A topic-specific question, a handful of creative (IT) minds and 24 to 48 hours of time: The principle of a hackathon is simple. And no, it has nothing to do with criminal activity. The combination of the words “hacking” and “marathon” is a collaborative software and hardware development event that produces innovative solutions to concrete problems. The Belgian Innovation Center for Graphic Communication VIGC hosted a Graphic Arts Hackathon at the end of 2021. Would the format also be worthwhile for Germany?
To put it bluntly right from the start: Yes, a hackathon for the printing industry would be a good idea. After all, fresh ideas and unconventional approaches have never hurt any industry. It’s not without reason that hackathons have long since been held not just in the software world, but in a wide variety of areas. In Baden-Württemberg, for example, a hackathon spanning several days is taking place in the cultural scene in May. So why not in the graphic arts industry as well?
The Belgian Innovation Center for Graphic Communication VIGC recently proved that this can work. Supported by the management and tax consulting firm, EY, the European umbrella organization of the printing industry, Intergraf, and the paper manufacturer, Sappi, and backed by numerous strategic partners from the manufacturer and supplier side, the Graphic Arts Hackathon was held for the second time. According to the organizers, it aims to “push the boundaries and challenge creative entrepreneurs to present new techniques, services and business models for the graphic arts industry.”
Participants in the Graphic Arts Hackathon were invited to choose one of the challenges or questions for “their” project, which were divided into six categories: Commercial Printing, Packaging Printing, Label Printing, Print in Marketing, Industrial Printing and Publishing. The questions focused on added value (for brand owners and service providers), digital and measurable methods in marketing, rethinking the industry, or hybrid added value for publishers, to name just a few examples. The second installment of the Graphic Arts Hackathon attracted more than 100 participants from various countries, who came together in a total of 16 teams and developed project plans during the event. The jury was made up of seven industry experts from different European countries. And the winners? They developed some very interesting concepts.
First place went to a six-person startup led by founder Julie Dumoulin from Belgium. “Opinry”, as the project is called, is a platform that packaging designers and development departments can use to analyze their packaging design and optimize it according to their target group, including alternative suggestions. As such, the platform/solution takes on the counterpart in situations where companies lack an expert and independent opinion on design and at the same time need to make quick decisions. “Their project,” explains VIGC CEO Jos Steutelings, “fills a gap in the market by offering an option that combines data-driven design with creativity.”
Following in second and third place were the “Shiprz” and “Scan the Profile” projects. While the former aims to provide a full-service solution with color transpromotional labels and a sponsorship approach for free shipping options for end customers, the “Scan the Profile” project focused on developing a cloud service that uses spectral scans of printed samples to create a new color profile. The project is thus close to the daily business of folding carton and label printers, because it is not uncommon for requests to be made for post-production runs for which there are no longer any print data, but only a few physical samples. The aim here is, of course, to achieve exactly the same quality and appearance as the original sample.
The next few months will show what actually becomes of the award-winning projects in the end. But the concepts are there and on the table. Now it’s up to all the participants in the event and the industry to make the most of them.