A discouraging state of affairs

I belong to a Facebook group about logo design. The incompetence displayed there by supposedly professional designers is astounding.

For example, I just responded to a designer who posted examples of how he specified brand colors in a recent style guide he created for a client.

The guy specified what he thought were Pantone spot color numbers, but they were seemingly from Pantone’s process color book. He also mentioned always telling his clients to use Pantone’s C colors instead of their U colors, then went on to say he didn’t really know what C and U meant (which was obvious). He provided completely different CMYK percentage breakdowns for his colors from those in the Pantone process color swatch book that he mistakenly referenced.

His ignorance and bad client advice aren’t surprises — this kind of incompetence seems rampant. What really surprised me was that out of the dozens of replies, likes, and loves he got complimenting him on his work, only one other person besides me pointed out his glaring mistakes of the sort that can get people sued.

I don’t expect minimum competence requirements for graphic design licensing will ever come about. I’m also unsurprised why so many clients and employers look down on graphic designers as a collective bunch of artsy oddballs whose judgment can’t be trusted.

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Unfortunately it’s rampant.

Pointing out stuff like that 15 years ago got me kicked off AIGA forums.
Now there are “Go You” choruses out there that pretty much reinforce crap like that.
I gotta ask though, why do you subject yourself to that Facebook group?

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I’ve always worked at places where designers mostly knew what they were doing, which I took for granted. Social media groups have exposed me to an ugly underbelly of this whole field for better or worse. It sort of makes me feel better knowing that you were running into it 15 years ago and that it’s not an entirely new level of incompetence I’m running across. On an AIGA forum, though — geeech!

The guy saying that he always advised his clients to use the Pantone C colors because they were better looking than the washed-out U colors made me laugh and cringe at the same time. He ended up giving a like to all the comments complimenting him. My response didn’t get a like. :slightly_frowning_face: :wink: The only follow-up response my comment got was from another “designer” informing me that the C referred to Computer colors like those used for digital displays.

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tenor

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So I guess U refers to an Un-computer color. Ha. Crazy.

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Did you take the time to set the “designer” right? Or did you just pat em on the head and tell em, “you just go on believing that…”?

Would you be surprised that I have multinational brand guidelines for massive organisations with incorrect pantone/cmyk/hex values all over their materials. Saw one before that had the RAL numbers instead of the Pantone colours but it was written as Pantone Colours, when I looked up the colour it was nowhere near what was on the screen. I checked several colour books and found the reference in the RAL.

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At that point, I just decided to let it go. I had already said that the U and C referred to what the colors look like when printed on uncoated and coated stock, so I suppose the computer color thing was this person’s attempt to set me straight.

The original poster finally responded with a Facebook like, then sort of thanked me before telling me that I had embarrassed him.

Embarrassed himself. All he had to do was look it up on the internet.

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Ya, no kiddin’
Same with the one with the ‘computer color’ thing.

I’ve got to admit that what used to be a simple way to specify spot colors has become confusing. When I first started in this business, 4-color process printing was an expensive luxury. Most offset and letterpress work involved thumbing through Pantone’s coated and uncoated swatch books to pick an ink color or two. It was a simple as that. Digital anything didn’t exist, and typical CMYK (especially letterpress) was so inaccurate that trying to match it up with spot colors was pointless.

Today, with multi-color digital printing, HEX numbers, RGB, and Pantone’s attempt to keep up with it all by trying to position itself as the color matching and consistency standard across all these mediums and technologies, it’s gotten complicated. Pantone seemingly has swatch books for everything now, from plastics to fabrics to inks that try to cross-reference different aspects of the confusion. It’s become complicated, and Pantone doesn’t seem to do much in the way of making it easy to understand. We sometimes mention how companies like Adobe or Apple are sometimes out of touch with their users, but Pantone just might be worse than any of them.

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Pantone is actually easy enough to understand if you first know the basics of how it was meant to be used, starting with the fact that all those Pantone books are just references of what the color will look like on the paper or fabrics selected by Pantone. Your mileage WILL differ.

but Pantone has gone out of it’s way to make things difficult, in the interest of selling their product, and only for that one interest. (I love how the print industry categorically panned their attempt at the GOE system and that they had to roll it into their current system, which is why the Universal Matching system changed color tints somewhere around 2017 ish.

But the books, for instance, unless you plan on buying miles of fabric or lifts of plastic parts or sheets, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to have the Textile or Plastics swatch decks. None. Zip. If you are doing dye sub on fabrics, Coated Pantones work. I’ve found the EU to be a bit different, some wanting uncoated if they are printing on cotton-based, and/or super-wide fabrics but that’s a whole different can of worms and not likely something the run-of-the-mill GD in today’s market is likely to be dealing with.

Same thing applies for the Extended Gamut books. The wide format printers that print those extended gamuts aren’t readily set up to recognize those color callouts (most shop rips run on Pantone Coated profiles in the US.) A 4 or 6 color press can’t make the equivalents happen simply because they don’t have the OGV ink pots for the gamut extension.

Don’t even get me started on the Bridge process libraries. Dont get me wrong, the Bridge books are useful. The libraries in the software, not so much unless your print partner specs for you to use them.

The whole idea is not to overthink it. Always use the color method specified by your particular print partner. If you don’t understand what they are asking for, ask! Don’t assume.

Sadly, Pantone is rarely taught in schools. I’ve had more than a few senior year interns who had never heard of Pantone, let alone seen a Pantone book.

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I was thinking the same thing.

As you mentioned, when one understands the basics of the Pantone system and the concepts behind it and then learns enough to know what’s relevant to their situation and what isn’t, it’s fairly straightforward.

I’d be willing to bet that most newer designers would struggle to even explain what spot colors are or why and when they’re situationally important. Without those kinds of bare-boned basics, I can understand why all Pantone’s different swatch books, cryptic codes, cross-referencing, look-up tables, and terminology are mystifying.

For whatever reason, design schools tend to focus on creativity and aesthetics, which would be fine if they paid more attention to the nuts and bolts technical knowledge needed for the job.

Every accredited 4-year graphic design program should require at least a year-long course on commercial printing technology. It would include everything from the concepts behind 4-color process to extended gamuts to spot colors to touching on things like rotogravure, engraving, dot gain, media coatings, prepress, resolution, and things as brain-dead simple and basic as why bleeds are required or the differences between DPI, PPI, and LPI.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve interviewed designers for jobs and stumped them when I asked about technology that wasn’t related specifically to graphics software. Their eyes glaze over and they typically struggle to get our a coherent sentence while trying to seem confident about something that they’re barely familiar with. I remember once asking an applicant to explain the purpose of a bleed and he responded with something about avoiding paper cuts.

I’m unsure why, but higher education does a miserable job teaching these things — when they even touch on them at all.

Some kind of base-level certification is not a silly idea, considering the varying degrees of quality in the education provided by different institutes.

UNBELIEVEABLE! — I agree with PrintDriver — "Why do you subject yourself to that Facebook Group?

Hey, Just-B, didn’t we have this same conversation on this forum some time ago? (within the last year or two, I think.)

I’m afraid a certain set might consider learning about print as helpful as learning cursive handwriting.

I finished my 4 year degree in 2013. Looking back on it after working for a small print shop, I think I learned few real world skills for design. Definitely little to none about printing from my courses. I don’t regret getting (and paying for) the degree but the more I learn at work, the more it feels like my degree was just practice a bunch of art styles to see what stuck.

What else would you ask? Now I feel really fortunate that my print production teacher made us make our own print productions books based of A Guide to Graphic Print Production by Kaj Johansson, Peter Lundberg, and Robert Ryberg. Brilliant catch was he allowed us to use them on the final because like any real life situation, you’re gonna have the notes you make for yourself at hand.

Referring to the facebook commenters, I’d like to see how many have state school degrees for graphic design and who has degrees from design schools like AI, Academy of Art in SF etc. I remember hearing from various people during the graduation portfolio show at AIPDX that the PSU portfolio show was much more general with similar projects in every portfolio.

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