Out of 92 issues of New Zealand Geographic, this one is by far the easiest to digest. While not especially nutritious, and unlikely to be served on a bed of couscous, it is printed with vegetable-based inks and low-solvent chemicals.
For a while, it seems that we were seduced by a red herring; the idea that was preached by software manufacturers and assorted futurists that our society would transform into a paperless one. But this was never especially likely. Digital media does not easily supplant the tactile, enduring and transportable nature of newspapers or magazines. So the real challenge facing the print media has been how to minimise the environmental cost of production, which is responsible for pulping millions of trees and producing waste. Our solution has been to source our paper from mills carrying the Forest Stewardship Council mark, signifying that the raw materials are recycled or come from sustainable forests.
While the technical aspects of printing a magazine are less interesting to readers than to those of us involved in its production, anyone can discern a quality product. Photographs only shine when the printing is good, and if we can harness advances in print technology to improve quality, that makes your experience of the magazine better.
This issue is a case in point. New Zealand Geographic has moved away from conventional printing techniques, which use grid-like screens with evenly spaced dots that vary in size, to stochastic printing which employs a random dot pattern so that light areas have fewer dots and dark areas have more. It may not sound very radical, but it is a profound shift in printing methodology. Stochastic is not new technology (in fact we printed issue 67 this way, but saw no improvement at the time and reverted), but it’s difficult to master. However the payoff is better resolution of fine lines, better contrast with less ink, improved tonal range and more vibrant colours. Photographs look brighter and cleaner but you will only notice a difference beyond the general impression of better photography if you examine pages under a magnifying glass, visible in the enlarged views opposite.
The results are here for you to judge; better reproduction of photography, more environmentally friendly production, and now what you’ve all been waiting for, an edible issue.