“We Don’t Sell Only Technology, We Sell Emotions” – Welcome to the Museum of the Printing Arts Leipzig

The Museum of Printing Arts in Leipzig, Germany, combines a printing workshop with exciting exhibition areas in order to bring the history of printing to life for its visitors. Soon the museum itself becomes an exhibit as it is has an own drupa 2020 booth.

Blick in das Museum für Druckkunst Leipzig (c) Klaus-D. Sonntag

Header picture: © Klaus-D. Sonntag

Did you know that there’s a museum in Leipzig that offers you the possibility to not only view exhibits, but also to touch them? The Museum für Druckkunst (Museum of the Printing Arts) is not only home to exhibits that have written printing history, it’s also a place where you can experience the world of printing first hand. By combining a printing workshop with exciting exhibition areas, the machines and presses aren’t silent witnesses of their time but bring the working methods to life for the visitors.

We were curious and wanted to find out why it’s so important for museums to offer contemporary, interactive services and how the printing industry can assert itself in the digital age. Susanne Richter, director of the museum, answered our questions and revealed how and where the museum becomes an exhibit.

“All Printing Techniques Live On”

drupa: On your website, you write that “printed text and image media have been part of the European culture and knowledge society for more than 500 years”. How will these media remain relevant in the future in times of increasing digitalization?

Richter: Printed media remain relevant when they are emotionally charged, e.g. by the touch and feel of the paper, coupled with good design. And, of course, the content must also be relevant and useful to the reader, captivating and closely related to the medium.

drupa: The Museum of the Printing Arts is celebrating its 25th birthday this year: How has the industry changed over time?

Richter: Before my time here in the museum, I’ve worked in the printing industry for seven years. It was shortly after the year 2000, when the industry was already about to decline. Many companies were no longer able to stay competitive in the market. The price war became tougher. Unfortunately, this trend hasn’t been completely averted to this day, but the industry’s love for technology still continues. The final products and their value for the industry’s customers and end-consumers aren’t at the top of the industry’s agenda. We don’t sell only technology, but rather emotions that can be evoked or intensified by print media. More knowledge and understanding of advertising and marketing in digital times are important, not just technical innovations and the efficient refitting of machines from order to order.

Susanne Richter, director of the museum

Susanne Richter, director of the museum

drupa: Together with the Bundesverband Bildender Künstlerinnen und Künstler (Federal Association of Visual Artists), you have succeeded in registering both craft and artistic printing techniques as an intangible cultural heritage: What weight are they still carrying today and how have they influenced the industry throughout the course of their history?

Richter: Be it letterpress, intaglio or flat printing: All historical printing techniques (or their further stages) still exist today, even all together, e.g. on banknotes. But it’s almost exclusively artists who work with these ancient methods to create new, contemporary forms of expression or a mix of old and new. We could can say that all the printing techniques live on, but not necessarily in their industrial form. However, there are also some companies in the industry that use a Heidelberg platen not only for die-cutting and creasing, but also for all kinds of embossing, which are increasingly in demand from customers and designers.

A Small Temporary Museum for #drupa2020

drupa: Usually, you offer a platform for exciting exhibits from the world of printing at the Museum of the Printing Arts. At drupa, the museum itself becomes an exhibit – why did you decide to join the show as an exhibitor and what can visitors look forward to when visiting your booth?

Richter: It’s a big challenge for the museum to establish a small temporary museum in Düsseldorf for drupa. We see ourselves somewhat as the “conscience” of the industry: Only if you know where you come from, you can plan where you want the future to lead you. Koenig & Bauer are supporting us at drupa by providing a historic printing press for the duration of the show. Our employees will print a poster that we will finish using letterpress. This will definitely help print media to appeal also to the untrained eye, because you can see exactly how the printing process works and you will also be able to hear a sound that has become quite unusual. The end product is contemporary, not historical. We want to show that you can produce something special with old machines. Furthermore, we will exhibit a Linotype typesetter as well as a typesetting and typograph machine that were originally used for newspaper printing. We also show a knuckle joint press and have small hand-operated platen presses which visitors are allowed to use. We also present our own museum shop products.

drupa: With the Museum of the Printing Arts you enable your visitors to experience over 500 years of printing history first hand: How do you feel experiencing the future of printing at drupa?

Richter: I’m always amazed at the high level of innovation in the industry and the many new areas that are added every four years. At first, some of them do not always have an obvious connection to printing technology. Just think of 3D printing or “printed electronics” and digital printing, which have opened completely new possibilities to the market.

drupa: For 25 years now, the Museum of the Printing Arts has not only offered visitors the chance to immerse themselves in the history of the printing industry. Like drupa, it’s also a meeting place: How important is personal exchange in the digital age?

Richter: Personal exchange and dialogue are continuously winning ground as we’re constantly communicating via screens. In times like these, face-to-face conversations becoming increasingly valuable. This holds true for customer meetings as well. After all, we are and remain human beings who prefer bargaining with real, open-minded and supportive people.

What an exciting interview. You can hardly wait now to learn more about the Museum of the Printing Arts Leipzig? Don’t worry, it won’t be long until you can visit a small, temporary version of it at their drupa 2020 booth.

On a scale from 1 to 10: How curious are you about the mini-edition of the Museum of the Printing Arts Leipzig at drupa 2020? What other booths are on your agenda? Tell us in the comments!

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