Today, creating and executing successful print campaigns takes more thought, collaboration, and integration than ever before. Everyone who is involved from the start to finish has a role and a responsibility. To often, we don’t talk about these responsibilities prior to starting a project, but when something goes wrong, everybody seems to know where to point a finger.
Now every project is different and responsibilities will vary from project to project. Some projects don’t really have an intended strategy, some projects don’t have a dedicated designer, but some some have both. You get the point, in complex projects, each print job is different. So lets start at the beginning and layout some basic responsibilities with the hope that we’ll talk more prior to starting the project (and get it right), than figuring out whose fault it is when things go wrong.
And keep in mind, there is a lot of small printing that just passes through a shop, reprints, simple PDF’s to print and things that are not considered “Projects”, just print jobs. I’m not talking about these. I’m talking about projects or campaigns that have lots of parts and pieces. Multiple images with critical color, data bases for mailing and variable print and shipping and distribution with some amount of complexity.
The client or customer needs to set clear expectations, generally in some sort of written or documented form. I’ve had people just throw a disk or flash drive at us and say here you go. Not. The more complex the project, the more the client needs to make sure instructions are clear and understandable. This is also a big responsibility of the printer to be able to understand. If the client has done his part, the printer needs to do more than just nod and smile….The printer has to have the capacity to understand. Clients need to look in the printers eye or something and make sure they get it. This is usually a good time to talk the project through, better yet, deal with a printer you trust. And don’t be afraid to ask for references if it is the first time dealing with a printer.
Proofing is a huge part of the process. First off, the printer needs to make a set of proofs that represent what the printed piece will look like and how it will preform. This does not mean a laser print with the explanation that after we do a couple of tweaks it will be what you want. It means the customer needs to look at it and feel confident in what they are getting. And as for the customer, this is not the time to be proof reading, that should of been done long before. It is the time to catch mistakes, but to many times I have witnessed people actually doing their first real proof reading at the final proof stage, and then making a ton of changes. It seems like it should be simple and most of the time it is. But I sure could tell some stories about bad proofs some of my customers have gotten from other printers, or of some of the things customers try to change that they should have a long time back in the process.
Now the Press Proof. This is even a worse time to do you final proof reading. Actually changes can get pretty expensive at this point, but if something is just wrong its cheaper to fix it now than redo it. Press proofs generally tend to be more for final color and seeing the printed job on the intended paper or what ever it prints on. Hard proofs are great, but nothing beats seeing the actual piece. Press proofs take some patience though, there always a little tension in the air as printers don’t want to make changes at this point and clients or designers want to make sure their piece is right. Printers and clients should talk about what to expect at Press Proofs, what changes cost and what parameters will get the job rejected.
I guess to make a long story short, Communicate. Make sure all parties are on the same page, talk about what it looks like when the project goes right as well as what might go wrong. It seems simple, but to often in the rush of things we all forget. Don’t do that; I constantly remind myself…double check and triple check. On really important projects, there seems like there is never time to do it right, but always enough time to re-do it!