You know the feeling. The courier brings in a package of printed samples. You rip it open to see how your latest project turned out, and the sweet smell of printer's ink engulfs you.
If you're lucky, the color is exactly as you imagined, the photos have reproduced perfectly, the paper has just the right snap to it, and it has been trimmed and finished meticulously. It's love at first sight.
Before you get carried away with self-congratulations, remember that the love you feel when you pick up your perfect printed piece is probably the result of some serious relationship work with your printer and your paper rep. And the more you put into those relationships, the better chance you have of opening more packages of perfect printing.
The first blush of romance. . .
The time to involve your paper rep and printer in a new project is right at the beginning — not when time is tight and you need to get the thing printed NOW.
Discussing paper stocks, exploring special techniques and talking through potential difficulties at the beginning of a project may open your mind to options you hadn't considered. But you've got to ask for help!
- Ask for printed samples of similar projects—annual reports, brochures, letterhead — or check through the samples your rep left when they came around to show their new stuff.
- Ask for suggestions. Discuss the parameters of the job—talk about ink coverage, photography, bleeds, special techniques or processes. Your printer and paper rep see hundreds of jobs. They can help you avoid pitfalls or discover unique solutions.
- Ask for samples of different stocks. Use the swatch book to choose some options, then get larger samples of the contenders cut to the size of your final piece. It'll give you a much better idea of the weight and color you can expect.
- Ask about templates and standing dies. Paper merchants can often supply you with templates for packaging or folders that are economical to use and have been proven workable. And your printer may have a standing die that will work with your concept and save you the cost of custom work.
- Ask for dummies to be made up. They'll help you and your client decide whether the piece 'feels' right—and you can make sure it meets weight specifications for postage, too.
- Ask about availability. If you can't get the stock you've chosen in time for your deadline, it's better to know at the beginning of the job so you can make another choice.
- Ask about problems on the press with the stock you've chosen. Your printer is liable to know a lot more than you do about how it performs, and can often help you avoid costly mistakes.
- Ask what you can do to make sure the job turns out well. If you could be a fly on the wall in the pressroom, you'd quickly find out that there are some things we designers do that cause trouble every time. If it doesn't compromise quality, sometimes a small change can make the job run a lot smoother.
Build relationships that last
Each project is a chance to build a relationship with your printer and your paper rep. And the more you know about each other, the better that relationship will be. And the better your relationships, the more likely that your jobs will turn out the way you want.
- Don't forget your printer and paper rep once the job's been delivered. If it turned out as well as you hoped, share the love! People will remember your 'good news' call—because they happen so seldom. Your thank-you call will go a long way to building the good will you'll need when things go sideways.
- If there's a problem, discuss it—and don't assume it's the other guy's fault. Like your mother said, "You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar."
- Take the time to sit in on your paper rep's presentation when they make a sales call. Not only will you get to see the latest samples and find out about new stocks, but you'll have a chance to ask questions, trade stories and build the kind of relationship that just may make the difference between 'Wow' and 'Uh-oh'.
- Send your paper rep samples of the jobs you print on their stock. The more familiar they are with your style, and the quality you're after, the more they'll be able to help in the future.
Print isn’t dead yet
While you may look at everything you can do on your phone and swear "Print is dead, long live digital.", take another look. Print has some unique advantages over digital, and rumours of its death are highly exaggerated.
- Tangibility: You can touch it, smell it, feel its weight. There’s nothing digital that can compare to the experience as you turn the pages of a favourite book.
- Reliability: Reading something in print is a reliable occupation, Ads stay where they are put - they don’t pop up unexpectedly, blaring and startling people, and text remains where you left it, waiting for you to rediscover a favourite quotation or passage, without a lot of scrolling...
- Consistency: A complete branding campaign with both digital and print applications solidifies your brand identity in a way that digital wishes it could. Posters, transit, retail all help you build a consistent voice and messaging.
Don’t declare print dead yet, there's still a lot of love in this industry!
Good relationships are built on common experiences, mutual respect, and good communication. So remember, you gotta do a little work to get that lovin' feeling when you open your next printed samples!