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Digital Print: Enhance Design and Bottom Line

Digital printing is efficient, customizable, and cost effective. Although it’s been around for years, many printers, designers, and marketers still do not realize the amazing potential of digital printing: rapid turnaround of print pieces that pop.

In 12 years, digital printing has turned the world of print production on its head. It has given graphic designers and printers a level of versatility and creative freedom they might have longed for, but could not have imagined.

As a commercial printer, you’re a player in the digital space, but you also need to be a partner. Where traditional offset printing often allowed designers and printers to remain in separate “silos” (so to speak), the digital space converges communication, design, color, computing, and printing. To be successful in the digital dimension, printers, print buyers, and designers must interact to hone their skills and knowledge. With a spirit of camaraderie to meet technological and logistical requirements, the true potential of digital print can be realized.

When you think about digital printing, remember its amazing ability to maximize personalization and enhance visual attractiveness while simultaneously saving time and money. With digital print, your job’s easier and more lucrative, while your customer is more satisfied—sounds like a good business decision for everyone. Every time a designer brings in a project, you can help educate them on the benefits of digital printing by sharing a few simple tips and tricks.

Personalization = Profit

The ability to personalize a print project is one of digital printing’s greatest strengths. It pays off, too—for you and your customer. For your customer, personalization equals results. Research by Printing Industries of America found that adding color and personalization, such as the recipient’s name, to a direct mail piece increases responses by 135 percent. More personalization added to a color piece increases responses by 500 percent over a black-and-white mailer.

Beyond increasing response rate, digital printing’s ability to increase personalization allows one to be a better, greener marketer. For example, because digital printing allows for lower setup costs, shorter runs, and lower minimums, instead of mailing to every individual in a database, a marketer should target the top 30 percent of customers with a highly personalized piece. If personalization is the answer to achieving a better response rate, digital printing is crucial to your customer’s success.

Going digital is a good decision for you, too. After all, if your customers achieve better return on their investment because of your services, you can count on their continued and frequent business.

What can you do? You’ve seen what works and what doesn’t with personalizing direct mail. Provide your recommendations as early as possible so the designer can maximize the benefit of one-to-one marketing. Also, alert your customer to the software program you prefer for personalization.

Make it POP

A digital press has an amazing ability to reproduce images. However, reproduction of large areas of solid color, tints, and blends on digital presses can sometimes lead to banding and blending issues. A design produced for a digital press should avoid large areas of solid color by including photos, graphics, and text from the start. By doing so, the design will be enhanced as well. Infusing work with photos and graphics is an excellent way to avoid flat areas of color. Additionally, adding subtle patterns—or noise—using image manipulation software is a fun way to break up solid areas of color.

Speaking of color, there is a wider gamut of color available because digital printing uses liquid or dry toners rather than ink. Yet there are limitations in color matching. Most digital presses convert Pantone colors to CMYK equivalents or allow for a conversion formula. Your customer looks to you to help identify problem color areas. It’s important that you speak up and share your knowledge if you see an opportunity to improve color reproduction and eliminate banding. If a close color match is needed, you and the designer should communicate and assess color chips along with the file.

How can you help? Provide proofs regularly to your customer to help identify any color issues. You know that soft proofs are representative of the final color, but that only a printed proof provides an exact match. Make sure your customer knows this, too. While proofs displayed on a computer monitor are convenient and inexpensive, they are not an exact match to the final printed piece. Also, be sure to confirm that the customer understands any additional costs associated with this type of proof.

The Power of Paper

The digital revolution has unleashed an array of print possibilities. Still, some things remain unchanged—like the power paper has to influence. Before a word is printed on a page, paper speaks volumes. It brings communication to physical life with its tangible qualities. A digital print job needs to run on paper that delivers excellent performance on digital printers. Always using high quality, high value digital papers that are formulated specifically for the performance demands of digital technologies will give you and your customers a competitive edge. Smooth, uniform surfaces allow for trouble free printing, and using paper made with post consumer fiber is ideal for everyone and for the environment.

What can you offer? Share your expertise on the selection of digitally optimized paper that works best with your press. As a result, you and your customer will both be happy with the final product. Also, because the selection of standard and specialty paper stock for digital presses broadens daily, always stay on top of the offerings so you can provide insightful, creative, and press compatible solutions for your customer.

Finally, do not assume that your customer is aware of your standard sheet size as this can result in trouble on the back end of the project. From the start, discuss sheet size and have a conversation about weight, coating, and texture. Above all, communication is key.

Blending your technical knowledge with your customer’s creative expertise is crucial for creating a workable file. Your customer knows how the finished piece should look, while you know the capabilities of the press. Create a list of questions to ask the designer at the start of the project. Make sure it includes questions about how the piece will be finished. Request that your customer decide on finishing methods—including die cuts, folding, and trimming—at the start of the project. Next, ask the designer for a mock-up of the layout to avoid any misunderstandings. Expectations and limitations should be shared in order to achieve desired results.

Because designers work with various printers who have different equipment, you need to highlight what is feasible and what isn’t on your press. If you’re on the same page from start to finish, you’ll both be pleased at the end.

Utilizing digital print is a wise business decision for you and your customer. It enhances design and the bottom line.