Printing Industry

Starting Your Career with Five Lifelong Strategies

Here my advice for those starting their career. It is based on what I have learned during my long career.


For me in order of importance behind faith and family, comes work. I love to work. It does not make a difference whether it is physical or mental. I learned early on that work is part of who I am. It has allowed me to use my gifts and talents for good.

In the “work for pay” arena, I liked all of my jobs through my entire life. If I did not like what I was doing, I would not do it. For the most part, I have been lucky to be able to choose my jobs. I rarely put my professional life above my family and never above my faith. I worked to earn money to help my family live a good life and give them some opportunities that I did not have.

I loved teaching, coaching, working at Xerox, managing people and working in my own business. Physical, mental, for pay, not for pay, and volunteer work are all fulfilling for me because I always find a higher purpose in it. No purposeful work is too menial for me. Based on what I know and learned, here is some advice about work.

Working Hard Is Important

Current thinking is that working “hard” is not as important as is working “smart”. That may be true but putting in a sustained and strong effort is essential. When I started as a sales person at Xerox, I had no business experience or natural aptitude for sales. I had a good personality but knew very little about sales or business.

I observed successful people, studied my company, its products and my customers. I then managed my time and territory efficiently. I have found people who succeed, work not only smart but very hard.

Identify Smart People and Then Stay in Touch

I received good advice when I was young. Identify winners. Seek out successful people. Through my work life, I found there were plenty of people who did not perform due to bad work habits, weak commitment or incompetence. I tried to minimize my interactions with them. I looked for people that I felt were talented, shared my values and whom I could learn from.

It was these successful people, who helped me through my career and allowed me to start my own business. To this day, I receive business opportunities from individuals that I identified early in my career and have maintained a long-term relationship. 

Treat Your Job as A Profession

With technology advancing at a fast pace, expect that what you are doing today will likely change multiple times before your finish your career. One should think of not only what is needed today but what skills will be needed for the future. Many of the skills I learned earlier in my career has helped me to publish over 60 articles and speak extensively at business forums.

As I entered the business world, I got my MBA and worked hard to advance my marketing, managerial, financial and interpersonal skills every chance I had. It is these skills that enabled me to change jobs, advance my career and become a Divisional President at Sharp Electronics. These experiences allowed me to pursue my dream of running my own business. It also created many good and some cases more lucrative opportunities through my working life that I chose NOT to pursue.

Activities are not Accomplishments

A way to ensure success is to consistently deliver results. It is amazing how many employees go through the day completing tasks and activities that have no impact on their or their company’s results. Identifying what the company’s goals are, what your boss’s boss objectives are and setting lofty goals for yourself and then meeting them, will make you invaluable.

Though I always set goals for myself, I feel now that perhaps I did not set them high enough since I always made my goals for performance and career advancement. Maybe I could have even done better. My advice is to set lofty goals for your personal and business life.

Good People Finish First

Business people are constantly being presented with ethical challenges. Whether it is expense reports, marketing tactics or personnel decisions, I have constantly asked myself if what I was doing was consistent with my family, personal and religious values.

Most successful people that I admire are good people. The adage that “nice guys finish last” is not true. I believe that people that I have worked with through the years felt that I could be trusted to do the right things. It helped me to be a successful manager and executive. No one wants to follow a dishonest or unethical leader. I like to think I was tough and ambitious while being ethical and moral.

I have followed this advice for my whole life. All and all I have really enjoyed my personal and professional life. I seldom made decisions about my career or personal life based solely on money. I just wanted to make an impact, earn enough money to move my family forward and do good deeds.

By sticking to my core principles and working hard toward my personal and career goals, I have been afforded the freedom to work for companies and markets that I enjoy while earning a good income with a minimum of debt. Maureen and I live a fulfilled and financially secure life.

Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (see our web site at is a consulting and training company. They work with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness.  Joe can be reached at 845 753 6156.

Printing students win medals at SkillsUSA National Competition


During the week of June 25 over 16,000 students, teachers and business partners gathered in Louisville Kentucky for the 54th annual National Leadership and Skills Conference. More than 6,000 outstanding career and technical education students, all state contest winners, competed hands-on in 100 different trade, technical and leadership fields. Students worked against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations such as electronics, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, medical assisting, culinary arts and graphic communications. Contests are run with the help of industry, trade associations and labor organizations.



Graphic Communications students started the week with a general assessment based on the Graphic Communications Skill Competencies provided by PrintED, and the SkillsUSA Career Essentials Assessments provided by SkillsUSA. Intellective Solutions is proud to have been involved in the research and authoring of both.

Later in the week, each student competed by estimating projects, completing prepress work and printing and binding jobs. Each student was assessed by an industry expert. Gold, Silver and Bronze medals were awarded to High School and College winners. Of special note is that Brittany Whitestone is going on to Russia to represent Graphic Communications at the WorldSkills Competition.


It was both invigorating and reassuring to see students preparing for their future in our industry. It was obvious that the schools they attended had prepared them well for the testing in Louisville. They knew how to estimate projects and were well versed on the business side of the printing industry. They had genuine excitement about starting their careers and bringing new ideas and innovations to our industry.

SkillsUSA ( is a national membership association serving high school, college and middle school students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations.

PrintED, administered by the Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GAERF®) is a national accreditation program, based on industry standards, appropriate for secondary and post-secondary schools offering graphic communications curricula (

Print and Graphics Scholarship (PGSF) Recipients Selected

I recently had the honor of participating in the selection of the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF) scholarship recipients. The PGSF distributes about $400,000 in scholarships to 200 students each year. The PGSF was formed over 60 years ago and since its inception, over 7,000 students have benefited from the financial help they have received from PGSF.

The PGSF awards scholarships to students pursuing a career in the graphic arts and is made possible by donations from individuals and companies. For me, it was great to see the names on the endowed scholarships. I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with many of these individuals who have built this industry through their innovations and determination.

The print industry would not be as formidable as it is today without people like Bert Bassett, Zeb Green, Fred Kagy and Naomi Berber. These fine folks (and many others) dedicated their lives to print and with the help of their scholarship support are passing the baton to a new generation of innovators.

It was stimulating to read some of the students’ comments on what they are hoping their career paths will be. Many were interested in the design aspect of our industry, some were interested in management, a good-sized number want to work in companies that blend print with new media, and there were even a few that had the desire to go into sales.

There was an awareness by the students of the power and value that print provides. Kudos to the teachers who are emphasizing this in their classrooms! As we all known and cringe about, there has been a fair amount of negative opinions about print tossed around in the media over the years.

Of note, this is what one of the students had to say about their career aspirations…

“I see myself striving to achieve my goal of owning my own printshop. Working in this industry is my passion and I want to have the opportunity to make my own mark, to grow this industry and keep it moving forward.”

With students like this, their passion and their love for the printed word, our industry will continue to lead, grow and prosper.

For more information about the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation and how to support it, contact John Berthelsen at 608-575-3904 or

For scholarship information, contact Bernie Eckert at 412-259-1740 or The PGSF website has some great resources for students and parents investigating the graphic communications industry as a career.

PIA Print Award Judging held at Dubiski High School

I recently had the honor of being a judge for the PIA of MidAmerica print awards held in Dallas. These types of regional competitions showcase examples of print that are in a word, extraordinary. They reward those printers who produce printed pieces that are flawless and celebrate the craft of the printing industry.

What made this year’s competition so special was where it was held. The judging took place at the Dubiski Career High School in Grand Prairie, Texas which is near Dallas.

We hear a lot about how young people aren’t interested in the printing industry today…how it’s old, boring and lacks the glamour of other high tech occupations. The students that we encountered at Dubiski were genuinely enthusiastic and very engaged about their future in the print industry. It was incredibly refreshing to see students busy creating pages on their computers, printing their projects on a digital press and running a booklet maker. All with a determination to produce the best work they possibly could! The students in the graphic communications program are outstanding examples of the future of our industry.

Dubiski is a member of SkillsUSA ( which provides help for both students and teachers. Its an organization that is aligned with the PrintED ( program, which offers accreditation for schools that offer graphic communication courses. The graphic arts students were so proud of the awards they received from SkillsUSA. When I asked one of the students about the SkillsUSA pins she was wearing, she gushed excitement about what each of them meant to her and how she won them.

In addition to the graphic arts programs, Dubiski also has other programs such as engineering and architecture. While we were there judging the PIA print awards, the culinary students prepared and served us breakfast and lunch. It was awesome! They are well on their way to successful careers.    

Skill Assessments are Crucial to Validate Performance For the Graphic Communications Industry

Frank Kanonik , Printing Industry Expert

Frank Kanonik , Printing Industry Expert

There are thousands of students enrolled in programs preparing them to enter the printing and graphic communications workforce. For graphic communications industry instructors and employers, there is no better way to ensure that new hires have required skills than with industry-driven skill competencies and assessments.

We at Intellective Solutions are proud to be the developer of the competencies and assessments used by the Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GAERF) and SkillsUSA. Joe Rickard and Frank Kanonik led the efforts to create and develop the industry resources. They worked with education and industry subject matter experts to ensure the competencies and assessments are current, valid and relevant to today’s printing industry.

Patty Duncan, Program Manager of the SkillsUSA Work Force Ready System recently said, “I am impressed with Intellective Solutions professionalism and as well as their expertise in graphic communications. They have developed outstanding and timely industry standards and assessments that will benefit all those who use them”

GAERF has available through PrintED, a national accreditation program that is based on industry standards for graphic communications courses of study at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Their Graphic Communication Skill Standards (GCSC) are six sets of skill competencies and corresponding assessments that are used by instructors to validate their curricula, and also by employers to confirm a potential candidate’s capabilities.

There are 6 topics that are covered by the GCSC competencies, and are available for free download at

·        Digital File Preparation and Output

·        Digital Production Printing

·        Graphic Design

·        Introduction to Graphic Communications

·        Offset Press Operations/Bindery & Finishing

·        Screen Printing

The GCSC assessments are available through GAERF and SkillsUSA, and test technical skills and knowledge using an online, graphic rich format. The assessments correspond to the six GCSC competencies. Ordering information can be found at Immediate grading and feedback is provided.

With rapidly changing technology, digital integration and new business models, having up to date and printing industry driven standards and assessments are critical for our industry to ensure a steady stream of great employees. These standards and assessments support that requirement.


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The printing industry, like most industries, has terms that can be misinterpreted by those outside the business. As a designer or print buyer, not knowing the proper intention of these words can spell disaster when talking to a print salesperson or customer service rep. This is especially true when discussing the specifications of a job.

There’s two different types of jargon that are commonly used in the printing industry. The first is technical jargon, which are those words and phrases that can be baffling to a nontechnical person. Many times technical jargon is used unintentionally by a salesperson or CSR, they just assume that what they are saying is understandable by everyone.

When a printing company CSR says something like “Just send us the PDF of the VDP and don’t forget to sort the XLS.” Very few human beings can honestly say that they totally understood that sentence!

The important thing is to stop and ask what is being said, in simple terms that YOU understand. The absolute worst thing to do is to nod your head and say “okay, I’ll pass that information along to my coworkers”. The meaning of technical instructions always tends to dilute even further as it passes from one person to another, just like a bad rumor.

The second type of jargon that you’ll run into are words that mean something entirely different in everyday life. These words are not meant to be confusing or mean spirited by the person who uses them, they’re just words that the printing industry uses to describe something. Some are inherited from the old days of printing, and others are used because they describe something very well. And a few are even kind of funny.

As with technical jargon, it’s important to ask for an explanation if something doesn’t quite make sense to you. There’s even a fair number of words which won’t be listed here because even though they are used often in the production areas, they are crude and offensive.

The following is a short list of the most commonly misunderstood words used in the printing industry.


Bleed – Ask a doctor what this means and they’ll tell you someone is cut, shot or ill. Ask a printer and they will tell you that since no printing process can print to the very edge of a sheet of paper, extra image must be included that will later be trimmed off. This gives the finished page an appearance that looks like the image is printed to the edge of the paper.

Two considerations to keep in mind when designing a page like this is to include an extra 1/8 of inch of image which will be later cut off and also the paper size must be larger than the final trimmed page size. Or, you can just say forget it, with the result being a rough white border around the page or have the job cut slightly smaller than what you originally intended.

Perfect – Yes, every printer in the world produces their work in a perfect fashion. In the printing world, perfecting a job essentially means printing both sides. Some people use the word duplex and the really smart people use the phrase “prints both sides”. There are even special presses that are called perfecting presses, which means that they simultaneously print both sides of the sheet and are incredibly efficient. When specifying a job to be printed, the key information to pass along is the total number of pages that have printing on them and also the total number of sheets of paper. For example, a book can have 128 printed pages, but a total of 256 pages. What this really translates to is that there is printing only on the front of each sheet of paper.

One other definition of the term perfect is when a specific type of binding is used for a book. A perfect bound book is constructed in a way that folded pages are stacked one on top of the other and glue is applied along the bound edge. You can easily tell if a book is perfect bound by examining the side of it.


Spine, face, head and foot – These four terms describe the orientation of a page or book. It’s really quite simple, the spine is the bound edge, the face is the edge opposite the spine, the head is the top and the foot is the bottom. When a printer asks you where you want page numbers added and you say at the bottom of the page instead of the foot, you’ve just announced that you’re a rookie in the printing world.

Booger Glue – Think like a 9 year old child and you have the common meaning of this word, giggles and all. In the printing industry, booger glue, sometimes known as fugitive glue, has many uses. A little dab is used to keep a booklet closed during mailing and can also be used to attach dimensional products like credit cards to a brochure. Don’t be grossed out when a salesperson offers to send you samples. 

Ream – This means 500 sheets of paper. Period. No further explanation needed. Although, this could also be a threat from the CSR if you don’t include bleeds in your job.

Flush – Flush left and flush right are two different ways of aligning text on a page.


The opposite of flush is runaround. This is a type of text treatment that allows lines of text to follow the contours of a graphic.

Flush also is a term that is used in the printing industry to describe the alignment of two elements. For example, “these two graphics are flush with each other”, meaning that they align perfectly.

The word flush is never used to describe the financial condition of most printing companies these days.

Gutter - The inside margins or blank space between two facing pages is the gutter. For some types of binding, extra space must be added. The phrase “stay out of the gutter” simply means to keep the area blank.

Signature – The three most important signatures in a printing company are when an order is signed, a proof is signed for approval and a signed check is received as payment for a job. The other time the word signature is used is to designate a large sheet of paper that contains multiple pages and is then folded into a smaller size to form a book.

Generally, a signature will contain 4, 8, 16 or 32 pages. Multiple signatures can be assembled to form a book that contains many pages. For example, a book that contains 64 pages may be constructed with 8 pages signatures, 16 page signatures or 32 page signatures. The deciding factor is the maximum size of the sheet of paper that the press can handle.

Imposition – In ordinary life, this describes when your in-laws are staying over at your house for the holidays. In the printing industry, this describes the positioning of pages onto a large sheet of paper. A chief reason for imposing a job is for efficiency. For example, if a project has 10 different business cards and a quantity of 1000 each, there are two options for production. Option number one is to repeat the same card 10 times on an 8.5 x 11 sheet and run 100 sheets of each card. Or, the 10 different cards can be placed on one 8.5 x 11 sheet and printed 1000 times.


Many times to maximize the real estate of a large press sheet, different jobs are imposed and sufficient quantities are run to satisfy the minimum quantity. It used to be an incredibly complex task to calculate these different scenarios. It’s relatively easy now by using special imposition software.

The other time that imposition becomes important is when a multi page book is being produced. Presses are classified as being able to print 2, 4, 8 or 16 pages onto a sheet of paper. These large sheets are folded into signatures and then bound in a variety of different ways. To maximize the efficiency of using the largest sheet available, there may be pages contained on the signature that are not printed and are blank. For example, a book that has 15 printed pages may contain 1 page that is blank since a signature always contains an even number of pages.

Most government publications will include the phrase “This page intentionally left blank” to dispel any type of conspiracy theories on what should have been printed on the blank page.

Hickey – A defect in print. Usually appears as a tiny white spot or sometimes will appear as a circle in a solid area of an image. When the solid areas of your print job looks like it has the measles, there are hickies and if there are enough of them, it may be a good reason to reject the job. Cleanliness in the pressroom is very important.

There have been horror stories of hickies appearing on a high quality job, especially in solid black areas. To save the job, the printer armed everyone in the shop with fine tip black sharpie markers and dabbed the hickie to make it disappear. Imagine doing that for 20,000 covers of an annual report.

This can also occur with digital presses and is a sign that the press needs a good cleaning on the inside. It is caused by loose fragments of paper dust inside the press.

Creep – This term generally refers to the practical joker that resides in the prepress department. When a book is being printed and will be saddle stitched, the folded signatures are inserted into each other. This causes a buildup of paper thickness at the spine and will cause the pages to uniformly move, or creep, from the center of the book towards the front and back covers.

This effect is exaggerated when a thick paper is used. To overcome this effect, the pages are slightly repositioned towards the center, with the pages closest to the fold moving the most. The project you submit doesn’t have to include this repositioning of every page, software that is used in prepress or built into most digital printers can accomplish this automatically. A tip to help this process is to not position page numbers close to the edge.

Orphan / Widow – An orphan or widow is that one word or line of text that flows onto the next page or into an adjacent column, or in the worst case, just disappears. It really looks unprofessional. And you may be asking yourself, how does this happen? The most common reason is that even though it looked good on your monitor or printed proof, a font substitution may have occurred. There are dozens of variations of Times fonts from different vendors. And if you are supplying original InDesign source files, you must include the fonts you used to create the job. If you used Times from vendor “A” and your printer uses Times from vendor “B”, there may a minute difference between the two that over the course of 4 pages of text, it may be just enough that it causes one additional line of text to appear, resulting in a widow.

Either supply the font you used to the printer or create a PDF file and submit that to the printer. And for goodness sakes, when the printer sends you proofs, go over them carefully to make sure that the text is all there.  

RIP – Usually, when a job is delayed, the salesperson will say that the job is still ripping. Or even worse they’ll say that your job choked their rip. The raster image processor (RIP) is the computer that takes all of the text, graphics, and color information in your job and converts it into a format that can be printed directly to a digital press or can be used to make plates for an offset press. The RIP is typically the most powerful computer in the printing company and it’s really amazing the amount of work it must do.

These are some of the most common and misunderstood terms in the printing world. And to quote an old seer, there is no such thing as a dumb question. If you’re not one hundred percent sure of what you’re being told or what they’re asking you to do, ask for clarification. The people that are throwing these words at you were in your shoes too at one point in their career. They want to help you understand since it can make a job flow a lot more smoothly through production and delivered to you on time and on budget.

Intellective Solutions can help you or your employees navigate through the printing industry world through our Intellective Essentials of Print Training Programs. Give us a call or email.

When to Train College New Hire Salespeople

We train a large number of salespeople within the graphic communications market. We still see companies formally training new salespeople in classroom settings on the very first day that they report. This is a common practice because most companies want to get salespeople out there and start selling as quickly as possible.

New College Hires Must Earn Training

Based on our experience, the traditional thinking may need to be adjusted. There has been change in the attitude from many coming out of school. Though we still see a great amount of talent and potential, many graduates view corporate education and training as an entitlement.

The percentage of students living at home, hustling, working a part time job and studying through the night to graduate college is not large. Consequently, many new college graduates expect training but don’t really value it.

Many recent graduates fail in their first year of sales and the training investment is also lost as well. Based on our experience, we have found it is a better practice to make new hires earn training. This way the employer will know within a few weeks if they made the right hiring decision.

How to Manage New Hire Sales Training

We recommend giving new hires tasks that they need to accomplish BEFORE they enter into a high value and high cost formal sales training program. For instance, have them work and produce in a production capacity for a week. Then have the current employees in that area evaluate the salesperson on work ethic, timeliness, ability to take constructive criticism, confidence, quality of work etc.

Another example would have new hires prepare a company presentation. Then have the salesperson present it to the team. Check for quality, attire, writing skills, confidence and persuasiveness. If they can’t do this well, they will not sell.

If the new hire fails in deliver outstanding results in these endeavors, make them do it over again or remove them from the team. Under no circumstances, should you let them go through any costly formal sales skills, product or industry training program without demonstrating they can deliver results first.

As a result, salespeople will be much more motivated in their formal training when they get it and management will have an employee who is much more likely to succeed.

Is Your Printing Company Hiring?

Whether you are a printing company, in plant or agency that is hiring or training new employees, there is a great resource available to help with the process.

Recently, The Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GAERF) along with Intellective Solutions developed the Graphic Communications Skills Competencies (GCSC) in six key areas commonly found within the printing industry