ASU Print and Imaging Lab garners kudos both for its high-quality products and its top-performing student staff
There’s a lab on Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus where students are hard at work, gaining knowledge and producing results.
Only there are no test tubes or microscopes in this space. Rather, the 6,500-square-foot facility on the Polytechnic campus is a bustling mix of state-of-the art digital printers and vintage letterpressLetterpress — a form of relief printing that uses pressure and a raised surface to create something embossed — is an old technique, but the Print Lab is using the equipment in a new way. Print Lab Director Cathy Skoglund suggested using it to do diecut products and now, many specialty items, such as cut-out Sparky masks on a stick, are made that way machines.
This is the ASU Print and Imaging Lab, where the results come in the form of award-winning printed materials.
Those program posters all over campus? A professor’s business cards? Three-story-tall signage on ASU buildings? All come from the unit known as the Print Lab.
And it’s more than just the materials it produces. The Print Lab puts an emphasis on the lab part, keeping the students’ growth as the focus.
Cathy Skoglund, director at the Print Lab, said education is a top priority. The ASU alum is one of two non-student staffers; nearly 30 students make up the bulk of the crew. That’s about a 60 percent increase over the previous year.
“At first I had to beg students to come work here, and now we have a waiting list,” said Skoglund, adding that the lab’s popularity is due in large part to word of mouth.
“It is now the place to work. All the students who work in the Print Lab get two or three years of experience under their belt before graduation.”
Don’t let the student-in-training part fool you.
“It isn’t a lab that just creates student work; it creates communication materials for the university, and we have very high standards as to what we produce,” said Ross Greenblat, a 2010 Graphic Information Technology (GIT) graduate who now works for Chicago-based marketing and advertising firm Leo Burnett on such campaigns as the McDonald’s 2015 Super Bowl spot.
“If something is a little bit off [at the Print Lab], then it is reprinted and not shipped to the client unless we think it is correct.”
These are top-quality materials being produced, and it’s getting noticed.
This fall, the Print Lab won one of the most elite honors in printing, honored with a Benny (Best of Category) at the national Premier Print Awards Competition, as well as a certificate of merit and five awards of recognition. The awards, given by the Printing Industries of America, pitched the students’ work in competition against that of professional printing companies.
The Benny was for a special booklet that used 14 different stocks, showcasing what the Print Lab can do. Assembly required gloves to prevent oil marks, the books were blown with an air compressor to get all the paper flakes out, and each was hand-checked.
That level of detail clearly made an impression. The award is a very big deal, Skoglund said, and further proof of what the crew there is accomplishing.
Many majors, many skills
The Print Lab is a self-funding unit of the GIT program in the Polytechnic School, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. And though many of the students who work there are GIT majors, there are also software engineers, mechanical engineering, human resources and business majors.
The jobs they perform are likewise wide-ranging, from project managers who provide customer service and estimates to graphic designers and press operators.
Daniel Isaghoulian, a sophomore studying human resources in the W. P. Carey School of Business, works in the large-format side of the Print Lab doing more of the business side and customer service.
“You get experience doing a multitude of stuff while you work here,” he said. “… Everything is applied here. There is no small scope of what we do; we do everything.”
One of his favorite experiences was putting up a large sunburst installation on the side of the Biodesign Institute on the Tempe campus (it required the use of a boom lift, a highlight for the business major), but it’s not only the big dramatic things that will stay with him. Learning to train employees and keep inventory stocked will translate to many careers after graduation.
Kyle Pendley stumbled upon the Print Lab quite unexpectedly. A former elementary teacher of his who was then working on the Polytechnic campus gave Pendley a tour to try to get him interested in college. The tour included the Print Lab.
“When I saw what all the students were doing, it blew me away,” Pendley said. It’s not just a class with lectures, he said, but real accounts in which students are interacting with real clients.