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A refresh for the print awards

Wednesday, 23 May 2018
By James Cryer

James Cryer has a long history with printing.

I have attended a lot of print awards – maybe too many. I’m probably like anyone who boasts about how many events they’ve attended. It may say more about the person than the event. Yes, I’m getting old and cranky.

Last night I attended the latest iteration of the NSW PICA’s and which heralded the re-birth of this state’s awards after an absence of several years. PICA is a ghastly word which I hope will soon be consigned to the dustbin of history.
The venue was an absolutely inspired choice! Whoever thought of it is guilty of creative thinking of the first order. A beautiful old colonial building was the backdrop, located in the very cradle civilisation: Parramatta. And the building? was our very own Old Government House, built back in 1799. What a fitting venue: one could almost hear echoes of Australia’s first printing press being fired up by convicted felon, George Howe, as he cranked out the first editions of The Sydney Gazette in 1803. Given the bunch of undesirables gathered in this intimate setting, some people may say ”nothing’s changed”.
So full marks to the setting.
The organisers also addressed that other bane of print awards, the interminably long presentations, which seem go on for hours. Not last night where they were short and sweet and all over in 20 minutes.
Now this brings us to the pointy end. These events have become the bane of our lives. The print awards, in all their various manifestations, are the events we love to hate. Like some of our partners, we can’t live with ’em and we can’t live without ’em. We’ve never got the formula just right.
I think last night’s NSW awards are a start in the right direction. (I refuse to call them PICAs, as there is very little ”craft” left in our industry so why pretend there is? And a piker is someone who gives up easily – so why name an awards program after a loser?)
So without further ado, let me toss a few thoughts into the mix.
  •  The actual categories are in dire need of a facelift. A lot of them are rewarding us for getting up in the morning. Leaflets? Flyers? Brochures? You are kidding. Are we really giving away gold medals for doing our job? If we can’t print a decent leaflet by now we should give the game away. Rewarding ‘good leaflet printing’ is an insult to our true capabilities.
  •  There should be greater emphasis on creativity or innovation or collaboration with multiple stakeholders, or customer satisfaction. Not just boring old print quality!
  • Offset and digital should be separated. It’s crazy tossing them into the same category. They’re not better or worse but they are different. It’s as silly as trying to compare a jet aircraft to a propeller-driven one. Each process, including inkjet, has its own unique properties and should be given the chance to compete like-with-like, not all hurled into one bucket.
  • All the web-offset categories seem to have disappeared. I hope our newest PIAA board member from Spotpress Sydney, producers of catalogs and magazines is happy with that?
  •  There should be more recognition of a company’s size. I’d get rid of gold,silver, bronze, and replace them with small, medium, large. That way you’re competing against similar-sized companies across all categories and encouraging  more entrants.
  •  I’d  stop one entry competing in more than two categories. It was embarrassing to see certain entries getting multiple gongs, not because they weren’t worthy, but we should be spreading the magic dust as widely as possible to encourage more entries. This was the one negative of the event, that so many awards were concentrated in the hands of so few winners. This is not to condemn them, it’s not their fault. But the sad impression is that there were very few entrants in the first place.
On a positive note! Congratulations to the PIAA team for starting with a fresh, new look. We haven’t got the formula right just yet, but it’s a start. More attention needs to be given to creating the right categories – for they are the ingredients of the cake.
The whole notion of a national print awards program has a great future, if only we can throw off the legacy of the last 25-odd years where the winner was decided by a judge peering through a magnifying glass. Unfortunately, that has become a symbol of our short sightedness in failing to see the bigger picture. It’s innovation, not quality, which is the elusive pot of gold that should be rewarded.

2 Responses to “A refresh for the print awards”

  1. May 23, 2018 at 1:36 pm,

    Gordon Anthonisz

    James you have hit the nail on the head so to speak. I was not at the ‘awards ceremony in Sydney but here here for moving them to the centre of print. Long gone are the days of merchants and print shops in the inner city areas of Sydney.
    Now for the new categories to appear and we have a real awards show on our hands.
    Good luck for next year’s event and yes please lets reward innovation and please no double category entries.

  2. May 23, 2018 at 5:13 pm,

    Chris Eales

    Yes James you most likely have attended far too many awards.
    It is great to hear of a refreshing new approach. The awards in any State are an important part of the industry, for clients, owners and staff. Long may they continue.

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