In our digital world, many people make the claim that print is not needed as much. In some ways this is true. However, I find myself designing more and more print jobs in past few months. It turns out that people value print. Not in the same way as they used to — being almost a necessity. But, now, it is a welcome marketing addition to the clutter of cheap online sales messages.
Unfortunately, designers coming out of school, who are very familiar with digital design, may be lacking in the important nuances of print. What isn't even a consideration when designing a website or digital ad, can easily cost big time if not considered in print design.
So, here's a brief list of items, if not remembered, can cost you if you miss them:
- Who is responsible for proofreading?
It's a good idea to establish clear responsibilities. It should be the client's ultimate responsibility to ensure that the spelling, grammar, and so forth are correct, since they are the subject matter experts. However, it's a good rule of thumb to have more than one proofreader. The designer can help with this, but they can't be expected to have the final say. It's better if the client puts together a team who can help with this.
- Is the print quantity correct?
It's the wrong time to check your printing specs when the job is being printed. Talk about a rude surprise! It's better to be clear with the client and the printer what exactly is being printed, how much, and where it is being delivered — preferably before the job is even designed. And be sure to check price break points with the printers. When deciding to print 1500 or 2000 brochures, printing the larger amount can cost about the same — lowering the cost-per-piece.
- Are the page counts correct?
For multi-page documents it's so easy to confuse sheets versus finished page sizes when talking with printers. Be clear up front what you are talking about. There's a big difference between an 8-page (finished size) brochure and an 8-page (sheet size) brochure. But if you confuse 8-page sheet size for 8-page finished size, you'll get a rude awakening. For example, if a booklet you are designing is 8 pages, and 8.5 x 11 inches in size when it's done that is the finished size. To create this, it will take two 11 x 17 inch sheets, front and back, and folded in half. So you will need two 11 x 17 sheets — which is the sheet size. Big difference.
- Are the images CMYK or RGB?
In the digital world, we deal primarily in RGB color spaces. And that's appropriate. However, in the print world your color ay not print as expected if you use RGB. Better to use CMYK images in professional design software. Also, don't design in MS Word, Paint, Publisher, or PowerPoint. Not the best for good print.
- How will this be delivered?
This is important to know before designing anything, because it can determine the optimal size, shape, and print requirements. For instance, if it's a self-mailer you will need space for the mailing address, mailing bar codes, and so forth. Also, you have to consider the client's budget. It costs a lot more to mail an odd shape piece rather than a standard size piece. Of course if it's to be distributed by hand, you will have more freedom. Good to know ahead of time, believe me.
- Is the contact information correct?
As mentioned above, proofreading is the client's responsibility because they are the subject matter experts. But, how often is basic contact information and a proper name missed? A lot of times, because it is assumed right so often. If you've printed 5000 before discovering this, it can be a very painful experience.
- Does your client want a specific paper choice, or any special printing considerations?
Sometimes the client has a certain touch, feel, or experience he wants his audience to have when they receive the printed materials. You need to know that. Try to consult with the printer first, if it's in your power to do so. They are excellent at giving suggestions for the right paper choice. And they can help you find cost effective solutions. Always check to see how the paper weight and style will affect the printing costs. Also consider how spot varnishes, use of PMS (Pantone Match System) colors, and doing a press proof, can benefit the client.
If the client allows you to work with the printer on their behalf, you can be a valuable asset. So, negotiate a fair price with your client for giving them print consulting services. Usually a surcharge of 15% of the printing cost is a pretty fair rate. See if they are willing to have you as their print consultant to get them the best value for their money.
Photo courtesy Will Luo of Flickr.com