History of Imago – Your Global Print Marketplace

The history of Imago is an interesting one, read on to find out how it all began, and why you can trust Imago to help you through your journey.

Since 1980, Imago has worked with over 1000 worldwide publishing companies and other business types. Imago’s considerable global buying power enables us to bring your product to market in the most economical way with ethical, quality, and safety assurances.

Back in 1980, Richard Hayes and Erik Pordes, with some 20 years’ experience in book production, found themselves unemployed. Needing to feed their families, they decided to set up a business to offer their skills and services to publishers. Both had extensive experience with manufacturing sources in Europe, but it was their knowledge and understanding of the Far East – at that time, a relatively rare asset – that gave them their point-of-difference.

It is hard to remember that at that time the personal computer was in its infancy – indeed it was another two years before Imago bought its first computers (green type on a black screen). The fax machine was not yet commercially available, Bill Gates had yet to dream of Windows and Steve Jobs had only just moved out of his garage. Communication with overseas suppliers was via punched-tape-driven telex, Excel didn’t exist and email would not arrive for almost another 10 years.

imago production meeting

Despite those apparent handicaps, the new business thrived and quickly grew. Starting out of two rooms over an estate agent in Thame they soon realised that they needed staff on the ground in the Far East to monitor and control the supply sources. As a result, they opened an office in Singapore in 1983, and shortly after KC Ng joined.

On the sale’s side, it became clear that there was much cross-over between publishers in the UK and USA, and that the colour book market was increasingly international. Editions of many of the books Imago produced for UK customers were being sold into the USA, so, by the end of 1985, Imago Sales Inc was established in New York to directly service US publishers. Since 2014 this has been headed up by Howard Musk.

imago corporate team

By 1987 it was clear that Imago needed a full-time presence in Hong Kong as well as Singapore, and Kendrick Cheung joined from Toppan.

By 1990 Imago had grown out of its second office, and a new office was built for the business at Station Yard in Thame. A new sales team was set up to work with European publishers, concentrating initially on Germany as the largest European publishing market, and in 1996 a second US office was established in California. The scope of the business was rapidly widening to provide services covering all aspects of book and related product, including sourcing add-ons and electronics.

outside the imago uk office thame

As the millennium approached it was clear that the Station Yard office was too small. Through the 1990s the company had worked hard to develop training programmes for its staff to make sure that they really could offer genuine expertise wherever it was required. The move in 2000 to Albury Court provided the necessary space and allowed the company to offer training to publishing staff outside the company as well as to its own staff.

Imago Training was established 2003 as an independent training provider to the UK publishing industry, and 10 years on offers a broad programme of courses covering everything from Toy Safety to courses on every aspect of Digital Publishing. During the last ten years the issues of compliance in the publishing industry, from product safety to ethical sourcing and social accountability have become increasingly challenging, and Imago has played a central role in these developing fields as founder members of both PRELIMS and PREPS, and as a provider of training and as an information source in these areas.

eric and richard imago

A Sydney sales office was opened in 2003, now run by Ali Wheeler who had worked originally in the Thame office. In 2004 Imago set up an office in Paris, and in 2006 the company entered the South African publishing market. 2013 sees Imago establishing its first direct presence in South America and Brazil.

In 2007 Imago Hong Kong expanded its production base further with an office in Shenzhen for easier access to suppliers in southern China. As of 2021, with staff now in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore it seemed only logical to open an office in South Korea too.

Richard Hayes retired in 2007 and Erik Pordes stepped back in 2019.

So… why the Imago dragonfly?

Richard and Erik wanted a name that related to “image” for their new company. The word “imago” is the Latin for image and also the biological term for the final adult emergent stage in the life cycle of an insect… and what is more beautiful and exciting than a dragonfly, to symbolise the extensive care and attention that we put into making your final precious product?