Last updateWed, 17 Jul 2024 6pm

How a Graphic Communication OEM Is Also in the Communication Business

By Harvey R. Levenson, Ph. D., Professor Emeritus, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, California

Typically, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) provide equipment installations and technical support as their sole services to customers. In the graphic communication industry, the customer base includes printers, publishers, packaging companies, and related service providers, as well as content creators such as advertising agencies, design studios, and companies that produce products and create content for their own in-plant printing facilities. Examples of the latter are insurance companies, utilities, healthcare providers, food manufacturers, government agencies, and schools, to name just a few.

Interestingly, every one of these OEM customers relies on clear and effective communication via print. However, very few OEMs combine communication strategies to help maximize the effectiveness of their technology, hardware, and software, in meeting the needs of their customers. One does it most effectually through the offering of technology and intellectual products geared to the communication needs and approaches of the 21st Century—Ricoh.
Through the metaphor, “Empowering Digital Workplaces,” Ricoh’s approach to doing business is to “Improve workplaces using innovative technologies and services enabling individuals to work smarter.” This includes, among others, a three-prong approach available to customers:
1) Digital Printing Hardware and Software
2) A Digital Literacy Curriculum for Education and Training
3) Augmented Reality (AR) to Enhance the Communication Effectiveness of Printed Products
Digital Printing Hardware and Software
For years, Ricoh has been a leading provider of digital printing systems that has furthered the technologies of on-demand, variable data, and just-in-time printing. Through completely digital workflows, Ricoh hardware and software has compressed the time from content creation to printing and finishing. So, one might ask: “Why this is unique? Many other digital printing OEMs do the same thing!” Well, this is true. However, Ricoh provides a support package that addresses helping its present and prospective customers not only use its technology, but also understand it as well though a Digital Literacy Curriculum. Further, Ricoh also offers an Augmented Reality-like application, “Clickable Paper,” to expand the scope of printing into multimedia, including video and speech. The latter two applications, developed through a partnership with the Graphic Communication Department of Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, California, clearly places Ricoh not only as a major OEM to the printing industry, but also places the company in the communication business.
Digital Literacy Curriculum for Education and Training
Through a partnership with Cal Poly that started in 2005 entitled, Literacy Through Media: Educating the World’s Youth, this program expanded into an offering to any organization or person wanting to better understand the technologies and benefits of digital printing. This was one example of Ricoh’s commitment to advocating for industry growth and global community service, demonstrating the company’s sensitivity to educating the youth and adults of the world interested in graphic communication on the virtues and values of digital communication. The initiative was based on the premise that digital applications are for everyone—young, middle aged, senior citizens, people of all occupations, interests, and walks of life—the professional, the hobby enthusiast, the artist, the musician, the medical professional, the engineer, the architect, the business person, the stay-at-home parent, the traveler, etc.
At Cal Poly, this is also called Expressive Technologies, meaning that the application of digital technology today is for anyone expressing anything to anyone, at anytime, on any device—desktop, laptop, tablet, cell phone, or any handheld device providing communication imaging—static, motion, and sound. From the age of toddler to the oldest senior citizens, digital communication is a way of life and will become more so in the future for developed and developing nations.
With this premise firmly grounded worldwide, Ricoh proposed taking the initiative to develop curricula, K-12 through college, that introduces nearly every facet of Expressive Technologies to the youth of the world as a community service. Realizing that communication is the key to favorable human relations, productive commerce, human understanding, tolerance, consideration of others, and overall improved quality of life, Ricoh has made educating the world’s community a priority on creative, efficient, thoughtful, and meaningful communication.
Borrowing from Apple’s expression that its technology is the “intersection of technology and the liberal arts,” through the Digital Literacy Curriculum, Ricoh and Cal Poly introduced digital communication as the thread to link people and nations in expressive ways as never before.
Partnering with the Graphic Communication Institute at Cal Poly, the Graphic Communication Department’s research, testing, product evaluation, and industry training arm, Ricoh invested in education as the cornerstone for developing a generation of youth and adults that will find new ways of solving old problems while providing the opportunities for global quality and life improvements. The education initiative explores nearly every avenue of digital communication as a communication vehicle ranging from serving the education of youth to enhancing an understanding of the needs of the world’s institutions—education, law, family, religion, the sciences, the humanities, the performing arts, business and commerce, architecture, engineering, agriculture, and so on.
The objectives of the Digital Literacy Curriculum are:
1. Provide schools, companies, and other organizations with ready to implement digital communication education and training curricula.
2. Enable hands-on, “learning by doing,” by using the tools of Expressive Technologies to create communication media—art, books, posters, fliers, brochures, magazines, music, movies, and related media.
3. Provide services that link Ricoh and Cal Poly to schools and other organizations around the world to assist with implementation.
4. Prepare students, young and adult learners, with the skills necessary for careers in communication technology.
5. Leverage Expressive Technologies output for more effective communication and global quality of life improvements.
The program assumes that digital literacy in communication is needed by anyone in any discipline wanting to communicate effectively in the 21st century. The principles taught include but are not limited to basic design principles; working effectively with type; understanding color, both the technical and aesthetic aspects; creating compelling photos through using proper use of composition, lighting, and image editing software; file management; and so on.
Regardless of the delivery method used, the Digital Literacy Through Media curricula include printed workbooks with Ricoh offering a centralized service to schools for workbooks and related printed material. Ricoh also offers curriculum VDP printing services for schools and related organizations not owning the required hardware or software.
The outcomes of the program are:
1. Understanding the technologies and all of their components that define Expressive Technologies.
2. Understanding principles of graphic design and typography as modes of communication in different cultures.
3. Understanding the theories and concepts behind digital communication technologies and how to bring them to practices.
4. Knowing how to operate the systems used for digital communication creation, input, output, finishing, and distribution across communication channels.
5. Knowing how to manage workflow in support of digital document presentation (start to finish).
a) Being able to manipulate files and manage color in prep for digital presentation.
b) Understanding color management – computer-to-print.
c) Managing web-to-print and print-to-web workflows.
d) Creating variable data documents.
e) Designing documents for digital printing, on-line, and mobile presentation.
f) Designing and producing multimedia documents using still images, motion, and sound.
6. Understanding issues of cost related to creating, production, and distribution.
a) Art and copy preparation
b) File building
c) Electronic pre-press
d) Pre-media
e) Marketing
f) Sales
g) Production
h) Creation of in-plant print centers vs. out-sourcing document production
i) Shipping
j) Consumables
k) Customer service
l) Quality
7. Knowing how to run a multi-channel marketing campaign through understanding the role of social media in Expressive Technologies, communication, and marketing processes.
8. Working with applications that support digital document presentation.
a) Adobe Creative Suite
b) Multimedia applications
c) Website development
9. Understanding concepts of effective and thoughtful communication, and career opportunities.
There are five curriculum modules. Each module, done in sequence, takes approximately 50 minutes to complete from start to finish. They include:
1. Introduction to designing effective digital media
This introduces the types of digital media to be covered and the basic design principles that apply to creating these and other types of effective digital media. Principles such as contrast, alignment, balance, repetition, proximity, and white space are described. Participants are presented with sample media that lacks the use of good design principles and are asked to re-design them. Following these exercises, examples of effective re-design solutions are presented. This module does not require that specific software programs be used. The re-designs can be accomplished using a variety of software tools, or simply with a pencil and paper.
2. Best practices for using type in digital communication
This covers effective use of type in digital media. General principles such as typeface selection, readability, proper letterspacing, leading, alignment, and type contrast are described. Participants are asked to re-design the type in sample media that lacks the use of best practices for typographic design; following these exercises, examples of effective re-design solutions are presented. The module does not require that any specific software programs be used. Again, the re-designs can be accomplished using a variety of software tools, or simply with a pencil and paper.
3. Basics of color in digital media
This introduces the principles of color theory that apply to creating a variety of types of digital media. Principles such as additive color, subtractive color, hue, saturation, value, color matching, color harmony, and color contrast are described. Participants are asked to make color decisions for sample media. Following these exercises potential solutions are presented. The color decisions can be accomplished using a variety of software tools.
4. Introduction to personalized marketing (including database fundamentals)
This introduces the basic principles of personalized marketing and its application to digital media. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and its application to marketing are covered. Basic database principles are presented along with examples of how these can be applied to personalized marketing. Participants are presented with a case study using the fictitious company Mooncents Coffee (also used in the Ricoh white paper, Multi-Channel Marketing), and are asked to develop a personalized marketing campaign; potential solutions are presented.
5. Personalized printing
This introduces the use of personalized printing and the basic steps in creating it. The advantages of personalized printing, transparent personalization, data mining and cleansing, designing for the longest record, proofing, and the incorporation of photos in personalized printing are described. Participants are asked to create a plan, from the concept of a personalized mailer for Mooncents Coffee to the finished printed products. A potential solution is presented at the end of the module. The module does not require that any specific software programs be used by participants.
Augmented Reality (AR) to Enhance the
Communication Effectiveness of Printed Products
Ricoh’s “Clickable Paper” pilot program was announced at Graph Expo in Chicago in 2012. The program encouraged publications and universities to leverage the next-generation cross-media applications to enable access to rich media content with one click. This was Ricoh’s next step in the “Clickable Paper” evolution, and a key component of the company’s “Print and Beyond” initiative at the time. Designed to empower users to leverage a wide array of rich media, the “Clickable Paper” service made it possible for Ricoh’s pilot customers’ users to access content such as social networks, websites, e- commerce sites and video clips by simply pointing and clicking a smartphone or tablet at any Clickable Paper-enabled printed surface.
Since 2012, “Clickable Paper” has been sought by commercial printers, publishers, and universities to extend the appeal of the printed word by integrating offline and online content. The 2012 pilot program was designed to engage early adopters in the further development of the application. Initial tests and evaluations of “Clickable Paper” was carrier out at Cal Poly in February 2013.
Assessment of Ricoh’s “Clickable Paper”
The marketing of Ricoh’s “Clickable Paper” had to focus on the benefits of this product over the likes of Quick Response (QR) codes, embedded watermarks (Digimarc) and so on. QR codes have the disadvantage of an unsightly symbol. Embedded watermarks require a complex downloading of the apps and camera sensitivity to focus, distance, and angle is needed for the product to work properly. “Clickable Paper” has several distinct advantages over similar products, including:
• The quality of its virtual search tool provides faster and more accurate results.
• The app can be “branded” by its program developer.
• Multiple hotspots per page and multiple rich media results per hotspot can be provided.
• Scan results can be updated at any time, allowing for maximum flexibility for content delivery.
• Already printed materials may be used for authoring and assigning hotspots.
The researchers at Cal Poly recommended that Ricoh intellectualize the value and need for “Clickable Paper,” and market the product in a way that it is intuitively recognized by businesses and the general public as being positive and needed. It was pointed out that the capability must be easy to access and use, and there must be a “common language” and understanding between the concept and the user.
The advocacy of this latter point dates as far back as Aristotle who taught in his publication, Rhetoric, that communication can be organized into three categories: The sender, the receiver, and the listener. A more modern interpretation was presented by Wilber Schramm’s highly lauded Model for Effective Communication (1954). Schramm taught that there must be a common field of experience, at least partially, between the sender and receiver of communication. Today, this is true regardless of the mode or medium of the communication used. There is always encoding and decoding involved.

In modern communication technologies and applications, such as “Clickable Paper,” the teachings of Aristotle and Schramm are universal and apply today. It does not matter if communication is oral and face-to-face, via telecommunication, device-to-person, person-to-device, or from device-to-device. An overlapping “field of experience” from sender to receiver of a message, even partially, is essential for the communication to be effective and complete. Does Ricoh’s “Clickable Paper” provide this common communication experience?
Cal Poly’s Professor Lorraine Donegan raised the question in the early days of evaluation, “I wonder how Ricoh plans to market ‘Clickable Paper’ as a ‘technology’ as opposed to a ‘product?’ For instance, if a printed piece has a QR code, most viewers recognize this as a method of connectivity to the product/event/publication, and they can use their smart phones along with their QR code app (there are many to choose from) to connect to the product or event for more info.”
Professor Donegan raised the additional question: “How will a viewer know they can use the ‘Clickable Paper’ app to connect with the product/event/publication?” Ricoh's challenge was to make the “Clickable Paper” logo so common, familiar, recognizable...such as a QR code...so when the viewer sees the logo they know they need to pull out their smart phone and use their “Clickable Paper” app to connect to the event or find out more info about the product. Hence, relating professor Donegan’s point to the communication theories of Aristotle and Schramm, “Clickable Paper” is a communication device and elevates Ricoh beyond its role as a major international OEM to that of as company in the business of communication.
Cal Poly’s tests and evaluations of Ricoh’s “Clickable Paper” included recommendations on making the process holistic, intuitive, and spontaneous, such as driving a car—everyone knows how to do it regardless of make and model. The car rental industry has demonstrated this. Recommendations included identifying industries and groups of the public to send links for downloading. Making it user-friendly and pleasant so “opt outs” would be minimized. A future initiative would be working with smart phone providers to include the “Clickable Paper” app on their products because wide-range us is expected among Content Creators and Service Providers including Content Creators such as advertising agencies, marketing services, design studios, printer buyers, and web marketers; and Service Providers such as printers, packagers, publishers, and web developers.
There is also a long list of vertical markets that may be interested in the “Clickable Paper” product. For example, packaging vertical markets include pharmaceuticals/healthcare, food and beverage, cosmetics, electronics, and home appliances. Universities include prospective students, present students, parents, alumni, university friends, and donor prospects. Other vertical markets include automotive, insurance, financial, and real estate.
There are also information security applications for “Clickable Paper.” For example, for pharmaceuticals there are possibilities for identifying product with customer; dosage recommendation; drug interactions (knowing what other medications the customer is taking); ingredients of medication; possible side effects; and so on. In financial markets, there are possibilities related to personal portfolios; personal stock fluctuations; special offers; interest offerings; balance transfers; credit scores; and so on.
And, how does “Clickable Paper” fit into the “value proposition” for a printed product? It does so in print-to-web; web-to-print; response possibilities (the consumer or customer can respond back to advertiser, marketer, or content creator); Augmented Reality; and provide rewards to users (discounts, coupons, announcements of flash sales or special events, etc.). Additionally, Ricoh can provide “Clickable Paper” as a value-add for its hardware customers; license the technology to others; or develop a business model that allows customers to bundle the technology with consumable/hardware sales.
A Pioneering Project—A New Kind of Book
Supporting Ricoh’s Digital Literacy Curriculum is the recent publication of the book, Introduction to Graphic Communication, 2nd Edition, by this writer (Harvey R. Levenson), co-authored by John Parsons, and published by IntuIdeas with Ricoh’s support. (I am a Cal Poly Professor Emeritus and former Department Head of the Graphic Communication Department. John Parsons is the former Editorial Director of The Seybold Report.)
This work is the first textbook to use Ricoh’s “Clickable Paper” technology and, in this writer’s opinion, takes the technology to a new level. It is not an ordinary book, but a printed “multi-book” whereby the book communicates with the reader via video and sound, and the reader can communicate back to the book via social media, chat groups, etc. This is not an e-book. This is a printed book using Ricoh’s free CP Clicker app, downloadable from any online app store. By simply scanning a page or image using a smartphone or tablet, the reader gains access to industry experts explaining a topic covered in the printed book, video demonstrations, or supplemental reading and web resources.
The 1st edition of Introduction to Graphic Communication was published in 2007, and the technology of the field has changed tremendously over the years. With pressure mounting to update the book, we decided that we didn't want the update to be like any book. We wanted it to be unique and different. Having recalled working previously with Ricoh at Cal Poly in assessing the “Clickable Paper” application, we determined that a logical application would be for a book, thereby providing a medium that appealed to different learning styles—reading, seeing, and hearing. We also realized that the “Clickable Paper” product, being a physical printed book on paper, would appeal to those who like the look and feel of a real book.
The book frames the discussion of graphic communication in the context of historic, and often disruptive change. It provides a substantial overview of print technology—how text and images are reproduced on paper and other materials, and outlines the business framework, best practices, and emerging standards of graphic communication, a unique and sometimes confusing industry.
Printing is a process like no other. From its historic origins to the latest innovation, the act of putting ink or toner on a substrate is a fascinating process—and essential to nearly every human activity. Introduction to Graphic Communication is intended for college and university students in graphic arts programs focused on printing and print business management. It is also suited to high school and vocational students in similar programs. The book is also designed for industry internal training, and for designers, print buyers, and other professionals who need to better understand the complex world of print.
Much More Than a Book
This is the first textbook to use Ricoh’s “Clickable Paper” and Viddler’s secure learning portal. It provides readers with interactive video content, as well as teacher-student and peer-to-peer interaction, and more, using Internet-connected mobile devices. Desktop computer users also can access the book’s interactive content, via a short URL that accesses content via the Ricoh “cloud” and its patented image recognition technology.
The videos for this book are not hosted on YouTube. Instead, they are on a secure, ad-free video learning portal. Viddler adds advanced, interactive capabilities to video, including internal navigation, questions, and links to other, related content. The videos chosen for the book can be freely accessed by any reader. Schools or companies that want to add additional, private video content can do so in a custom version of the Viddler portal.
The interactive video is only the beginning. Users of the book will have access to public discussion groups on LinkedIn, live chat (text, voice, and video) on Slack, and on curated references on the Web. Other learner interactions are in the planning stage, including podcasts and private discussion groups. Additionally, this book is an attempt to blend the enduring and haptic (tactile) properties of print with the power and flexibility of digital media into a single learning experience.
We will be working with schools and industry groups to develop this idea further, including tie-ins to existing online learning systems.
The Whole Book or Separate Chapters
Introduction to Graphic Communication was written to provide a thorough, practical overview of the printing and graphics industry. However, individual chapter booklets are available for programs focused on specific topics as supplement to existing curricula. However, schools and training programs can also have their own, private portal, with additional, student-generated content, enhanced learning and interactivity features, and integration with existing systems.
The Table of Contents for the book is attached as Appendix A. Additional information about the book can be found at www.igcbook.com
Ricoh has demonstrated how an OEM of sophisticated technology can also be the provider of services that impact maximizing the benefits of hardware and software in such a way that facilitates and improves human communication. The key word today that equally applies to humans and machines is “expressive.” The large body of research in technology today is in building machines that emulate the human thought process, and we are getting close. Indeed, as early as in 1999, Neil Gershenfeld of MIT’s Media Lab published a book entitled, When Things Start to Think. Cal Poly’s programs in Expressive Technologies build on this, and the integration Ricoh’s technologies, Digital Literacy Curriculum, and “Clickable Paper” is a practical application.



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