Printing workflow/pipeline when working on projects

Hello there!
I am new to this forum. I have read some topics around here but I want to ask something regarding a situation I am confronting. I work as a graphic designer in an agency that provides marketing and other organisational services for medical events in Romania. As a graphic designer I am in charge of all creative process from branding concept to assets printing. Lately, as projects keep coming, I noticed many faulty print jobs. And by these I mean, various typo errors, color aberrations, and copyright issues (wrong text etc). By all means these error could have been prevented if I established a management system. As a usual practice, I request a second or third opinion on materials I need to print to check for possible errors…But it is not an internal, recognized, management process, it is just an informal thing between my colleagues. Our clients usually are ok with our design and gives us a free hand. So I thought to establish some clear rules when managing this print, starting from my end to others involved. For example: 1) Manage more clearly the versions of documents (Sometimes I edit older version with some mistakes already corrected), 2) Create from start point a printing brief (What is requested from the client and colleagues) 3) Take me time (Realistic deadline), and by this to not work with stress because I cant focus on details. At this point I am curios what is the workflow for you regarding print jobs. What is your responsibility and what are your most common issues. I dont want to brag about it, but sometimes I feel I am left alone with this big printing jobs and I must assume all the responsibility even tough there are various inputs from other departments (texts images etc). Thank you for reading my post and very curios to see what you guys do. Best! Adrian

Because I work more as a printer than a designer, I tend to come into event projects at the tail end of them.

The most major problem I see is scheduling. We are at the day of the show and we are still delivering graphics to the venue. For a weeklong show, we might be delivering graphics the morning of the day they are needed mid-week. I have yet to figure out why this is when the designers involved know a year in advance that the show is happening again next year. At the same time. And sometimes in the same venue. I can understand breakout schedules changing and stuff like that but when you get to the point where you do not have time to proof, that is where the color and typo mistakes happen.
Always save time for proofing.

  1. definitely set up a management protocol. While it’s often a good idea to keep previous revs of docs just in case you have to go back to a previous version, keep them somewhere else. Even if it’s a folder in the job called “previous revs.” Then don’t go there. Don’t just auto-open using Recent Documents." Be very very careful about saving as PDF in Illustrator and Packaging in both Illy and Indesign. If you package, and continue working on the open file, the changes you make do not get translated to the packaged version. Package and close. With illustrator, once you make the pdf, now you are working on the pdf version. If you have used any image compression on the PDF, and then try to revert back to .ai, you run the risk of sending low rez imagery. I see all this all the time.

  2. An outline of what you need and the deliverables you need to make is a must.

  3. Schedule schedule schedule. I don’t know about event printers in Romania, but here a hard proof takes 3 days and no rush printing can take 5 more days after approval. Working days, not counting weekends. PDF proofs are not for color. For content only. If you want to check color, you need a hard proof. Your file to printer deadline should be at least 2 weeks before your event. More if stuff has to be shipped elsewhere and/or incorporated into your exhibit/event scenery.

The rule for printed graphics is:
Fast, cheap, quality.
Pick any TWO.
If you are looking for fast and cheap, don’t expect exact Pantone matching. Fast and Cheap stuff will get run on profile for media and machine or gang-run with other jobs, and unless your printer is ISO or very well color-managed, you get what you get. Even then, there are colors that will be off. CMYK color space is much smaller than your monitor’s RGB color space. “Match the monitor” is not an option.

Thank you for your time to answer on this topic. Regarding the issue about less time to prepare the files for print at events, I can say that here, at this firm, the clients are medics and we provide this services. In the same time we are dependent on a true collaboration on both ends. For example, in this moment I have finished the design and material for a conference due in september 2019. But if the client doesn’t provide factual informations regarding the event for example, scientific agenda, other social mettings with medics, what and when does it want the cofee break etc we will pospone it. Some of our clients cant be let go, they are to big. There are also situations were the manager comes form one of our clients mettings and says to me, ”until tomorrow I need these prints with these modifications” and then it leaves. No scripted requirements, some time not a realistic deadline and eventually no details provided. In this case I feel I dont have control on this part of process. Regarding proof printing its the same 3-5 working days. In Romania there are the cheap typographies and the more expensive ones. The first ones have no support, if you send the print that is it, almost no communication involved. If you go on at the bigger typographies they have a great communication process and are more expensive. Sorry in advance for the bad english.

You said you work at an agency that provides marketing services, yet you mentioned nothing about writers and copy editors whose job it is to write, error check and make sure all text is perfect. Correct me if I’m mistaken, but most of the problems you described seem directly related to a lack of a copy editor.

There are exceptions, but as a general rule, designers are not especially good writers and they make terrible editors. All projects where I work, from beginning to end, involve a writer and a copy editor signing off on everything from initial text to final proofing.

If I were starting up my own agency, the first person I would hire would be a writer with good copy editing skills. I would do this before I hired any designers — and I’m saying this as a designer myself.

Hello B,
Yes, we dont have a person that does only editing work, for what I refer to as a copyrighter. In our team is a marketing person responsible for campaigns and work close to me for image and rebranding. There is this database operator and a project manager. This is the typical team per event. I find that working on the design, even if I am a good editor mostly I cant spot the mistakes. My brain has a mental vision of the document (while working on it) and just cant recognise any of editor mistakes.

yeah, the corporate angle is a problem that has only gotten worse over the last 2 decades. Back in the 90s when print production files went back and forth via mail as often multiple 4" floppy disks and fax was the fastest means of “on line” communication, and when most event “scenery” had to be physically constructed, there was a lot of corporate involvement early on in order to get that process started.
Now? Everything is Rollups and Hop-ups (foldable fabric exhibits) and everything can be ordered practically overnight with an email. The corporates know this and don’t think about the show until forced to do so. Not a lot a designer can do to change that mindset by themselves.

It’s the same in the US. Some printers are cheap, often fast, but with no quality control.
Then there are the ones that are really good; great quality but not quite as fast. If you want something fast, you have to pay the rush charge, so it isn’t cheap. But they will do their best for you and sometimes it is totally worth it. For trade shows though, it can be hard to justify the costs anymore because of that pop-up competition. You get what you pay for.

Your English is far better than my Romanian.

In English, that would be a copywriter. A copyright is an entirely different thing from a copywriter — even though they’re pronounced the same.

Yes, I am the same way, as are most designers. I can write something that I think is OK, like on this forum, then look at it several hours later and see lots of stupid mistakes that, for whatever reason, I did not see the first time.

@Just-Band @PrintDriver have already provided great feedback, but an extra consideration may be to consider using some sort of project tracking/job tracking software (most likely cloud based) that allows you to easily route jobs through, check on where things are in the process, assign people to task with actual deadlines, view what everyone individually is working on, etc. Depending on the software there may be support for routing proofs and getting final sign off from external clients as well. It also helps in having the latest file since its in one centralized place.

Just a thought.

If mistakes are getting through, then it seems that you need quality control steps to catch them. I’m not sure if it’s a scheduling issue, or just that your team doesn’t seem to feel that catching errors is important.

I’m actually pretty good at editing and proofreading. Errors jump out at me. Sadly, not so good at creative copywriting.

Yes, thank you for the observation. Just my bad written English skill.

Brilliant quote. You’ll never get the three, but any two will work.

Also, if you haven’t any “front end” software, you’re going to end up paying for costly mistakes. As primitive as it may be, creating an order ticket that can be passed from one individual to the next is a start. The ticket should outline the design request, turnover request/Deadline, print request (Media, Quantity, Color(s), finishing, method of print, and printer ETA)

There will more time than one where a job that requires special finishing or binding must be put ahead of simple cut & stack jobs.

Proofing is critical. If you or your team is failing to proof accurately, find someone who can. I guarantee someone in the building is well suited for the task.

Thank you for you suggestions. They are helpful.

Not my quote. It’s been an industry standard for forever.

You don’t tell me! :wink:

Although if I think about it hard enough, I do recall at least one shop owner speaking those works.

Why don’t you just take ownership for it? :wink:

ya, ya, I was typing fast and musta been distracted. I didn’t process that it was you that said that. LOL.

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