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January 26, 2014

Elena Fedorovskaya from RIT’s Cross-Media Innovation Center offers some practical tips on taking print to the next level

OutputLinks is among industry supporters of the Cross-Media Innovation Center (CMIC) at RIT. Tom Wetjen, American Printer’s VP business development, attended the CMIC Summit 2013 in October. He came away impressed, especially with Elena Fedorovskaya’s presentation, “The Future of Printing: Technology Convergence with the User at the Center.”

“While disruptive technologies are responsible for some decline in print, they also can fuel growth when they converge,” says Wetjen. “We saw this when monochrome pages started to decline. The same disruptive forces—the Internet, digital cameras and digital color printers—all hit at the same time. Although some print disappeared, the same disruptive forces also created the photobook industry.”

Fedorovskaya, who was with Kodak Research Labs 16 years prior to joining RIT, takes a pragmatic perspective to gee-whiz technologies such as augmented reality (AR), smart packages and 3D printing. “I am focusing on understanding principles and requirements for publishing, accessing and interaction with the information across and in combination of different media from the user perspective,” she says. “How do we select, distribute and represent content in the most beneficial way in terms of compelling user experience and communication efficiency? How do we measure that?”

Fedorovskaya shares some additional insights with our readers below. Taking her message to heart, we’re happy to send you additional material—including her original presentation and our subsequent online commentaries. Scan or key B2Me.me/BXX.

How can integrated print deliver a “smoother” user experience?

Let’s focus on integrating print and digital information on the Internet in this discussion. I have three suggestions:

Enable a quick link to digital (virtual) content that eliminates unnecessary extra steps. Print and digital device interaction should give the user easy and intuitive access to the desired digital content. What does the user need to do? Download a customized app, launch the app, click on the link for a website, or use an existing generic app that is perhaps preinstalled and launches with minimal interaction, immediately displaying the desired information?

A camera app on an iPhone is a good example of a great interactive design. Did you notice that you can launch the camera app and start taking photos immediately after you push the home button, even if your iPhone is still locked? Google Goggles is another good example. It’s a generic app that can search for different objects—including text, images of landmarks, logos and contact information—and display links to webpages. Publishers can use SEO techniques to ensure the link can be uniquely established in response to printed material. If I hold my Android phone over the cover page of the most recent issue of The New Yorker magazine, for example, Google Goggles will find the online version and display a link to the webpage.

Aim for visual communication that is coherent and aesthetically pleasing. Currently, QR codes are quite disruptive. Think about a tag on your clothing: it provides important additional information, but it is hidden. A logo, on the other hand, is a prominent exterior signifier. With the Google Goggles app, the elements of the message itself—logo, words and images—can serve as links to digital information. So can watermarks and hidden tags.

Consider the digital content. Why will the user want/need to access it? How can he or she benefit? Augmented reality (AR) is an example of a tool that brings important additional information to the user in the form of a multimedia or 3D visualization that would be impossible to deliver otherwise. At the same time, AR creates a fun and interactive user experience. AR isn’t new, but the time has come for it to be perfected and widely used. Smartphones and wearable devices, such as Google Glasses and similar products, will make it happen. Printers need to embrace this technology.

If cost/logistics/technology weren’t constraints, how could this article incorporate elements of the emerging printing industry?

Two words: Google Glasses. Or readers could launch an AR app on their smartphones and hold it over the article to see demos and examples of interactive printing as well as useful information about the technology. In other scenarios, readers could interactively access additional content by touching words or icons on the paper. The content would appear either on the gadget or, in a more distant future, perhaps on the paper itself.

How can our readers prepare for the future?

Be informed about rapidly evolving digital information technology and how it affects communication and publishing. Consult or partner with universities and companies that do research and teaching on novel printing, publishing and manufacturing processes and develop solutions. We at the School of Media Sciences, RIT, would be happy to help!

The original presentation and our subsequent online commentaries are available at our website


RIT recently launched the Cross-Media Innovation Center (CMIC) with the purpose of directing student and faculty research toward industry-vetted research issues. “RIT’s rich research heritage and the funding behind the research provide a foundation for a variety of unique initiatives that are directed by Chris Bondy, Administrative Chair and Gannett Professor, and each of the school’s endowed professors,” explains Fedorovskaya.

In close collaboration with the CMIC Industry Council and CMIC Board, Chris Bondy, the Miller professor (Fedorovskaya), the Cary professor, the Fawcett professor, and the gravure/flexo professor, along with other faculty members and graduate students, perform research on cross-media topics. 

In his Gannett professorship role, for example, Bondy studies the workflow process, from content creation and composition to production in print, Web, mobile, and social media. Shu Chang, the Cary professor, is looking at various new materials that the future printing industry might use.

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