send to print on Friday afternoon using the online print-on-demand system Lulu. The book project will therefore act as a colour/type/pattern test of the very system with which it is produced. “Print-on-demand” is an increasingly important production system which can serve to make us designers rethink the impact our profession has on the environment and to question the often wasteful print volumes and production methods requested of us by our clients. Graphic designers, and especially students, have a chance to use and subvert these relatively new (and fairly cheap) technological systems to our advantage.”

The result of the workshop is Dear Lulu, a fantastic and imaginative resource that puts digital printing to the test through a Do-It-Yourself presentation that fits right in with philosophy of print on demand that makes it such an alluring proposition for designers looking to publish with little financial risk and with pretty decent results in return.

The report is not only a fascinating analysis of how far Print on Demand has come, but also a great tool for evaluating printers in general, as the output of the process is a book designed to stress the capabilities of any printer. As Amrita Chandra wrote on twitter in response to my post there, “what is great is you can send the book to other printers for comparison.”

Food for thought for research firms: what if the output of a research firm were not just a report but a tool for putting a company’s own systems through its paces, evaluating against the standards outlined in the report?

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  • This is fascinating. I find myself wishing, however, that they had done two versions – one in colour (as they did) and the other in black and white. Halftone screens, in particular, can print quite differently between these two formats. Since the latter is vastly more cost effective than the former, it would have been interesting to compare the two. I know of one focusing book on the grayscale side of things, but more stringent tests on the black and white side of things would certainly help matters.

    Still, this is quite a nifty project and I’ll be curious what the results, especially using different companies/machines, will be.

  • The spirit of this is a bit like that of The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst – a manual of typography typeset according to its own instructions, and a really beautiful book.