For any graphic designer or print coordinator, no matter what the industry, there is nothing truly as satisfying as seeing the finished product. After numerous e-mails, phone calls, file updates, edits, etc., you can finally see the outcome of your hard work. If viewing the finishing product is the highpoint of a designers’ day, then it’s safe to say that the lowest point is when a designer receives the final print job … and notices an error or—gasp!—more than one error.
In the Eye of the Beholder
When we left off with last month’s article, you had submitted your materials to your printer. Once they’ve obtained your files and prepped all the materials for printing, you’ll be sent a printed proof of your job.
You’ve heard the phrase, "Stop the presses!” Right? This should take on a whole new meaning to you now. Stopping the presses because you suddenly realize your job has an error is really going to cost you, so you want to make sure your job is absolutely perfect before you sign off on it.
Make no mistake about it: The proof is your absolute last chance to catch any possible mistakes or errors—whether it’s typographical, paper type, printing or image based. This is your last chance to change anything before the job goes on press.
It goes without saying that it’s extremely important to take your time when reviewing a proof of your job, ensuring that no part is overlooked. As your man "in the industry,” however, here are a few more specific points to consider when dissecting your proof.
Bass-Ackward. When proofing copy, or the text within your job, you’ll find it helpful to start from the end and read through to the beginning. Why is this?
Our culture is based on a visual panning direction of left to right, so page numbers and stories found in publications progress from left to right, lowest to highest. Because we are accustomed to this way of reading and observing, our vision can become too "comfortable” when reading this way. We as human beings will often add in words like "and,” "is” and "or” when reviewing a document—even though the words themselves may be absent from the text. Reading from end to beginning (or right to left) forces your brain and vision to observe with more precision, forcing you to identify these so called "comfortable mistakes.”
There is No "I.” Don’t be the only one in your organization to review your materials. Even though you may have graduated with a double-major degree in English and journalism, that doesn’t mean you’re immune to typos or syntax errors. Have many people review your copy to not only catch any mistakes you may have overlooked, but to also catch errors that you were completely unaware of.
Fonts. When looking at your text, do you see some fonts that you know for a fact weren’t in the original files? This is most likely caused by missing fonts, fonts that were not sent to the printer with your project. Once your printing press receives your files and creates a proof, it will be evident to you if a font is missing.
The color and the shape. Check and recheck all the colors on your materials. Often, printing presses will create proofs on printers that aren’t of the highest quality, which can cause some of your colors to look slightly different from those on the final print run. For example, when AWCI’s Construction Dimensions receives proofs, at times our traditional red color will look more of like a pale pink. This is not an error, but merely the effect of a low-end printer applying ink to low grade proof paper.
If you are uncomfortable with the notion of inaccurate colors, ask your printing press for a SWOP or Hi-End printed proof for review. An extra expense will be added to your bill for this kind request, but you’ll gain peace of mind seeing a truer output of your colors. This is especially useful if this is the first time you are using this particular printing company.
Graphic-Fix. If you are using any photographs or images in your print job, check to make sure they’re clear and not pixilated. Image pixilation can be caused by many things, such as low image resolution, corrupt file, etc. And you’ll be able to quickly tell the difference between a clean hi-resolution image and a pixilated image. If you notice that your images look muddy or are lacking clarity, contact your printer and find out what went wrong. Together you will be able to troubleshoot and resolve this issue to ensure your final product receives a professional high resolution, quality image.
Makin’ Copies. If you have made specific changes on your proof for your printing company to correct, make copies of your edits before you send the proof back to the printer. This will assist you later on if you find that the press did not implement your requested changes (more on that later). Also, this serves as a handy resource if you have not requested any additional proofs from your company.
The Final Product
So you’ve thoroughly dissected your proof and have provided your print company with any missing fonts or files. Now your project is in the capable hands of your printing press and the next material you receive from them (besides an invoice!) will be your final product. Once you received your final product, one of three things will happen:
Success. Your print job is flawless if all of the pieces are color accurate and typo-free, the images are clean and the right type of paper was used, and all your proof revisions were implemented properly.
In this particular case both, printing press and customer are satisfied with the entire job. It’s the beginning of a beautiful business relationship.
Failure (Printer Error.) Your print job is not accurate/complete if the corrections you made on your proof were not implemented, the updated files and fonts you sent were not used, or the job was printed on the wrong type of paper and/or with the wrong colors.
In this scenario, the printing press failed to implement the customer’s specific changes that were outlined upon receiving the proof. The neglect of the press has led to the job’s inaccuracy, and the printer is liable for rendering compensation to the customer.
In cases such as this, the copies you made of your proof corrections will play a critical role in proving to the printer that your changes were in fact outlined during the proofing stage but not implemented.
Failure (Customer Error.) Your print job is not accurate/complete if you failed to submit changes to the proof, did not identify typos, or you failed to provide the correct type of font and/or image specified by your printer.
In this scenario, the customer failed to carefully review the proof received from the printing press. Either they didn’t outline their changes correctly or simply neglected to do so. Because of this, the printing press proceeded with a final print run without implementing customer modifications.
In this case, there is nothing the customer can do except learn a lesson. The smartest approach would be to meet with your printing press and discuss how to prevent these situations in the future.
End of Job
Over the past three months I’ve stood by your side as your "someone in the industry” to demonstrate the steps necessary for creating successful business materials while saving money throughout the process. I can never begin to emphasize the importance of a company’s business pieces since they often have the most immediate impact on your customer.
It’s somewhat of a corporate stereotype in that we often look down on or disregard a business or service that provides us with promotional materials—a business card or letterhead, for example—that look as though they were created on an old typewriter. Even if this so-called company may be one of the best, you’ll never know because their lack of ability to lure us with a professional business image has embedded a bias in your brain.
That said, never underestimate the fundamental importance of a visual identity. It’s perhaps the most consistent (and underrated) promotional tool within your organization.
Of course, if your visual identity for your company is lacking or feels outdated, it’s probably time to consider a revamped or redesigned corporate image, which we’ll investigate in the near future.
About the Author
As this magazine’s designer, Craig Wood continues to use his printing expertise to help you run a more successful business.