Designing for print involves countless and complex considerations. But experts agree the most essential among them are these two points. First, designers must involve printers as early as possible in the process, and second, communication flow between designers and printers must be as clear and upfront as possible.
The most successful designs are those that come in on budget and get results, says Michael Reiher, product manager for Enfocus Connect. Enfocus software is, of course, widely used in the industry for PDF pre-flight and PDF editing tools, while Enfocus Connect blends PDF creation with quality control and file delivery, specifically targeted at the graphic arts industry. “Many designers forget it’s more than just a pretty printed piece,” Reiher says.
“If your print design is going to be effective, it’s got to be reproducible downstream. So the easier you can make it for those downstream, the better it is for everyone” he observes. “If you comprehend what your piece will become, you’ll better understand your design limitations. You have to design to your budget. A lot of people waste time designing, only to learn it won’t fit in the budget.” If the designer can pass to the printer what the latter needs the first time out, it helps ensure the piece is produced much more quickly, keeping the project on budget. “Designers tend to throw things over the fence, and the printer has to go back and forth with many surprises,” Reiher says. “For any effective communication, you have to understand where it’s going, and whether it’s meeting your budget and your time frame.” The issue actually involves twin considerations, he adds. On one side is the problem of the piece’s technical aspects. Is it a tri-fold? Where do the folds fall? Is it a die-cut? Second, there’s the technical end. What kind of file is needed to produce that job? Will it go to a digital press or an offset press?
“Communicating that aspect tends to be the challenge,” Reiher says. “Knowing what color model to use, how to put in the bleeds, resolution of the images, and all that becomes a tough thing for a designer to grasp,” he says.
Enfocus Connect takes responsibility for the technical aspects of the file format, which today is typically a PDF, Reiher says. It takes all the technical knowledge away from designers, and gives it to the printer. “The printer doesn’t have to communicate back to the designer to make sure, for instance, that all images are CMYK and 300 dpi,” he says. “They can control those things for customers in a remote control fashion.”
Reiher doesn’t feel printers should suggest more effective design ideas. More to the point is the need to communicate several options to the designer, conveying that you may not be able to do what she wants, but if her budget is X and her time frame Y, she should consider these three different options. “For printers, customer retention is essential,” he says. “They’re no longer competing with the guy down the street; they’re competing with someone across the country. Make it easy for your customer to get a piece that’s on time and on budget, and is easy for them, and they’ll come back.” Along the same lines, it’s not as important for printers to have creative designers on staff to work with customers as it is to have creative problem solvers on staff, Reiher believes. That problem solver must be someone who can help the customer look at her options, and creatively examine what issues to address and how to solve them. “That means having someone who is good on the technical side and has a good eye for design,” he reports. “It’s someone who can think on both sides of the brain.
“Would having a good designer [on staff] be a good thing? It couldn’t hurt, but having a good problem solver is the way to go. It comes back to the whole thing about making sure your customers have options and that they feel they’re being taken care of. If they have that, they will come back.”