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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Book Printing: Everything Is an Advertisement

December 28th, 2018

Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off on Book Printing: Everything Is an Advertisement

About 25 years ago, when I was an art director/production manager, the non-profit foundation for which I worked brought in a marketing consultant. Even though it was a quarter of a century ago, I still remember two things he said.

First he told a story of a campaign he had created for a foundation seeking funding to help the disabled. He had sent wheelchairs to select donors and had asked them to spend a day in the wheelchair and then donate what they thought appropriate. (Sort of a “walk a mile in my shoes” approach.)

The second thing this consultant said that stuck with me was the following: Everything you do, every printed piece you send out to a client, is an advertisement. (This was before the concept of “branding” had become so widely known.)

From this consultant’s story and his insight on advertising, I came away with a deep conviction that he was right on both counts.

What Does This Have to Do With Book Printing?

A print brokering client of mine is producing three new print book titles this coming year. The client is a husband and wife publishing team. They focus on the quality production values that set apart print books from more generic print-on-demand books and the digital-only books you read on a screen. My clients always have French flaps on their print books, faux-deckle edges on the books’ paper, and superb cover art. They also have the printer coat the covers of the books with a soft-touch matte film laminate, and they request a press score on the front and back covers (a vertical score parallel to the spine that makes it easier to open the books).

These characteristics of my clients’ books tell a story about them. They reflect my clients’ values. These characteristics say that my clients appreciate the tactile qualities only a print book can have. This value is a part of my clients’ brand. A part of who they are and what they offer their clients. So whatever they send out, be it a flyer noting an upcoming book launch or even a new print book itself, everything is an advertisement.

Cover Coating the Galleys

Prior to printing the final editions of these three books next year, my clients will produce “galleys” for selected readers to review and comment on. My clients will then incorporate these comments into their final texts prior to the final book printing. This will do a few things:

  1. It will improve the final books. After all, nothing adds to the quality of a work in progress more than input from one’s colleagues who themselves are writers, teachers, and book reviewers.
  2. It will promote the books. This is a bit unusual. My clients produce books of fiction and poetry, and in the past, in most cases, galleys were of low quality and were only used as editorial tools (albeit for multiple readers to review). Promotional copies came at a slightly later stage, when the text of the work had been set in final form. In my clients’ case, this galley really functions as both a galley and a promotional copy. Because of this, and because of what the consultant said to me 25 years ago, it is clear to me that these books are an advertisement for my clients’ brand and their values, the reasons they don’t just produce e-books.

The Specs for the Galleys

How this relates to book printing will become more clear as we focus on the specifications for the galleys. Unlike the final books, the galleys will not have deckle edges on their face trim. Nor will they have French flaps or a press score. They will just be 5.5” x 8.5” perfect bound books with 70# offset text and 12pt. 4-color covers and black-only-text ink.

To save my clients’ money, and since these are not the final books, to date we have printed the covers digitally (usually a 50-copy press run) and without a cover coating. After all, they may need to look good, but they don’t need to look good for very long, since the final copies with the French flaps will follow them into production within a short time.

That said, the printer, a new vendor who specializes in book printing, noted his firm belief that these books should in fact be coated with a gloss laminate to prevent scuffing during shipping.

I was pleased and a bit surprised by his proactive stance, but I brought his suggestion to my clients. Overall, this would raise the prices for each of the galley press runs by only about $40.00 (for 75 copies this time), so it was not a lot of money. I thought it was a good investment in the quality of my clients’ books but also a good investment in their brand image. I said as much, and they agreed.

However, when I asked the printer for the cost of a matte film laminate (the initial bid was for gloss), his pricing went up an additional $40.00. On the one hand, the final books would be cover coated with a soft-touch matte film laminate, so you could argue that consistent treatment of all covers would be good for the brand. It would show coherence. It would be a good advertisement for my clients’ work. Moreover, this would work on a subconscious (and yet still powerful) level with readers.

But, in the final analysis, my clients, the printer, and I felt this was overkill, since the goal was protection of the ink on the print book covers and since the cost of coating the covers was starting to approach a sizable chunk of the total expense.

As an afterthought, what has made this an easier than usual process, in determining the nuances of the cover coating, has been the specific nature of the printer. He is a book printer. Unlike most printers, he has all of the equipment to do the printing, cover coating, and binding in-house. Therefore, the turn-around time is reasonable, and the prices are superb, leaving primarily (but not exclusively) the aesthetics of the product to inform the final decision.

What You Can Learn From This Case Study

If you parse out this experience I had, a few teaching points come to mind:

  1. It’s always helpful to have a book printer print a book. A commercial printer can usually also print a book, but he may not have in-house perfect binding, case binding, or even some of the more esoteric cover coating options you might like. If he has to subcontract this work, it will lengthen the schedule, raise the price, and possibly even take away some of the printer’s control over the quality of the final product.
  2. Think about the overall “look,” not only of an individual printed product but also of the other printed pieces that will accompany it. When you varnish, UV coat, or laminate one product, consider the overall look of all the products together. You may still choose a different coating for each, but it will be a reasoned decision (sometimes even a decision based on money as well as aesthetics).
  3. Keep in mind that everything from your business cards to your emails to your texts to your most high-profile printed product is an ad. It speaks volumes about both your customer and about you.

Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off on Book Printing: Everything Is an Advertisement

Book Printing: Don’t Forget the Book Designer

December 10th, 2018

Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off on Book Printing: Don’t Forget the Book Designer

A potential book printing client of mine is producing a 6” x 9”, 220-page, perfect-bound book. Over the last few weeks we have been discussing her project, and I have been providing prices. What’s intriguing to me is that she had been considering printing her book through an on-line, print-on-demand publisher, but after our discussions, she likes the personal attention of working with a custom printing broker and going to a “brick-and-mortar” printer. She had spoken to a number of friends, and some had not been altogether satisfied with the overall quality of their print-on-demand books.

I heard back from her this week after a hiatus during which she had been considering her options.

One of the items I had included in her book printing estimate was the line: “artwork submitted as press-ready PDF files.” When my client contacted me, she asked whether all of the printers wanted the art files prepared this way or whether they could do the formatting themselves. She also asked whether there was an additional cost for this service.

Her question took me aback. It showed that both she and I had made assumptions. I assumed she was a graphic artist, used to designing books in InDesign, while in reality she was preparing a job for her father-in-law in MS Word. She was a writer, not a designer.

So this is what I told my client.

Formatting is an extra cost for any commercial printing company. I had found her prices for two book printing suppliers that could do the formatting. One would charge $80.00 per hour. He thought he could produce the book in four or five hours, but this was based on no knowledge of what the book would look like. He would need to see what was involved before providing a firm estimate. The second printer would do the formatting for $45.00 per hour. I told my client that this was a great price, since I myself would do similar work for $70.00 an hour.

I noted that since the overall printing price for 30 copies produced digitally would range from $350.00 to $540.00 (depending on the vendor), the design component of the job would almost double the overall cost. And that’s just assuming a simple design job.

I did ask the book printer, however, whether the client could submit a MS Word file saved as a PDF, if the job were just simple text. I noted that many printers do not like MS Word files. One reason among many is that these files are saved in the RGB (red, green, blue) color space (used for creating colors on computer monitors) rather than the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) color space used for creating colors with ink on paper. One printer had brought this to my attention. I had also been concerned about potential formatting errors introduced in the translation from MS Word to PDF files (any extra spacing, problems with special characters, font issues—I just hadn’t been sure).

Suggestions for My Client

The first thing I did was ask my client about her specific print book. I realized that my assumption that it would be one continuous column of text throughout the 220 pages (with potential running headers and folios as well as chapter opening pages) might not be correct. I asked whether the book had photos or charts or whether it was only a single text column running through all pages.

This is what she said.

The book is mainly a single text column with footnotes. There are some photos (maybe 10), charts (2), and maps (6-10). So these are the only things that really need to be worked out on the formatting. She agreed that it would make sense to create and work off a template.

So right off the bat we were working with a rather complex design, or at least something requiring a designer and not just someone to “format the text.”

This process made it clear to me that as a printing broker I was assuming the text of a book really didn’t matter except for whether it was 4-color process, black and a spot color, or black ink only (i.e., what the printer would need to know). My client, on the other hand, assumed the job was ready for the printer when all the words in the text file were perfect.

Communicating Design Requirements

I told my client that the best thing she could do to keep costs down was to give the designer samples (scanned and sent as PDFs) of printed work she liked. If she could show the designer what she wanted the cover and text to look like (including the type size; fonts; and treatment of photos, headlines, folios, running headers, charts, etc.), then the designer could “format” her book in that way on the first attempt. This way there would be no miscommunication. The designer wouldn’t have one “look” in mind while my client had another.

This also reminded me that for even the smallest job (whether a simple book or a one-page announcement), the fundamentals of good design still applied.

We’ll see what she says when we talk next.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

If you yourself are not a designer, you still have to consider the design of a book and then hire someone to do this part of the job for you. The overall job will then cost more than just the printing. Then again, it’s more than just “formatting,” because how the overall book looks will strongly (and in many cases subconsciously) affect the reader. If the book is hard to read (type too small, or type in a font that’s hard to read for some reason–like a script font or a display font used primarily for headlines), your reader’s eyes will tire. Once this happens, you’ve lost him or her.

In addition, if the overall look of the print book doesn’t match its tone and purpose, your reader will be confused or put off. For example, if your subject matter is technical and you choose a floral typeface, this will confuse the reader. And anything that takes the reader’s attention away from the content of the book will detract from his or her experience. These days people have limited attention spans and limited reading time, so you want the reader’s experience to be easy and enjoyable.

Overall, this means that if you are not a designer yourself, you need to hire one.

To do this, first ask for printed samples of the designer’s work. Then show the designer samples of print books you like. Next, request a mock-up of the main elements of the book: cover, title page, table of contents, chapter opening, etc. In fact, you might even want to request a few pages showing two or three alternate type/design treatments, even before the designer produces a complete mock-up including each of the main book components.

Look first for readability. This will depend on the choice of font and its point size, the space between lines, and the width of the column. The main question is whether it is easy to read. Think also about the age of the readers. Middle-aged eyes need larger type sizes to allow for comfortable reading.

Only after you are satisfied with mock-ups of all elements of the book should you ask the designer to proceed with a cover proof and proofs of all text pages, front and back matter. etc. This goes double if you’re including charts, graphs, and photographs, as my client will be doing. What you want to avoid is a 220-page book proof with design elements you don’t like. Work these issues out in the initial mock-up, not the first page proof.

Finally (and this is actually the first thing to think about if you’re working with a designer), make sure the MS Word document is the final edited and accurate copy of the text. Of course there will be some edits, but if you want to keep the budget under control, edit the book before you submit it for final design, not at the first proof stage.

Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off on Book Printing: Don’t Forget the Book Designer

Custom Printing: Digital Ceramic Printing on Glass

December 2nd, 2018

Posted in Printing on Glass | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Digital Ceramic Printing on Glass

I read a few articles online this week about custom printing on glass. My interest piqued, I did further research. What interested me the most were the facts that glass is non-porous and that printing on glass needs to be durable (after all, if an architect builds a structure and the printing on the glass panes degrades, it could be extremely expensive to repair or replace). So how can you print on glass in such a way that the image won’t scratch off and degrade? This was my question.

The History of Printing on Glass

According to my research, prior to 2007 the two methods for printing on glass were screen printing and digital UV printing.

The first option, screen printing, included both direct custom printing (by forcing ink through a stencil on a mesh screen) and transfer printing (printing on paper and then transferring the image to the glass substrate). In both cases, it was necessary to fire the glass, once printed, in order to permanently bond the ink to the substrate.

UV printing, on the other hand, came about much later, relying on UV light to instantly cure the inks. Unlike ceramic inks, UV inks just sit on the surface of the glass and are not permanently bonded to the substrate. Therefore they are not durable enough for exterior architectural use or automotive use. Although it is possible to achieve a wide color gamut and precisely detailed imagery, UV ink printing on glass is best used indoors.

Next Generation Technology

After UV inks and screen printing, the next technological advancement was the digital printing of ceramic inks directly onto the glass substrate, followed by the firing of the glass to permanently fuse the pigments to the substrate.

This provides several benefits:

  1. Unlike screen printing, digital custom printing with ceramic inks does not involve all of the makeready necessary with mesh screens. Therefore, the process is easier to complete, and short runs are economical.
  2. Like UV digital printing, digital printing with ceramic inks can achieve striking detail and a wide color gamut.
  3. Unlike UV digital printing (but like screen printing), the nature of the ceramic inks and the additional firing step following printing make the image on the printed glass extremely durable. Therefore, this process is ideal for both interior and exterior decorative and functional purposes. That is, you can print an attractive image on the glass (decorative), or you can print patterns that diffuse the light or reduce the heating effects of the sun (functional).
  4. Unlike screen printing, digital ceramic ink printing is easily repeatable. Therefore, if a printed glass panel is damaged, it is much easier to match the design and color of the original image when reprinting the new panel.
  5. Technology is in use to seamlessly integrate the imaging software (the computer application in which you create the design), the ceramic ink printing equipment, and the digital ceramic inks. This affords precise control over not only the color but also the level of transparency/opacity of the printed glass substrate.

Uses for Glass Printing

To put this technology into context, here are some of the uses for commercial printing on glass, which can include text, images, or patterns:

  1. You can print an attractive design. For instance, you can create glass mirrors with subtle but detailed imagery to decorate the interior of an office space.
  2. You can print a functional design. For instance, if you have a meeting room with floor to ceiling glass interior windows and you want to give the people in the meetings a measure of privacy, you can print an image that reduces transparency, or you can print a pattern, such as a matte frosting, that merely increases the opacity of the glass without having a discernible image.
  3. You can use printing (such as patterns) to control the heating effects of the sun through exterior glass windows.
  4. You can use printing (such as patterns) to diffuse light.
  5. You can reduce the chance that birds will fly into the windows.

How This Is Done

This is the science behind the art of commercial printing on glass:

  1. Image processing software (a raster image processor, of which Photoshop would be a more generic example) not only prints the ceramic frit-based inks but also controls their application (thickness of the ink film, for instance) based on desired levels of transparency/opacity and the size and thickness of the glass substrate. (Frit is a temperature resistant ink containing particles of glass and ceramic as well as pigment. It is durable and abrasion resistant, and it helps adhere the ink to the glass substrate.)
  2. Digital ceramic frit-based inks are used based on the CMYK color model. The frit-based inks contain ceramic frit and inorganic pigments. These are fired, after printing, to fuse with the glass. During this process, the intense heat decomposes the inorganic additives and binders in the ink. Then the heat fuses the frit to the glass and the pigments, expels any voids to compact the ink film, and forms “a bubble-free layer of constant thickness and homogeneous pigment dispersion within the glass” (Wikipedia).
  3. The third element is the ceramic ink printer, which is a flatbed digital printing device with print heads that move over the rigid surface of the glass, spraying the pigmented ceramic inks onto the substrate. Inline drying elements immediately fix the drops of ink in place, allowing for single-pass printing and sharp image detail. The precision of the printers (and the drying technology) allow for 720 dpi printing on substrates up to 10.8 x 59 feet (approximately), with vibrant hues, consistent and repeatable color, and fine detail.

The Take Away

  1. If you have design skills and experience, there are jobs out there. You can apply your skills to either aesthetic decoration of glass or functional design (which is another growing arena of commercial printing).
  2. The same thing is true if you have production knowledge and experience, and sales acumen. The field is growing (again, in both decorative and functional commercial printing), so there is an increasing need for sales professionals.
  3. Or, if you are a production person (perhaps from an in-house prepress unit of a custom printing supplier), there are production jobs out there bringing together skills and knowledge in raster image processing, ink composition, the firing of ceramics, and digital printing equipment.

The marketplace is driving this growth in digital ceramic printing technology, and it seems to be on a tear.

Posted in Printing on Glass | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Digital Ceramic Printing on Glass

Large Format Printing: A Huge Case-Bound Book

November 27th, 2018

Posted in Standees | Comments Off on Large Format Printing: A Huge Case-Bound Book

I assembled and installed a large format print standee for the new Deadpool movie yesterday (called Once Upon a Deadpool). Interestingly, based on the title of the film, the standee is made to look exactly like a huge case-bound print book.

I don’t believe I’ve seen a book this large (just over 5 feet by 8 feet) since the 1960s (a huge book on the TV series Batman). What piqued my interest was its size, how closely it resembled a real case-bound print book, and the fact that both the spine and face trim (the pages) were crafted so as to curve. (Another way of saying this is that the faux book had a rounded spine, so the face trim of the pages also curved inward.)

The Curvature of the Standee’s (Faux Book’s) Spine

Let’s start with the curvature of the book’s spine and pages, since this says a lot about ways to get around the fact that paper and cardboard are usually flat or folded (but not curved).

The outer graphic panel of the book’s spine started as a flat rectangle with the title of the print book (Once Upon a Deadpool) running the length of the cardboard panel. Onto this flat surface, and using a series of die cut cardboard tabs, I attached a series of four folded boxes (approximately 1.5 feet by 2 feet, but only about 2 inches high). The edges of these boxes that were parallel to the short dimension of the standee book spine were curved outward.

Once I had firmly attached them to the spine with a series of tabs and slots, they gave a structure over which the paper of the spine could be stretched to create a curvature. Moreover, where the cardboard needed to bow or curve, there were numerous parallel scores. When the outer cardboard of the spine (with printed litho paper laminated to chipboard) was stretched across this interior structure and then locked down with more tabs, the result was a fully curved book spine that was 8 feet long.

From this I learned two things:

  1. If you fold paper, or cardboard, the paper fibers will be bent or broken. That is, if I had folded rather than gently bowed the paper over the curved spine support structure, this would not have yielded a smooth curve to the back of the huge faux book standee. The crease would have been a visible flaw. However, by gently bowing the cardboard over the structure, I could stretch the paper fibers in the cardboard without folding or breaking them.
  2. Exactly the same thing was true for the curvature of the interior book pages. Instead of bowing outward, these bowed inward (exactly as would be true in a case-bound book with a rounded back). To effect this curvature of the pages, two more curved cardboard structures were added inside the standee. These had slots into which I attached long tabs (hot-melt spot glued to the inside of the faux pages). (Imagine that I was building a cardboard box, with 5.5-foot by 8-foot covers with turned edges, a faux spine, and head, face, and foot trim—i.e., the top, front, and bottom of the pages.)

In all of these elements of the faux book that was the Deadpool standee, a series of tabs and slots held together the pieces of cardboard under significant tension. (This was to create the curvature.) If there had only been one tab, or fewer tabs, the tension (or pull against the paper fibers) would probably have torn off the paper tabs. However, since there was a tab every few inches, the pull of the curved cardboard was distributed over a wide area. In fact, once I had completed the installation, the standee was quite sturdy.

What I learned from this is that under tension, paper can be pulled into a new shape (in this case a curvature), and if the tension is widely distributed, the paper fibers can withstand the pull.

The Faux Book Covers

Another element of the faux book that matched a real case-bound print book was the structure of the 5.5-foot by 8-foot covers. These had depth. That is, there were parallel scores approximately half an inch apart along the edges of the covers, and once I had folded the cardboard inward along these scores and attached the folded cardboard to the unprinted interior of the graphic (with double-sided tape), I had created turned-edge book covers (that matched an actual case-bound print book). The parallel folds yielded square edges, giving the impression of depth to the outer edge of the book covers, all the way around the book.

These thick covers (with printed litho paper wrapped around to create a half inch depth) were then screwed to the structure that was the spine. (The front and back cover of the Deadpool book included an extra lip that had been drilled, so I could insert a series of at least ten screws through holes in the interior of the spine. This lip worked as a hinge, allowing the front and back cover to move in and out, toward and away from the book pages.)

So when the covers were attached to the spine, there was a hinge (with a shoulder), curved text pages, and a rounded spine—all elements of a highly crafted case binding.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

As soon as I got back home (and uploaded the photos to the company for which my fiancee and I install movie standees), I searched online for images, videos, and text descriptions of case binding. I wanted to refresh my memory, since the experience of building this huge faux print book had sparked my interest. Among other things, I saw videos of book binders adjusting the book covers to push out the pages to create the rounded spine (and similarly curved text pages, on the opposite side) and then hammering them to flare out the edges of the sewn press signatures.

Needless to say, exposure to the standee had renewed my interest in the art of print book binding and the specific hand-done tasks that allow a heavy text block (group of press signatures) to “hang” from the chipboard case such that all the pages are parallel and can move freely. (This clearly involves knowledge and skill, hard work, and an understanding of physics. And this art/craft has been practiced for centuries.)

So in light of this, I would encourage you to do two things:

  1. Search online for videos showing all of the separate activities that go into binding a case-bound book. I think you will find this fascinating. You can probably also see this in person in colonial reenactment sites such as Colonial Williamsburg.
  2. Then look for diagrams online showing all elements of a case-bound book, including the “crash” or “super” that gives stability to the bind edge of all press signatures; the pattern of Smyth sewing at the folded edges of the press signatures (the thread that holds all text signatures in place); the endsheets (including the pastedowns and flyleafs); the turned edges (where the outer paper, fabric, or leather of the binding is brought inward to cover the edges of the binder’s boards); and all the other various and sundry components of a case-bound print book.

Having absorbed this knowledge, you will never again take for granted all the steps in bookbinding, and you may well come to love and admire the craftsmanship and artistry in a case bound print book.

Posted in Standees | Comments Off on Large Format Printing: A Huge Case-Bound Book

Custom Printing: Flexible Package Printing Samples

November 19th, 2018

Posted in Packaging | 4 Comments »

I’ve read a lot about flexible package printing recently. It is a vibrant element of a quickly expanding arena of commercial printing (i.e., package printing in general).

Packaging isn’t going anywhere. Newspapers may fold, and magazines may go online. Some people may prefer e-readers to print books. But as long as products in grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail establishments compete with each other for the consumer’s attention (i.e., their dollars), package printing will thrive. (Think about a store with packages that have no labels or graphics. It’s not going to happen.)

In this light, earlier this week my fiancee sent me some photos she had taken of unique flexible packaging that looks like a mason jar. She also tore the back cover off a magazine to give me because it has a tip-on Chanel perfume container fugitive glued to a Chanel ad.

What Is Flexible Packaging?

So what’s this all about? What is flexible packaging?

The Flexible Packaging Association defines flexible packaging in the following way on www.flexpack.org: “Typically taking the shape of a bag, pouch, liner, or overwrap, flexible packaging is defined as any package or any part of a package whose shape can be readily changed.” That is, the contents of flexible packaging can be squeezed out, and the container can be resealed and rolled up or squished up to take up less space. It’s not rigid.

It has the following benefits:

  • “From ensuring food safety and extending shelf life, to providing even heating, barrier protection, ease of use, resealability and superb printability, the industry continues to advance at an unprecedented rate.” (www.flexpack.org)
  • “Innovation and technology have enabled flexible packaging manufacturers to use fewer natural resources in the creation of their packaging, and improvements in production processes have reduced water and energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and volatile organic compounds.” (www.flexpack.org)
  • “Even more, lighter-weight flexible packaging results in less transportation-related energy and fossil fuel consumption, and environmental pollution.” (www.flexpack.org)

The Samples: Faux Mason Jar and Chanel Perfume “Bottle”

Let’s get back to the samples my fiancee gave me and discuss why they work.

The first sample is packaging for a chocolate cookie mix. It is a soft version of a mason jar, the kind used for canning fruits and vegetables. It has precise detail in its lid as well as specular highlights that make the faux glass of the jar look like real glass and the metal top (which is really just foil) look like rigid metal. A fine artist would say the design is a good example of “trompe l’oeil.” (Wikipedia defines trompe l’oeil as “an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions.”) In the case of this flexible packaging, the image of the mason jar appears to be three dimensional when it is really only composed of a front and a back foil panel.

From an emotional point of view, the packaging brings to mind a simpler time when we grew and canned or bottled our own products. It evokes thoughts of really good cookies that were made at home from quality ingredients. Presumably this will interest those consumers who grew up making cookies in their own oven. This is the emotional hook.

What makes this sample of flexible packaging special is two-fold. There is a bit of humor in the double-take it provokes. (It looks like a cylindrical mason jar, but it’s really only flat, flexible packaging.) For those who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, it also is a nod to Pop Art or, more specifically, to those soft sculptures of everyday consumer products such as Claes Oldenburg’s huge fabric ice bag from the 1970s. In that case and in other similar works, by making the art much larger than usual or by using unexpected materials (like a hamburger made out of cloth), the artist gets us to look at an object from contemporary culture in a different way, as a piece of art in and of itself.

In the case of the flexible packaging mason jar of cookie mix, what makes it unique is the initial recognition of the jar, and then the realization that it is not as it seems. The consumer sees it on the shelf and stops, and then looks again. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Now the Chanel box.

I just pulled the Chanel box off its backing (the back interior cover of the magazine), and, upon closer inspection, it seems to be a printed bottle of perfume. It has a vertical pull-tab that brings up a small nozzle. When I squeeze the box, the flexible bag inside is compressed, and a stream of perfume exits through the spray nozzle, bringing an irresistible note of high-fashion to my nose.

I think it’s intriguing because it is a functional product. Granted it is small, so the reader of the magazine will be compelled to go out and buy a large bottle if she likes the perfume. But more than that, it is a reader “involvement” device. You do something, and you get the product—all in the comfort of your home. You don’t need to drive to the department store and test perfume from the sample bottles. This creates an intimate moment. It’s just you and Chanel. And all of this would not be possible without flexible packaging. The little foil pouch in the fold-over Chanel box fugitive glued to the magazine cover makes this possible.

How Do You Print on These Packages?

I thought about this packaging film, and I made the assumption that offset commercial printing would not be an option. I assumed that maintaining the dimensional stability of such foils would be impossible given the pressure of the offset press rollers.

I found the answer to my quandry on the Consolidated Label website, which references its new 10-unit flexographic press as being ideal for flexible packaging. Elsewhere I read that inkjet equipment could also be used for such package printing, and still elsewhere I saw a reference to using rotogravure printing for flexible packaging.

Notably, the research I did touted the benefits of UV-cured inks for flexible packaging, since they “dry” instantly when exposed to UV light and since they therefore adhere well to non-porous materials such as packaging film.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

  1. Package printing is a growing industry. Therefore, if you’re a designer, a print buyer, or a print sales professional, it behooves you to read as much as you can about the subject.
  2. Flexible packaging can be unique. It can catch the eye of the consumer. It also provides a large “canvas” on which to display the advertising graphics: much more than the space provided by a stick-on label. This leads to more consumer interest and more sales.
  3. Flexible packaging takes fewer resources to make. It is usually recyclable. It takes up less space in transit to retailers and on the display shelf as well. And it is resealable. In addition, it is not permeable (nothing can contaminate the food or other substance it contains). This means it provides superior “barrier protection,” which makes the FDA happy and also keeps you healthy.

Posted in Packaging | 4 Comments »

Custom Printing: The Print Job Is Not Over Yet

November 12th, 2018

Posted in Printing | Comments Off on Custom Printing: The Print Job Is Not Over Yet

Three of my clients have print jobs in some stage of production at commercial printing shops. One client just uploaded stationery materials to one printer. Another client has a perfect-bound print book of essays on press. And a third client has a color swatch book at a third printer.

If you are a print broker or designer, you may be in a similar position. It is all too easy to move on to other work and take your eye off the ball. These jobs may be done in terms of your designing and producing press-ready art, but there are still a lot of things you need to attend to in order to ensure success.

The Book of Essays

One client has produced a print book of essays for a local university. Actually, I myself designed the book for her and also brokered the custom printing. My client has a firm deadline for delivery of final books. She has a public reading of her students’ essays in early December. (As I write this, it is early November, and the proof will be in my hands tomorrow.) The printer committed to a five- to seven-day turn-around for the proof, and a seven- to ten-day turn-around for the final print books.

This schedule seems wonderfully short for a perfect-bound book, but it bears close attention. It is also a good object lesson for PIE Blog readers. The scheduled five to seven days for a proof began when I uploaded press-ready files to the printer’s FTP site. If my files had included any errors (incorrect creation of PDFs as per printer’s requirements; problems with fonts, bleeds, or resolution; or even presentation of pages as spreads rather than individual pages), the printer would have flagged the book files and requested changes. The five- to seven-day turn-around on proofs would not have actually begun until all PDF files for the book were correct.

Moreover, the five- to seven-day turn-around on proofs would not have included weekends, and would not have included a two-day shipment time for sending proofs from the printer to my house. The same will be true for the seven- to ten-day turn-around on printed books, starting from the date of proof approval. Although this schedule will begin upon my (and my client’s) acceptance of the proof (plus its return over a one- or two-day period by USPS or FedEx), I must also factor in a shipping period after the ten-day period for books to leave the vendor and arrive at my client’s office.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

Build in plenty of time when estimating the overall production schedule by the printer. This may be particularly true for book printers (such as the one producing my client’s book). Fortunately, this printer will schedule a press date as soon as he has received the approved proof. From this press date, he can estimate the bindery date, shipping date, and potential delivery date. In your own work, request not only a general time frame for production by the printer, but also a specific press date and ship date as soon as you have approved the proof. If you have a fixed deadline for delivery and receipt of the books, brochures, or any other printed product, this schedule will keep both you and your printer on track.

Then, as the date approaches, follow up with your printer to make sure everything is on schedule. This is particularly important if your project includes a lot of steps (laminating, round-cornering, packaging in a specific way). If there are problems (for instance, if the printer is waiting for materials to be used in your job), it’s better to know early. So ask your CSR (customer service rep) before the shipping date. In the majority of cases you will get a more complete and accurate answer from your CSR than from your sales rep, since the CSR works with production schedules every day and therefore will usually have the most up to date information.

The Color Swatch Book

I just asked the CSR for an update on the schedule for another client’s book, a color swatch book used in selecting make-up and clothing colors based on one’s complexion and hair color.

This is a complex project often (depending on the printer) involving multiple vendors. This is because after the printing process, it requires laminating the pages, round-cornering the pages, drilling the books, and inserting a metal screw-and-post binding assembly into each print book. It also involves collation (there are 28 master books with between three and six copies to be printed from each master copy).

So a few days prior to the scheduled ship date I called the customer service rep and asked the status of the job. She told me the screw-and-post binding assemblies had not yet arrived. They should be there the following day, she said. I will have to keep in touch, since my client has been waiting a long time for this project. Her last printer had not done a good job, so my client’s clients have been waiting patiently. My client’s brand is on the line.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

As with the prior job, it’s essential to keep up with your printer. He may have subcontracted out the binding of your book (many printers do not have in-house binding; even fewer have in-house case binding). Or he may have “jobbed out” your die cutting. Maybe you also need screw-and-post binding assemblies for your job. If your printer must rely on an outside vendor, this may affect your schedule. It is better to learn about this early. Be proactive. Contact your CSR as your estimated ship date approaches. Don’t wait for her/him to contact you.

The Stationery Package

This job involves flat cards, envelopes, and #10 envelopes. I solicited pricing from three vendors on behalf of my client. The list included the prior commercial printing vendor (this is a repeat job from several years ago). However, I made it clear to my client that this printer had been overwhelmed with work recently and therefore had not been as responsive as I expected a printer to be. I considered this to be temporary, but I did need to disclose this to my client.

Based on pricing, but even more so based on prior, positive experiences with this particular printer, my client’s client specifically asked to send the job to the printer I had been worried about. Fortunately, both I and my client had been completely clear about the risks (not in terms of lower quality but in terms of a longer-than-usual turn-around time). My client’s client had been apprised of our concerns.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

Sometimes you will put a long-standing relationship with a printer above a current “bump in the road.” Perhaps the printer is overbooked, but you still want that particular printer to do your job. This is a risk. In my client’s case, all parties have been clear about the risk. Moreover, the job is a simple one involving no work subcontracted to outside vendors. Unlike the color swatch book described in the prior case study, it does not involve acquiring supplies not normally on hand (like the screw-and-post binding assemblies). Therefore, it is less of a risk than some jobs might be.

In your own print buying work, consider all the steps in such a job and be proactive. For instance, if the job takes longer than agreed upon to complete, will this be a problem? Do you have a hard deadline for your delivery? If not, and if the job is simple, you may still want to send your job to the printer. If not, you may want to pay a little more for another known vendor, or you may want to keep looking for a new vendor.

Posted in Printing | Comments Off on Custom Printing: The Print Job Is Not Over Yet

Custom Printing: Direct Digital Printing on Bottles

November 4th, 2018

Posted in Digital Printing | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Direct Digital Printing on Bottles

I was reading the trade journals online this week, keeping abreast of trends in commercial printing, and I came upon an article written by Pat Reynolds in Packaging World (www.packworld.com) entitled “Direct Digital Printing on Rigid Containers.” It was published on 4/3/18.

I know this sounds somewhat dry as a subject, but as I read the article, I saw the implications for packaging, marketing, and digital commercial printing in general. Plus, it was interesting to see just how printing can be done on a bottle without using a label. So I did further research.

The Background

First of all, I think you will appreciate the concept more if I first give you some background on how this would have been done before digital custom printing. The options would have been as follows:

Label printing. This would have worked fine, printing on matte crack ‘n peel label stock and then affixing the labels on the bottles. However, there would have been a number of steps involved. It would not have been a direct process, and presumably all of the labels would have been identical. Granted, in more recent times, a printer could have produced digital labels, which could easily have included variable data. But the labels still would have had a border. That is, the packaging art would have been limited to the dimensions of the label.

Screen printing. A printer could have used screen printing technology to image the packaging information right on the bottle without needing a label. This would have been less confined in its design than a rectangular label. Printed imagery could have extended onto any portion of the bottle accessible to the custom screen printing equipment. More than likely, the screen and the squeegie used to force ink through the screen printing mesh would have been stationary, and the bottles would have been spun around on their vertical axes to bring each bottle’s surface into contact with the printing screen.

Presumably, since custom screen printing ink is very thick and tacky, there would have been limited resolution in any photographic images (which probably would have been too challenging to attempt anyway), and since a new screen would have been needed for each color, the majority of screen printed imagery would have been limited to a few colors.

But more than anything, this process would have required extensive make-ready. Therefore, for the job to be competitive in price, a long press run would have been necessary. Also, variable data printing would have been out of the question. All art would have been static. All images would have been identical. Moreover, since screen printing make-ready is so labor intensive, the process would have taken a long time.

Pad Printing. Another option would have been pad printing. This is great for printing on golf balls and computer keys. Even if a surface is rounded, like a bottle, successful screen printing requires the screen to come into direct contact with the printing substrate. This alone would make screen printing on many shapes of bottles impossible. That said, a gravure printing process called pad printing, or tampography, would be an option. In this process, a gravure plate is covered with ink that quickly becomes tacky as it dries. Then a silicone pad is brought down onto the inked plate, where it picks up the tacky ink image as the pad compresses briefly. Then the pad can be positioned over the substrate (which can be concave, convex, or any other shape that would otherwise be difficult to print). Finally (due to the nature of the silicone pad and the ink) the silicone pad releases the tacky ink image onto the substrate.

However, like screen printing, pad printing artwork cannot be changed for every image, and, given the make-ready involved, pad printing also lends itself to longer press runs.

Enter Direct Digital Printing

Reynolds’ article describes the new process of direct digital printing on PET plastic and glass bottles used for the food and beverage industry. Within the context noted above, being able to print on irregularly shaped surfaces (as you might do with pad printing) while constantly varying the imagery is rather exciting.

Moreover, you could conceivably create only one printed bottle if you needed a prototype. Then, you could make any design changes required and print the entire run with the new design. And you could do this with FDA compliant, low-migration, food-safe inks.

To give you an idea of the technology involved, a system of feedscrews and a starwheels brings each cylindrical bottle in front of the digital inkjet printheads, using a carousel system to move the bottles through the system and out again. Reynolds’ article, “Direct Digital Printing on Rigid Containers,” describes transport systems that can be built to accommodate more bottles at a time (increasing the speed and efficiency of production depending on the run length).

The article also describes two printing processes, one that involves inkjetting the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink colors sequentially, and another that deposits the inks all at once. To make all of this work, certain bottle shapes will be more successful and certain shapes will not work.

Addressing the needs of both PET plastic bottles and glass bottles can be tricky, due to the different heat requirements for the two substrates, but Reynolds’ article explains how each can be accommodated.

The process uses UV-cured inks, which will set instantly upon exposure to ultraviolet light (provided by LED bulbs). This allows for printing on non-porous substrates (such as PET plastic and glass) and makes the bottles immediately usable without any drying time. In addition to the usual process colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black), the technology uses white inkjet ink and also a clear primer to make the ink adhere better to the substrate.

Why This Is Special

Direct printing on PET and glass bottles provides several benefits for the food and beverage packaging industry.

  1. You can produce an edition of one. This is useful if you’re making a prototype for a bottle. The mock-up will look exactly like the finished product.
  2. When you have confirmed your initial design, you can still make each bottle different, so each customer who buys the product can have unique personalization (such as their name).
  3. Although there are some limitations in the substrates (the bottles have to be a certain shape that will allow access to the inkjet heads: cylindrical but not oval, for instance), I’m sure the ability to print digitally on uneven or irregular surfaces will improve in the near future. (For example, I have read about inkjet equipment that can already print directly on a football.)
  4. The UV inks are “low-migration” inks that won’t contaminate the food products in the bottles.
  5. On a design level, you have a larger area for the custom printing. You are not limited to the rectangular dimensions of a label. The imagery and text can be positioned on any part of the bottle’s surface accessible to the print heads.
  6. Unlike screen printing and pad printing, digital inkjet custom printing allows for high resolution photographic imagery. This could make the look of a direct digital printed bottle far more dramatic than that of a screen-printed or pad-printed bottle.

More than anything, this is a good, solid step in the direction of printing almost anything on almost any substrate.

Posted in Digital Printing | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Direct Digital Printing on Bottles

Book Printing: High-End, Case-Bound Look-Books

October 30th, 2018

Posted in Book Printing | Comments Off on Book Printing: High-End, Case-Bound Look-Books

My fiancee found two print books at the thrift store this week that together weighed about twenty pounds. They are perfect-bound art books. One is a “look book” showcasing street art in both New York City and Barcelona (four-color throughout, with bleeds and minimal text).

The other is a catalog of art prints. This one really needs its own table, it’s so heavy. Its contents have been broken down into photography, still life paintings, floral paintings, figures, etc. While it doesn’t cover all art periods, it really does provide a visual survey course in art history.

My fiancee picked these up as a resource for our art therapy work with the autistic: idea books to help us come up with new and thought-provoking art projects that will challenge our students. But as a print broker, I also noticed the superior print book production values these two case-bound books display.

The Street Art Book

Street art–as the book NYCBCN, by Louis Bou, suggests through its imagery—is a reflection of urban life applied to all manner of canvases, ranging from the sides of trucks to ramps in skating parks, from posters plastered over windows to walls emblazoned with graffiti. All of this is art. All of it tells a story about what it’s like to live in New York City or Barcelona.

I see a number of qualities in the book printing work that will affect the reader on a subconscious level:

  1. The paper stock is substantial (probably 100# text). This not only prevents show-through from one side of a page to the other. It also gives a sense of importance to each page. A thinner press sheet would feel flimsy.
  2. The paper is almost invisible. The ink coverage is just that thick, and every page bleeds on all sides. However, here and there you can see the specular highlights (i.e., areas with no halftone dots, or very tiny ones). The paper is an exceptionally bright blue-white shade. Granted, in contrast to the surrounding heavily saturated colors, the white would naturally stand out and seem whiter than usual. However, the bright blue-white press sheet does still increase the brilliance of the colors, since process colors are transparent. That is, the whiteness of the press sheet enhances the intensity of the ink colors.
  3. The book is more than 600 pages in length. No other binding method I can think of would be appropriate for such a long print book as the case binding chosen by the book designer. Perhaps a perfect bound option would have worked. But for such a large and heavy book block, case binding does make this book seem a lot more durable. After all, the case on which the book block has been “hung” has to support approximately five pounds of weight.
  4. In addition to the case binding, the book has been Smyth sewn. You can see the stitches holding the book signatures against one another now and then as you page through the print book.
  5. The book cannot lie completely flat since it is a case-bound book (and not a lay-flat bound book). Nevertheless, it is a loose-back book (the fabric “crash,” to which all book signatures have been glued, has itself not been glued to the spine of the book-binding cases). Therefore, the book almost lies flat, or as flat as one can expect a 600-plus-page book to lie. Since the spine is loose and the book is large—and clearly designed to be used a lot and last a long time—it is clear that the thickness of the crash and the thickness of the paper work together to ensure the print book’s durability. You can see the attention to detail. Bookbinding clearly is an art.
  6. Given the gritty nature of the subject matter, it seems fitting that the cover is made of 4-color-printed litho paper laminated to the chipboard of the binding. (Or, rather, this is not a cloth-bound book in a dust jacket.) The intense color of the cover art is augmented by this treatment. And adding the title of the book in large foil-stamped letters (both reflective and textured) provides an even more intense and edgy tone to the print book.
  7. While I’m not certain about this, the intensity of the interior art and cover art would suggest the following: either the printer added fluorescent ink to some of the process colors, or the printer used touch plates (additional colors beyond the usual cyan, magenta, yellow, and black).

The Fine Arts Book

The cover of this book just says Art. It’s a catalog. In fact, the price list is printed right on the interior front cover. Like the first book, this book is case bound. Unlike the first book, which I would consider to be an art book meant to showcase street art, this is a book used to sell printed reproductions of fine art prints. Nevertheless, it will give the careful observer a good education in a number of contemporary styles and approaches to the fine arts.

It is also especially heavy: perhaps five times as heavy as the first book. When you open this case-bound book, the crash does not come away from the spine. Unlike the other (“loose-back”) book, the crash of this case-bound book has been glued to the spine of the binder’s case to increase the durability of the print book. (This is called a “tight-back” book.) After all, it is especially heavy, and it has to last a long time and be used regularly as a reference. I firmly believe that a loose-back book block of this weight might otherwise tear away from its case after numerous uses.

Here are some further thoughts about the production values of this book:

  1. There are numerous index tabs inserted between press signatures. If you look closely, it is clear that they were folded in (maybe two inches from the face trim of the print book) and then opened so the thumb tabs would extend past the trim of the book pages. This is why. If the tabs had not been folded in, they would have been trimmed off as the guillotine cutter came down to flush cut the face (outer vertical side) of the book. To avoid this, a bookbinder folds in the tabs, trims the book block, and then opens the tabs for final use.
  2. As with the other book, the designer has chosen an especially bright white (blue white, since it appears even whiter than usual) press sheet to showcase the images. Since this is a case-bound catalog, to be used to sell art prints, the images of the fine art prints are relatively small. Positioning a small number of images on a page and then surrounding them with a lot of white space make reading the 800-plus-page book less daunting. The commercial printing press sheet seems to be matte (not gloss or dull). This makes reviewing the imagery easier on the eyes. But to make the images “pop,” the designer has also apparently varnished the photos.
  3. As I consider the length of the book and its weight (maybe ten pounds), it is clear that all of the elements of the case binding add to its durability. These include the tight-back case binding and presumably Smyth sewing (everything is glued too tightly for me to see the stitching, but Smyth sewing would add additional durability), plus the exceptionally heavy end-sheets and flyleaves (the papers to which the book block is attached and which are in turn glued to the interior front and interior back covers).
  4. The goal of this print book is to present to the reader a huge number of images. These have to be attractive (a number of images per page but with ample white space). It looks like the colors in the prints may have been augmented (either with fluorescent ink added to one or more of the process colors or touch plates with additional inks beyond the usual CMYK palette). But beyond everything else, this book is meant to last. It is clear to me that the artistry of the binding has both a functional component and an aesthetic one.

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Custom Printing: Thoughts on Brochure Folding

October 21st, 2018

Posted in Folding | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Thoughts on Brochure Folding

I get a lot of promotional mail in the course of a week, and I try to be mindful of which pieces spark my interest and why. Granted, since I get a lot less physical mail than email, I am far more likely to take the time to look closely at the print mail: its design, its format and folding, and the paper. It’s a tactile experience. Internet mail, ads, and anything else on the Internet lack one important quality for me: the sense of touch.

When I think about it, one quality of a good direct mail piece, one that piques my interest, is how it folds. Not just the physical experience of folding the paper, but the use of a unique fold to convey a message that’s congruent with the text, images, paper selection, and color usage in the brochure. After all, a good mail piece has to do more than just look attractive. It has to use all the elements of aesthetics to underscore its tone, its message, its purpose.

I went online recently to look for special folds for this blog article. First of all, that in itself is ironic: using the Internet to research commercial printing. Not long ago, I would have pulled out my sample boxes in which I store examples of print books, brochures, boxes, and all number of other printed paper products. But I wanted to collect some ideas quickly, so I checked Google Images.

What I Found and What I Learned

I was looking for a few golden rules of folding to share in this PIE Blog posting. Here are some thoughts that came to mind:

Do Something Different

I found an interesting fold based on a triangle. Most brochures are rectangles. You fold them up and they are tall rectangles, and you open them up and they’re wide rectangles. But they’re still rectangles. In contrast, the sample I found, when unfolded, had a tall left trim margin and a short right trim margin. It was a triangle.

The brochure comprised ten panels, five on each side. Overall, this was a “Z” fold or accordion fold brochure. Each panel zig-zagged back and forth. Every other panel had a large grey ink solid extending the length and width of the panel. The front and back panels on the far right were very small; the front and back panels on the far left were very tall. When you stood the open and unfolded brochure on its side, it had an almost architectural look, like a multi-level building with sloping roofs.

Or here’s another one. Several rectangular cards were wrapped in an outer sheet. No big deal. But in this case, the outer wrap had been set at an angle to the interior cards before being wrapped around them. This slanted treatment created an almost floral pattern of petals around the central stack of cards. This made it unique.

Again, do something different, and people will notice.

Make Sure the Fold Supports the Message

The accordion fold (zig zag) noted above might have been ideal for a building company or an architectural firm. (Online I couldn’t see in the small image exactly what the brochure promoted. I’m sure such a fold would be appropriate for a number of situations.)

But on a more basic level, it’s important to use the folds and treatment of the brochure panels in a functional way. The step-down accordion fold brochure had alternating gray panels (and white panels) with type reversed out of the gray panels. These obviously (even in a thumbnail-size image) contained a particular kind of highlighted text that differed (in terms of content) from the main text of the brochure. The gray panels highlighted this text and set it apart from the other brochure text (on the white panels) because of its different design treatment.

Approaching the design in this way helped group the copy in the brochure into digestible chunks. People have more to do these days, so they have less time to read brochures. They usually need to skim (or even just glance at) the text. Good design involves using folds in a brochure (and the panels it creates) to lead the reader through the content of the brochure. The reader appreciates this guidance, and you can ensure that your copy is read.

Another way to approach this is to consider how the folded brochure opens and what panels the reader will see first, second, third, etc. In my opinion, making such a decision online is not wise. Use the online thumbnail images to get ideas, but make paper folded mock-ups as you design brochures to see how the actual, physical brochure will fit in the hand of the reader, and what she/he will see first, second, etc. This is also a good time to check your swipe file (all the custom printing samples you liked over the years and kept for future reference). You can even call your commercial printing vendor or paper merchant and ask for ideas (and printed samples). Remember that, above all else, print is a physical medium. Make your design decisions using physical samples.

Consider the Physical Requirements and the Cost

Remember the cards wrapped in the paper that had been folded at an angle around the card stack (noted above)? This was stunning, but depending on the equipment and skill level of your custom printing supplier, it might have been either very expensive or impossible. Therefore, involve your printer early, and ask what he can and can’t do. Better yet, make a paper mock-up and share it with a number of print vendors.

If you have multiple panels in a brochure and these panels wrap inward (called a barrel fold or wrap fold), ask your printer how to size each panel. That is, the inner panels must be narrower than the outer ones, or the fold won’t work. If you make all panels the same size and then position copy and art on these equal-sized panels, once the brochure has been trimmed and folded by the printer, the copy and text will no longer be centered on each panel. Avoid this nightmare. Once you have confirmed the overall design, ask the printer for the exact width of each panel (remember, the height will presumably be the same).

Collect Samples/Get Ideas

Here are a number of ways to get ideas for current and future projects involving folds:

  1. Start a swipe file. Keep every piece of folded promotional mail that you find in your mailbox and really like. But go beyond that. Be able to explain (to yourself) why the design decisions (folds, format, trim size, paper, typeface, images) support the message.
  2. Ask all printers and paper merchants you work with for printed samples. Then keep what intrigues you in your swipe file.
  3. Check online. Google “brochure” and “folding.”
  4. Look up Foldfactory. They have good videos accessible through YouTube. They regularly highlight intriguing folds and explain how to do them and why they are effective. What’s nice about an online video is that you see exactly how the folded brochures work when unfolded. This is akin to what I was saying earlier about making physical mock-ups. Something may look good in an online photo, but unless it can be physically created and easily operated (and your printer can produce it for you within your budget), it’s not right for you. You can get a good idea of all of this through Foldfactory videos. There are probably other, similar videos you can find online as well.

All of this should give you a good start. The take-away? Involve your commercial printing supplier early and throughout the process (to get intriguing ideas, prices, and suggestions for how to make the novel ideas work).

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Custom Printing: Revising a New Asphalt Paver Logo

October 15th, 2018

Posted in Design | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Revising a New Asphalt Paver Logo

A short while ago I wrote a blog posting about a new logo I’ve been designing for a local asphalt paver. I described its genesis as a coroplast sign that morphed into a logo commission and then into cups, hats, and finally a large format print vehicle wrap. With my fiancee’s input, I provided three options a few days ago and then heard nothing back from the client. I started to get nervous. I assumed he had hated them. Then I reviewed the logos again, and I wasn’t so sure anymore either.

So today I shared the PDF of the three options with a friend and client of mine who designs print books. Interestingly enough, she used to be an editor, and I started her down the path of design, and since then I have consulted with her on the design of many of her print books, which are for such high-profile clients as the World Bank.

Turning the tables and having the student educate the teacher was humbling but very instructive. It is a lot easier to tell someone how to improve a design than to come up with a good one yourself.

That said, this is what she suggested, what I learned, and what I created for the revised, new logo. As with the initial batch of logo options, we can only wait and hope the client will be either pleased or at least articulate about what he likes and dislikes. Fortunately he called me this morning, and since then we have been playing phone tag.

What I Had Initially Created

As a recap, this is what the first three logo options looked like:

  1. Option #1 was a background rectangle picture box containing a photo of asphalt. Over this I had placed type in Gill Sans, flush right, with the name of the state in all caps and the word “asphalt” below in lowercase letters. I made the first line white and the second line a darker gray than the background asphalt photo. I also added a black and red stylized road above the state name, with a dashed line in the center.
  2. The second option was the same type treatment over the state map (both color and black and white versions).
  3. The third option was the irregular outline of the state map with the type superimposed over the map image. I made the “A” in the word “asphalt” red to provide drama and immediately grab the viewer’s attention.

What My Friend and Client Said, and What I Did in Response

My fiend/client said the road would be more recognizable with a yellow line down its center rather than a red one. I had initially chosen red because of its impact. My friend was absolutely right. I should choose a color that is relevant to the logo, and the line down the center of the road is not red. It is either white or yellow.

She also suggested putting the asphalt image within the outline of the letterforms. I tried this with both the name of the state and the word “asphalt.” It seemed to be too much, so I made the name of the state red and then reduced its size and increased the size of the word “asphalt.” Because of this, the rocks in the image of asphalt (within the outlines of the letterforms) were more visible. Moreover, the image of asphalt was really only pertinent to the word “asphalt,” so it made sense to only have the image within this one word.

In addition, I used the colors of the state flag, rather than the flag itself or the outline of the map. As noted before, I replaced the red in the stylized road with a yellow dashed line. I also made the all-capitals name of the state red (the other color in the flag). So the color palette now reflected the colors of the state flag without my directly including imagery of the map or flag, and at the same time this simplified the overall look of the logo considerably.

Finally, my friend and client had suggested simplifying the overall design by making the top line and bottom line justified rather than flush right. I had resisted this idea. I felt that flush right would be more unique (less expected) than flush-left type, and that justified type would only create an undifferentiated rectangle (the shape of the exterior boundary of the logo). There would be no drama.

Therefore, as a compromise, I enlarged the word “asphalt” (as noted before), reduced the size of the state name, positioned the type with a flush-right alignment, and then added a stylized road (with the yellow, dashed line in the center) immediately to the left of the state name.

Because of these graphic decisions, I had created a continuation of the rectangle on top (the shape of the state name rendered in all capital letters) with the simulated road extending (to the left) to the same vertical axis as the left edge of the “a” in “asphalt.” On the right, I vertically aligned the final letter in the state name and the final letter in the word “asphalt.”

The gist of what I just said is that I had a rectangle. All visual elements of the logo nestled tightly into one another: the simulated road, the state name, and the word “asphalt.” Everything was tight, simple, and airy (in that the logo was not superimposed over a rectangular image). Moreover, the logo includes the texture of the asphalt within the word “asphalt.” So it has a humorous tone.

This is a viable fourth option for my client. We’ll see what happens.

What You Can Learn From This Case Study

Here are some thoughts:

  1. I hadn’t thought of this until just now, but not having either a map or the image of the flag (or the image of the asphalt) behind the logotype will make the overall logo more flexible. It will be easier to coordinate the design of the business card and the vehicle wrap (at vastly different sizes) without a background image. The shape of the words will also be more evident and therefore more immediately recognizable (since the viewer will more readily see the descender of the “p” and the ascender of the “h” in the word “asphalt”). Plus, the slanted letterform of the letter “t” in “asphalt” will also be more visible. The take-away is that you should check your own logo design in a similar manner. Think about what is all uppercase and what is all lowercase. The eye will immediately identify a lowercase word (or one in uppercase and lowercase letters). It will recognize the shape of the word (without needing to read all the letters). If you put part of the logo in all caps, it’s shape will be just a rectangle. This will slow down the viewer’s reading speed. This doesn’t have to be a problem. You just have to be aware of it.
  2. Think about where the reader’s eye enters the image of the logo. In the case of the logo I just created, the eye enters along the simulated road with the dashed line. The yellow grabs the reader’s attention. Then the horizontal line of the road leads the viewer’s eye to the all-caps name of the state (in red). Since the final word, “asphalt,” is larger than anything else, that’s where the eye goes next. It would go there first if not for the yellow in the simulated road and the red in the state name. In your own work, be able to articulate how the viewer’s eye enters the design, where it goes next, and where it goes after that. Make it easy for the viewer’s eye to travel comfortably through the entire logotype and image.
  3. Finally, see what the logo looks like when you make it very large and very small. After all, it may be reproduced on both large format print signage and a business card. Also see how it looks in black and white as well as color. In the case of my project, a black-and-white-only logo directs the viewer’s eye to the word “asphalt” first, not to the yellow line in the middle of the road.
  4. Then put the mock-ups away, and don’t look at them for a day or so. When you see your work again, you will have more objectivity. You will see both the good points and the flaws.
  5. Finally, show the logos to other people, particularly other designers. You don’t have to take their advice, but it will help to get different points of view on your work. It may even give you new ideas to pursue. Then show your logos to your client.

Posted in Design | Comments Off on Custom Printing: Revising a New Asphalt Paver Logo

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