I have written about why you should use a designer and the pit falls of bad logo design over the last couple of weeks, but a post on Facebook yesterday inspired today’s ramble. I saw a post or rather mini rant, by a printers on their own wall. They were complaining that if you are going to use your own independent designer to supply artwork to them and not their own studio, please make sure that  they know what they are doing!

Seems like a fair point you might say, but you would be amazed how many ‘quality designers’ can’t design for print. It entertains me when I talk to people about what I do for a living how many say, “I used to do that”. Apparently everyone and his dog has been a graphic or web designer at some point in their lives.

The thing I pride myself on and have spent a lot of effort to achieve, is the ability to design for print. Now I’m not just talking about designing a leaflet or a business card, every one has had a go at that and that’s not what the printers rant was about. Its about the ability to set up artwork correctly for the print process. Over my 17 and a bit years I have sent out thousands of print files to hundreds of different printers, all with a slightly different way of going about it. I’m proud to say of all those files probably only 2% have ever had any issues and that’s normally because I’m sat up doing it at 4am in the morning!

When I first started out I spent the first 18 months temping at as many different places as I could. I learnt my trade in every part of the industry from the concept and design element to the print house. I ran films, I set up plates, I even packed boxes in finishing. I saw what the problems were and learnt the things I should and shouldn’t do. A few years ago I invested in a Xerox Docucolor Digi Press and Large Format Printer and although time has moved on and I no longer have that kit any more, actually being the printer myself, taught me a whole new set of frustrations and skills.

The key to designing for print is attention to detail. I’m slightly obsessive with the technical side of design, my colleagues laugh at my obsessive need to have things level and even and accurate. All printers have a specification that they work to. A set criteria for the colour set up, page size etc. If it’s someone I have never worked with before, the first thing I do is check out the artwork requirements on their website or ask for a spec. It’s not a complicated thing, but somehow it seems to get overlooked. The designer knows better. In most cases this is very rarely true and ends up with the colors set up incorrectly, there’s no bleed, it should have outlined fonts…

All of these things mean a reduction in quality for your job. Some printers will get in touch and tell you, in some cases I have know artwork go backwards and forwards may times before its finally corrected. Others, the cheap and cheerful as they are know will just print it as they see it. There isn’t enough money in it for the hassle.

These might seem unimportant to you, the customer, but any good designer who knows their salt should do these things as standard. It’s not the printers responsibility to check spellings or make sure pictures are crisp and sharp. That is what you are paying your designer for. So the next time you get your nice new brochure printed and the text is falling off the end because its too close to the trim edge or the images are fuzzy because they didn’t check the resolution, ask your designer do they design for print?