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Online hackathon innovates Graphic Arts with face recognition, heat maps and Artificial Intelligence

Did we have a blast last week! Together with VIGC, we’re still surfing on the energy of the Graphic Arts industry’s first online hackathon. On October 12 and 13, 14 teams submitted high quality projects to reinvent the Graphic Arts sector. In only 2 days’ time, all teams went from a simple idea to successfully presenting their project to a jury of high-level industry leaders. “One of the best events ever for the Graphic Arts industry”, says jury member Morten B. Reitoft in print magazine VIGC Today: “This format brings our sector a lot of chances and opportunities”.  A surprisingly convincing pitch from LUCA School of Arts students received the first prize. The student team convinced the jury with a combination of ’smile-detection technology’ and print media.

Shoot, missed this hackathon? Check out our two upcoming ones here! 

First online hackathon goes international

Hackathons are usually a vibrant event to be at. Teams are intensively hacking together, coaches hop by to give advice. Even though we certainly missed this face-to-face interaction, the virtual format managed to successfully connect the community. Coaches and participants could swarm around, share knowledge, pose questions, and share snapshots of their pizza-order. It also opened a lot of doors for the industry’s international community. Participants, coaches, and jury members joined us from Scandinavia, the United States, Estland, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium.

Mentors hopped around virtually

A diverse and dedicated team of 15 experts assisted the teams during the 2 hacking days. A few snippets of their experiences:

Kouris Kalligas, Head of Digital Transformation at Sappi Europe

“People had a lot of possibilities to interact. I was surprised how active everyone was in the sessions, such as the business model canvas workshop, the pitch training, all the messages I saw in MS Teams… Even the mentors themselves, trying to predict what the hacking teams might need. It was the first experience for me being a mentor, and I don’t think it’s going to be the last, that’s for sure!” – Kouris Kalligas, Head of Digital Transformation at Sappi Europe.

“We should do this more often. We need to move forward, in several ways. Hackathons are a perfect place and platform to identify how to move forward.” – Joyce Buemer, Marketing Director Papyrus Europe.

“Initiatives like this hackathon push people to think out of the box. This brings a new way of thinking, new perspectives. It’s a good method in which positively thinking people are happy to use their expertise and drive business forward.” – Erik De Vos, Marketing Manager Benelux at Antalis.

“For printers, as a group, innovation isn’t always top-of-mind. The current events have led everybody to do a reality check of the business they’re in and trying to understand at what it takes to survive. This hackathon could not come at a better time.” – Pat McGrew, Managing Director McGrewGroup.

EY expertise Workshops

Not only did the teams get useful coaching from the dedicated mentors, they were also given value-driven workshops by our The Factory members. Experienced innovation expert Jan De Clippeleer deep dived into the Business Model Canvas with the teams. “Keep it short, pivot if needed, and persevere”, he highlights. Jelle Jacobs, startup entrepreneur and innovation enabler at The Factory, prepared the teams for their pitch strategy. “Very useful”, Paul Van Dooren, graphic designer at Mediahuis, confirmed.

And the winner is…

The winning student team from LUCA School of Arts sheds a refreshing light on the growing presence of digital media. Print is NOT dead, it’s ALIVE, they exclaim. The students innovatively combined the strengths of print media with the possibilities of digital technology. The moment you smile to your phone – a text message, a funny meme or an absurd news article), “’Smile-detection” would collect those memories. At the end of the year, a personalized book shows you all the content that made you smile. This way, you create your own unique printing experience. The students go home with €3.000 and are awarded with 3 months of mentorship by Sappi, leading global provider of sustainable woodfibre products and solutions. The team members are Mona Demyttenaere, Evelyne Debaenst, Axelle Delboo, Camille Dewaele, and Mathilde Waeterloos​.

A personalized book shows you all the content that made you smile

We’re very curious how the students will further continue their project. As we see it, everyone’s a winner. So does Pat McGrew: “I like to think of ‘crawl, walk, run’. The things that come out of this hackathon is a crawl stage: people figure out where to push the edges of the envelope. Then, they get it up and running. In the end, we’ll watch them get a hold of the industry and watch those ideas get bought by bigger companies”, she explains.

Print Quality Map

On the 2nd place: Print Quality Map, from team ESKO. Their project visualizes what’s going wrong in the press and where, by connecting the defect data into useful visual information. Consumers and Brands expect consistent print quality, but Converters face a challenge on press to “connect the dots” of defect data generated by inspection systems into a cohesive intelligent picture of quality, and how it impacts the package being printed. The team members are Jeroen Penninck, Rian Goossens, Jan De Roeck, Dries Vandenbussche, Shahar Golan, and Barry Ben Ezra.


On the 3rd place: Textiveroo, from team DSN Conics HYBRID Software. Their project is a web portal to upload packaging artwork files & get structured text content in a database. Automated text extraction of existing packaging artwork files for online web portals and to streamline translation processes. The team members consist of Tim Vanspauwen (DSN), Neal Inghelbrecht (HYBRID Software), Frederic Vandelanotte (Conics), Bert Van der Perre (HYBRID Software).

The winners talked about the hackathon during Het Congres, hosted by Francesca Vanthielen

Save the Date

Jos Steutelings, Managing Director at VIGC, immediately announced the 2nd Graphic Arts Hackathon: mark your calendars on October 11 & 12, 2021!

This was the VIGC Hackathon!

“There is so much value that these ideas could bring to the industry, the world, the economy. We need more of such open innovation events.”

Kouris Kalligas, Head of Transformation at Sappi Europe

Missed this hackathon? Check our two upcoming ones here!