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Frank Romano Advice to a Student

April 7, 2014

My friend Bill Owens is a student mentor. He asked me what a student entering our industry needs to meet the challenges and changes of the industry today and in the future.

I asked this same question years ago as I was compiling a dictionary of the terms a knowledgeable person in graphic communications should know. I though it would be easy. They should know basic printing terms, for letterpress, lithography, screen printing, flexography, and gravure. And digital printing, of course.

By extension, knowledge of paper and its characteristics is essential. This gets us to bindery and finishing and even distribution.

Because of the links to the photographic world there should be a basic understanding of cameras. And digital cameras, of course. There is a need to understand the complex world of color and its reproduction. That brings us to scanners and digital imaging and the world of dots and pixels.

Because our industry is a blend of craft and technology, we need to understand computers, information technology, networking, and all forms of digital communication. By extension, this gets us to the Internet and the Web and basic HTML coding. And social media, of course.

I think that typography and its proper use is essential. You cannot use Times New Roman for everything. This gets us to the major programs like QuarkXPress and Photoshop and all things PDF.

A little of the history of our industry would be nice. We do trace our roots back at least 500 years and the evolution of printing is the evolution of society and technology.

But wait, there is much more. Print is also a business. You should understand financial management and human resources. You should be able to communicate through writing, presentations, and discussion.

When I was done, there were 10,000 terms and it became the "Encyclopedia of Graphic Communication." But even those 1,000 pages were not enough. A yearbook was issued with terms that readers said should be there. The goal is to put it online as a sort of PrintWiki so that it may evolve.

Thus, to reply to Bill's question: there is a lot to know to be in the graphic communication industry. And that is what a college education gives you. A high school graduate has only the most rudimentary knowledge-enough to be dangerous. After college graduation, they become productive members of the industry.

They not only understand change. They engender change.

They invent the future.

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