Variable Data Printing (VDP) is a catch-all term used to describe the process of combining static artwork with a data file to create a unique document per unique dataset. It is most closely associated with digital printing, and relies on capabilities inherent in the PostScript programming language.
The term VDP was first introduced to the printing industry by Frank Romano, Professor Emeritus, School of Print Media, Rochester Institute of Technology. However, the concept of merging static document elements and variable document elements predates the term and has seen various implementations ranging from simple desktop 'mail merge', to complex mainframe applications in the financial and banking industry.
In general, VDP documents can be lumped into two broad categories, Promotional documents and Transactional documents. Promotional VDP has also been called one-to-one marketing. Transactional documents are the familiar credit card statements, insurance booklets, and similar. Promotional VDP documents are typically "one-off" and use a static datasource (a database compiled specifically for use in a particular promotion or marketing campaign). Transactional VDP documents are usually created on a schedule, with a recurring datasource.
There are two main VDP methodologies. One method combines all static document elements (logos, page backgrounds, static text) and the variable page elements on a host system, and sends the resulting final print stream (usually a PostScript program) to the printer or press. The second method involves sending the static elements to the printer's memory or hard drive once, and then only transmitting the variable data to the printer. Some "trigger" in the data associates it with the printer-resident document, which is then processed to create the final document. There are pros and cons to either approach.
VDP Applications abound. All work in roughly the same way: design a document template, or import one from another application or file, associate a data file, and "map" the data onto the document. VDP software applications can be standalone, or work as plugins to other applications such as Adobe InDesign, QuarkXpress, or Adobe Acrobat.
Variable Data Printing also goes by:
Variable Information Printing