In Profile: Metropolitan Fine Printers

Metropolitan Fine Printers (MET) are based in Vancouver and have been in business since 1977. They pride themselves on providing the finest communication experiences.

We met with Scott Gray, Vice-President of Branding to discuss their history, what they do, and what they can offer designers.

Interview: Scott Gray

How long has MET been a GDC Partner?
I believe we’ve been involved since 1982. We love the relationship because we believe we share a lot of the same values; professionalism, dedication to craft, and being proud of your work. Also, we like that the GDC really advocates “don’t do it for free, you’re a professional, you add value to an equation”. We like to think we’re in the same boat. 

What set you apart from the competition?

We’re designer focused. Everything that we have learned since we started in 1977 has been as a result of a design opportunity or a design challenge to us. We really cut our teeth while targeting design related projects years ago. So many of our technological leaps have been as a result of a challenge being thrown at us from a client. For instance a client says “I want you to do a half tone varnish” and the response used to be “oh you can’t do that, are you kidding?” And then we tried it and experimented, and we said “Hey wait, it looks great, let’s do it.” 

Way back in the late 80’s when computer to plate was starting to come in, we were one of the first in the world to invest in the technology. I think we had unit number six in the world. As with any early adopters, there’s a lot of investment up front but we feel it’s worthwhile because we always want to push ourselves away from the herd of manufacturers. We figure if you’re always pushing­ that edge—really trying—its going to attract like minded people and its going to give you that little bit of an advantage in business. 

How can MET help GDC members?

We like to showcase things that will help designers come up with creative ideas. We feel that our job as printers is to show designers what’s available. There’s some cool combinations that are possible; whether it’s augmented reality or some beautiful tactile touches. For instance, say you want uncoated paper, tradition old letterpress, maybe classic old engraving, but you want to merge it with a beautiful litho run. We’ve got all this beautiful old school technology that we can call on, but we also have all the current new technology at our fingertips. Really print has never been so inclusive. 

We don’t think there’s a big veil covering a lot of what we do. I’m happy to explain the procedure or process that will yield the best result. And we’re not nervous about sharing that information with our friends and clients because even if it gets to our competitors it’s going to take them a year to actually figure out how to do it. 

How does the company measure success?

I think there’s always the bottom line. You have to make a profit in industry, but I also think we measure success by whether you are excited to get out of bed and go to work in the morning? Does it still encourage you? We love to push the buttons and if we’re not delivering the results that we promised and taking those challenges on, then we might as well give up. Everyday there is something that we can aspire to. 

We have been operating for two years now on a Continual Improvement program. It’s based on Toyota’s KANBAN and Kaizen philosophy. Some of the things it has done for us are that it buttons down procedures to get the simple, menial things done, but it has also opened our eyes to opportunities to improve things throughout the business. We’re a pretty small company so we’re not super rigid; by nature, we always have to maintain flexibility. If a process says to go from a to b to c, but I realize that it’s faster and more effective for me to do it a different way, we’ll continually adjust, and Think, Act, Do. It never stops which is awesome! 

What is MET’s proudest moment?

There’s so many proud moments. I think for me personally, one of my proudest moments is when I bring my kids in on the weekend and they go “oh I love that smell”. They can smell the printing and it just draws them in. 

I mean we win tons of awards and those are great. Being the most awarded printer in Canada, winning the most Benjamin Franklin awards, and so on, but I think what we’re proudest of is the team of people we have here. Probably 30 or 40 percent of our staff have been here for 10–15 years, and everybody is excited and energized. There has been a huge resurgence of youth in the organization and these people bring with them so many different skill sets and positive attributes. We really draw on everything the team brings and that creates the real MET Experience. 

What’s the latest thing at MET?

Probably the coolest for ‘wow factor’ is our custom packaging, and it’s not just folded carton work, it’s cut-scored, tight wrapped boxes/kits that have beautiful presentation capabilities. I think probably the most exciting thing in the last 6-12 months is augmented reality because it expands storytelling. We’re building these experiences for our clients. With an app on the phone we’re turning a brochure into a theatre. There’s a lot of people who say “oh yeah, I’ve done it before”, but they haven’t necessarily seen what’s capable today. There’s a number of big players out there; Layar, Blippar, Daqri, and Junaio. What we’ve been doing over the last couple of years is really studying each one of these platforms. We think of ourselves as platform agnostic. We don’t care what platform it is. We’re not going to sell you a platform, we are going to develop an amazing experience with you on the right platform. We have the expertise to build that experience for you. Each platform has its strengths and weaknesses and we can make them work for you.

It’s a pretty exciting time now, a revolution in print and communications. Lines are blurring across platforms, we’re kind of like laser surgery for your branding.


Group photos by Thom Hamilton