Is The Ink Dry Yet? All Printing Companies Are Not Created Equal!
In the past four years, most of the communication projects I've worked on have been distributed digitally using online software programs versus hard-copy printing. While digital distribution of materials for events, newsletters, postcards and annual reports is pretty much an accepted norm in our efforts to be more "green", there will always be a need for printing. Clients are back to asking me to design print work in addition to the digital versions I produce...and it's been a bit of a learning curve for me this past year in which I've learned that not all printing companies are created equal anymore! Below are three lessons learned based on my actual experiences. LESSON ONE: Why do I have to keep making changes during production? Last summer, I took over the design and production for an annual report that had truly been lacking visually. I designed a gorgeous 12-page document and took it to the printer the organization had used in the past. Turned out to be one of the most frustrating experiences ever, with my having to go back into the artwork multiple times and trek over to the printer to view proofs 4 times before it was laid down to press. What they said? Logos and images aren't reproducing well was the main issue. What I thought? Was I not doing something properly during production or could it possibly have been the equipment the printer was using?
Flash forward four months...another client needing print materials produced monthly that would contain logos, images and copy. Uh-oh...please don't make me go through this again.
LESSON TWO: When you find the right printing partner, ask questions, follow their directives and make them your best friend! This time I was once again directed to work with their printer. However, from the forefront, I proactively reached out to the printer before I started designing to learn any parameters to adhere to. Told the printer that I design in Publisher and then save for commercial printing as a PDF. Oh, what a joyous experience it was this time! I designed EXACTLY like I had with the "other" printing company; didn't do anything different with logos and images than before. However, this time when I sent the finished work, my print contact said the work was perfect; they immediately accepted my document and the print run was done. Naturally, I was anxious to receive my copy at the event to see how it turned out. I was ASTOUNDED by how clean and crisp the end product was! After seeing how well the work produced from this printer, I wondered: Why was it so easy to do the work this time and why did the finished product come out so well? Here's the answer, kids: Using a DIGITAL printer! I'd had a feeling that the other printer wasn't using the most up-to-date equipment and this proved it. Not only was the quality of the printing the best possible, but because it's digital, there's no "ink drying time". Once the project comes off the press, it's ready to be picked up. LESSON THREE: Graphic designers who use big words may be full of it! Here's another scenario that transpired just last week: I designed a multi-page event invitation for a fundraising event. Got all the sizing for each piece from the client and designed to exact specifications. The client wanted to use...wait for it..."the printer that did the work last year". Note: Last year's invitations weren't very appealing visually; I really ramped up the design work this year. I submitted the artwork to my client with crop marks ready to go to their printer. Low and behold, I get a response back, NOT from the printer, but from a graphic person the printing company forwarded the artwork to review. This graphic person was outsourced and essentially stated that everything I designed was wrong! What? Wrong? Well, that bothered me enough to forward the same artwork to my wonderful DIGITAL PRINTING company. They reviewed the exact same art work and said "this looks perfect and it's ready to lay down on the press-easy job to run". My take-away? The graphic artist thought using big words about what was "wrong" was enough to convince the client to SPEND ADDITIONAL MONEY to "fix" what was "wrong". Which means the graphics person is behind the times about the print process or perhaps it was simply an ego issue. Bottom line: It's enough that we go through myriad changes during the design stage to make sure everything is perfect. Nowadays, who has the time to futz around with making changes over at the print production stage? Save yourself time, frustration and headaches by asking the right questions to make sure you're working with a printer who has the best equipment to do the job. As for pricing? Blew me away again because it's AFFORDABLE to print using digital presses. If you have print projects coming up and have questions or need assistance with it all, from design to production, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org