In this column Digital Printer learns more about the men and women working behind the scenes to make digital print great. We find out about them, their careers and their thoughts on the industry. This time it’s the turn of Alison Freer, head of creative and print services at Loughborough University.

Ms Freer has worked for Loughborough University, which is also her alma mater, for well over two decades. In addition to her day job she is also chair of the Association of Creative and Print Managers in Education, a dynamic network with members from over 75 higher educational organisations across the country. 

The People in Print: Alison Freer

Name: Alison Freer
Job title: Head of creative and print services
Company: Loughborough University
Location: Loughborough, Leicestershire

How did you end up working in the print industry / What was your first job in print?

I began my career working as a graphic designer for Loughborough University back in 1996, which involved working very closely with the in-house print unit and commercial printers used to outsource print by the University. Over the years my role has evolved, and I now lead a full in-house marketing service for the University, covering everything from web and digital services, to graphic design and print and post services.

What are your future goals?

I am passionate about both visual communication and education; I want to continue to evolve and develop the in-house service to ensure that we not only stay relevant, but also that we lead by example – pushing the boundaries of technology to ensure we produce cost-effective, innovative and engaging communications.

What innovation in print is making you most excited?

There are a few, but I think advancements in digital printing are the most exciting – the ability to enhance design using special inks including white, clear and metallics are a real game changer for creatives. This was demonstrated at the Digital Printer Awards 2019 with the Supreme Award winner ‘Spellbound’ by Hobs. The ability to produce high quality, bespoke publications using innovative finishing, inks and substrates is mind-blowing – it gives us the ability to push creativity to a different level.

What is the biggest challenge facing the industry?

Again, there are a few. Misplaced perceptions around what digital-first marketing really means is challenging for the print industry. There can be a lack of understanding about the role print plays in multi-channel campaigns. Pressure to save money often leads to knee-jerk reactions from some who simply stop using print instead of thinking ‘how can we do things differently?”.

Some of the most successful social media campaigns we have worked on have had personalised print at the heart of the campaign – print isn’t dead, it has the power to bring digital campaigns to life.

What advice would you give to someone just entering the industry?

To be open minded and curious and get as much experience in different areas of the business before thinking about where you want to specialise. I also think it’s important to build a strong network around you. Whether that’s gaining the support of peers or connecting externally with suppliers or other partners, it’s important to develop those ‘go to’ relationships to learn, develop and grow.

What has been the biggest change since you entered print?

Over the last 20 plus years, I have seen some significant changes in the print industry. The introduction of digital printing, wide-format capabilities and web-to-print have all been turning points for our industry. New technologies have given us speed, flexibility, personalisation and the ability to print on demand and produce one-off high-quality products cost effectively.

If you could go back and seize one opportunity you missed, what would it be?

To be honest, I have always tried to seize opportunity. Whether it’s on a personal level, or for the team. We are often referred to as ‘early adopters’ by our suppliers, for example we were one of the first universities to use the EFI web-to-print application Digital StoreFront.

What one thing should the industry do to ensure its continued success?

Not to be complacent. We can’t carry on doing what we have always done – we need to constantly evolve, diversify and stay in tune with our target audience to ensure that print remains complementary to other communication channels. We need to ensure that our customers know what we can do with the technology we have, rather than assuming they already know.

Do you belong to any industry bodies or trade organisations?

We belong to the British Print Industry Federation (BPIF) this is a well-respected and hugely beneficial trade organisation with an abundance of resources which complement the professional services we can already access as part of a large organisation.

Whilst not an industry body or trade organisation, we are also members of the Association of Creative and Print Managers in Education (ACPME) – where I am honoured to be the current chair. ACPME are a network of like-minded creative and print managers who share best practice and insights, in addition to peer support and training opportunities for its members. It’s an invaluable resource to be part of.

What do you enjoy most about working print?

I love seeing creative design work come to life – the tactility of print still excites me. There is a real sense of camaraderie and teamwork within our sector, which I believe sets us apart.

In the coming weeks we will be talking to more prominent figures in digital print, don’t miss:

Simon Cooper, managing director, Solopress
Paul Myatt, project manager, Domino Digital Print
Warren Werbitt, founder, Reel Motion Consulting

If you are interested in putting yourself for People in Print, please contact Charlie Kortens at