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Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

The page design makes it clear to the recipient which way is up.

A couple of years ago, the United States Postal Service made changes to Standard Mail mailing panel design rules that frustrate designers and print managers no end. Just trying to parse out what the postal service rules are can be a challenge.

One of the main changes is that the mailing block now has to be in the upper half of the page of a flat. From a design perspective, that’s some awfully choice real estate to give up!

The cover sheet of this Print magazine direct mail piece follows the letter of the law, while masterfully playing with the question, “What is top?” It’s also a great example of aligning content to context.

Read more about mailing panels

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

When I was a novice print production manager, a few highly experienced print reps took me under their wings and  gave me offset printing crash courses. This on-the-job print education helped me make my agency and our clients look good—and kept my feet from landing in the poop more times than I can count.

Lately I’ve been producing portable trade show displays for my clients, and although I’ve produced them before, I’m finding that the many considerations and materials choices available today make producing these displays quite complex.

If you’re in the young pup stage of this kind of production management, you may find this trade show displays crash course useful.

Read more about print management for trade show displays →

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

One of my readers asked me to write an article about how to select a printer. I have been pondering this question for quite a while now, sifting through the many factors I consider when recommending the best printer for my clients’ projects.

In this increasingly virtual world, I still strongly prefer to work eyeball-to-eyeball with my printers. I want collaborative partners who will work closely with me as we create great products.

This means I buy local when I can, and if all goes well, I will be a repeat customer: I believe that building on past project successes makes subsequent jobs go more smoothly and produces better products.

So how do you find a printer with whom you will enjoy an eye-to-eye relationship and from whom you will get the results you want?

Referrals are Good

Finding a good printer is a lot like finding a good doctor—I value personal recommendations from friends. Ask a few trusted professional colleagues to recommend their favorite printers. Or, if you know any graphic designers, I’m sure they will be able to steer you toward a good-quality local printer or two.

Be sure to tell the recommender a bit about the types of projects you are planning to print and ask whether or not the printers they suggest have done similar projects for them.

Once you have a short list of printers to consider, call each one and arrange for a representative (often called a print rep or a rep) to call on you and present the company’s capabilities. If the person who has recommended the printer mentioned that their rep is great, ask for that rep by name.

When you meet, asking the right questions can help you determine whether the printing company is a good fit for your projects and for you. I call these questions the Four Ps of Printer Selection.

Read more about the Four Ps of Printer Selection →

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

Flexo printed window cling for Swedish Ballard

I just completed this window cling project for Worker Bees, a Seattle agency. I had the clings printed on a flexographic press.

Although I am an old hand at managing offset and digital print projects, this was my first flexographic printing experience.

In this article I’ll describe a few of the things I learned during the course of this project.

My flexographic adventure

A flexographic press is a type of rotary web press, so the plastic cling material for my job—backed with white paper—came on a roll.

Flexographic printing is a direct printing method, not an offset method. The black printing plate looked like a giant rubber stamp, and the image on the plate was backwards. The plate was wrapped around a cylinder about 15 inches long. The yellow background was a flood coat that didn’t require a plate.

Read more about flexographic adventures →

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

I recently read an article about technological change written by Martha Beck. She says it’s no longer appropriate to ask, “Is your life on track?” She says that technological and cultural changes are happening so fast that there is no track anymore.

She suggests adopting a new metaphor—a kayak instead of a train—to more nimbly navigate into new, as-yet-uncharted waters.

I love print, I really, really do. I love knowing a process down to its minutia and guiding a project through to great results: A tactile object that’s as good as I can possibly make it, given time and budget constraints. Something real I can hold in my hands, examine, and know that it is beautiful. Something that has a start and a finish.

But the print world I love is changing fast. Over the past few years I’ve monitored the “Is print dead?” conversations as print industry insiders and commentators pondered whether the decline of print was just a part of the economic downturn or a permanent paradigm shift. Whichever it is, it’s not the good old days anymore.

Read more about reinvention →

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

Is that schedule padded?

In my book, a slightly padded project schedule is a good thing. If the client changes her mind, a new solution can be created. If the carton of paper is damaged, the ink won’t dry, or there’s a back-up in bindery, the deadline can still be met.

As an added bonus, studios look good to clients when the product still delivers on time, or even delivers sooner than promised.

Read more about scheduling →

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story, complete with cautionary tales and disaster avoidance tips.

Blue Cautionary Tales

Last year I had two annual reports at press at the same time. One book had heavy black coverage, but dried just fine. The other had heavy blue coverage and took two extra days to dry!

On another project, the blue ink appeared to be dry, so the printer proceeded to die cut and trim the sheets. The result? The ink offset or rubbed off from one page to another on the finished product. All of the pieces had to be reprinted—at the printer’s expense.

When I worked at Nordstrom, the primary brand color was a very dark blue. Over those two years, I spent a lot of time waiting for ink to dry!

The culprit in every case? Blue. Reflex blue.

Read more about reflex blue →

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story… third in a series of tips on how to save money on printing.

Tip #3: ask for series pricing

Photo by Darren Hester

Customers who share with their printer their plans to print a project again within a few months’ time usually save money on that entire printing series.

Why? Because every company appreciates repeat business, and printers are no exception. Most businesses know that it costs less to retain an existing customer than to land a new one.

So, for example, if you print 10,000 magazines each quarter in 2010 and award the printing for the entire series to one printer, that printer is likely to give you a great price.

Read the Disaster Avoidance Tips →

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…first in a series of tips on how to save money on printing.

Tip 1: Choose an efficient flat size

With paper costs accounting for 25% or more of a print job’s cost, it pays to be smart about paper.

You will always get a better deal on printing when your piece fits on the printing paper with little off-cut, the part of the sheet trimmed away and tossed directly into the recycling bin.

Read more about efficient flat sizes →

“Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story...

I’ve conducted more press checks than I can count—small press, large press, digital and conventional, sheet-fed, web, letterpress.

Each has its distinctive peculiarities, but they all have several things in common.

Surprisingly, the secrets to successful press checks are not so much technical as they are cultural.

Over the years I’ve learned that a printing plant is a different world than the one I inhabit the rest of the time, with its own customs and language.

Try these practices at your next press check and see for yourself the difference they will make:

Read more about press checks →

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