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Custom Pocket Folders: Options for an Interior Brochure

I have never been one to take “no” for an answer. Regarding a recent print brokering job of a custom pocket folder containing a brochure insert, I thought it would be economical to print a long run of the pocket folder and short, digital runs of the interior brochure to allow for easy content updates.

Specs for the Pocket Folder/Brochure Job

I’ve written a few blog postings about my client’s job recently. To step back a bit, this is an oblong, 12” x 9” pocket folder with either a horizontal or vertical pocket on the back cover to be used for laser printed inserts. Inside, my client wants to saddle stitch a four- or eight-page brochure with a short fold (for a step-down, or tabbed, appearance). The major problem that has arisen is the press run for the job. It is extremely short: 100 to 250 copies.

I received initial estimates from about five printers, and even a 1,000-copy option of both the pocket folder and inserts would cost only about $1,000 more than either a 100-copy or 250-copy press run. The greater percentage of the cost will apply to the diecutting (and the cutting die), embossing (and the embossing die), and offset printing make-ready.

Sometimes You Just Don’t Need That Many Copies

Sometimes you just don’t need 1,000 copies of a job. So for both a press run more in line with my client’s client’s needs (my client is a designer; her client is the end-user), I suggested the following: Print 1,000 copies of the outer pocket folder via offset lithography, and print 100 or 250 interior brochures via digital printing (HP Indigo high-quality laser printing).

The idea appealed to all five vendors, but we hit a wall: the Indigo 7000 digital press only accepts a maximum sheet size of 13” x 19”. Nevertheless, we may have a plan.

First of All, Why Hybrid Printing Would Be Ideal

In marketing, there is a concept of “evergreen” copy. This is information that will always be relevant. For my client, it might be a description of her client’s business goals and history. This could go on the outer custom pocket folder, which could be economically printed in bulk via offset lithography.

The opposite of evergreen material is dated material, such as information about current projects. My client would ideally change this every 100 or 250 copies. For this portion of the job, digital printing would be ideal.

Moreover, there could be a further benefit of optional selective binding. The end-user client (for which my client is designing this piece) could actually do some market research and then tailor the interior brochure to the specific customer (or to a group of customers). This is the beauty of variable data marketing, for which digital printing is perfectly suited.

Back to the Problem of the Maximum Indigo Press Sheet Size

So size is a problem. If I could find someone with an HP Indigo 10000 (which accepts slightly larger than a 20” x 29” sheet), I’d have to trust a completely new printer with a critical job. That would be risky. If my client were to design an interior brochure that extended all the way out to the trim size of the surrounding pocket folder (24” x 9” flat or 12” x 9” folded), the 24” wide press sheet would not fit in the HP Indigo 7000 (due to its 13” x 19” maximum sheet capability).

Now the step-down nature of the stitched-in brochure would shave off a half inch or an inch (for the short fold), but this would still require a 23”, not a 19”, page. But it’s closer.

Unwilling to give up entirely and produce the whole job via offset lithography (i.e., in the less economical manner), I considered options for including a slightly smaller brochure in a slightly larger pocket folder. Perhaps, if the outer custom pocket folder were printed on the inside (that is, on both the pocket and the interior front and back covers of the folder), then a smaller stitched-in brochure might not look too small. Just a thought.

Now if we were to fold a 13” x 19” press sheet (with an 18.26” x 12.48” image area), it would have approximately a 2.5” to 3” space between the end of the interior brochure press sheet and the trim of the oblong pocket folder. With more stepped down pages in the stitched-in brochure (eight rather than four), the distance could be reduced to about a 1.5” space between the end of the interior brochure press sheet and the trim of the oblong pocket folder.

Normally, I’d suggest making the custom pocket folder smaller. However, the inserts will be 8.5” x 11”, so a 9” x 12” size for the front and back of the pocket folder is essential. Producing a smaller, stitched-in brochure (jogging to the top or bottom of the pocket folder or floating in the center), might just be a viable option. It will all depend on my client’s approach to the design.

Or, she might choose to make the pocket folder vertical rather than oblong (horizontal). Or, she might choose the fall-back position of offset lithography (economical or not).

What You Can Learn From This Case Study

This design and custom printing process is ever-changing. Fortunately my client approached me for options before even starting the design of the pocket folder/brochure. And I approached five printers for feedback. So I would encourage you to do the same. Here are some rules of thumb:

  1. Rule #1 is to start early and involve the printer, the client, and the designer, when there’s time to explore options and costs. At this point you can recover from dead-ends.
  2. Ask for paper dummies. In my case, printers are already offering them. If my client, the designer, wants even more control, she can visit an arts and crafts shop, buy some poster board, and make several mock-ups of the pocket folder on her own, just to try out multiple options. To these she can add stitched-in brochure pages made from laser printer paper.
  3. Consider using more than one printing technology. If part of the job will be needed for a long, long time, but part of the job will quickly go out of date, consider using both offset lithography and some form of digital printing (inkjet or laser). Just make sure you’re not trying to match output from the two technologies exactly. Alter the design a little to minimize any differences in appearance between the offset and digital components.
  4. If the technology limits you (like the maximum sheet size of the HP Indigo limits my client), consider adjusting the design to make it work. Maybe my client will like the option I’ve suggested; maybe she won’t. At least she has options.
  5. Ask for cost estimates for the various options. In my client’s case, adjusting the design to fit the technology may look a lot more appealing if it saves $500 or $1,000. We won’t know until the estimates come back, but at least it’s worth considering.

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