Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

In a past job, I planned and coordinated the installation of artworks in public spaces. On the days leading up to an installation, my mind would be full of worst-case scenarios as I mentally walked backwards and forward through the installation steps: “What if that cable breaks?” “What if those fasteners won’t work on that wall?” “What if that hand-painted silk fabric gets torn?”

My answer to these questions came in the form of my Just-In-Case bag, a huge canvas bag into which I would toss that reel of extra cable, alternate fasteners, bits of silk and thread, and any other solutions I thought up as those worries crossed my mind.

Sure enough, the installation team almost always needed one or more of the items I brought along in that bag on installation day.

Takeaways for project planning

Pre-planning for any project is like that, whether it’s an offset print project or a content plan for a website.

It involves walking through the project steps and milestones to figure out what extras should be tossed into the Just-In-Case bag.

If you’re the kind of person who notices whether the condiment bar at Starbucks is in a logical place in the store’s layout (yes, I do!), this kind of thinking process will come naturally. I think of it as good flow.

I have thought about that old canvas bag this week as I’ve worked on finalizing specifications for a complex casebound book project. I have pored over the design PDF and have mentally walked through all of the production steps. I have explored the final, crucial steps of custom binding and finishing for answers to: “How should the gatefold pages be set up?” “Will these folds work right?” “How will a single flyleaf page be attached?” “What size should endpages be in relation to the text and cover?”

I have been putting the answers in the bag, answers the designers will need to incorporate so the book will move smoothly through every production step along the way to becoming an exquisite finished product.

Projects in the bag

Contrary to myth, project planning can’t eliminate every obstacle. But thinking a project through from end to beginning to end is like filling a virtual Just-In-Case bag. This process anticipates and sidesteps as many obstacles as possible and ensures a more nimble response to those unavoidable surprises.

© 2010 Nani Paape