Norman Alan Cohen knows the printing business. Being a leader in the Dallas printing industry for the past 50 years makes him an expert. While many would think that printing businesses would soon go the way of the dinosaur, Cohen shares how he not only survived the ups and downs of the industry but how he thrived and is poised to embrace the new frontier in the printing/graphics industry.
Cohen was studying advertising while his future wife was studying photojournalism at Southern Methodist University (SMU). Cohen ended up studying photojournalism as well. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from SMU, and then the newly married Cohen found himself drafted.
His next classroom was in San Luis Obispo, CA where he learned infrared and identification photography. After the Korean War, he was transferred to New Jersey and taught an introduction to photography class that included film speed loading and a new technology, “35mm” film.
After he got out of the service, he couldn’t find a job in advertising without experience. “Go get some experience and then come back,” is what he was told by ad firms. He went to the Dallas Times Herald and was told to come back in three months. It was offering $75 a week. He couldn’t support himself and a pregnant wife on $75 a week, plus he thought he could do better since he had made $100 a week in the military.
He went to a family friend who owned a printing company and fell in love with creative printing. He printed menus, catalogs, business forms and everything that a company would need. His main clients were dress factories.
In the 1980’s, the dress importation business changed the landscape of his business. He left the printing business and went to work for a wine importer. After two years, he missed the printing business and opened his own company. Using his new wine contacts as customers, he was able to build a printing plant that was so successful, it drew the attention of other printings companies. He decided to merge and was happy to know that there wasn’t any duplication of equipment. He still enjoys the printing business through its evolution.
Tell us about the changes in the printing industry.
“Graphic design used to be cut and paste. It took me seven hours to produce an accurate 36-page catalog; but now it is completely digital. Proofs are sent electronically instead of driving over to a client.”
What would you tell someone going into the printing business?
“It isn’t printing anymore. It’s now graphics. They better understand the market and social media. Today there is still a market for envelopes and printed material, but you need to know about transmitting and how to stream. You need to understand the electronics in the business.”
How important is education in your business?
“Very important. You must know the newest technology, i.e., augmented reality and you have to be curious and keep learning.”
Robin D. Everson is a native Chicagoan who resides in Dallas, Texas. Her appreciation for art, food, wine, people and places has helped her become a well-respected journalist. A life-long lover of education, Robin seeks to learn and enlighten others about culture. You can find her work at Examiner.com