The First Family of Printing

Have you ever wondered what goes into publishing and printing the free, monthly "Cuenca Expats Magazine?" I am somewhat aware of the side where the salespeople secure advertisers who pay for their space and also persuade businesses to have a Business Spotlight written for them to promote their product or service. Once I get an assignment, I meet the advertiser and ask the questions that I, and hopefully readers, would want to know the answers to. One thing I had no idea about was the actual printing of the Magazine. I know the cover is always visually appealing with photographs by Ruffolo Design Photography, with individuals featured against a white background and the red print. After interviewing the team that owns "Grafisum," I now know a bit more about the nuts and bolts of printing out the high-quality magazine you have in your hands!  I also know why Ed Lindquist, Managing Partner of Cuenca Expats Magazine, tells everyone what a delight it is to work with Grafisum.

If you lived in Cuenca about 20 years ago, you might remember a stationery store, or papelería, with the same name "Grafisum," which means graphics and supplies. It occupied the corner of Benigno Malo and Simon Bolivar, across from where Tosi is now. The store sold office supplies such as paper, notebooks, and writing utensils for about five years.

All the while owner John was fascinated with machinery; how things are made. Going out on a career and financial limb, John sold his car and invested in a one-color printing machine. He and Dora searched for a building to accommodate this side business when they lucked upon an old chemist's building that the bank had foreclosed on. That is the current site of Grafisum on Darwin off Remigio Crespo. For about two years Dora handled the papelería while John spent his time building the printing shop starting with business cards, stationery, and flyers. They laugh about the old days when they had to mix the ink by hand, create the plates, do all the folding and stapling while working in a small dark room. How things have changed since those early days!

The team of John Durán, his wife Dora Cordoso and now their son Juan Durán head up this impressive facility, continuing to serve Cuenca for 26 more years. Creativity expresses itself as well, through their son José, an up-and-coming musician who is also very knowledgeable about many aspects of the business.

One word that came up several times in the interview is the idea of Fidelity - a trust and allegiance that they create with their clients and staff. Being on time and following through on promises made, is of utmost importance to the family. Grafisum employs nearly forty people from billing to buying supplies to detail work to machine overseers to the design team.

Although John did not inherit the business, son Juan has been around it his whole life and is now learning all aspects with an eye for inheriting it when his parents retire. In fact, the family home is adjacent to the shop, an idea that son Juan does not think is healthy. While Dora had thought it was very convenient to be so close while their children were growing up, Juan thinks you should not live where you work. This situation will take care of itself in a few months as Dora and John will be moving into an apartment, leaving the house site for business expansion.

A look around the shop downstairs reveals a workspace humming with activity. While their very first printer is still in a corner, there are now two and four color machines busy turning out printed materials and workers coordinating it all. Full capacity is about 15,000 pages per hour. The machines, imported from Germany and Japan, have specialized jobs to complete, often replacing tedious human labor. There are also special-duty machines that do die cutting, hot gluing and folding. The workers add personal touches like applying stickers and stitching. The four machines make all the colors you see in the magazine from just yellow, blue, red and black. Other colors are mixed to produce the variety you see in the pages.

Juan explains that the business has four angles: editorial, publicity, packaging and the newest trend, digital. There are trade fairs in Germany that the family attends to see the latest technology and connect with their producers. One significant change Juan has seen through the years is that while it is still cheaper to print in volume, now they can print out one book at a time versus a minimum to make it worth their while. Charges vary by the number of pages and page size, colors used, and the finishes on the front and back covers. 

While they are not the largest printing company in Cuenca, they pride themselves on creating (that word again) fidelity, with their clients. Major clients include Indurama, Colineal, Banco del Austro, Almacenes Juan Eljuri, Continental Tire, Toyota, Corporación Azende, Jaher, Universidad de Cuenca, S.R.I., the Mayor’s office and more. 

As my interview comes to a close, I have to ask about the elephant in the room: John's fire truck collection. The collection resides on shelves taking up two sides of his office and range in size from small Matchbox trucks to large Tonka Truck size reflecting his decade of volunteering in the Cuenca Fire Department. Many family meals and events were disrupted when John got the call to put out a fire! Besides the usual duties, he was a specialist in paramedics and diving rescue and often traveled to neighboring countries to teach his skills.

So now, you have a glimpse into the undertaking involved in printing out Cuenca Expats Magazines. Each month they gear up to print the 3,000 copies, which takes three days, eight hours a day.

The next time you have any printing needs, do come and see the family business Grafisum and see how they can help!


John and Favorite Fire Truck



Featuring the production process:



1. First, the client's artwork is laid out by the designer who digitally creates camera-ready color separations for the plate maker.



2. Thin sheets of aluminum are turned into printing plates for the presses.



3. At the master control for the press, the operator sets up the print run.



4. At each of the 4-color towers the appropriate plate is loaded and settings are dialed in.



5. The large Heidelberg 4-color offset press can print up to 6 magazine-size pages on each sheet of paper. In the plant there is also a somewhat smaller press for printing smaller and special jobs, like the magazine cover.



6. Hot off the presses!



7. Pressmen check their output.



8. Selective spot enhancements such as spot varnishing are applied by hand.



9. After printing is completed it is trimmed to size.



10. Several aspects of specialty work are done by hand.



11. Some special operations such as die cutting or embossing can still be done effectively on older machinery.



12. Finally, the client receives gorgeous finished products such as the ones shown here.


Darwin 2-68 y Remigio Crespo
(07) 420 3606

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