2020 Under 40: Nicole Bradford, Flottman Company Inc.
NICOLE BRADFORD, 36
Flottman Company Inc., Crestview Hills, Ky.
Nicole Bradford is a teacher, though not in the traditional sense. There is no core curriculum to follow, or papers to grade. Rather, there are tasks like researching and making purchasing recommendations for new plating systems and software programs. And that’s not all. As prepress lead for Flottman Company Inc., a leading pharmaceutical printing company, Bradford is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the department—from art production and platemaking to running the digital press—and ensuring Flottman’s output meets the requirements of both internal and external customers. “The number of jobs she processes on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis [is] staggering ... and her attention to detail is priceless,” said Bradford’s nominator. There was a time when Bradford did see herself in a classroom. “I was destined to be a teacher,” she reminisced. “All I wanted to do was teach early childhood education, and so [I] attended a fantastic school for it, but eventually realized teaching to the test was not something I wanted to do.” She took a variety of introduction classes before discovering visual communication technology, pushing her toward print, photography, video and interactive media. According to Bradford, it was a co-op with Quality Graphics, a family-owned print shop in Archbold, Ohio, that allowed her to explore and nourish her passion for print. Through this opportunity, she transitioned from the classroom to the workforce, gaining firsthand experience in creating art for print, troubleshooting and prepress. Unfortunately, there were no full-time jobs available after graduation, so Bradford began a nationwide job search in the field, ultimately landing a position with Flottman Company as a second-shift production artist and prepress technician. “I would have preferred to avoid second shift, but it was my chance to get a foot in the door,” she joked. “From there, I worked hard and moved up to my current lead position within the company.”
Why she loves her job: No day is ever predictable at my job, and the work is high-paced, so it gives me the opportunity to constantly be problem-solving and troubleshooting to keep everything running smoothly. Finding creative solutions on a daily basis is always thrilling and is what I love most about my work. I am detail-oriented, so I also enjoy helping customers by finding issues in jobs before they go to production.
Age roadblocks and advantages: Growing up as technology has rapidly advanced has given me an advantage in the print industry, where processes continue to become more digitized and new technologies bring capabilities to our industry that have no analog equivalent. The biggest challenge is the other side of that coin: not fully understanding the older processes in print when I joined the workforce out of college. Technology brings a level of automation that does not require as much knowledge of the art of print, so I have had to learn older techniques; for example, how to manually trap.
Her biggest career influence: During college, I had two inspirational professors: Chuck Spontelli and Sherwood McBroom. Sherwood taught me all the fundamentals and got me interested in the field, especially since he was an experienced, old pressman who had a million stories. Chuck refined my knowledge, teaching me about color theory, preflight and prepress. At my co-op with Quality Graphics, Renee Ruffer was the prepress technician who taught me the application of classroom theory to the realities of a print shop. I still use the knowledge I gained from all of these people on a daily basis.
Her most meaningful business accomplishment: Moving from a prepress technician to the head of the department has been a great accomplishment. I have worked very hard to land where I am today. Most recently, I played the pivotal role in updating the equipment and workflow in the department with organization and ease, choosing the most environmentally [friendly] equipment available.
Her differentiating factor: I move with technology rather than being defeated by it. I continually work to learn about the latest tools and techniques, so they can be used to evolve my practices and procedures. Wherever possible, I find efficiencies to create a lean environment that can compete with any challenges the competition and economy can bring.
What she hopes to accomplish in the next year: I have not had enough time to network with others in the industry, so I would like to focus on finding more opportunities to meet and share knowledge this year. I also want to learn programming and dive deeper into color theory and new technologies in digital presses.
Why she believes the future is bright: Print is alive! Many products related to printing, like books and magazines, have obviously struggled during the transition to digital media. However, I believe there is still a desire to consume media from a printed page, which offers tactile feedback and without the eye strain of a screen. Print will thrive as it finds ways to complement the digital side.
How the industry can better recruit young talent: I was not aware of printing careers until my courses in college, so I think we can do a better job in reaching out to younger students. Today’s young talent is looking to make an impact on the world while not impacting the environment, so we need to emphasize how print is consumed every day, everywhere; the difference the right design can make in communicating; and how the industry is becoming greener with technologies like processless plates that reduce our environment[al] impact.
What she does for fun: I love adventure and new places, especially in the outdoors, teaching archery, and being involved in my church community through participating in the Stephen Ministry and leading a women’s bible study group.
Read the complete list of Print+Promo Under 40 honorees here.
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.