Path? What path?

Three years ago, I quit my job with the aim of landing work as a print production manager in a creative firm again.

There was just one problem: My liberation, the decline of the print industry and the country’s near-Depression were about to collide.

Design firms laid off staff and eliminated print manager positions. My job hunt became disheartening and seemingly endless, interrupted only by welcome independent projects and contract work.

As my many unemployed friends underwent vocational re-training for replacement careers, I wondered if I’d ever have an “ah ha” that would reveal a new path for me, too.
Read more about career evolution →

Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

Quality check of finished banners before they shipped to Squeaky Green Organics

In part 1 of my trade show displays crash course, I discussed vendor and manufacturer considerations.

In Part 2, I will share with you the many questions that I’ve discovered are crucial to ask before designing or producing a display that will work well for the user and for the trade show.

Read more about trade show displays →

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…

I think I’m pretty good at writing instructions. Not long ago when I ordered some items online, I wrote these:

Seems simple, right? But here’s what the shipper wrote on the carton:

Ha ha! Not exactly what I thought I had asked for (but admittedly, it was BIG).

As I recycled the box, I mused about how easy it is to think we’re giving clear instructions when, really, we’re not. And in this electronic era when people communicate face-to-face or voice-to-voice much less often, more weight than ever falls on clearly asking in writing for what we want.

Read more about clear instructions →

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog, Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them, did in 2010, and here’s a high-level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 9,100 times in 2010. That’s about 22 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 20 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 66 posts. There were 63 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 17mb. That’s about 1 picture per week.

The busiest day of the year was June 16th, with 204 views. That day my article, The reflex blue blues was republished with permission by The most popular post that day was Ah ha! (This means that the readers were directed to by a link at

Where did you come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for holiday wishes, what does a print production manager do, reflex blue, printing disasters, and press check checklist.

Top 2010 attractions

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010. If you missed these popular stories, you might enjoy visiting them:

Now what?

What would you like to read about on the Printing Disasters blog in 2011? I welcome and invite your suggestions; please use the comment feature to share them with me. Thank you!

Ah, Winter Solstice is here at last.

I can hardly wait for longer days to arrive. The return of the light is a really big deal here in the northern US (latitude N 47°), where today the skies will begin to darken around 3:45 PM!

I love the symbolism of Winter Solstice, too: longer days, the awakening of dormant things. There’s even an uncommon lunar eclipse tonight. The last time a total lunar eclipse and the Winter Solstice occurred on the same date was in 1638!  I hope we’ll have clear enough skies to see the eclipse in Seattle.*

Despite the darkness, it’s been a busy time for me. I’ve been enjoying working with several new clients and bringing their ideas to the inked page. I’ve had less time to blog, but I do have some new printing stories percolating in the dark. You’ll see them start to emerge in the coming weeks.

On this most auspicious day, I want to thank all of you who have visited Printing Disasters, have enjoyed the articles, shared links to them with friends, and have been in touch via comments or the “contact me” page.

May the ideas and possibilities that have been developing in the dark of your year burst forth, bringing you creative satisfaction and pleasure in the new year.

Good Solstice to you all,

*The skies were clear enough to see the eclipse from my front porch. Beautiful and eerie!

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

I spent a busy September managing a series of print projects for a Seattle ad agency, including small-scale self-mailers, postcards and invitations; medium-scale posters and large-scale outdoor banners and billboards.

Reviewing all of the proofs for these diverse products got me to thinking about proofing from an audience or end-user perspective.

We print specialists and designers tend to view proofs with our noses pressed right up against them to spot even the most microscopic flaw. It’s necessary to give the proof close-up scrutiny, of course, but it’s also important to hold the proof farther away, too, in order to see it the same way the intended viewer will. Are you seeing what your reader will see? Just remind yourself that most people don’t own a loupe!

Read more about proofing with the end-user in mind →

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…

Last week I fielded a few requests for referrals to good graphic designers, printers, and building contractors. As I described the vendors I recommended, I found myself saying, “These guys do what they say they will.” That’s high praise in my book.

The Stuckrath maxim

You see, I believe in the maxim handed down by my German-American grandfather, Kendall Stuckrath: “Your word is your bond.” No, he didn’t invent the maxim, but he did try to live by it. (He also seeded two generations of perfectionists while he was at it, but that’s another story!)

Granted, nobody is perfect, darn it, and I for one have felt sheepish when I haven’t been able to keep a promise for one reason or another.

But I’ll bet that 99% of the time, most of us who provide a professional service knock ourselves out to make good on our word and refrain from making promises we can’t keep.

A designer friend and I talked about this just today. “That’s why parents tell their kids, ‘we’ll just have to see,’” he commented.

As the tables turn

A copywriter friend once advised me, “It doesn’t matter where you work next in advertising, it matters how you work. After all, you’ll see us all again.” She was so right! Former fellow employees became vendors, supervisors became clients, and co-workers became hiring managers.

Nobody can foretell which side of the bargaining table they’ll be sitting on in future business interactions. So when power relationships shift—as they inevitably do—and we find ourselves seated on a different side of that table than we were before, I am convinced that being regarded as people who keep our word can only help our prospects and yield great referrals.

Well we all shine on,
Like the moon and the stars and the sun,
Yeah we all shine on,
On and on and on on and on.

John Lennon, from “Instant Karma”

Story © 2010 Nani Paape

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© 2009-2015 Nani Paape & Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material in any form without express and written permission from Nani Paape is strictly prohibited. Are you aggregating my copyrighted content onto your website? If so, it's polite to at least ASK instead of just waltzing off with it. WITH my permission, SHORT excerpts and links may be used, provided that full, clear credit is given to Nani Paape and, with appropriate and specific direction and link(s) to the original content.