Call is on for entries to Neographics 2022, the industry’s largest regional print competition

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Two trade groups invite printers in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New York to seek appropriate recognition for their best work: Neographics, the industry’s largest regional competition for excellence in printing.

Printing is an industry. Printing is a business. Printing is a craft. But printmaking is also a profession that deserves to be presented as the art that it often succeeds in becoming.

This year, Neographics is offering that opportunity to practitioners of the craft in what has become the industry’s largest regional competition for excellence in printing. Two trade groups – the Graphic Arts Association (GAA) and the Printing Industries Alliance – have issued an invitation to 4,000 potential entrants who have until July 29 to submit samples of their finest work to the judging panel. The winners will be recognized at a banquet ceremony in Philadelphia on October 6.

The Neographics contest has been organized for more than 50 years by GAA, which represents printing companies in Pennsylvania, central and southern New Jersey and Delaware. Melissa Jones, president of GAA, notes that tradition also hails printers for being providers of “one of the oldest parts of communication for mankind.”

The theme for this year’s event is ‘Celebrate Print’, a tribute to the wealth and resilience of the industry in difficult times. As Jones says, “We’re here, we’ve made it, we’ve survived COVID, and now we’re overcoming the paper shortage, so we’re celebrating.”

A good neighbor comes on board

Joining the celebration is the Printing Industries Alliance, an association with members in New York, northern New Jersey and northwestern Pennsylvania. Both groups encourage their members to participate, although the contest is also open to non-member print businesses in their respective regions.

A joint effort makes sense because the territories “are so symbiotic” in their interests and perspectives, according to Jones. “Even culturally, we come together.” The print market “is so entrenched” in all regions that making the competition accessible to everyone was a natural step for Neographics, Jones adds.

“We are delighted that the GAA has opened up Neographics to participation from our members, which include some of the Northeast’s top printers,” said Tim Freeman, president of the Printing Industries Alliance. “Their entries will make this year’s competition a memorable one.”

Thirty-three judging categories are open to print and print-related businesses submitting work produced in the United States (a requirement) between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021.

There are three levels of recognition: the Franklin Prizes for Excellence, given to works selected on their own merits; Best of Category, in which Franklin Prize winners compete for a unanimous jury vote; and Power of Print, a top honor that also requires unanimous agreement.

A high bar

These accolades are not easy to earn. Neographics judges – veteran print producers and buyers whom Jones describes as “really tough” – evaluate the papers submitted to them according to a list of strict criteria (see box). Emphasis is placed, for example, on color consistency: participants must submit three copies of each piece in order to demonstrate this.

Nominations are only identified by numbers – not the names of their authors – during evaluation. Judges may move a piece from the category in which it was entered to a different category if they believe it will receive a more appropriate rating there. That way, Jones says, “we’re being fair and giving people more opportunities to really show their work.”

“As print has evolved, so has the competition,” she observes. Covering all production processes, the judging categories include all major types of commercial printing and publishing products. The most popular category is Books and Booklets, for hardcover and softcover examples over 32 pages. Annual reports, packaging, large-format graphics and finishing are also attracting strong admission shares this year, according to Jones.

The most esoteric part of Neographics is in the aptly named “They said it couldn’t be done” category. The entries here represent the kinds of jobs that can strike fear into the hearts of printers, involving what Jones describes as “really unique, very challenging and difficult printing processes”.

For example, the category winner in a previous contest was an estate piece with extra-thick ink coverage and complicated crosses that the client wanted the printer to run on lightweight (40lb) offset paper under the form of a journal with interlocking signatures. “But they did, and both the agency and the client were absolutely thrilled,” Jones says.

Members of both sponsoring organizations can enter a play for free and submit additional entries for $65 each; non-members pay $75 per entry. High school, tech, and college students are invited to participate in Neographics for just $15 per entry. Students and professional designers volunteer to create the Neographics poster, entry form and marketing materials.

National competition to follow

It all wraps up with the Neographics Exhibition Awards Ceremony at Cescaphe Ballroom in Philadelphia on October 6th. From there, the top five entries – the Power of Print winner and four runners-up – will seek industry-wide recognition at the 2023 Americas Print Awards, a new national competition run by a coalition of 15 groups. regional sales representatives operating as the Americas Printing Association Network (APAN). National winners will be presented at America’s Print Show 2023. (Dates and location to be determined; America’s Print Show 2022 takes place in Columbus, Ohio, August 17-19.)

While everyone appreciates accolades and accolades, awarding them isn’t Neographics’ only goal. It’s equally important, says Jones, to see winners “use this win to spread the word, to show the excellence that you can show if you’ve done something amazing.” One of the judging categories is printer self-promotion, and the GAA is helping winners do just that with a “winner’s kit” of press releases that can be used to spread the good news.

Companies that have won Neographics honors enjoy the marketing potential that comes with the prestige of winning the awards. PDC Graphics of Southampton, PA has been participating in the contest since 1997 and is one of its most prolific winners, including the Power of Print it won in 2020. Jim Rosenthal, President, can attest to the impression that the success of Neographics made on customers.

“There are certain types of customers who want to know how good you are,” he says. “It really adds legitimacy when we can say there are a lot of print shops, but not many that are as good as us. If the requirement is something amazing that’s why you want to talk to us, because we can do it.

“Now do this for me”

For clients, the quality of Neographics caliber work can be a deciding factor, according to Rosenthal. As he says, “when someone sees these pieces, they say, if you can do it for someone else, you can do it for me.”

Jeff Pintof, senior account manager at The Standard Group in Reading, Pennsylvania, has attended Neographics for nearly 20 years, frequently serving as the event’s chairman. Standard is a two-time Power of Print winner, one of which was the “They Said It Couldn’t Be Done” work mentioned above.

Participating in Neographics over the years “gave independent feedback on the quality of our work and allowed me to develop the businesses I wanted to,” says Pintof, noting that the applications his team gathered focused on work high-end niche. “By participating in the contest and sharing the rewards with these customers, it has helped me attract a lot more business.”

Pintof promotes Standard’s winning entries via social media and encourages customers to do the same by taking them out to lunch and handing them copies of the prize. Prospects receive samples of the winning pieces along with job specs and handwritten introductory notes. Leveraging Standard’s Neographics background in this way, Pintof says, “I’ve developed many customers.”

Well done can win

He thinks every print shop eligible to participate in Neographics should do their best to win top honors. “Everyone has a chance,” he says, pointing out that submitted pieces don’t have to be fancy or complicated to win. “A lot of work is simply done well. You never know what the judges are looking for.

Pintof also recommends entering in solidarity with sponsoring trade associations and with other printers, a sentiment Rosenthal shares.

Supporting Neographics “is very good for our industry,” says Rosenthal. “If other companies are doing well, it probably means we’re doing well too. It proves the kind of work we can all do. It’s bragging rights for all of us, but it’s a right bragging rights for all of us. You can give everyone an ‘attaboy’ for our hard work.”

Those spurred to action by these words should remember that the entry deadline for Neographics is firm – all entries and fees must be received no later than July 29th. Download the registration form here. For more information, contact Pat Rose at GAA: (215) 396-2300; [email protected].

Patrick Henry is the director of Liberty or Death Communications, an editorial consultancy. Contact him at [email protected].

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