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creative:impact - The printing business is never set in print


Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy. In the weeks and months to come, host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explores the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.

Creative Washtenaw CEO Deb Polich at the WEMU studio.
John Bommarito
89.1 WEMU
Creative Washtenaw CEO Deb Polich at the WEMU studio.


Kelly Parkinson
Kelly Parkinson

Kelly started working part time in this industry, while a full time student at the University of Michigan. Printing was never part of her life plan, but she quickly fell in love with the creativity and the craft and skill it requires to actually produce the materials.

She found her way into direct sales and by then, was hooked. The (now defunct) Ann Arbor Ad Club was new in the area and here, she found her people. Graphic designers, writers, photographers were inspiring. I am NOT artistic, but serving the community with creative solutions to project planning became her focus and full time job after graduation.

30+ years later, she is Partner in the business, still serving her wide ranging clients including Non Profits, b to b clients, health care providers and of course, the creative community. Leading a team of customer service professionals, digital and traditional production staff, there is never a dull day. Always something new to learn and it continues to be a source of great pride when projects are delivered or installed for our clients.

Stats: Married for 24 years, one VERY cute Cavalier King Charles pup – now one year old.

Away from work, golf, boating and gardening during the summer. We love movies and yes, TV, good music and good food. Keeps us busy!



Allegra on Facebook

Allegra on LinkedIn


Deb Polich: Welcome to 89 one WEMU. This is creative:impact. The show where every week we meet creative people in Washtenaw County who make this community one of Michigan's most vibrant. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host. Thanks for tuning in. You know, Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1436. No one disputes that making written materials available to the masses changed the world. The printing industry, however, has changed constantly since that time back there in the 1400s. Kelly Parkinson knows just how much. She's a partner at Allegra Print Mail Marketing in Saline. Kelly, welcome to creative:impact.

Kelly Parkinson: Thank you, Deb.

Deb Polich: So, you've been in the printing business for 30 or so years. I understand it wasn't the career you had in mind when you were a student at U of M. How did your part-time job evolve into a career for you?

Kelly Parkinson: Well, it was interesting. I started, like many of our staff, doing basically on-call projects. I got more involved and really started to understand and appreciate the work and the planning that went into these projects that I was sitting there hand collating. And I just kind of fell into it and loved it. I got a chance to go to work for them full-time after I graduated and had a couple little interruptions in my career, but, for the most part, have been here ever since.

Deb Polich: So, at Allegra for 30-plus years.

Kelly Parkinson: That's correct.

Deb Polich: That's right. And I understand Alegria just celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Kelly Parkinson: We did! And our founder is still with us, Pat Mahoney. And it's been a very interesting ride for sure.


Deb Polich: Well, congratulations on that! So, I read in some of the information you sent me that creativity in the craft and skill that's required to produce printed materials was one of the things that enticed you to stay so long. That world has changed a lot since probably you got there 30 years ago. But how much of it stayed the same?

Kelly Parkinson: So, a lot of the production end of our industry has remained the same, although it has become more high-tech. So, that craft and skill that comes with operating those presses and bindery equipment and mailing equipment now require a little bit more electronic and technological acumen to really master those machines. But the principles that Gutenberg started with back in the 1400s actually still apply in many of the steps involving production.

Deb Polich: Well, I mean, I know that changed slightly because when I got into the business, we were still working with typesetters and getting copied to them in a certain way that they had layout. Technology has certainly changed. I remember thinking about that the first time we delivered a product, for print that was actually created electronically. So, today, many of us have in our businesses those high-tech printers that print color. I remember how color was such a big thing. Did you do a four color or a full color and all that other stuff? But now that's changed a lot. Why is it still really important to have the kind of print product that a company like Allegra can create to actually put in somebody's hand?

Kelly Parkinson: So, I think the pendulum swings, Deb. And we certainly have seen that swing in the industry. We certainly have seen that swing here at Allegra. You know, back in the early 2000s, it was all about social media. "Oh, I don't have to print anything anymore. Oh, I don't have to print stationery. I don't have to print letterhead. I can do all of that on my desktop." Well, you know, there has been kind of a return to that. There's even some evidence out there that millennials don't trust anything that they can't touch. I can't cite the exact fact that came from. But so, there's just been a return. Plus, there's so much now--social media and electronic noise, so to speak--that a lot of our best clients are finding that they're actually breaking through all of that by sending things in the mail. So, the pendulum seems to be kind of swinging back around. But, to your earlier point about the the development of digital files and digital printing, etc., there's no question that that end of our business has changed. And, clearly, nobody is ever going back to that side of the art and craft of doing printing. But it still has been an inviting place for young people to come into, I think, because of some of the technological parts of it.

Deb Polich: You know, I agree with you probably in the mass production of things, but there does seem to be a resurgence of those crafters who want to work with printing presses and do things the way that they did. It reminds me, frankly, of how music has gone to the digital and all of that. And now, people are back to vinyl.


Kelly Parkinson: I think it's fascinating. And in this area, as well as throughout the country, there's actually been a new popularity in letter press.

Deb Polich: Right.

Kelly Parkinson: Which really goes back to the original Gutenberg style of printing. And that has now become quite a thing. And people are finding old presses and they're reviving them and they're putting them back together. And there's quite a few, little pocket businesses throughout the area that are doing more of that crafts, which I think, again, is fascinating.

Deb Polich: Absolutely! 89 one WEMU's creative:impact continues with Kelly Parkinson, partner at Allegra Print Mailing Marketing in Saline. And we're talking about the current state of the printing and design business. So, speaking of that design, something that hasn't changed in the business is, in fact, graphic design and and copywriting and the like. Do you as a client service person connect with a lot of the designers and help your client actually come up with the right messaging and the right formats?

Kelly Parkinson: If we are asked to do it, we are thrilled to be involved in that end of the process step. And I still work with a number of designers and individuals that are sometimes better suited to a project than we may be, but we stay involved in that project sometimes from the very idea of it moving all the way forward. So, yes, lots of needs for it.

Deb Polich: You know, in the way that all of our access to digital media and our ability to create or take a photo or two and play around with various graphic design applications, it makes it seem like that aesthetic and that ability is easy and accessible to anyone who wants to create. But, as a professional, what would you tell someone who's interested into going into graphic design today that takes us beyond the ease of accessing something on your phone or your computer?

Kelly Parkinson: Well, it's a big question. I do know that just because you can, it doesn't mean you should. We see a lot of ugly layouts. We see a lot of ugly designs. And you can't necessarily criticize it once it shows up on my desk to do that. But we do see still some very good, very sophisticated, very well-thought through design. We also see a lot of things that are being built using templates that come with some of these more accessible programs that are out there. That's not necessarily a bad thing to be using some of those templates as a place to get started. So, it's all over the board. But I'm still actively working with a number of graphic designers that like to plan what the outcome is going to be before they go too far with doing the design. And that would be one word of caution that I would have for a lot of our less experienced clients is let's talk about how you want it to look when it's all done to make sure that what you are designing will meet that need.

Deb Polich: You know, and I would say that graphic design, in and of itself, has become more and more prevalent and important to all of our work. And one of the things that has changed since I got into the business, or got into business, is a consciousness about accessibility and the ability for people to be able to read and to see what it is that is printed. How have you seen that changed over the years?


Kelly Parkinson: Well, we've been involved in a couple of very, very large initiative projects for a local university to help ensure that their documents in both the printed format. But as important in university world is also having them accessible online. And there is a process to do that. And there is a way to do it, so that the assistive technology that can be used by people with hearing loss, sight loss, etc., sometimes mobility issues, we can make documents accessible. And there are certain principles in the print world that also help for accessibility. And we're called upon to do that. We offer that service and can help clients out.

Deb Polich: Well, I don't know that Gutenberg had any idea what his invention would lead to here hundreds of years later. But it is true that the printing business is never set in print permanently. It's always changing. And it's great to have someone like you and Allegra who's helping us understand that and leading the way. Thanks so much for being on the show.


Kelly Parkinson: Well, thank you, Deb. It's been terrific today.

Deb Polich: That's Kelly Parkinson, partner at Allegra Print Mailing Marketing in Saline. We've been talking about the ever-changing business of print and design. Find out more at wemu.org. You've been listening to creative:impact. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host. Mat Hopson is our producer. Please join us every Tuesday to meet the people who make Washtenaw creative. This is 89 one WEMU Ypsilanti. Public radio from Eastern Michigan University.

If you'd like to a guest on creative:impact, email Deb Polich at deb.polich@creativewashtenaw.org.

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Polich hosts the weekly segment creative:impact, which features creative people, jobs and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area.
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