Different countries? Different cultures!

Can you imagine that you come in a country for the first time without decently informing you on beforehand about the habits of that country?
Well, I had that experience with a colleague with whom I visited Japan.
When visiting a company in Japan it is very common that you have to take off your shoes at the entrance and change them for slippers that are mostly open at the front.
If this habit would have been known I am sure that you never visit a company in Japan without first checking the status of your socks.

Wikipedia is a very good source to learn about specifics of a country, this is what we call culture. It also gives you good information about demographics, food and e.g. the tip system.

In Japan for instance they are not used receiving tips, you just pay what is on the bill. You can imagine how surprised the taxi driver was when he received a tip of 20% from my US colleague who assumed that the tip system was the same as in the US.

Two nice examples showing you how important is it to inform you as good as possible about the culture and habits of the country you are visiting.

Our company is in the fortunate position that our products are popular all over the world. The pleasant consequence of this is that it’s necessary to travel to many countries and continents to support existing customers and to appoint new customers in countries where our products are not yet available.

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Eating with chopsticks in Japan.

From our EMEA entity, located in Belgium, we are looking after Europe, Middle-East, Africa and a part of Asia. This geographically area is very extensive and the culture not just varies from continent to continent but also from country to country and sometimes we even have to deal with different cultures in the same country. No need to say that this makes it all very challenging and requires a very careful preparation before starting the travel to another place.

What exactly is culture?

Let me first say that I want to share some experiences about national cultures and not about corporate cultures although that also can make your professional life interesting.
All of you who work in a company will have to deal with a company culture.

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Training in South-Korea.

There are many definitions of culture. I feel that the below descriptions explain best what I want to share with you in this blog.

“Culture is the learned and shared behavior of a community of interacting human beings”

“Culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another.”

Charracteristics of culture:

  1. culture is learned (behavior, language)
  2. culture is shared by a group of people
  3. culture is cumulative
  4. cultures change
  5. culture is dynamic
  6. culture is ideational
  7. culture is diverse
  8. culture gives us a range of permissible behavior patterns

The above will give you some idea what culture is and why it is “especially” in business so important to take this into account when visiting countries and people.

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Meeting in Nairobi, enjoying a local beer.

When you are in sales and have to sell your products in other geographical areas to people who don’t share your standards, values and culture, it is an absolute must that you inform yourself before you go there. There are many sources where you can find information how to approach people and how to behave in a culture that is different from yours.

Some derivatives of culture are the way you present yourself, how you dress, how you hand over your business card, what are the eating habits, do you need to bring presents or do you have to avoid this, who serves the drinks and to whom first and many other seemingly unimportant things but all of these can make the difference between succeeding or not succeeding!

Just keep in mind that also you want to be treated in the way you are used to and feel most comfortable with. This is the same for those who you visit.

I have the privilege to regularly travel to other parts of the world and always prepare myself seriously and in a way that reduces the chance coming in unforeseen situations. This is very much appreciated by your interlocutor(s) and shows them that they are taken serious.

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Many of you spend their holidays abroad. Although apparently less important than going on a business trip, I recommend that you also deepen yourself in the habits and culture of the country you are visiting.
By spending some time in doing this you will have fun whilst preparing your travel, you will feel much more comfortable and will face less unexpected surprises.

I wish you all a great, relaxing and sunny summer period, wherever you may go!


Erik WiegmFeatured imagean’s career in the Sign and Engraving industry started over 30 years ago. With experience in signage and personalization for many years, in 2005 Erik got involved in sublimation. In 2011 Universal Woods established its own affiliate in Belgium of which Erik became Managing Director. Together with a dedicated team he successfully worked on further expanding the Unisub brand in the EMEA region and bringing ChromaLuxe to the market.
You can contact Erik at erikw@chromaluxe.com.

Is your heat press up to it? Two easy tests!

If you want to start with large format sublimation, you need to have a professional heat press. You can find a lot of different brands on the market, so this means that it is very difficult to know which ones are the good ones.

You can only have optimum results if the pressure and temperature is equal all over the heat plates. Those 2 parameters are very important, because, when sublimating large format ChromaLuxe panels, you want the colour everywhere equal.

You can perform 2 easy to made test to know if you have a good heat press

TEST 1:

Print out 9 times a square panels (5x5cm) with 100% cyan colour. Put those 9 panels on your heat press (see image 1). Sublimate them together with the settings you would normally use.

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Let them cool down and lay them all next to eachother. Now check if they all have the same colour. Do check them in a room with good daylight colour and switch the 9 panels, so you are sure all 9 panels are equal in colour.

Image 2 = OK. Image 3 = Not OK.

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TEST 2

Another test is to put 2 ChromaLuxe panels on your heat press, that are slightly bigger than your press, and press again one solid colour. Again, after sublimation and when the panel is cooled down, check both ends (upper and down), to verify if colors are equal.Featured imageAll steps in the sublimation procedure are important. When you’re not getting the results you had in mind, testing all different elements is key, so see which one influences your sublimation process. Start with these tests! They might give you some answers!


stevieSteven Roesbeke has a huge experience in the graphical industry with a lot of expertise in color management and output solutions. Since 2013 he is the Technical Support Field Engineer at Universal Woods EMEA. Read his technical blog posts to discover helpful tips & tricks and learn more about the do’s and dont’s of (large format) sublimation. You can always contact him at stevenr@chromaluxe.com

Innovation in Photography: the story told by guest blogger Jean Jacques Micheli

My first photographic experience was watching a black and white image appear in the developer bath in my father’s photo lab darkroom; I was about 6 years old. At this time, the professional photographer had to do everything himself from taking the original photograph, through to all the laboratory work. This was in the 1960’s and I took my early steps into the world of photographic printing.

Not long afterwards, a salesman came to show us a strange camera with bellows that, in one minute, could produce a black and white photo. The Polaroid became my second important discovery in the world of photography.

Of course, the evolution of cameras and the ever-advancing quality of new films have contributed to the overall improvement of the photographic image.

In the 1970’s when I was a student of photography a revolutionary colour process appeared on the scene – Cibachrome. This Swiss process was for me my third and most striking innovation allowing slides (diapositives) to be printed on a paper which had a metallic look and saturated high-contrast colours. Cibachrome became a huge success with photographic artists around the world, in part for its special image rendition but also for its long print life said to be between 50 and 100 years. Art works printed on Cibachrome still maintain very high values in the photographic art market.

Featured image“Black Ginger” photos by Serge Anton

More recently, an article in an American photo magazine caught my attention. It spoke of “metal prints” with luminous colour and very precise details. After some research I discovered that it was an American photographic process which was virtually unknown in Europe, with the exception of the UK. With one of the principal activities of my lab being fine art printing for artists and art galleries, it was only natural that I would adopt this process. It is indeed very close to Cibachrome and many artists and photographers make the connection.

It is now 3 years since I started offering high-quality ChromaLuxe prints alongside silver and fine art prints; an ever-increasing number of artists have opted for this print media with its deep blacks (no other photographic process obtains this level of density) and its luminous colours. ChromaLuxe is also an excellent choice for outside displays because it is water and even graffiti resistant. It also has excellent scratch resistance during routine handling of images. We have, for example, some ChromaLuxe prints displayed on the island of Saint Bartholomew’s in the Caribbean in an open-air restaurant. Similarly, if you are able to pass by the new BO Bank in Brussels you will find a monumental 3D artwork, by the artist Yves Ullens, made entirely out of ChromaLuxe. It is not unusual for clients to send us mails enthusing about the quality of our work and the rendering of their images on ChromaLuxe.Featured image

ChromaLuxe is, without doubt, my fourth significant discovery in my already long photographic career.

Labo JJ Micheli was the first European lab to obtain the ChromaLuxe Quality Label certificate.


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Jean-Jacques Micheli has built his carreer around photography: from 1978 to 1982 as professional photographer and in 1982 he has created his photo lab in Bussels. He is specialised in Fine Art prints for artists, art galleries and societies. His lab is recognized for the excellent mastery of color and his team consists of image and finishing specialists. You can contact Jean-Jacques Micheli via +32 (0) 2 733 21 85 or jjm@labojjmicheli.be.

For more information : www.labojjmicheli.be

True Colours?

Working with photographers and printers I get involved in a lot of discussions about colour.

The first thing I will ask anyone is if they are working with a calibrated and profiled monitor. Many, even some professional photographers, are not. Do you work with raw files, I ask? ‘Oh yes!’ comes the reply. Well, if you work with raw files and do not have a calibrated and profiled screen, you are frankly wasting your time. Every correction you make is based on what you see on your screen. If the screen is wrong, the resulting file will have the wrong colours.

The best way of explaining this is to ask if they have visited a television showroom. If you have, you will know that every screen in the showroom will display different colours – see the photo. It’s Featured imagethe same with monitors – they are all different. Depending on the type of monitor, you will have different controls and settings, but once it is calibrated and profiled you will see a close rendering of the correct colours. If someone else also has a calibrated and profiled monitor they will see almost exactly the same colours. EIZO and NEC are probably the two most commonly used professional monitors. If you cannot afford a top end monitor like these, profiling will still bring you much much closer to the correct colours. Profiling is done to an international standard set by the CIE.

I have on my desk a MacBook Pro (generally considered to produce great colours) and a large monitor. The large monitor is fully profiled and is the one I use for all colour critical work. If I drag an image in Photoshop from the large screen to the MacBook, the colours shift significantly. If I run a slideshow on the MacBook it looks great but the colours are not technically right!

Why does all this matter? Well, it really matters when you start printing. Here we have other factors coming in like the type of printer, the inks and the paper used. But if we also profile these combinations, we can produce prints in two different locations on the same type of printer using the same paper and inks with almost identical colour. We can also get very close colours on different papers or media, only restricted by the available colour gamut of that paper/ink combination. Without using ICC colour profiles this would simply be impossible. Don’t forget for optimal viewing of prints you should use daylight (5000K).

Of course the next question is, do we all see colour in the same way? The vast majority of us do. The colour blind will not and those with synesthesia may not. I remember holding a pink card against a grey filing cabinet and someone with colour blindness saying they were identical, just one was lighter. For colour blindness there is the Ishihara test. For those whose job involves working with colour, you should try the X-Rite Colour Test and hope to achieve a perfect score or close.

http://www.xrite.com/online-color-test-challenge

Recently we had the famous blue and black dress problem. Different people viewing the same image on the same screen saw it in different ways. Some as blue and black and some as gold and white. The image went viral around the world with hundreds of theories. Psychologists who study colour had many views. Our own industry cFeatured imageolour management specialists also had a range of explanations. The image was badly exposed when taken and in unusual lighting which did not help. The original shop dress is blue and black. Personally I see it as blue and black. For me the black areas are somewhat brownish but my perception of the image puts this down to the lighting and my brain reviews the information to conclude that it is black. If we open the file in Photoshop and measure the colours, be it in RGB, CMYK or Lab, the measurements will show the colours to be in the dark and blue parts of the spectrum.

Finally, colour is also important if we are posting images on the web or using them in MS Office programs or similar. Our responsibility is to get the colours as close as possible to the ‘correct’ colour when we post an image or use it in a software. Sadly we cannot control where or how the image is viewed or how it might be printed, but at least we have given the world the chance to view an image in the way that we intend.


Featured imageCharles Henniker-Heaton has over 30 years experience in the imaging industry, first at Durst and then at Fujifilm as a senior manager involved in retail photo, chemicals and since 2006 as European Marketing Manager for large format printing. He joined ChromaLuxe EMEA in 2014 in charge of European Business Development for large format.

Organising a tradeshow booth? Be the little girl in the red coat.

During the build up for FESPA, in Cologne, now more than two weeks ago, my thoughts drifted away to another German city: Kassel who hosted the trade show ‘World of Trophies’ back in 2006. Two things have changed since 2006: Featured imageme, in almost 10 years I have learned many things about tradeshows. For one: that service deadlines when organizing a show are always extended – a valuable lesson. The second thing that has changed is my approach. One rule: Make your Stand stand out.

Trade shows are like school playgrounds in winter: the one with the red coat is the one that gets noticed. When organizing a participation at a trade show and putting a booth together you want to be that girl in the red coat. You can be the tall boy, who will be seen by everyone, just because he’s tall. You can be the loud girl, everyone can hear. You WANT, however, to be the girl in the red Featured imagecoat who gets noticed.

Everything starts with a stand building company that understands your briefings. If you ask our stand builder (please do: Expo Z, Belgium) they will probably tell you we’re not their easiest customer and that they do have their work cut out with us. If you’ve seen the booth, you’ll understand why. We do not have a “13-in-a-dozen” concept and needed a version 2 of the stand design, but the result was undoubtedly successful.

What we tried at FESPA this year was not to show the products, but the possibilities. I must admit: we have flexible products to work with. MDF panels become wardrobe doors, Featured imagea headboard for a bed or a picnic table. Aluminium panels of 5cm wide become art. The table tops were a launched product, the floor panels a prototype, but all these applications together created a complete world of sublimation possibilities.

What helps me is to pick a theme: we had 5 at this booth of 104 square meters – I love to make my life complicated. Picking a theme is possible for almost all products and prevents you from being the 5th indistinguishable company selling printers in the same aisle. Think about the little girl in the red coat.

When the stand is there, it’s the details that will make it work: thank you Unisub for providing the tools to finish it: coasters and serving trays in our Fruitorama bar, picture frames in the space theme, to go in the Featured imagespacey teen bedroom.

Last but not least: a strong team makes a strong booth. Our designer Liese did a great job inventing a Juicebar from scratch, our sublimation specialist Eva had nightmares of 5 cm bars in 6 different finishes, our warehouse team packed our samples so they arrived in the best possible way in Cologne, my sales colleagues helped putting all the samples up, our American CEO told FESPA-visitors about Large Format Sublimation during an educational seminar… A great team makes a great show. Thanks everyone!

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Featured imageCarolyn Krekels is jr Marketing Manager at Universal Woods EMEA, in Schelle, Belgium. She has been taking care of the EMEA marketing for the Universal Woods products for 9 years so far, first working for the EMEA distribution partner of Universal Woods. In 2012 she joined the Universal Woods EMEA team. In Carolyn’s posts, she will give you insight in the marketing actions organised by Universal Woods EMEA and can give you useful hands-on tips on how to bring your product to the market. Contact her via carolynk@chromaluxe.com