From Ink to Pixel — The Digital Transformation of RRD

3/3/2021 Brad Caudell

From Ink to Pixel — The Digital Transformation of RRD

In 1921, RRD opened a new manufacturing facility in Crawfordsville, Indiana to print the Indianapolis Telephone Directory. It was the first company facility built outside of Chicago. This expansion foreshadowed a commitment by RRD to serve its customers better by establishing itself in proximity to them. 

That same commitment to serving our customers takes on a new form in this digital age. What does proximity mean today? Providing on-demand access to an end-to-end suite of customer-facing systems that are robust, scalable, and secure. We also must be able to integrate with our clients’ systems to process their data, content, and digital assets.

Buying yesterday vs. partnering today

Print buyers have long focused on price, quality, and service. But today’s print buyers also understand that leading providers like RRD also can act as an extension of their organization. 

A strategic partnership yields many benefits for clients. Optimizing their communications ecosystem, accelerating time-to-market, driving down costs, and enhancing the customer experience, to name a few. RRD’s technology infrastructure, combined with our team of skilled IT professionals, continues to differentiate us as an industry leader.

The role of design — from ink to toner to pixel

Years ago, the finished product was always ink on paper. While that’s changed in today’s digital world, what hasn’t changed is the quality of the finished product. It must make an impact on the recipient, whether it’s ink on paper, HTML email, or web content. It all starts with design. 

RR Donnelley established itself as the leader in commercial graphic design and typography in 1922. William A. Kittredge (1891-1945), was one of the leading graphic artists of his time. RRD hired him to direct and develop the RRD’s Department of Design and Typography. His department set new standards in commercial graphic design, and RR Donnelley was at the center of this field for decades to come. 

Today, RRD is ranked among the who’s who of the advertising industry. For a second year in a row, we were recognized by Ad Age magazine as a leader among all advertising and marketing services agencies. The company ranks among long-standing industry agencies such as Accenture Digital, Ogilvy, PwC Digital, Deloitte Digital, BBDO, and IBM iX. 

RRD’s ability to meet the evolving needs of our clients as they navigate an increasingly complex and competitive industry landscape depends on our ability to leverage technology to deliver measurable outcomes for our clients.

A multichannel agency for end-to-end execution

A global investment firm was seeking a range of technology systems and expertise to help a tax-exempt market client. The client, a major American university, needed to align multichannel communications content with its voice and brand. 

Before coming to RRD, they were juggling multiple partners to procure content on a project-by-project basis. This required multiple rounds of review on the part of the end client’s resources. With RRD, the client received an end-to-end solution that included a lot more than ink on paper. They received: 

  • ADA compliant HTML email coding for multiple platforms 
  • Copywriting and voiceover work 
  • Email campaign conception and design 
  • Multiple print concepts and design (booklets, letters, postcards, brochures, etc.) 

As their single source partner, RRD took their project from copywriting and design through production and content delivery. Finished products included print communications, web banners, email content, and branding. For more details on this case study, head here.

The last mile: postage, postage, postage

Helping clients with end-to-end solutions that drive down costs often involves design engineering that minimizes distribution costs.

RRD helped a non-profit organization distribute 60,000 COVID face masks to their volunteers using RRD’s Flex Mailer solution. The client received printing, kitting, and mailing services at a cost equal to what they had been paying for postage alone. They gained a 78% savings using RRD’s innovative, value-add solutions that leverage RRD’s engineering patents. For more information, check out the case study.

Innovation made to order

People all over the world love fast food. RRD is doing our part to help companies competing in this quick-service space keep prices low. Our innovative technology solutions are being used by some of the world’s most favored brands. Here’s an example:

A national quick service restaurant chain with 2,400+ locations was transitioning from company ownership of stores to franchise operations. Coordinating with multiple vendors for signage and other materials for individual stores was causing confusion and adding costs. To address these issues, RRD introduced its proprietary in-store profiling system, which allowed the client to precisely target the right materials for each store location. 

With the new system in place, the client went from manually managing rollouts to saving money and implementing program improvements. They have experienced an average savings of $1M+ annually and a reduced obsolescence and overage rate — from 10-15% to 3-5%. See the case study here

RRD’s technologies have become an essential part of our clients’ operations and technology infrastructures.

How many was that again?

RRD’s platform covers all the bases, even when the question is, “Where is that billing statement from 2018?” RRD’s PIVOT system currently houses more than 10 billion (with a “b”) pages of documents for our clients’ customers. In simple math, we’re storing more than 31 pages of documents for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. 

Those pages don’t just sit there. PIVOT supported more than 78 million online retrievals last year. That’s 250,000 people accessing those pages daily, with some of the busier days seeing more than 440,000 visitors. PIVOT manages all that traffic and still has the bandwidth to send more than 20 million emails a year. We’ve come a long way from ink and paper, there’s no doubt about that.

Leveraging key trends for RRD’s ongoing success

Leading global companies rely on RRD to help them improve business outcomes. Our ability to help them capitalize on important trends is one of our core strengths. Here are a few examples: 

  • RRD replaced 17 different technologies that a major American drugstore chain was using (to manage print and creative operations) with ConnectOne. This included workflow automation, project management, digital asset management, and more. A powerful combination of RRD technologies is used to manage all of the print for this client. In-store signage, direct mail, promotional print, labels, and more are all key deliverables.
  • RRD set to manufacture the code-embedded, multi-layer decal for Apple’s App Clip Codes. These decals integrate digital variable text and graphical print with NFC technology plus full dynamic encoding. This single-source combination of capabilities positions RRD as an optimal decal producer for touchless consumer experiences. 
  • Digital payment ecosystems: RRD is now playing a key role in the development and expansion of digital payment ecosystems in the U.S. 

Add all that up and one thing is certain: RRD is no longer your grandfather's printing company. 

The list of technology deployments and solutions RRD has provided to the marketplace and our clients alike is extensive. This article has barely scratched the surface. The combined skills of RRD’s IT professionals have truly helped establish RRD as an innovative leader that’s unmatched in the industry.


Brad Caudell is Vice President of Technology Solutions at RRD. 

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