Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks with John Doe, the owner of JONDO. In this interview, Doe talks about the early days of high-quality digital inkjet printing, inventing "giclee," and bringing digital photography into fine-art printing.
JONDO is a print-on-demand mass manufacturer of home decor and art products with standardized production facilities. The company has more than 30 years of experience making high-quality products for artists and consumers alike.
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Erin Manning 0:00
The Dead Pixels Society podcast is brought to you by Mediaclip, Advertek Printing and Independent Photo Imagers. Welcome to the Dead Pixels Society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, Gary Pageau.
Gary Pageau 0:20
Hello again, and welcome to the dead pixel society podcast. I'm your host, Gary Pageau. And today we're joined by John Doe, the owner of JONDO.com. Hi, John, how are you today?
John Doe 0:30
Couldn't be better.
Gary Pageau 0:32
Okay, so most people are aware of John Doe, the lab. But how did you get started in the photography business?
John Doe 0:39
Well, I didn't get started in the photography business. Actually, I got started in the fine art business. Okay. And that was a long time ago. I think it was December of 1988. So that's a long time ago. Yeah. So if you think back that far, you can remember that there weren't digital cameras, right? There wasn't actually personal computers, right. Photography was not on my radar I worked for as a sales manager for an Israeli based company called Scitex berkeleyside. Tech that kind of invented Photoshop, you might say before there was Photoshop, right? How I got started was the idea of using a Hasselblad camera with a phase one back, which is that was many, many years ago, came out, and then put it on an enlarger and then put a piece of artwork underneath it, and captured it digitally. So that I could fit it feed it into the world's first four color, large format, digital printing machine, which was an Iris 3024. Back then, yeah. And the job that I had was selling those machines, and no one wanted to buy them. But I thought the color was great, right? So that's really I got hooked by the color of digital. And then from there, one day after another one week after another one year after another, I just got deeper and deeper.
Gary Pageau 1:58
So really, color is your main interest. I mean, great color.
John Doe 2:04
Yes, that is to say, because my only customers for many years, like a decade, my only customers were artists, who because I was early in the digital, you would fly from Europe and flying through Asia to be able to spend a week with me started in my garage. And then, you know, my neighbors wonder what I have, you know, Asian people spending a week with me. But it kind of, you know, the word of mouth got out that there was a digital in the people who were interested in digital reproduction, there's a number of different reasons why people should be interested in that the people who are interested would you know, come by, I still have my day job. I was just, you know, for six years, I just did it nights and weekends, right? And then finally, I had to make a decision of you know, is this a real business? Or, you know, or should I drop it, right? And so I came because every image, including original artwork, images are all digital now. And all photography is digital now. That kind of, from my perspective, it's merged together. Sure. But there was a time in the art industry when photography was not recognized as art. Sure. In the early years when I worked with say, Philip Stewart Charisse, which is he's passed away now. But he was a famous photographer, you know, we kind of worked together to be able to demonstrate why photography had all of the characteristics that are necessary to call it art. You love
Gary Pageau 3:29
spy tech set for six years. Yeah, that's right. And then you went on in your own started your business, which is fine art reproduction.
John Doe 3:35
In those days, it was called Harvest productions, okay, it was only for artists. And we only work for artists. And then that evolved, where more and more artists came and I kind of got to least a 50,000 square foot building. And then I inside of the building, I built it out as an Italian town, because I had the privilege of traveling in Europe with a few artists. And so when I came back, I thought I want to replicate. So then it was kind of famous for that it had awnings, and it had a frame shop and it had a silk screening shop and and digital print shop and people would come in from a distance and then we would just work together to build up Limited Edition art prints.
Gary Pageau 4:13
And so you transitioned from the capture side to the output side. Yes. And so what were the platforms you were using back then to output? You might have what we have now.
John Doe 4:25
Yeah, it was completely an Iris 3047. And it was going through a Macintosh computer, right. And then there was no profiles in those days. So there was no way of mapping the Color Path, right to optimize the output, right. And then the output, of course, the ink itself, which in those days was water based inks. So dye inks are very brilliant in color. They fade, unfortunately, but they're very brilliant in color. So there was no substrates. There was no digital paper, right? There was no digital canvas. All right. So I started with everything look brown, because the substrate that I was printing on, so no one would be interested in, you know, reproducing their brown or, or reproducing their photography Brown. But over those many years I in fact, built a company called Bulldog products, which some years later I sold and Bulldog products was in the business of providing the materials that you would need to be able to experiment in this new area of digital printing.
Gary Pageau 5:30
Did you get into substrate manufacturing then are you just spec them out and have them made or I funny
John Doe 5:36
you would say so in the area of paper I worked with honokiol from Germany. So it's a metal company didn't have a digital printing, they didn't know it was a market. Yeah. And then with Canvas, I worked with a company called Tara, Tara materials. It's the Frederick's brand name artists know the Frederick's brand name, 154 year old company. And I worked with the family that owned that company to develop Canvas so that you could print canvas on digital printing machines, right. And then, ironically, as history went on, you know, the owners of the family of that company wanted me to acquire that company. So now it's called echar. Textiles is the name of the company and myself and Mike Acker are the owners of that company.
Gary Pageau 6:22
Okay, and what do they make,
John Doe 6:25
so they make Canvas, so they make, you know, the canvas that stretch on canvases stretches on the bar that has the kind of color palette that has the kind of sheen, and there's more than one. But again, going back to the original story is, you know, you have the inks, and then you have the substrate, right. And then what you want to do is get the widest White to Black Point, and the right and the best saturation point, right? Without the actual ink droplets blending together, right? And when you've got that combination, right, you can map it, and you get the optimum out of the image, whatever image you're reproducing, what if it's a black and white image? Well, then you're gonna get the optimum black and white. Right.
Gary Pageau 7:05
So there must have been like a wild west back then. Yeah. Well,
John Doe 7:08
it's a nice to talk to you. Nice to see you after 32 years.
Gary Pageau 7:12
Well, in the sense that it was, you know, you're kind of paving new roads. Yeah, you're kind of in an area that you didn't even know if it was actually going to work.
John Doe 7:20
Have you? Maybe you've heard of a chalet? No, of course. Yeah. Hi, I'm Dennis shigley. Okay, it's a made up word. Of course, it's matter of fact that in French, it's a French word. I read it out of the dictionary. And that's not even how the French pronounce it. So when I went to France, they didn't recognize what I was saying. I'm from Rochester, New York. So that's an accent Gigli. But if I go to Japan, they say Gigli, yeah.
Gary Pageau 7:42
So so how long have you been in the production side? How did you get into the mass production
John Doe 7:49
side of the canvas making things that was like an evolution so it started just working with oil painters, and watercolors and Acrylic Painters. And then along came my first photographer that I had the opportunity to work with was Philip Stuart charis, and he was selling famous photos of Hollywood personalities. And so I spent a lot of time with him, he was very interested in what I was doing. And again, I was in this big Italian town. So we had a bar, we had a wine bar, and it was delicious, spent a lot of time
Gary Pageau 8:23
together, pondering life's history. That's
John Doe 8:25
exactly right, actually, me printing it again and again and again, for free until he liked it. That's probably the truth. But anyways, I certainly appreciated the education he was giving me. And, you know, so that was where I started to become interested in photography or recognizing photography as fine art.
Gary Pageau 8:47
And then from there, you've kind of gone mass market, if you will
John Doe 8:51
evolve. So that kind of started with many years ago, I, there was a executive from Costco, who showed up at my front door and knocked on the front door and introduced himself of the Italian villa in the Italian villa, and he had purchased a chalet a piece of fine art. Limited edition, and on the back of it was my name. So we had the initiative to trace it down, got on a plane came down, didn't make an appointment, just knocking on the front door, said, as you could do back then see what's going on here. And then, you know, we spent some time together me not giving him much time because I didn't know why are you interrupting my day, right? And in those days, Costco was a large retailer. And, you know, my art customers didn't sell their product and luxury. I work for museums and art galleries. Right, exactly. So I explained to him I don't shop at Costco. So I don't know which I don't know anything new here. He was not offended. Thank goodness. So he wanted To her, and I gave him a tour. And he was, you know, he was very interested in what it was and how it might apply to cost goes photographic customers,
Gary Pageau 10:09
which at the time as I recall, I mean, they had a very, you know, they provide a photographer, photographer with profiles, you know, they were really trying to attract the
John Doe 10:19
professional photographers. Yeah. Right. And give them a good price. Good product. Yeah. What Costco is known for is doing the research to be able to identify where's the best for your money, right, and then asking that vendor including myself to be able to reduce the price so that they can have you know, the value that Costco routinely delivers.
Gary Pageau 10:37
Yeah. So. So as you had that conversation with this executive, you, you were were you like, thinking, well, this is a great opportunity, or I don't know, I don't want to hassle with this at all.
John Doe 10:51
It's fun to talk about now. It's like, I was too interested in just getting my, you know, staying solvent and getting my workout. Yeah. And so actually, what he said was, well, could you connect your digital factory to my cash registers? Of course, that would be a misnomer. Right? I got the point. I said, you know, I said, I honestly don't know, I know that my son, Justin doe, has connected internally in my factory, all of my machines together so that we can have one source of entry to be able to access the production. Sure. And as possible, if you wanted to look into it, that that could happen. So he provided an expert in software who was more proficient than my son at his young age. That was probably 1213 years ago now. Right. And then they began, you know, that process of connecting it. We started just in the Costco stores. I did 1648 roadshows. Wow. I still remember the number. Really? Because they betcha you
Gary Pageau 11:56
know, yeah. What was that? Like? Because I mean, right now these days? Yeah, Canvas, printing on photo canvases. You know, I would say routine, but many people are aware of it. It's kind of a very common product. In the sense. There's a lot of a lot of sites offering other retailers offering. So what was it like? Like showing sample here? Shimpo and say, This could be your picture?
John Doe 12:18
Yeah. Well, that's what he said. So I stood on the floor. And I would say, would you like to see your photo on canvas? And they always answer the same? Why would I want to see your photo on campus? And I said, No, no, your photo with it. How could you possibly have my photo? on canvas? It was completely different. And then I said, Do you have a digital camera? And that was the dawn of digital cameras? Do you have a digital camera? Yes, you have a memory chip and the digital camera. Okay, so hand me that. And I will drive back to my factory, and then I'll manufactured for you. And then I'll meet you here next Saturday at 10am and bring you the product. And there was a piece of paper that we filled out in the cash register would figure out how to charge them for it. And so it was all driving back and forth and delivering it by hand and making it in the middle of the night and, and getting it in a box and getting it back. It was a long road. Yeah, I was gonna say never do it again.
Gary Pageau 13:17
As I mentioned, you have to talk to a lot of people, a lot of people out of the 6000.
John Doe 13:21
Yeah, yeah, there was 571 Costco stores. And either me or one of my employees visited every single one.
Gary Pageau 13:29
So from there, how did that evolve into the modern solution, right, because now you're providing?
John Doe 13:36
Well, the next I think it's a natural evolution. So and Costco was a bit of a part of that too, because Costco wanted to be able to deliver to their customers faster. So each day as business grew, because it business grew pretty rapidly each day, I'd see a FedEx truck driving to New York. So it didn't take me long to figure out that if I put an identical factory in New York, right. And I had ways of controlling it and managing it, that I would be able to just make it in New York and deliver to New York City the next day, right. So that's what I did. I got on a plane and leased a building and push some equipment into it and just started
Gary Pageau 14:16
and it was only facilities you have did you have at that time?
John Doe 14:19
We had I had one in Southern California and then I had the second one which is was in New York. And then you know now we have 11 locations around the world. So I have one in Australia. I have one in Canada. I have one in Spain, I have one in England. So now if you have a customer of someone who has a customer and they want to have it delivered over there, then you can save the time and the expense. You know, it's very expensive to ship something to Australia.
Gary Pageau 14:42
John Doe 14:46
And it's just heavy and wastes a lot of carbon, you know, just nothing good about it. So I think what makes me different than the than other people is that I developed the the process for the report reproduction, that was the most efficient. And that was the best color that I knew based on what artists said that customers wanted to buy. You know, I didn't have a preference. And even the artists didn't have a preference. It was the art gallery that knew what the thickness of the stretcher bars should be, you know what the wraparound it should be? So was the art galleries who were driving the specifications for the product that I make today?
Gary Pageau 15:23
So they were kind of in a way retailers in the sense, yes, that and so they were familiar with, like you said, what are the sizes and formats and thicknesses? And
John Doe 15:31
did customers want to buy? Yeah, you know, so. So they
Gary Pageau 15:34
were feeding you that intelligence. So that informed, which is interesting, because there's a lot of folks who kind of got into the digital printing space rover to kind of do what they want to create the look that they want.
John Doe 15:45
Yes, yeah. No, I'm not an artist, you know, I'm a, it's my best reference would be an affiliate until you a is a French word, that means that you act as the artist in the space of the artist. You didn't make that word up. No, I did that. They they taught me Oh, you need to be an affiliate. John, what's that? It's just like I was doing it only I'm not going to be here. Right. Right. Where are you going to be? Well, I'm going to be on my balcony overlooking the ocean. See our relationship?
Gary Pageau 16:19
So so how long have you has JONDO been in the business of you? kind of I guess I'm assuming that you move from harvest production?
John Doe 16:28
That's right. And you're involved once I wanted to be international harvest is not an international name. And then because I have the unfortunate birth name of being John Doe, if my lawyer said, Why don't you call the company, JONDO? Because they pronounced it the same way all over the world, and then you have a good, so it's the ultimate validation of the misfortune of being named John Doe.
Gary Pageau 16:50
I mentioned some people probably think there's really not really a guy named John Doe. There. Is there.
John Doe 16:54
Yeah, I heard that before.
Gary Pageau 16:58
So how long have you been JONDO? The business? And and how have you expanded beyond just a single very large, influential customer?
John Doe 17:13
Well, let's see. I guess, I started in 1988. And then, six years later, I left my job and went in full time. And perhaps I need perhaps the name when I started John Doe, and 12 or 13 years ago, and I've done a lot of traveling since then, and met a lot of fine people, you know, my ambition was just to be able to, you know, everyone, including yourself, I'm sure just wants to be of some value to someone, you don't want to be just like everyone else. And it seemed like, you know, I'm environmentally aware, you know, my wife's license plate is tree friend. So, you know, so I thought, well, I can save a lot of carbon and save a lot of air transportation, save dollars to if I develop a network, where it's one stop shopping. So that is to say, when my customers reach JONDO, if there's taxation in Spain, I take care of the taxation. If there's freight in Spain, I take care of the freight of Spain, if there's a currency exchange, because there is a currency change, I take care of that. So with the customers that I have, I think the value that we bring to them is that we're one stop shopping, they can sell around the world. Because once you're selling online, there's no reason to just sell in one state of the United States. There's no reason just to sell just in North America. You know, you're you're global. Right. So. So you'd need a global fulfillment company, right? That's me.
Gary Pageau 18:46
So what are some of the ways that people can begin to do business with John Doe, right? I mean, you've got obviously a sales team and people like that, but you know, somebody who's interested becoming a client, what is that process? Like?
John Doe 18:59
Yeah, it's pretty easy we have. So if you want to access John Doe's products, and it has more than canvas, it has the photo products that you think of which would be paper and varieties of paper and canvases and varieties of Canvas and metal prints and wood prints and acrylic prints. And you know, the the, you know, the what it doesn't have as a wet lab. So right, we've never gotten into that side of the business because we started from the art side of the business. First, there's something called John Doe, goat, John Doe, Gio, and with John Doe, go, you can simply go to the number of SKUs that we have, and then select the skews that we have put the address that you want to have it be delivered to swipe your credit card, and it'll just access your order and it'll deliver it to where you want to have it delivered.
Gary Pageau 19:46
But that's like retail pricing. That's like I mean, I mean, that's not like
John Doe 19:50
yeah, I don't have I so I don't do any retail business. I only do wholesale, right that's I'm saying so I only have one pricing.
Gary Pageau 19:55
Okay, so, okay, let me sir kind of easier. Yeah, well, it's complicated.
John Doe 20:00
Have 4600 skews. So I don't want to mix it up much.
Gary Pageau 20:04
Exponentially making more.
John Doe 20:06
Yeah, it'll be more more difficult to manage and 11 locations. Yeah. Especially when you're taking care of the tax and the transportation and everything.
Gary Pageau 20:15
So what is since you've expanded into these other products, which are going to be on and I'm not sure if mugs and such qualifies fine art, but where do you think you're gonna go next with this with, with some of the products that are being in the marketplace?
John Doe 20:32
Yeah. Well, I think that there's a lot of room to grow in metal, you know, there's a credit Chromaluxe with a high end marketplace, but Chromaluxe is quite expensive. So we have Chromaluxe. And then we have other varieties of metal that are suitable that are more expensive, or more less expensive than the you know, the premium product. Think that I think that the newest product that we have is called pallet plus, and pallet plus is for people who can sell to retailers. So if you had any retailer you want let's think of a small retailer, because Because Wayfarer is you know, covered. But smart, they're small retailers, that if you want to purchase a pallet of your imagery, because you've sold it to a small retail store, we have like really great pricing, because when you make a pallet of the same thing, it costs less to make it right. So that's like probably the freshest new idea that we have. We've only started that just weeks ago. But you know, it's working well, we have people who appreciate it, it kind of competes with China. So because of the difficulty of getting things from China, right? Having something made in the United States or made close to where it has to be delivered. So that could be, you know, a new important product.
Gary Pageau 21:56
But that would that would be like one off, it could damage,
John Doe 22:00
it could be one of the same image. But actually, it could be 48 of 48 different images that are shrink wrapped, not boxed, and then delivered to the retail store that.
Gary Pageau 22:13
Okay, so. So that's interesting, because that would be the opportunity then for someone who is got, like, maybe in the volume, photography space, or schools or events or something like that, where they need a lot of similar size. Yeah, products. Yeah, but the images are always the same, the important thing,
John Doe 22:32
the images could change, but the size has to be the same, it has to be at least a pallets worth of so you have to if you can palletize it and that's how you get the price. Okay, now to deliver the pallet to where you want to go.
Gary Pageau 22:42
You're not you yourself personally. No, no, no, no, because I mean, because it sounds to me, like your hands on
John Doe 22:47
I like I enjoy what I do. You know, I have a residence is true, but I know but I live in my factory. Okay, really. So I have a residence about two miles from my factory. But mostly I stay at the factory.
Gary Pageau 23:03
So how does your wife feel about that?
John Doe 23:05
Well, I've been married for a long time. So she's, she's kind of okay with it wasn't the reason why, but I just enjoy it. You know, it's like, I have a, you know, I if you came by, we just spend some time together and we'd have a good time and we drink some wine. I learned that from the artists. And then maybe we'd make something together. You know, if you bought an image, it brought an image I would you know, I've done that more than once in the evening. Sure, just to have fun, just make art.
Gary Pageau 23:38
So, where does someone go to get more information about JONDO.com?
John Doe 23:43
I guess you go to JONDO.com you know, I've been posting things there for 11 years. I can I can honestly say that. I haven't been there more than three times myself. Because I already know my story. But I have you know, Travis DOE is a fellow that's been working where we for a long time, and he's got our messages up there. Yeah.
Gary Pageau 24:07
Great. Well, thank you, John, for your time. Appreciate hearing your story. It's been fun. And I look forward to see more in the future. Cool.
John Doe 24:16
Maybe we'll come by the factory sometime.
Erin Manning 24:21
Thank you for listening to the dead pixel society podcast. Read more great stories and sign up for the newsletter at www.thedeadpixelssociety.com
Transcribed by https://otter.ai