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Managing Digital Assets

(February 2001) posted on Thu May 31, 2001

Coudray explores the impact of digital design in the Internet age and its repercussions for printers.

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By Mark A. Coudray

All of us are familiar with the pitfalls and challenges we face in dealing with digital artwork and the countless electronic configurations in which it may be presented to us. Yet, just as we have with the screen-printing process, we somehow find a way to make digital designs work. Granted, the results are often not exactly what we thought they would be, but we plod along, making gradual improvements in our prepress procedures and learning from each new challenge.


We know that there has to be a better way in the long run if we are to remain competitive. But with designers facing an ever-increasing list of end uses for their images and a growing collection of tools for creating them, we can only expect the obstacles facing our prepress technicians to become greater. To better understand the challenges that lie ahead, let's start by looking at the evolution of digital artwork.


The rise of digital art


The evolution of digital art, as we know it, has followed a relatively predictable course. Conventional layout and design migrated to the electronic desktop in the early 1990s. Screen printers watched to see if the sky would fall as they hurriedly invested in new methods, technology, and training. Everything about this digital art was almost, sorta' there. No one really knew what was going on, and there was plenty of blame to go around whenever a job went bad or did not live up to expectations.


Through all of this, our clients participated in varying ways. Initially they had their art prepared through ad agencies or traditional graphic designers. We printers were always the ones who had to figure out what the agency or designer missed--the same as we did when art preparation was all analog. But gradually a transition began to take place.


Two things happened simultaneously. The first was that the cost of desktop publishing dropped dramatically. Million-dollar retouching systems were replaced with $15,000 Macintosh workstations. Coupled with this was the introduction of Adobe Photoshop. That event single-handedly changed the way commercial art is created.



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