In the December 2015 issue of Printing Impressions, Sabine Lenz wrote a piece entitled “Why Designers Don’t Buy Variable Data Printing”. It was her contention that graphic designers aren’t impressed and don’t like Variable Data Printing (VDP) because designers are “control freaks” who cannot stand that each piece will look different; they are not interested in the technology that makes VDP possible; and designers seldom see VDP used “tastefully”.
I am not a graphic designer but I have hired and worked with them for 20 years, and in my experience, I would say there is some truth in Ms Lenz’s generalities regarding graphic designers. However, I am not convinced that for the most part her stereotype connections between designer’s “traits”’ and VDP are accurate.
Personally, I don’t specifically care that much about “technology” except that I want (and need) to know the power of the software and hardware that can create pieces and what we can offer our clients to help them achieve their goals.
In our shop, our digital production manager is the expert and works diligently with our graphic designer to have files created and set up properly to make the most of our “technology”. Our graphic designer may not know every single detail of how the hardware and software works, but she fully understands that she needs to know and respect the “technology”. In fact, our graphic designer seeks out any information she can about our “technology” that will help her better do her job. There is no way for her or any other graphic designer for that matter to adequately do their job if they don’t. So, I don’t think “technology” is connected to why designers are not impressed with VDP.
I have met designers who are “control freaks” as well. I once worked with a designer that cost his client $10,000 in extra postage because he refused to scale down a piece by a ¼ inch to meet postal regulations. The designer really felt strongly that it would somehow affect the impact of his piece. I don’t think the client agreed when they saw the postage bill.
However, this is my problem when it comes to VDP being discouraged by designers because they are control freaks. The designer controls all aspects of the piece including how the personalization is used and how the piece will look. If the “control freak” controls everything, how could they object to VDP for that reason? I just am not buying that one.
This leaves Ms Lenz’s last connection; the fact that designers seldom see VDP used “tastefully”. Personally, I would replace the word “tastefully” with “powerfully” but I think Ms Lenz’s makes a strong point that marketers are not using personalization to its full potential. I don’t blame a designer in the slightest if they are not excited to just throw a name in the salutation on a letter, or to use Ms Lenz’s example of writing the recipient’s name on a beach. It is hardly worth the effort. There was a time maybe when people would be impressed by that, but it hasn’t been that way for a long time. True ‘personalization” is to make a “personal” connection between the “message” and the recipient and I don’t come across too many pieces that hit the mark on that one.
I can tell you from personal experience that designers are not the cause with VDP not being as effective as it could be. I can almost guarantee when designers see VDP being executed correctly, they will be very enthusiastic and excited about what they can achieve with Variable Data Printing. In my next two pieces, I will go into what I think the small business marketer can do to better utilize personalization and the real problem of why variable data printing is not more effective.
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