Talking Hops and Ops with Yearbook Hero Justin Warren

Headshot of yearbook hero Justin Warren

Treering Yearbook Heroes is a monthly feature focusing on yearbook tips and tricks.

Financial constraints in college led Yearbook Hero Justin Warren to a warehouse job where he unexpectedly began a career pathway in a print shop, eventually becoming the operations manager. Rooted in his love of learning, his passion for innovation, and challenging industry standards, he moved from the print floor to directing Treering Yearbooks’ domestic, coast-to-coast print network. Early this year, Justin worked with cross-functional teams to introduce tactile elements through the Treering Heritage Collection

How do you respond when people tell you print is obsolete?

I’ve been told that my whole career. Something physical in someone’s hand is so valuable, even though it may sit on a shelf for a bit. It’s so much easier to pull it off the shelf to relive the memories in a beautiful, full-color book than it is to dig through your phone and find a photo you think you took seven years ago.

It’s morphed, definitely, and that’s the great thing about Treering: we’re innovators. We anticipate what the future brings while maintaining that physical connection to our memories.

Speaking of physical connection, what inspired the development of studio-designed, textured yearbook covers?

Touch is a huge component of child development. You remember something you can touch. 

One of my biggest “brings” to the company was to bring a more tactile element to our printed yearbooks. It really does bring a new dynamic. Texture has always done super well in print and is difficult to implement. I said, “We’re doing this,” and collaborated with our print network to create a thick, glossy polymer that extends to the end of the cover and the spine, of which we are proud. The Heritage Collection showcases the possibilities that we have in front of us. All it takes is great development and some research before we execute.

Justin’s favorite Heritage Cover, Modern Retro, has a vinyl record feel.

People ask all the time how we manage to have a three-week turnaround. What makes it possible?

It takes a lot of strategy. It takes a lot of preparation. It takes a lot of commitment in order to turn a digital file into a printed file, and it really comes down efficiencies. Being digital, we reduce waste and errors. If there is a problem, we can catch it immediately. We don’t have to remake or rehang plates to do a full run.

We’re not going to store any inventory or print extras. Print on demand allows us to personalize and print your custom yearbook as the order comes in. That takes time. Real people look at the yearbooks (it’s not all automated) to check for quality.

Our printing network is coast-to-coast, so we are geographically positioned to service our schools with shorter transit times and increased flexibility. We are striving to be both eco-friendly and economically friendly to pass on savings to schools.

What other innovations set Treering apart?

Personalization, it’s what our thing is. Personalizations changed the world. When I first heard about it, frankly wasn’t sure how, on the production side, I was going to produce it. It brought challenges and through discussions and brainstorming, we came up with a product that we can then continue to enhance. 

Portrait autoflow is another. Treering utilizes technology to solve an old school problem and be able to bring our little twist to it. Without revealing too much, this is just the beginning.

Rumor has it, that you’re also a master brewer.

My dad and I own it together. We both have full-time careers, but after work, we do sales calls and on the weekends we brew beer. No advertising. It’s just literally dad and I all the way from ops to janitor. We have 30 recipes that we rotate we keep five or six going year-round. Living in the Pacific Northwest, IPAs really are the huge driver: really bitter, really floral. Those are the king of beers over here. So we have quite a few of those. We just pick and choose what we’re feeling and what our customers want. I mean it’s a wonderful experience and it’s taught me a lot about smaller companies because I’ve lived in the corporate world for so long that I get to see the smaller craft of a business. It keeps me out of trouble.

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