One of the committees that I’m currently serving on has been charged with coming up with an end of year event display event for School of Print Students. This type of event, in theme, if not form, is pretty common across the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. For example, each year all the students and faculty members in the film department gather together and watch every student’s final project. Likewise most of the other arts have gallery exhibitions or studio walk throughs.

All of the above focus on an end product. But what is the end product of print? It’s easy to focus on the created artifact. But that often is reduced to concerns about the item’s graphic design. That focus is completely inappropriate for printing students – if for no other reasons that they are not training to be graphic designers. Arguably, the final products could be evaluated on choice of media and production aspects, but many of these factors are controlled by the assignments.

Frank Cost noted these problems with judging print production at the beginning of the chapter “The value of print” in his book The New Medium of Print (Cost, The New Medium of Print, 2005: pp95-7).  Cost reminds us that most printing industry awards are based on the quality of the final project rather than intangibles such as “was the job delivered on time? Was the customer please with the service? Did the product deliver the anticipated value to the customer?” (Cost: p95).

Cost goes on to suggest that while print quality is important, it’s also assumed. Thus, companies differentiate themselves on those other vectors. Likewise, our students are judged on far more vectors than simply “did the job print” and “is it pretty?” The challenge that we face is choosing a method of display that brings those intangibles to light.

The benefit, pedagogically, is that finding a method to display the intangibles serves to make the students more aware of their existence – that, as Martha says, “is a good thing.” The question is, what method is best?