If your business uses print marketing–brochures, postcards, booklets, catalogs— to promote its goods and services, you need to understand how putting together these pieces for print differs from designing digital marketing.
Having a basic knowledge of print design will pay off for you in several ways. First, you will know just what a graphic designer needs from you to create the best-printed materials and why they need it. And second, you’ll be better able to decide if a graphic designer has the right skills to do a good job for you.
There are major differences between print and digital design and because of the shift toward online marketing, not all graphic designers are adept at both.
The principles of print and web design are much the same, but the way you get there is different. Although many differences are technical and invisible to the end-user, a graphic designer who does not understand the ins and outs of designing for print can cause a lot of problems with the end product.
Here are just a few of the ways a print project can go wrong if it is not designed properly:
In other words, when a graphic designer isn’t up to speed on print design or working with printers, their lack of knowledge can cost you in terms of time, money and quality of your print marketing.
Before you choose a graphic designer for your print projects, it’s good to vet them. Here are a couple of ways to do it:
Here are some of the things you need to understand as you work with a graphic designer on your print marketing projects.
Digital photography and improvements in smartphone cameras have made it possible for non-professional photographers to take fairly good photos. Depending on your print project, you might want to use some of these images. But while the quality of these photos is fine for web use, often they won’t reproduce well for print, where high-resolution photography works best.
When photos are shot at a low resolution, for example, 72 dpi (dots per inch), as they often are with smartphones, they have fewer dots of ink so that when they are enlarged or printed, they become fuzzy and blurry. For print purposes, photos need to be 300 dpi at a minimum and sometimes higher if they are to be used in a large format. Clients often supply photos in low-resolution format. If you’ve sent a designer an image from your website or off your phone, they should get back to you and let you know that unless there is a high-resolution version of the image somewhere, they won’t be able to use it in your printed piece.
For marketing pieces where photos are essential to the message and design, it is good to invest in high-resolution images either by buying stock photos or hiring a professional photographer for a photoshoot.
Because printing and trimming printed pages are inexact sciences, graphic designers build in what amounts to a margin for error. It’s called a bleed. As they design layouts using computer software programs, they include blank space around the design marks at the top and sides of the page show the printer where to trim the page. The amount of bleed needed can vary from printer to printer, so your graphic designer needs to know enough to ask questions and not assume that the bleed they used with one printer will work with another. Another formatting issue that skilled print designers understand is how to design pages to keep paper waste to a minimum.
There’s a language barrier between computers and the printing process when it comes to colors. Computers talk in RGB; printers in CMYK. While RGB is correct for a computer screen, CMYK is required for print because it is a process that creates richer, deeper colors on the page. Your graphic artist must check to make sure all images are converted to CMYK. Typically, printers will check files and kick back any that include RGB images, but issues like this obviously slow a project down, as changes must be made before a job is placed on the press.
Every day, you touch different types of paper: bond, used for letterhead or printed reports; cardstock, used for postcards or business cards; newsprint, the lightweight, often recycled paper used for newspapers or other publications with a short shelf life. You definitely benefit from having a seasoned graphic designer who understands the importance of choosing a paper with the right brightness and weight for your project. They will understand, and hopefully explain to you, why using a coated paper might be advisable for one project, but unnecessary for another, or how the brightness of a paper will affect the photography and typography in a printed piece. A graphic designer who works closely with professional printing companies will also be up to speed on what papers are high quality and have good values. Printers often have “house” papers that they buy in large quantities so that they can pass on the savings to their customers. The house paper may be fine and worth the savings or maybe you need something nicer than their bargain sheet for a particular project and it is worth it to your client to pay a bit more for a better paper stock. A reputable printer should take your direction in this instance.
Your graphic designer should supply a final proof of your project before it goes to the printer. It is your last chance to catch a mistake. Your graphic designer should review it to make sure that all the instructions embedded in the file have worked or that they didn’t forget to mark a trim or to fix a photo that was RGB. The graphic designer should also be looking for issues like bad line breaks and copy that is inadvertently obscured by art or art obscured by copy. As a client, you should also review the proof, using multiple readers and reviewers if possible. They could include:
Let us know if you have questions about designing your printed marketing pieces. Our staff has decades of experience in graphic design for print and can give you the advice and direction you need. Give us a call.
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