Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Monday, October 20, 2003

Offset printing


In the 20+ years I've been orienteering in the U.S., I think the sport has moved in the right direction in most aspects. The movement has been slow. There have been starts and stops. But, in general, things are better now than they were when I started orienteering. But, there is a glaring exception.

Printing of O' maps is worse than it used to be.

Back in the 1980s and 90s, A-meets used offset printing. At local meets, you'd usually get an offset print color map or a black and white map printed on a photocopier. These days the norm is to run on maps printed on some sort of computer printer. That is a step back.

Here is a note from the BAOC yahoo group (BAOC hosted the U.S. Champs a month or so ago):

Bob reported that although he expected to hear some complaints about the 1:15,000 inkjet (not offset) printing for the US Champs, he did not receive too many.*

I have to admit, I didn't complain to the organizers. Why complain? It seems obvious that inkjet printed maps are worse.

Maybe we've reached a point where people expect that maps to be printed on inkjet printers. We expect the maps to be hard to read.

Offset printing is much easier to read. As I've been doing map study in the last few weeks, I've really noticed how much easier the old offset print maps are to read.

Printing maps on inkjet printers has some advantages, especially for small events on areas that are likely to change quickly. Using an inkjet printer to print maps of Clinton State Park for a local meet is fine, because we'll only get 30-50 runners and the mountain bikers are continuously changing the trail network.

It is a shame that the quality of an event suffers because the maps are printed on an inkjet. I don't know how much (if any) money a club saves by avoiding offset printing. I can't imagine it is much. But, even if it is $5 a day, it seems like we should be paying the extra money for high quality rather than saving a few bucks and accepting low quality.

Maybe it is just me?

It isn't just me. Bjornar Valstad criticized the Swedish organizers of the next WOC for having inkjet printed maps at the recent training camp. He wrote, "Half-speed on good maps -- WOC 2004." "Half speed" because the maps were so hard to read that even though they were good, you had to slow down to read them.**

Enough ranting...my lunch hour is almost over. Back to work.

* For what it is worth, the U.S. Champs maps were fairly well printed given that they weren't offset printed.

** Bjornar's motto is a reference to the Norwegian motto before the 1989 WOC -- "Full speed on bad maps -- beat Sweden at the 1989 World Champs." Back in the late 1980s, Sweden had a reputation for having a lot of bad maps.

posted by Michael | 12:59 PM


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