to the graphic arts industry vary in structure and offerings. Some are small, loosely knit, informal
groups that meet for snacks and presentations (not
in that order of importance). Some larger organizations are more like corporations with regional chapters, and they often hold annual international conferences that include
seminar offerings, exhibit booths, and awards banquets.
Some organizations consist only of a Web presence and perhaps online forums. Regardless of the type of
that appeals to you, it's helpful to join organizations in order to see how other people approach design and print. Meeting other professionals in the industry, and seeing their work, is inspirational as well as educational.
Unlike groups geared toward general design or printing industry members, user groups are usually devoted to a single software program or a suite of programs. The Adobe Acrobat and InDesign user groups hold chapter meetings in various cities around the world. While these two groups are supported by Adobe, they are
and run by the group
. A typical user group meeting might include
of software features, opportunities to have questions
and technical issues
by expert users or guest
, and a chance to win software, books, and other door prizes. And don't forget those snacks.
Adobe Acrobat User Community
Started in 2006, the Acrobat user community is growing
. The Web site offers links to the individual chapters, as well as tips, tutorials, and video presentations.
Adobe InDesign User Group
The InDesign user group Web site is a rich portal to all things InDesign, including chapter information, useful plug-ins, and tutorials. It's also an easy doorway to the Adobe forums and the great InDesign Secrets site. Check out the InDesign Secrets podcast!
Online Communities and Forums
Joining online communities and forums is
of like raising your hand and having the entire world answer you. Post a question in an online forum, and the answers
in your in-box. Strong emotions and priceless information make the online communities like lively little villages, including the inevitable family squabbles.
Some forums (fora? forii?) are sponsored by software
, and feature the expected product announcements and sales pitches in addition to useful resources. Some forums are
, and are free of any corporate influence.
Adobe forums are available for all Adobe products. While the forums are predominantly user-to-user in nature, they are
for civility, and Adobe staff are frequent contributors. The topics are a mix of general software issues and printing issues.
Macromedia Products, including FreeHand MX
CommunityMX includes news about Macromedia products Dreamweaver, FreeHandMX, Fireworks, and ColdFusion, as well as online tutorials.
National Association of Photoshop Users
The National Association of Photoshop Users (NAPP), is a national organization that provides
tutorials, publishes a bimonthly magazine, and
regional seminar events in addition to its yearly Photoshop World conference. Members are also eligible for
on software and hardware.
A service of Ziff Davis Media, PDF Zone contains PDF-related industry news, as well as tips, tricks, and tutorials. Not all of the content is print-related, though.
Planet PDF is a service of BinaryThing, a software development company devoted to Acrobat solutions. The searchable Planet PDF store offers a huge variety of plug-ins and software related to Acrobat. The online content also includes tips, tricks, and PDF-themed articles about a wide spectrum of industry uses for Acrobat.
Created and maintained by Dave Mainwaring, the PrintPlanet forums are some of the most lively and most useful printing resources on the Web. Forums are devoted to individual topics, including prepress, digital printing, printing technology, packaging, and fonts. And there are great training resources available in the associated PrintPlanet University, a service of PrePress Training Solutions.
While most of the Quark forums are
, the Printing, PDF, and Fonts forums provide a great way for QuarkXPress users to share and solve real-world printing issues with their peers. Have a problem? You're probably not the only one. And someone else probably has the answer.
Typographica is home to lively discussions of font designs, readability issues, and tutorials on font creation, which should give you some deep respect for the efforts of font designers.
Printing Industry Organizations
You may consider yourself to be purely a designer, with no interest in pursuing the technical end of the printing trade. But the online educational resources provided by these printing industry organizations can be very helpful when you want to understand more about printing processes.
Association of Graphic Communications
An affiliate of GAIN, the AGC provides print-oriented training for graphics software in the northeastern U.S.
IDEAlliance (International Digital Enterprise Alliance)
(including some that are available online) on highly technical topics such as XML.
International Prepress Association
The IPA offers a great variety of online seminars on a wide range of topics
from graphics software to PDF creation to print processes.
Pacific Printing and Imaging Association
The PPIA offers training and print-oriented seminars in the Pacific Northwest.
Packaging adds another dimension to the printing process, both literally and figuratively. These packaging organizations offer extensive educational resources.
Flexographic Technical Association
The FTA Web site offers industry news, online articles, and information on upcoming
-related events and training sessions.
Institute of Packaging Professionals
The IOPP Web site provides access to an extensive bookstore, comprehensive links to industry resources, and information on packaging conferences and training events.
Paperboard Packaging Council
Devoted to the folding-carton industry, the PPC Web site provides
informational pieces in PDF format, as well as links to
and industry events. Additional, premium content is available to PPC members.
Technical Education Organizations
The printing industry contains a number of organizations devoted to education and providing reference materials.
Graphic Arts Educational and Research Foundation
GAERF was created by the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL), The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies (known as NPES for some ancestral reason), and the Printing Industries of America, Inc. (PIA). These three associations own the Graphic Arts Show Company, (GASC), which is responsible for a number of industry trade shows, including the huge, annual GraphExpo event in Chicago. GAERF finances educational programs and provides information about these programs on its Web site.
Graphic Arts Information Network
A joint effort of Print Industries of America and the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation, GAIN sponsors publication of an extensive library of print-related books, available through the GAIN Web site. There is also an online job bank and links to industry events.
Specialty Graphic Imaging Association
The SGIA focus is on printing processes that fall outside of offset printing. It offers coverage of a diverse range of imaging and printing processes, including screen printing,
inkjet printing, and
The National Council for Skill Standards in Graphic Communications
The National Council for Skill Standards offers educational resources and certification programs for printing-industry professionals.