CategoryDesigning

10 Ways Printers Can Help Designers

This is an article I wrote for Printing Impressions a while ago and rather than rewriting it, I think it is still apropos in its entirety. If you are a designer or a printer, you can use this to reach out to your customer/vendor and start a dialog that will improve your work and your project. Speaking of which, on May 1st I will be speaking in Kansas City, MO about collaboration between printer, designer, and marketer. If you are in the neighborhood, I would love to shake your hand. Here’s the link.

10 Things Printers can Teach Designers:

Designers are visual people and the best way to teach a visual person is to show them. Graphic designers are also curious people who generally like to see how things work. We all walk around with our cameras all day, lauding their efficiency for email, Slack, twitter and more. But it is the instant transmission of images and videos that make showing easy-as-pie.

Here are 10 ways you can use your smartphone to reach out to your designer clients, add value to your company website and make life easier for yourself. (Sales managers, appoint one person to collect this kind of knowledge and disseminate to the whole sales team.)

1. Coated vs. Uncoated. Sit down with a designer and have two paper swatch books in front of you and explain coated paper versus uncoated paper. You will have saved yourself countless hours of “it looks like postcard paper” descriptions, and the like.

2. Bleeds. Take a video of your guillotine cutter in action, preferably a job with a bleed. Zoom in on the crop marks, text it to your designer client. (Put it on your website too!)

3. Grain. Look in your sample room for something with a nice black solid. Pull two samples. Fold one sample with the grain. Fold the other sample against the grain. Put them side-by-side folds-up and photograph with your phone. Open the image and crop to relevant image area and mark as a favorite in your phone for quick retrieval.

4. Waste=Cost. Show your client an illustration of paper waste for various page sizes. Here are some examples you can use: (Put it on your website too!)

5. Quantity matters. Walk into your pressroom and film a sheet-fed press at the delivery end while it is running for 30 seconds. Confirm run speed with pressman. Text video to the client explaining that’s how long it takes for (insert quantity here) brochures/posters, etc. to run through the press and why they should opt for digital printing on this short run. (At 15,000 iph 30 seconds is 125 sheets, 8-up that’s 1000 pieces!)

6. Printing is green. Calculate how many pounds of trim, corrugated and electronics you recycle each year (if your trim is picked up and weighed by a recycler they have this info). Next time your vendor picks up a container run out to the parking lot and take a pic. Put the photo on your website with an infographic of the tonnage you recycle annually. Explain that the trim and corrugated goes into future recycled paper products.

7. Ink can change color. Show your client this photo. Explain that the ink formulas with a high percentage of opaque white (basically all pastels) will shift within a year (swatch on left was two years old, on right 6 months, when photographed). Share that pastel colors are great for a short-lived item like an invitation not so great for an identity system.

8. Paper makes a difference. Next time you’ve got an attractive job with photos that’s going to run on white paper, order some extra sheets of ivory, canary and grey uncoated paper. Add those colored sheets to the job and photograph the same detail area of all four colors. Make a montage (easy with the Layout app for iPhone). Send this montage to a client who is wondering about running a job on colored stock and put it on your website too.

9. How to read a swatch book. Oh boy, if I had a penny for every time a customer found the “perfect paper” in a swatch book and placed an order specifying that sheet only to find out there wasn’t enough, or it wasn’t stocking or that the chosen color had been discontinued… This is a great topic to discuss at a quick lunch with a new customer. Text her an image showing how to look up the date of a swatch book. Then bring her some lunch and a few swatch books and show her how to “read” it.

10. Art takes time. Text your idea of a rudimentary schedule to your client as a pdf graphic they can print out and pin to their idea wall. Next time they are working with a client to develop a timeline they won’t guess and it saves them and you a call/email.

I know that some will think that answering questions and fielding problems bring value to a client, and they do. But do they bring value to a business owner? If staff is reacting/interacting at the 100-foot level, how are they going to interact at the 30,000 foot level with intention? Focus on the little things with intention and planning and then the 30,000-foot questions aren’t as scary. What are your clients’ plans for next year? Are you discussing budgets internally? Are they planning on launching any new products or services within the next six months? These conversations are really easy when “what do I need a bleed for” is taken care of.

(all images from “Designing for Print, the Art & Science, used with permission please repost with credit)

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Imagine Working Fearlessly

Imagine that every time you sat down to work on a print project you knew exactly what you were doing. Every. Time.

Imagine toiling away in InDesign freely, in a state of flow, adding elements, images, colors, making size and bindery decisions quickly and efficiently… confident that the proofs were going to look as you expected them to… knowing that the days when the printer called and said “Houston, we have a problem” were long behind you… eagerly anticipating the client’s call, “OMG these look amazing! THANK YOU!”, instead of picking up this voicemail “Ummm, we got the folders, we need to talk, my boss is freaking out”. Imagine winning so many awards that it is pointless to continue entering contests…

That’s where I am at, relaxed, confident, mastery. It took me twenty years of designing, print buying, and running a printing company as well as being a CD to get here. I got here by making mistakes and learning from them because I was not trained –formally or informally– in designing for print. These are some of the mistakes I made:

  • I used the printer I liked instead of the right printer and paid 4 times what I needed to pay.
  • I printed turquoise ink on peach paper and got a brown image because I didn’t know ink was transparent.
  • To lower the price for a client I asked for a job to fold cross grain on laid paper (this is where the word fugly originated).
  • I had to pay staff to refold, by hand, 250,000 double gatefold mailers because I didn’t know how to proof hatch lines on a folded proof.
  • There is more, oh boy, so much more.

I wrote a book about designing for print so that people did not have to go through the expense and humiliation and trust rebuilding I went through. I know that you do not need an eight-week class to learn what you need to know. All you need is to read the parts of my book that are relevant to what you do. This works if you are a working designer, a print buyer or a student.

You can get by without reading this book. Your printer is going to fix your files without telling you. You are going to think that your printer is to blame for mistakes that are yours. You are going to pay way more than you need to when you buy print because you selected the wrong printer for the job. And your jobs are going to take longer.

Tense, worried, rushing v.s. relaxed, confident, flow.

It’s your choice.

Pre-order the book here.

 

 

 

 

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Managing Image Color and Quality – Part one of two

One of the things designers worry about the most is being disappointed with how a print project turns out. Seeing their project print in the “wrong” colors or not as sharp as it looked on the screen are common issues but there are also others. Many of these issues are surprisingly easy to manage. The good news is that only part of this management is on the designer’s end, some of it is on the printer’s end and out of the designer’s hands. Because printing problems can be expensive, or very expensive to fix (as in redo the entire job ?), there is usually some finger pointing going on when a job goes south. If a designer messes up on their part – they are responsible for paying to reprint the job and I know firsthand, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

I’ve put together a list of the things you, the designer, controls and those which the printer controls. In this post, I will address the designer’s responsibility. In part two I will address the printer’s responsibility!

Things the designer Controls

Specify the Right Paper
The most important decision you can make is choosing the right paper for your project. No matter what you do on the prepress side to enhance image quality if you are printing a finely detailed image on the wrong paper, the details are going to be lost. Paper choice significantly affects reproduction quality.

Color Manage Your Devices/Workspace
Most designers who are disappointed by color are using a proofing workflow that is not calibrated, ie: their monitor and desktop printer. There’s a reason why the proofing printers that printer’s buy cost five figures (and the color management RIP can cost six figures!), they are way better than your desktop printer. It could be that your printer happened to predict how a job printed in January when you used photo paper and an OEM ink set, trust me, you got lucky. But in June when you are using copy paper with non-OEM ink the whole picture could change (picture, pun, LOL).  Either manage your color at your studio/office or rely on supplied proofs at every step of the process. It’s that simple.

Don’t put off color management thinking you can wait until you see the first set of final proofs from your printer. This can lead to a major color rework during the final hour, delaying the job delivery, and that is not good for you or your client.

  1. There are some really quick and easy ways to calibrate your monitor so you can check color: Google “how to calibrate my monitor,” follow the instructions, and take your monitor’s age into account; as monitors age, they become less accurate.
  2. Get your print provider’s ICC profile, (a standardized data set that describes the color space of an input or output device,)
    and apply it to your monitor and desktop printer. If your desktop printer cannot load an ICC profile, ask your print shop for work-around help or hire an outside firm. Sometimes spending $100 is the best thing you can possibly do.
  3. Take a rhem lighting indicator (RHEM indicator) with you when you show proofs to a client. There’s one in the back
    of the Pantone Color Bridge set. If your proofs look odd or different in your client’s office, it might be the light.
  4. Where are you looking at your proofs? In the parking lot? In the kitchen? In a room with purple walls? Try to check
    proofs in a color-neutral environment; a color booth is best. Specify color while you are in the booth too.
  5. Install 5000k fluorescent lights and daylight incandescents in your workspace.
  6. Do not convert your files to CMYK unless your printer specifically asks you to. Chances are the printer is going to
    want to handle that conversion, especially if your files are printing on a digital press.
  7. If you are printing on colored paper, proof on colored paper. If you can’t proof on colored paper, change the “paper” color in InDesign to approximate your paper color. It will not reflect how transparent inks appear on colored paper, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Rhem indicators show you if your lighting is correct. You can purchase them on a card or a pack of stickers to place on proofs and there is currently one in the back of the Pantone Bridge set. In correct lighting, both halves of the rectangle are identical. Here it is shown in incorrect lighting.

Specify Color Precisely
Using your monitor to select color is a sketchy proposition. You can specify color precisely if you use printed color guides to select your colors. I highly recommend the Pantone Bridge Selector, which gives you Spot, RGB, and CMYK equivalents for each color. When working on identity systems, it is an invaluable tool. You can immediately see how out-of-gamut some Pantone greens and reds are when rendered in CMYK. And for the RGB equivalent enter the values shown in Adobe Photoshop and see how that compares (knowing the browser, monitor and hardware will serve it up differently in each case).

 

Use the Correct Resolution
Resolution is worth mentioning because it causes so many problems in the prepress department. Any image you want to print must be a minimum of 300 dpi at 100% of its actual size. If you pull an image from a website, and it is 4 in. x 4 in. and 72 dpi (the typical web resolution), when you place it in your page layout, it must be sized to 24% of its original size or 0.96 in. x .96 in. in order to be at the correct resolution for printing. (Web designers take note!)

There is absolutely no way to take a low-resolution image and make it look like a high-resolution image. Interpolating a file to a higher resolution makes the image look like an image that was interpolated up to a higher resolution to improve its appearance. One low-resolution image can make collateral look unprofessional. Make sure all the images you provide are the correct resolution for their output size.

The same photo shown in three different light sources, from left: store light, daylight, and home light. Consider the challenges inherent in designing packaging where the product will be viewed in several lighting environments. (Photo courtesy gti Graphictechnology Inc.)

Use Correct File Formats
Each software program creates a native file format that it “gets along with” best. For Adobe Photoshop, that would be bit-mapped files like tiff, jpg, and png. For Adobe Illustrator, it is eps files. Adobe InDesign is a composition program that can accept nearly any file type for inclusion into a document that will be printed or published to the web.

Some file formats work well for print, and some work best for the web. Here are some common file types and their best uses:

Print
• Tiff for high-resolution photographs and scanned graphics
• eps for infinite scalability
• Pdf for high-resolution printing when properly saved with embedded fonts and bleeds, etc.

Web
• Jpg for many compression options and fast loading
• Png for more image depth. The trade-off is its large file size, no CMYK, RGB only.
• Gif limited color (256 only) but very fast loading

Don’t use image compression unless you absolutely have to. Every time an image is compressed (when it is saved) and uncompressed (when it is opened), it rewrites the data in the file and leaves little artifacts/noise in the image. Compression is left over from the days when a 44mb (yes, that’s MB, not GB or TB) Syquest drive cost $200. Nowadays, storage is cheap. Compression works well for the web, but it isn’t necessary for anything else. For example, Tiff files and images are not compressed. Jpeg files and images are.

I hope this helps you to feel super confident the next time you send a job to your printer! Stay tuned for part two – What Your Printer Controls!

Do you have a question about this topic or would you like me to further explain something?  Do you have a request for a topic for me to cover or elaborate on? I’d love to know, comment or email me at marina @ designingforprint.com

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