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Focus On

Crossmedia for Print

Despite digital technology continuously evolving, print is still playing a key role in the experience. Summer Brooks delves into the latest innovations being made in the world of crossmedia for print

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Novalia worked with Razorfish Germany for Audi on creating the world’s first interactive conductive print brochure for the new Audi TT

The human touch

Crossmedia for print is still a relatively new concept, but as the computers in our pockets continue to evolve and become more powerful, the applications that can be achieved in harmony with print are expanding and providing valuable insight for marketing teams.

You’ve probably never heard of Novalia, and that’s partly intentional, but you will have likely seen some of the team’s work. Novalia is a company made up of designers, engineers, scientists and software developers that seeks to create interactive experiences by blending digital with the physical. Chris Jones has been with the company for almost a decade and has spent his career “mildly married to print”.

“I started off as a really dreadful paint chemist and back in my early 20s I thought paint and ink were quite similar. I went to work at an inks company, Manders Liquid Inks [now Flint Ink], and obviously I thought that paintbrushes were the way you applied paint. Suddenly I was staring down the backend of a nine-colour Cerutti press running at a couple of hundred metres a minute and I realised that they were quite different.”

Jones began his work with conductive inks in 2000, having spent years holding senior positions at various inks companies as well as managing global packaging technical projects. “Prior to that, I’ve been involved in printing for packaging and security applications – the more interesting side of things with standard four-colour,” he adds.

Interactive print

Jones is currently involved in the largest EU-funded research project – spanning 150 academic and industrial research groups across 23 countries and a €1bn budget – which aims to understand how graphene can be used in European society. Jones helped to develop graphene-based inks for high speed manufacturing of printed electronics in partnership with researchers at The University of Cambridge in 2016.

“Our business is based around the creation and definition of licensable manufacturing protocols, supply of electronic control modules along with conductive inks, development of software design tools and the generation of data from physical products created using our technology,” Jones explains. “We have over 40 patent families around our technology; focused on what we have identified as the lowest cost manufacturing methods. Some of our greatest inventions are not about what we do, but rather what we have discovered we no longer need to do.”

Jones explains that Novalia is not a print house, but rather a company that uses print as the “primary interface” combined with technology and creativity to “take the essence of these digital experiences and bring them back to life in the physical world,” whilst maintaining a 21st century connection to the digital world.

We span the physical and digital using printed touch sensors to connect people, places and objects


“By combining printing, conductive ink and micro controllers, Novalia adds touch, connectivity and data to surfaces around us,” he comments. “We span the physical and digital using printed touch sensors to connect people, places and objects. Touching our print either triggers sounds from its surface or connects with the internet to send and retrieve information. We seamlessly blend science with design to create experiences. Novalia’s technology delivers printed iPad-like capacitive touch interfaces.”

Augmented reality

Konica Minolta has been utilising the power of crossmedia for print with two main technologies: augmented reality (AR) and marketing automation. Christian Kiesewetter, team manager digital workplace at Konica Minolta Business Innovation Centre, says that the emerging applications achievable with technologies such as AR are driving interest. “Naturally, because crossmedia print is new, we are seeing a significant interest in it,” he explains. “When you start from scratch any increase is very noticeable.

“When I joined Konica Minolta four years ago there were lots of ideas on how to provide crossmedia services, but at the time there was no concrete offering. We have worked very hard to analyse the market and the product requirements of the sector and have found that a lot of our assumptions have turned out to be true.” The firm brought its own AR solution, genARate, to market last year, as well as developing a marketing automation tool called Markomi.

Konica Minolta’s AR app is being used in marketing collateral as well as magazines like The Big Issue to drive engagement


“Both augmented reality and marketing automation are popular technologies, but what makes our approach so innovative is that Konica Minolta’s products were developed specifically for people who deal with print services,” Kiesewetter adds. “Both offerings target the traditional Konica Minolta customer base, whilst offering enterprise-level benefits without the need to have deeper technology skills.”

Konica Minolta has found that the crossmedia approach actually helps print and publishing marketers gather data otherwise unextractable from traditional print collateral. “It also means that existing content, be that digital or printed, can be reused and integrated in to a fully joined-up end-to-end customer experience,” Kiesewetter says.

Gemini Print says that its client base now recognises key benefits of print that digital cannot offer. Suzanne Heaven, marketing director at the firm, comments: “They like its tactile advantages and enjoy browsing, re-reading and showing other people quality printing – they are tired of too much screen time and are wary of scams and junk.

“However, people have also invested in developing their online and digital marketing and enjoy the opportunities of immediacy and engagement, so Gemini Print works with clients to encourage ways to maximise the impact of their printed communication and marketing by linking to online – videos, soundtracks, picture galleries, websites, high-speed contacts, animated models – the choice is unlimited. Despite options to use the new developments in dynamic QR codes, the ‘neatness’ of augmented reality links means they are the most popular approach.”

The Audi TT brochure used AR technology to allow potential customers to test out the new virtual cockpit on the car and even request a test drive


Gemini Print has used AR technology for clients across a number of applications, from interactive calendars and art show programmes to packaging and even the company’s own business cards, which, when scanned, allows the user to automatically update their address book.

“While projects for AR can be significant investments into very clever ‘bring the page alive’ options such as the car that drives off the page and drives around the rooms with sound effects, Gemini Print typically finds that clients love the low-cost entry accessibility of app-based AR as an effective first step to multimedia,” Heaven says. “The service back up means the team can update the content behind the code ensuring the lifespan of keeping the print collateral is dramatically extended.”

O Factoid: The Sword of Damocles, created in 1968, is considered to be the first VR-mounted display system and is often cited as a precursor to the development of AR technology.  O


Paul McCormack heads the digital side of the business at Hobs Group and says the industry has been transformed by the introduction of digital print – but also the boundaries that are being pushed within it. Following the firm’s investment into the Xerox Idridesse, Hobs created a book that would showcase all of the technologies at play with this printer, including NFC microchip paper, variable data, security imaging and examples of AR.
 
“Spellbound is currently my favourite project as it’s a fantastic guide to what’s possible within our industry,”

McCormack comments. “While lots of crossmedia platforms can be used within the print world, this magical book incorporates them effectively and to their full potential, in an absolutely stunning grimoire of magical digital print. The project not only demonstrates some truly stunning metallic effects, but also shows how print media and digital media can have the perfect relationship.”

McCormack says that whilst digital developments are impressing clients, tying it in with the tactile nature of print is the key for marketing teams. “Making the extra effort to make print tactile is worth it,” he says. “Linking paper to digital allows the latest information to be available via a printed page. In the case of the industries we target, there are potentially millions of pounds at stake and everyone wants that extra edge available to push their projects and grab attention. Crossmedia platforms let the marketer indulge in ideas that were never possible before. We help the client create a multi-platform, multi-sensory presentation.”

Hobs Group recently won an award for best print finishing at the Print, Design & Marketing Awards for its Spellbound book, which demonstrates the capabilities of digital print technologies


He adds: “The introduction of video media, virtual reality, security applications and embedded microchip in-paper software have all changed the game for the print industry without breaking the bank. When I first started in the industry, personalisation was a huge innovation in the print process – today it is almost the by-product of the digital process, highlighting how far we really have come along.”

The 3D arm of Hobs Group, which recently acquired Canon UK’s 3D printing assets, is aiding the company in merging 3D media into its print solutions. “Projects have been heightened with the addition of 3D prints with a range of materials, model-making techniques and advanced digital 3D visuals,” says McCormack. “Digital 3D techniques can be incorporated further into our printed offerings, making use of AR technology, as well as our in-house developed multi-sensory VR experience, VRCUB3D.” By utilising 3D technology, Hobs Group has been able to create “a crossmedia relationship on a new-found digital level”.

Hershey’s TAKE5 Remixer was the first packaging in the U.S to use conductive ink to create music on the spot, designed and developed by Novalia in collaboration with IPG Media Lab and Barkley


“Bringing all these elements together has been an exciting and challenging task for us,” adds McCormack. “Working together to deliver stunning and innovative projects allows both of our Hobs companies to achieve spectacular crossmedia solutions, such the Thames Tideway Tunnel Boring Machine VRCUB3D Walkthrough Experience – which simulated working conditions underground for employees to experience in a safe environment for training purposes, making use of multisensory features such as a haptic floor, changing temperatures as well as an on-head VR experience.”

Utilising 3D technologies has allowed Hobs Group to enhance its print offerings, as well as developing its own multi-sensory VR experience 


The next step

Whilst crossmedia for print is still relatively new and continuing to be developed, Kiesewetter says that print businesses can easily adapt to embrace new technology. “In my personal experience, having visited a lot of print houses and commercial printers right across Europe, you can divide their views broadly into two sides,” he comments. “There are those that fear they will lose their influence as they see print declining and hesitate to move forward. On the other side, there are those that are proactively addressing these challenges.”

Kiesewetter concludes: “Naturally, those who have been in the print business for decades may find it difficult to keep up with all the latest innovations, but some have realised that they need to offer more sophisticated services to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Print houses need to hire younger open-minded professionals and/or be open to offering their customers additional services to meet demand, even if this requires utilising a partner network.”


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