Graphic Designers & Printers–It’s a Love/Hate Thing

I envy the printers for one thing in particular, they are updated regularly by paper merchant reps who call on them with the latest developments, updates, and changes. I get my information either second hand or by attending seminars and showings hosted by the merchants. In the last two weeks I attended a seminar on preparing art files for printing, direct mail, and the danger of the opt-out initiative, and digital printing advancements. I never know what a customer is going to ask of me and I have to be prepared.

Yesterday, Sappi paper sent Daniel Dejan, their North American ETC Print/Creative Manager to town to speak about graphic design and file prep. I thanked Daniel for his presentation, but didn’t thank him enough. You see the printers depend on the artists and graphic designers to keep the presses rolling. The graphic designers need the printers to produce their products. But to hear them talk about each other, you’d think there is a war going on. The printers say that graphic designers don’t even try to prepare their files correctly, that they think because something looks right on the screen it will print right. Designers on the other hand, think that the printers are screwing up their files, and if they just knew what they were doing the jobs would all run smoothly.

Stop the bickering. Mr. Dejan framed the problem as having its roots primarily in the graphic programs and in the designers failure to take the finishing steps necessary to make sure their files are correct.

I can tell you from my personal experience that computer design has completely overhauled the printing industry. When the first design programs were introduced, they created more problems than they solved. Over the years we have seen definite improvements. The programs are much better but still far from perfect. Could they get even better? Yes. Are they striving to implement technology that would fix the disconnect between printer and graphic artist? Not really. Daniel says that he has recommended changes that are possible, but are shrugged off as being too expensive, or time consuming, and aren’t worth doing. money trashedMillions of dollars every year are wasted in printer and designer time because the needed tweaks aren’t happening. Printers and designers need to get together and insist that the software is improved. Maybe working on changes that would throw up red flags when art is incomplete or wrong isn’t sexy, but it would go along way to reducing wasted hours and angry phone calls.

“The single most important thing a designer can do to communicate the job to the printer,” according to Daniel, “is to provide a hard-copy dummy. Herein lies the rub, most files are now emailed to the printer or go by way of ftp. It used to be that the print rep picked up the art and delivered it to the printer. Hard-copy dummies were more common then. We have gotten away from them today, but they are still critical to successful communication. I hate to say it, but it seems to me that we need to take a step backward and have the print reps pick up the disk and hard-copy dummy to take back to the shop. We’ve lost an important communication opportunity along the way.

The second most important task for the designer is to pre-flight their own files. A good pre-flight program provides information about problem spots like low-res photos, but also tosses all the false starts and junk that accumulate as the design is developing. It’s like delivering a finished statue without cleaning it up or sweeping the debris around it. It’s not just ugly; it confuses the rip and leads to wrong fonts being selected, and other problems.

Every printer in the world would love for Daniel Dejan of Sappi to personally instruct the graphic designers, but that isn’t possible. What is possible is that the word gets out about dummies, and pre-flights and most of the problems would be resolved early.

As for Adobe and the others, come on, give us a break. Listen to Daniel, take his advice, and endow your programs with the tweaks needed to help stop the war.

Sappi’s website is www.sappi.com. If you would like to discuss other design-print problems with Daniel, his company email is daniel.dejan@sappi.com.

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