Print producer Marko Hanecke and author Laura-Linda Kloep have created a new crime genre: Print & Crime. With their first book they prove: The graphic arts industry is murderously exciting. And in conversation Marko Hanecke tops it off and claims that online print is deadly boring.
There are plenty of crime stories. As booklets, crime novels, TV programs, crime films, theatre plays or radio plays – and now also as a book with character. Far away from brutal murder and manslaughter, but still with a crime to be solved. And the plot is set in our industry. Extraordinary!
Klaus-Peter Nicolay: Hello Marko, I know you as a producer and blogger. Now you and your partner have published a crime novel that takes place in the printing industry. Tell me more.
Marko Hanecke: Sure, I will. It is our debut work, and it is called “A Study in Magenta”. The main characters are the eccentric print expert Schorsch Hesse and his assistant, the media designer Dr. Jan Winter. Hesse is a print expert and specialist in print forensics. With this talent he solves the delicate cases of our industry. In the first case, print shop owner Ludwig van Dyke receives mysterious greeting cards threatening “revenge”, sender unknown. Hesse and Winter are assigned to find out who is behind the cards. A short time later, van Dyke is dead. Was it murder?
Hesse’s razor-sharp analysis leads the two print detectives to a noble handmade paper, a printing error caused by a damaged screen-printing blade, to students of the printing and media technology, print shop employees, grumpy workshop managers, influential association employees and many other players in the graphic arts industry. Oh yes, there is also Iggy Pop’s cockatoo. He also plays a role in this story.
Klaus-Peter Nicolay: That sounds very mysterious. How did you come up with such an idea?
Marko Hanecke: My partner and I thought about how to use the Corona crisis period together and creatively. Laura is a passionate crime reader; I am a passionate print producer. The idea of creating something new out of these two preferences was obvious. Laura wrote the crime novel; I was there to advise her. She adores the novels of Arthur Conan Doyle, which is why the print detectives Schorsch Hesse and Dr. Jan Winter investigate in the manner of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. The similarities to the naming of the protagonists are therefore just as intentional as the allusion to the novel “A Study in Scarlet”, in which Sherlock Holmes made his debut. I advised the author on the content, and I was also responsible for the conceptional, printing and bookbinding implementation.
Klaus-Peter Nicolay: As I would expect from you, you didn’t just print any booklet, but a hardcover book that is quite out of the ordinary, even compared to classic books. Tell us about the technical implementation.
Marko Hanecke: Of course, a simple standard was out of question for me. Story and technical realization are interwoven. The book comes with a true reproduction of the mysterious card. Readers can use it to investigate while reading. In addition, there are subtle register inaccuracies at various points in the text that indicate the technical printing realization of the story.
We have here a stiff brochure with a cover made of 2.5-millimeter fiberboard, an open thread stitching with magenta threads, rounded corners and a bleed edge print. Three printing processes are combined in this book: screen printing, digital printing and offset printing. Design, product and story culminate in a unique, coherent overall experience.
I also focused on the reading pleasure and comfort during the development. For example, the impact is excellent and the whole book is a haptic sensation. I hope many will think differently about book design after reading it.
Klaus-Peter Nicolay: I have already read the book, the reading comfort is really great, and the layout of the book is absolutely successful, but at the same time it is a really complex printing job. You didn’t have it printed at an online print shop, did you?
Marko Hanecke: No, it was produced classically, designed and typeset at a prepress company and produced in a conventional print shop. Nothing was left to chance or a standard during the development. But your question is a real opportunity for my thesis on where the journey in online printing should go.
Klaus-Peter Nicolay: And what is it? I am curious.
Marko Hanecke: I think the whole standardization of ordinary print products leads to a dead end, because it robs us of the diverse possibilities we are capable of producing.
Onliners provide only a tiny fraction of all feasible options. Unfortunately, this is perceived differently by most customers. Print buyers are now mainly oriented towards the print products offered online – as if there were nothing else. The diversity of production technology is severely curtailed, and potentials remain unused. I think this is a dangerous development.
Klaus-Peter Nicolay: That may be true. But online printers conduct e-commerce. That only works with standardized products. For everything else, thank goodness, there is still the variety of printers.
Marko Hanecke: But more unusual products can also be standardized or configured. What I observe is that there is less and less print expertise in the market. The orientation towards what online printers offer is a lived reality and, in my opinion, is based on precisely this lack of expertise. Time, cost pressure and the turn to digital are further drivers of this development.
What remains, however, is the desire for products that stand out in the sea of publications. We should therefore urgently think about how we can make special print products accessible to those who have little knowledge and experience. Then price will no longer be the decisive criterion.
The danger I see is that print devalues itself through arbitrariness, because the product attractiveness decreases and consequently the success rates in the advertising environment decrease. Just because something is printed, it does not mean that it is attractively differentiated from digital content. The special must become the standard!
Klaus-Peter Nicolay: So, what can an online printer do to attract you as a customer?
Marko Hanecke: In the shops, I miss a much greater manufacturing range that allows a completely freely configurable product with a wide variety of substrates, printing techniques, finishes and further processing. The software checks whether the configuration is technically feasible, provides custom-fit templates and assistance with print data creation. A preview that shows how the product will look finalizes the offer. In the end, I have a completely individual print product, a concrete price, a defined production time, the option to order a dummy and other useful features and services.
Klaus-Peter Nicolay: But then you have – no doubt software-supported – exactly what we have now. This diversity can perhaps be achieved by specialists among individual printers, but not by industrial printers.
Marko Hanecke: This is exactly where I see a huge opportunity for specialized companies in our industry. It doesn’t always have to be the big players that drive innovation. Other industries have long since solved the problem of highly individualized production. And where do we stand with online printing? I can hardly get a flyer with rounded corners online. Absurd! We still have a lot of room for improvement.
Klaus-Peter Nicolay: Wait a minute. Especially with online printers, I get individualized products in the form of mass customization.
Marko Hanecke: Yes, photo books, coffee mugs and fun articles. But not complex print products in larger and affordable numbers. Like our book, for example. One could argue that what happens on the product level with the online companies is deadly boring.
Klaus-Peter Nicolay: Good transition, but we’ll continue the discussion! Back to the book. You talked about a first book. What are the further plans?
Marko Hanecke: We are dedicating at least one trilogy to the print detectives. The second part, which will be even better in terms of printing technology, is already being planned. We also give Schorsch Hesse and Dr. Jan Winter a voice on Printelligent.de. There they talk about controversial topics in our industry in the column “grey scales”. A study in magenta.
The first case for Hesse & Winter. 14 x 20 cm, 192 pages. Reading sample and order at Printelligent.de.