Author Archive

How the hell do I get this printed?

October 9, 2009

Commercial printing, digital printing, desktop printing, online vendors…. Arrg! How many times have you found yourself in this quandary: You have to print something, you have a deadline looming and marketing people are either unavailable, or non-existent? Here are a few rules of thumb to follow to get the best quality printed product on time and at a reasonable cost.

Commercial (or offset or lithography) printing: Colors are made up of four basic printing colors, cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK or process colors). These colors are separated into dot patterns that when combined on paper create a full color image. A metal plate is made for each color with the dot pattern imaged on to it by a laser, the imaged area accepts ink and the non-imaged area resists ink.  First the plates are wrapped around cylinders in a printing press, inked and rolled onto another cylinder of softer material called the blanket. Next, the image is “offset” onto the blanket and rolled onto the paper.

Commercial printers can add some special touches such as varnishes, custom inks, die cuts, and just about any size and configuration you can imagine.

• Price: Very high price-per-piece for quantities under 1000 pieces. The more pieces you need, the cheaper it gets; you can pay just a few cents per piece when printing 10,000 or more.

• Quality: The best. You won’t get better quality printing than with a commercial printer. They have production managers who will work directly with you to make sure you get what you need, when you need it.

• Timing: Generally, give it a week. Depending on the amount of work on the floor they can be flexible with schedules to a point, but you won’t get an offset printed job back the next day.

• Best jobs to give them: Large corporate brochures, slick sales materials, books, packaging, quantities over 1000 pieces.

CMYK separations from left to right: The cyan separation, the magenta separation, the yellow separation, the black separation, the combined halftone pattern, and how the human eye would observe the combined halftone pattern from a sufficient distance.

CMYK separations from left to right: The cyan separation, the magenta separation, the yellow separation, the black separation, the combined halftone pattern, and how the human eye would observe the combined halftone pattern from a sufficient distance.

Digital Printing: Many commercial printers will have a digital option available. The reputable printers will offer you this option, if your quantity is small enough to take advantage of the cost savings of digital printing.

Digital presses are either laser or inkjet. Laser printing involves lasering your image onto a light-sensitive surface making the image area able to attract or repel toner. The image is then transferred to paper and fused in place by a heating element. Inkjet shoots tiny droplets of ink onto paper to create an image. This process provides near-photographic quality images but is limited to certain types of paper. Your printing rep will recommend different solutions based on the type of image you’re printing.

Digital printing is great if: you are printing fewer than 1000 pieces, you’re not picky about paper, you have a job that prints on letter-sized or tabloid-size paper, you have a job that needs to be done quick, you need a job completed quickly because this type of job can be printed within hours. Short run digital also allows you to personalize each printed piece; Names and messages can be pulled from a database and laser printed onto each page. Studies have shown that response rates rise dramatically when direct mailings take advantage of mass customization.

• Price: Very reasonable for up to roughly 1000 pieces. If you print more the per-piece price is better going the commercial route.

• Quality: The technology advanced so much with digital printing that it is very close to offset quality. Limitations are on paper stock and size of the piece.

• Timing: Digital printing companies usually give you a three day turnaround, but if the job is time sensitive, they can get it done same day.

• Best jobs to give them: Short run projects that you need right away.

Desktop Printing: The technology behind your desktop printer is the same as you’ll find in the larger machines but you’ll run into problems with managing the job at the office. Co-workers wanting to use the printer, paper jams, alignment and registration issues, problems printing on two sides and collating and binding contribute to printing a large number of pieces off your desktop printer a nightmare. You are much better off sending it out – believe me I’ve been there and it’s not pretty.

• Price: Appears free until you add up all that expensive ink and paper you’re using up.

• Quality: Usually poor because copy paper will bleed, warp and not carry color well.

• Timing: The timing is right until you hit that first paper jam.

• Best jobs: For printing fewer than 50 sheets with minimal large color graphics and  basic staple, or 3-hole punch binding.

What about online print vendors? Be careful. There are great bargains to be had, but you really don’t know how reliable an online vendor is until you’ve used one. I would suggest using a few different online vendors for low priority jobs until you find one or two that have worked well for you. Online print vendors have good prices because they print in volume. They will gain a lot of jobs on one huge print run, limiting you to very few paper options and usually very long delivery times. Good luck finding anyone to talk to, if there’s a problem or you need to expedite shipping. There is usually no customer service person on your account and no flexibility to help meet your deadlines.

Price: Cheap! You’ll get inexpensive printing as compared to any of your brick-and-mortar printers, offset or digital.

Quality: It’s a crap shoot, if you find a few good resources guard them with your life. Whomever you use, you will be limited to paper stock and a long lead time.

Timing: Could be as long as three weeks depending on when in the vendor’s print cycle you submit your project.

Which do you prefer? Tell us your story below!

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The Green Revolution

June 22, 2009

As anyone with more than a few followers on Twitter will tell you, green is the color of the moment. More and more people are coloring their Twitter photos with a green tint in solidarity with the supporters of Iran’s defeated presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi.iran

The movement is being branded on-the-fly with the use of green in all kinds of protests, from soccer players wearing green arm bands to the striking images of hundreds of yards of green cloth snaking through the protesting crowds in Tehran. All of these protests reflect the color of Mr. Mousavi’s political party and these “green” images are being delivered to the world in real-time through tweets, blogs and texts (as well as through traditional media), enabling sympathizers across the globe to stage protests of their own in their home countries. Similarly, these protests incorporate the green brand, along with laser-printed “where is my vote?” signs, so that short of the racial differences, these protests look like they could have been born back in Iran.iran2

But why green, and where did it come from and why has it become such a powerful tool in branding this protest movement? A little research shows that the color green has been associated with Islam for centuries. In fact the decoration of mosques, the bindings of Qur’ans, the covers for the graves of Sufi saints and the flags of various Muslim countries all feature the color green. The Qur’an says that the inhabitants of paradise will wear green garments of fine silk and even during the Crusades, Christians would never use green on their armor so as not to be mistaken for Muslims in battle.

Color theorists suggest that green represents life, renewal, abundance in nature and the environment. Green is also considered a restful color with a calming affect that comes from feelings of balance, harmony, and stability. Of course green has recently come to the forefront of the world’s pallet because of it’s association with the environmental movement and it has in fact become a noun as we all “go green”. 

So, there’s some background as to what has likely spawned the adoption of green as the color of protest from Mousavi’s supporters. But what does green mean to you?

How did you think of that?

November 14, 2008

“How do you creative guys get your ideas?” I hear that question a lot and my answer is usually that it’s a process. Sometimes you get the “ah ha!” moment in the shower then pretend to spend all day working on it, but unfortunately those are few and far between. Most of the time we actually DO have to work at coming up with a creative idea and I’ll share some of the techniques that work for me.

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I find being present at initial client meetings helps, that’s obvious, but paying attention to the details can help spark an idea that the client might not realize they mentioned, but is right on target. Taking notes helps, but I find making quick sketches of ideas that jump out immediately is important because when you go to the next meeting or the phone rings those potential good ideas just disappear.

Leave some time for day dreaming. There are usually a few key messages that the client is trying to convey and you need some quiet time to think hard about a creative way to make them come to life. Make sure to write down all your ideas, especially the bad ones. Once you write down the bad (or tired and cliched) ideas you get them out of the way and you can move on to the good ones. They’re there; you just have to dig them out.

Don Draper, the Creative Director character on the TV show Mad Men, once suggested to a colleague to think hard about a problem then just forget about it, then the ideas will come. I totally agree, once you plant the seed and you let your brain go on to something else you tend to have ideas pop up. Just be sure to write them down! It will take a few cycles of hard thinking and forgetting, but you’ll be amazed at what comes up.

Keep a pad and a pen handy by the bed. After a long day of work your brain has been processing all kinds of information with no time to rest and make sense of it all. The only time that it gets a rest is when you sleep. I find that the time just before you fall asleep can be a very fertile time for creative ideas. If you take that time to let your mind wander to your project (in a non-stressful way) great ideas will make their way to the surface. In that time between sleep and consciousness I usually come up with my best ideas. I tell myself that I’ll remember the idea in the morning, but if I don’t force myself to write it down then it’s gone and I spend the rest of the day scrambling to figure out what it was!

Finally, whether you have a pressing project or not, a good habit to get into is to be aware of things around you. Take a close look at buildings, ads, magazines, movies etc. and store them away. There are a ton of great ideas out there if you keep an eye out for them.