Once upon a time, I spent a summer volunteering for a not-for-profit. This was a long time ago, when I was young and inexperienced. Long before I worked for Nyman Ink. If only I knew then what I know now.
It was my job to run a quick fundraiser, selling custom bookmarks. I designed a graphic, made a plan, and felt ready to print 2,000 copies of my design. I was in good shape. I proudly took my MS Word document to the local print shop. That’s when things started to unravel.
First, I was asked for my Print Order. My what? I was there, wasn’t I? Making the order? I was the print order. (Wasn't I?)
Next, I was asked a series of follow-up questions:
• What was my paper selection? (Distributor, cover or text, and weight?)
• Did I have my Pantone colour codes? CMYK? Did I want a coating over the ink?
• Would I prefer digital or commercial offset printing (and, of course, digital printing would only work with a CMYK colour scheme, so any Pantone colour would have to be converted to a CMYK and — gasp! — this would not translate exactly).
• Could I upload the files to their FTP site, both as a PDF and as an InDesign file? (An MS Word file, it turns out, is pretty useless to anybody who knows anything about printing.)
I was in over my head. If you've ever been through this scenario, I'm sure you'll understand.
The printer gave me some advice, but didn’t really know how to help. He hadn’t heard of my volunteer organization or what we were trying to accomplish with our fundraiser. Disheartened, I left the print shop, USB key (and handy MS Word file) in hand.
I could have found a different printer, but time was running out and I didn’t know how to find better service that wouldn’t cost a fortune. Luckily, somebody more qualified took the reins and negotiated the details with the print shop. I don’t know what language they were speaking, but the bookmarks came in within budget, on time, and were pretty good quality.
The point is this: I didn’t have the necessary knowledge to manage a print job, and the results could have been disastrous. I had friends to bail me out, but what if I hadn’t? Printers are knowledgeable people in a very specific trade, and are often more than happy to offer recommendations, but they aren’t invested in your needs and they don’t have time to do the work of a real project manager. Besides that, a print shop’s work is very detailed, and involves a lot of jargon. If you want to communicate effectively with any printer, you need to speak the language.
Now I do. In fact, managing print projects is just one of the things I do for Nyman Ink.
My advice is this: print pieces are forever (sort of), so make sure you make informed decisions, even about the smallest of details. In the short-term, you’ll save yourself a headache. In the long run, you will develop an impressive portfolio. Good luck!