Making Clients Comfortable
At New York City-based Ideas on Purpose, a brand communications firm specializing in corporate reporting, brand systems, and interactive media, principal and creative director John Connolly reports his firm does a lot of image-based work, so image translation to print is crucial. “There’s a lot of work on the part of the printer and designer to get that to work well,” he says. “It requires a lot of collaboration, because the printer has to take our files and do retouching work to make the files appear the way we envisioned them to appear, and then have the capacity to run a lot of ink and have beautiful color saturation.”
As for effective communication, Connolly says he and his colleagues rely on printers to be able to show examples of technique, papers, and certain inks. All of that is required to make clients of Ideas on Purpose comfortable, especially if a sizable financial investment is being considered. In addition, his company has to build in a budget for press proof and testing. “Clients are not comfortable with a big leap of faith,” Connolly says. “They need to be made comfortable.”
Ideas on Purpose begins with verbal concepts, addressing a client’s problem long before the design stage ever commences, he adds. “That enrolls the client in the idea very, very early on, and they’re less likely to come in with preconceived ideas.” Connolly says. “They almost feel ownership of the shared idea we approach them with.”
Connolly hasn’t interfaced with on-staff designers at printers with which his company has worked. Some have staff designers, but he’s never sought their services. “But the print reps I work with are creative problem solvers and do bring solutions to the table,” he says. “I don’t need to talk to a designer on staff at a printer. But we do have to bounce ideas off the printer through the rep, and also get a sense of—if we’re thinking outside the box—how far out can we go?”
The customer service representative serves a key communication role at Trends Presentation Products of Washington, MO, which won a major award in the 2013 BIA awards for its cherry starburst design, created for Cherry Coke.
“Communication is key,” says sales manager David Inman. “We’re a custom shop, doing these short-run, challenging pieces. Our customer service rep, who has an artistic background, works with the customer directly. It makes it so much easier when she can see the concept and bring it to life. She has to take if from the customer and bring it to our in-house engineering department, which in turn takes that concept and brings it to life…Right away, she can identify problem areas, related to the art the customer is bringing in.”
Early communication between designers and printers is especially crucial in the book printing industry, where it’s essential to consider finishing and/or binding right from the design stage. Dennis DeHainaut, vice president of sales at Nashville’s Bindtech, Inc., one of the country’s largest privately-owned trade bindery and book manufacturers, says designers must communicate with the customers as well as the finishing company, so those stakeholders know what the end product will be before any design work is done.
“That way, we can provide the designer with specification sheets that will give that designer the various layouts for the various binding styles,” he says.
Without communication, problems can occur. The designer may lay out a page without realizing this will be a mechanically bound book, and “when we’re punching the text, we’re actually punching into the copy,” DeHainaut says.
Or the designer may design a page layout for a perfect bound book that has a grind-off on the spine, and when the book comes to Bindtech, the publisher has decided this will be a Smyth-sewn book, which has no grind-off.