Elie Khoury is the founder and President of Alwan Color Expertise since 1997. His vision, to demonstrate how important it is to standardize and control color throughout every stage of production, has resulted in the company becoming a world leader in color management and standardization software for commercial, packaging, label and specialty printing. Elie is the French National Representative to ISO TC 130 and is actively involved in shaping the future of printing standards.
You have been developing software to improve the quality and effectiveness of color management in print since 1992; what changes have you seen over that period and what challenges do you see ahead?
Looking back over the last 20 years of the printing industry, we can clearly see that a printing business is still about providing printed matter; however, products, workflows, technologies, standards, and customer expectations—all have dramatically changed since the nineties. Products are more sophisticated and diversified. They need to stand out, match other products’ colors, and be customizable for various market segments. Workflows now offer complete and automated embedded services: preflight, editing, proofing, color management, imposition, screening, PDF and JDF support.
Numerous new technologies have emerged and matured. Digital printers are used to print all kinds of products. Conventional printing also evolved with the introduction of CTP for flexo and printing on flexible material for offset. Standards have also taken a big step forward since the first edition of the ISO 12647 series. New industry standards not only allow printers and print buyers to agree on color aims and tolerances, but they also enable printers to match them across printing processes.
How important are standards and, in particular, the standardization of color management and consistency in print and for online applications?
The purpose of any printing business is to match customer expectations. Two conditions should be met to achieve this goal. First, customer expectations in terms of color aims and tolerances should be clearly defined and communicated to the printer. Second, the printer should be able to identify these aims and tolerances and communicate them throughout the production workflow. Brand color aims can be defined using the soon to be published ISO 17972-4 (CxF/X-4) 1 file format. Documents and visuals color aims can be defined using the soon to be published ISO/PAS 153392 Reference Printing Conditions (RPC).
Standardized color management allows the printer to adapt incoming color data that is defined for a given RPC to the actual printing conditions (APC). This standardized process control allows printers to ensure the color accuracy, stability and predictability of the output process. All the components of a standardized workflow, according to the new ISO 16761 standard (currently in development), are there and are increasingly used.
We still have to define a file format with which aims and tolerances could be communicated throughout the production workflow, a kind of Job Color Ticket. No doubt this will happen in the future and will enable automated color management, process control and color matching across printing processes for all types of printing including online applications.
How has the ISO TC 130 Committee benefited the industry? What have been your personal contributions?
ISO TC 130 is the committee working on the Graphic Technology standards. Its work is necessary and useful. Since 1969, TC 130 has published more than 100 standards, most of which are implicitly or explicitly used by millions of operators in daily production worldwide. ICC profiles, CxF file format, soft proofing, hard proofing, paper, ink, printing conditions—are specified by ISO standards. International Standards elaboration requires a close interaction and collaboration between international experts.
During the past seven years, this fruitful cooperation provided our industry with new and modern standards—such as ISO TS 101283 ; ISO 186204 ; soon to be Continued on page 5 5 published ISO/PAS 15339; and, more recently, the still in development ISO 167615 — that are needed in today’s hybrid and modern workflows.
Recently you spoke at the NPES-ICC Color Management Conference in India; do you see events like this helping to coordinate color standards across hardware and software technologies worldwide?
The best standards in the world are useless if they are not known and used by the industry they are destined to serve. In this regard, the NPES-ICC Color Management Conference in New Delhi was a great event because it allowed more than 300 students, operators, managers and decision makers to know more about our industry standards, which can be adopted and used to improve their future production quality, efficiency and profitability.
The benefits of such a conference actually exceed the local market in which it is held because, by adopting international standards, Indian printers will be able to meet the expectations of American and European brand owners and print buyers, which will be beneficial for all parties. Local action, global benefits—ideal scenario!
Looking ahead, what changes do you see for our industry over the next three to five years?
I see an industry managed by business-minded people for whom efficiency and profitability are key. Automated and standardized workflows serve these two purposes and, therefore, will be implemented by those who want to become or remain the best in their category: brands, buyers, manufacturers and service providers. Print business is not going to be easier in the coming years, however, by doing the right things, printers can have an exciting time adapting to the requirements of standardized and globalized workflows—and collecting the benefits of their efforts, provided they are a force of change, and not forced to change!