Murphy was a Printer
The last few blogs I’ve posted have been stressing the importance giving the printer correct specifications so that your returning bids will be accurate. If you do that, and do it perfectly, will that prevent errors? No. Ask any printer you know or any that you don’t know for that matter if Murphy was a printer and you’ll hear a resounding, “Yes” or maybe an emphatic, “Hell, Yes.” For those readers who may not know Murphy’s Law, it goes like this, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” What does that mean? I’ll tell you, it means that no matter how perfectly you plan a print job, and how thoroughly you execute that plan, in the end there’s a chance that a boogie will jump out and ruin the whole darn thing.
So many steps, no wonder someone trips.
Why does Murphy pick on printers? That’s a good question that I think can be answered very simply by the complexity, and number of steps it takes to get something printed. For example I once worked on a company’s brochure. They, the company, hired a graphic designer who hired a photographer to take shots of the workplace. The pictures were professionally done, and the graphic designer did an excellent job in preparing the art. This was before computer design programs when art was furnished to the printer on art boards, so the first step in the process was to shoot the art on our stat camera, and send the photos out to be drum scanned. State of the art stuff for the day. When the prepress people, who were called in the industry (don’t laugh) strippers, got the camera’s film and the film from the separator they had to strip it all together. This required a different set of negatives for each color. Which were carefully taken over to a plate burner where the negatives were placed precisely over a printing plate and the images photographically etched onto the plate. Then the plate had to be developed. I could go on and on, but I’ve probably already put you to sleep so I’ll stop here.
Did you count the steps it took just to get a plate made, and the number of places where something could go wrong? The first possible communication error was between the customer and the graphic designer, the second between the photographer and the designer, and the third between me (the sales rep) and the designer. Another possible point of error is between the printer’s sales person and the estimator. Do you see where I’m going with this? If the job is miscommunicated up front, in any way, there isn’t anything you can do in the production to make it right. I often hear customers say, I don’t need a proof, just go on with the job. I understand, they are busy and don’t need any more to-do’s in their day, but proofs, and specs, and everything else we do to communicate the job are as necessary to the job performance as getting the art in the first place.
Ruined because of what?
Back to the brochure, after all those steps and I didn’t even enumerate what could go wrong on press, in the bindery, or even with delivery, after the job was delivered I got a phone call from the president of the company. He said, “This is a terrible brochure. You ruined what was supposed to be a showpiece for our company.”
I had samples on my desk and for the life of me couldn’t understand why he would be so upset. It was a beautiful piece. So I asked, “What exactly is the problem?”
He told me that his secretary’s dress came out too aqua it was really more of a royal blue color. I swear this is a true story! Her dress was the wrong shade of blue, are you kidding me? Assuming there was a real problem, where could it have taken a wrong turn? First if shot under fluorescent lights unless they are color corrected everything will be tinged with yellow. The color separator could have been adjusting for pleasing flesh tones and tweaked it a little off color. Printing is done with dots as I mentioned in an earlier blog (Sunday, February 15th, 2009), those dots are made with four pigments, CYMK. Not every color can be perfectly reproduced with those colors. Finally on press, the ink flow to the sheet is adjusted by the press operator to get the best result. Where did it go wrong-anywhere, nowhere. The real question was did the brochure fulfill it’s purpose? Was it professionally produced in an accepted workmanlike manner? Yes and yes. Did any potential customer refuse to buy his product because of the color of the secretary’s dress? I don’t think so. His reaction was a bit over the top don’t you think? I wonder what was really going on?
But again, Murphy was a printer. I swear that he was.