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Archive for October, 2015

Custom Printing: The Printing Substrate Changes the Ink Color

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

The more I study the various visual arts, the more similarities I see between and among them.

My fiancee bought some hair coloring today, and noted that the final color will depend on the original hair color of the person using the product. She had chosen a bright auburn shade, and on the back of the package I saw three slightly different final colors based on whether the original hair had been light to medium blonde, dark blonde to light brown, or medium to dark brown.

Presumably, the purpose of such an explanation was to tell the user what to expect. But to me it brought to mind the differences in color output when offset custom printing (or digitally printing) on a white sheet, beige sheet, or much darker sheet. The substrate always affects the color of the printed ink.

My fiancee went on to explain how eyelash coloration works the same way. The color you apply with a brush will look different on women with different original eye lash colors.

How Does This Apply to Commercial Printing?

Here are some thoughts pertaining to a number of different custom printing situations and technologies:

  1. When you have chosen an off-white press sheet onto which you will print your four-color process job, remember that process inks are transparent. If your photos include faces, the flesh color will be affected by the underlying paper, and the overall effect may be yellower than you would like. To compensate for this you can have the printer add a layer of opaque white beneath the process colors. (This will add to your overall cost, of course.) I have also seen this done with a metallic silver ink as a base and with opaque white actually mixed in with the process colors.
  2. Another approach if you’ve chosen a cream stock and you want to print white lettering on the paper is to use white foil rather than ink. Foil will completely retain its surface consistency (unlike ink) because it will not seep into the paper. After all, the white foil is attached to the surface of the paper with heat and pressure. If you choose this option, you will need to pay extra for the metal die used to cut the white foil.
  3. If you’re printing on a black t-shirt, the underprinting of white ink will make a huge difference in the final color. In this case the opaque white will provide a consistent, light background for any subsequent colors you may add.
  4. Printing on clear acetate will benefit from the same approach. Let’s say you’re producing a large-format section of a movie standee, and you want a transparency effect. Printing the inkjet inks or custom screen printing inks directly on the clear acetate will dull down the colors significantly, but laying down a background of opaque white will provide a bright background which will reflect back to the viewer the light that travels through the transparent process colors. The viewer’s eye will interpret this as increased vibrancy within the inks.
  5. You should know that large format inkjet presses (both the flatbed variety and also the roll-fed presses) will usually have an additional ink reservoir for an opaque white ink. In addition, the inkjet presses have been designed to lay down the white background precisely positioned under the color overprinting. Therefore, this technology makes printing on either a colored background or a transparent background a viable, attractive option.

What About Proofing Your Print Job?

If you’re printing process colors over a colored background, then visualizing the final outcome will be a challenge. Your computer monitor will display color on a white background. Of course you can add a tint to the background of your job to match the paper, but this might not give you a completely accurate view (remember to remove the tint screen before printing).

What I’ve always done is ask the printer or paper merchant for printed samples that match my stated goals for the substrates and inks. It’s easier to communicate using a physical printed product. In addition, if the printer has produced a job you really like, you can always ask for help in preparing the art files to ensure that your job will be as successful as the one your commercial printing vendor just produced.

Another approach you might find helpful is to inkjet print a proof on the paper you have chosen for the final job. This is particularly useful if you’re printing process colors on a cream substrate. While not 100 percent accurate, this will at least give you a better idea than a screen view of how the final job will look.

If you’re flush with cash and your product needs to be perfect, you can always request a press proof (a few copies produced on a small press). However, this is an extremely expensive option since you’re really printing the project twice (once for the proof and once for the final job).

Commercial Printing: Displaying “Words” As “Art”

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Back when I was growing up it was the bumper sticker: “Make Love, Not War.” Easy to print in volume and cheap to buy, the bumper sticker was the mainstay of commercialized, personal self-expression—other than protest signs, of course, and some t-shirts (Che Guevara or the Rolling Stones).

With the advent of digital printing, things have become more diversified, and I have seen a multitude of definitive statements about life in the most intriguing places:

  1. I have seen quotations screen printed on wood or ceramic wall hangings, everything from how to be a true friend to pithy comments on the virtues of good food and wine.
  2. I have seen more and more websites popping up with edgy quotes and comments on cotton and polyester t-shirts.
  3. My fiancee recently bought two dish towels with comments about friends, food, and happy birds with French fries.
  4. More and more, I’m seeing tattoos that are complete quotations, not just the Chinese pictograms for “happiness” or “opportunity” as in past years. Here’s one from a Google Images search: “Not all who wander are lost.” (from a poem by J.R.R. Tolkien). If you check out some of the photos, you’ll see complete poems and Biblical verses as well.
  5. I’ve even seen die cut quotations ink jetted onto plastic that can be peeled off a backing sheet and stuck to your bedroom wall.

What Does This Say About Society?

I have a few theories about the reasons for this rise in popularity of the written word printed (even the tattoo is a form of custom printing) on diverse substrates:

  1. We live in an increasingly word-laden society. Even though YouTube (i.e., videos) shows that images are rising quickly in popularity, we create more and more words: documents for work, emails and texts for leisure. Perhaps the computer has increased our sense that we can control our lives through our words. Books did this for centuries; now, with the analytical functions of the computer as well as its text processing capabilities, we have further deified the printed word.
  2. It follows from the increased importance of the word that presenting it artistically (on a t-shirt, on the skin between your shoulder blades, or on your wall) has also become increasingly popular.
  3. People define themselves and express themselves to others through their choice of quotations. If you listen or read closely, you can even see the values inherent in these choices. For instance, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” (Kelly Clarkson then turned this into gold in her song, “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger.”) The underlying message reflects the culture’s high regard for strength acquired through adversity. By tattooing this on your arm, you permanently display your affiliation with others who share your values.
  4. People need maxims to live by, particularly in this age of commercialism and media hype. Whether on a shirt or on your torso, a commitment to live in a certain way takes the ambiguity out of life. The more permanent the statement (a wall hanging vs. a t-shirt vs. a tattoo), the more indelible the sentiment. I think that particularly in a world in which the supports of family, friendships, and religion have in many cases weakened, a commitment to a maxim helps assuage existential anxiety.

What Does This Say About Opportunities for Commercial Printing?

So how does this translate into ink or toner on paper? I think there are many venues opening up as technology advances:

  1. Large format inkjet printers in some cases come with knife-based plotting attachments that can run on your computer’s digital file to cut out the letters the inkjet heads have just printed on the substrate. Creating wall clings with repositionable adhesives can allow you to produce complete quotations for your living room wall. If you own a restaurant, all the better. You can affix the quotes for public display.
  2. Digital information can run routers as well as plotters. In this case you can cut intricate designs including individual words or even full quotes out of planks of wood. Lasers can do this as well.
  3. Quotes can adorn any kind of fabric art, from textiles used as wall hangings to wallpaper materials permanently attached to the walls. Within this vein of architectural design, digital information can even etch glass that will be used in building construction. Custom printing for architectural embellishment (and not just using grand-format inkjet technology) is growing in popularity.
  4. Quotations can be inkjet printed onto materials used in laminates. For instance, you can add a layer of writing within your surf board or the countertop in your basement kitchenette.

The Written Word As Both Communication and Art

Throughout history, the written word has reflected an aesthetic sensibility along with its purely communicative function. To slightly alter the words of Marshall McLuhan, people are coming to value both the message and the medium.

Book Printing: The Virtues of Unique Cover Designs

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

My fiancee and I went to Barnes & Noble yesterday to get a birthday gift and card for a friend. We had been advised by a mutual relation that he wanted a particular print book about Christopher Columbus: a paperback best seller.

With a little help in the book store we found the text, a perfect-bound, (approximately) 6” x 9” print book with an intriguing cover. What makes the cover intriguing is that it does not extend all the way to the face trim. It stops just short of the trim (perhaps 1/2”), and when you lift the cover there is another, full-size cover beneath it.

Details of the Cover Design

Interestingly enough, the front cover wraps all the way around the spine and back of the text block, and under the short-folded front cover, the second cover, which is cut from the same weight stock as the outer cover, seems to have been tipped in between the first text signature and the outer print book cover. That is, a single 6” x 9” (approximately) sheet of cover stock appears to have been fit into the binding in front of all the text pages, and presumably glued to the first signature and into the spine. At least this is how it appears to me.

Regarding the book printing, the designer has included text and images on the front cover (with the short fold), the inside front cover (the reverse of the cover), and the additional, tipped-on cover. All graphic images have been printed in four-color process inks, and all images bleed on all four sides.

To add interest, the print book designer has chosen an uncoated, textured stock for the outer cover and a gloss-coated stock for the second cover (the one that extends fully to the face trim).

The Effects of the Design Choices

For me, the cover is intriguing for a number of reasons:

  1. The contrast between the rough, uncoated stock of the outer cover and the smooth coated feel of the inner cover immediately involves the reader’s tactile sensibility.
  2. The short fold invites the reader to open the book. The slight bit of graphic image beneath the first cover just begs to be revealed.
  3. The graphic on the front cover is a full-bleed image, but it has a restrained, symmetrical sense of balance. Therefore, when you open the cover to a more dramatic and colorful interior spread (inside front cover and second front cover), the reader’s field of view expands as the art becomes much more dynamic.

French Flaps, a Similar Approach

One of my commercial printing clients (a husband and wife literary publishing team) does something entirely different with their books. All of their titles have 12pt. covers with French Flaps (the covers extend past the books’ face trim by about 3” and then fold back, similar to dust jackets on case-bound books).

Although these French Flaps are different from the short-folded cover of the book about Columbus, the effect is similar. My client often prints full-bleed images on the inside front and back covers, and with the extensions of the French Flaps there is a lot more space to fill with compelling graphics than on the usual perfect-bound book. There is room on the French Flaps for author biographical information, reader comments, and perhaps a synopsis of the book, as well as imagery suggesting the tone of the upcoming print book the reader is about to experience.

Marketing Value of Both Options

Books are a dime a dozen. You go into a book store and there are many thousands to choose from. For good or ill, a book can capture your attention (or not) based on its cover—regardless of what your parents told you about not making such judgments. And intriguing book covers (with unexpected folds, whether the extended French Flaps or a short-folded cover) will differentiate the print book from its peers on the shelf. This is before any ink has been applied to the cover.

Secondly, the added space provided by these two options gives the book designer a much larger canvas on which to paint a picture of the story, stories, or poems contained in the book. Playing upon the contrast of a restrained front cover design and a more dynamic interior cover (as is the case with the sample book) can further invigorate the graphics, as can pairing either similar or dissimilar paper stocks.

Thirdly, since these cover treatments are unique (and apparently quite common in Europe), the perceived value of the print book will increase (based on its production values). The book just looks “classier” than a comparable text with covers that extend to the face trim and with no graphics on the interior covers. And for the marketer, “classier” or “European” translates into a higher price tag and perhaps a higher profit. So everyone wins.

Custom Printing: Pairing Lenticular Print with QR Codes

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

A few days ago my fiancee and I went shopping at a local clothing store. When we returned home, she tossed me an item of underwear (TC Edge) she had bought, and said, “Look at this.”

Although I planned to comment on the garment, what I saw immediately was that she had been referring to the two tags hanging from the lace: a playing card sized plastic lenticular print and a QR code printed in black ink on a round clothing tag.

The Lenticular Print

First, I’d like to describe the lenticular print. Then I will briefly explain the process used to make the tag.

The ridges (lenses) on this particular lenticular print are all vertical. Therefore, when you turn the card from side to side, you will see two different pictures depending on its orientation. For this item of clothing, the technology is ideal, since one photo shows the model fully clothed and the other photo shows her in only her undergarments.

The marketing tag line also changes: “First You See It…Then You Don’t.” The marketing copy references both the clothing to which it is attached and also the playful nature of the lenticular printing process. I think this works well, since people usually like a good play on words that can be taken in two ways.

What makes this technology operate is that two photos were taken, then sliced into minuscule vertical strips, then reassembled (interlaced)–all on a computer. The single resulting image was then printed on plastic that was then glued to the back of the lenticular lenses (the plastic covering sheet with the ridges). When you turn the plastic card in one direction, you see one of the images in its entirety through the side of the lenticular lenses facing that direction. (The lenses pull together all the strips of that particular image into a contiguous photo.) When you turn the card, you use the other side of the lens and you see the other image.

Lenticular commercial printing suppliers do not need to use this same approach for everything. They can also assemble, or interlace, multiple photos such that your eyes will see depth in a photographic scene rather than a change between two photos. Lenticular printers can also interlace more than two photos to create a brief (one second) movie displaying image motion rather than either a 3D effect or a switch between two images.

The QR Code

QR codes were not created to be the next great thing in multi-channel marketing. This was only a recent development. Actually, they were initially developed in the automotive parts industry in Japan due to the large amount of data they can contain compared to other barcodes.

You can identify a QR code by its square format and pixellated appearance. It often contains smaller squares at each (or many) of the four points of the square QR code. And unlike most postal barcodes and UPC codes, it is based on an X/Y grid (both vertical and horizontal rather than just horizontal), allowing for coding and transmitting a substantial amount of information.

When the QR code was first developed, it was great for cataloging automotive parts; now it has other uses in the field of marketing. More precisely, if you download into your camera-enabled smartphone an application that essentially makes it a scanner, you can point the camera at a QR code and be transported to a URL prepared for you by the marketer (in my fiancee’s particular case a clothing manufacturer).

You can actually be transported to any number of computer locations (such as online videos, product lists, and reviews), but what makes a direct connection to a website useful is that a marketer can use it to expand upon information on the clothing hang tag. A savvy customer can find a garment she likes, research it online, and then make the purchase. In essence, this is a point of purchase device that increases the likelihood of “conversion” (in this case the likelihood of a purchase).

Pairing the Lenticular Print with the QR Code

You get a lot of marketing muscle when you combine a QR code and a lenticular hang-tag. Here are some thoughts:

  1. You get movement. Anything that moves will catch the eye of any animal, be it your cat or you as a consumer. If it’s fun, or intriguing in some way, as this TC Edge undergarment hang tag is, it’s even more likely to catch the buyer’s eye.
  2. You get the synergy of custom printing blended with the Internet. You have the tactile benefits of the physical hang-tag (plus its ribbed texture, due to the lenticular lenses) combined with the unlimited depth of information on the Internet. Your potential customer has a commercial printing product to touch and read, but she also has additional access to buying information.
  3. You get all of this plus the selling qualities of the actual undergarment itself.

Sometimes it pays to venture out from all the thrift stores and enter a regular branded department store.

Custom Printing: Designing for Web and Print Books #2

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

I have a dear friend from college who designs print books for government agencies and NGOs. Periodically she sends me mock ups for feedback. She is in the curious position of designing textbooks that have to be readable in both Internet and print book format. After I spent about an hour with her last night reviewing page spreads and making design suggestions, I thought her design work would make a good follow-up article on designing books for Web and print.

The Format of the Textbook

First of all, the print book is in an interesting format: A4, Portrait (8.27” × 11.69”). To all other parts of the world this would be more commonplace, and my friend is a freelancer for several global governmental and nongovernmental organizations, so for her this is the norm. It is slightly narrower, and slightly taller, than we have come to expect in the United States.

The book includes introductory pages with photos and a background full-bleed solid color. For the print version this makes the color space 4-color process; for the Internet version it makes the color space RGB (or red/green/blue, created with additive primaries, or light, rather than subtractive colors, or printer’s ink). Out of the color block my friend has reversed the headlines, which are very short, and are set in a sans serif typeface. The typeface is simple in design, but it has a few unique strokes in some letters that add variety and appeal to the overall look of the page.

Under the intro page photo there are three columns: two for text copy and one for a vertical color bar of the same color as the horizontal bar above the photo. Out of this vertical color bar she has reversed the folio (or page number).

Subsequent pages include three columns of flush left, ragged right copy set in a sans serif typeface with slightly extra leading. Some pages are infographics in the popular “flat” style (simple text blocks, and arrows and other graphic elements created from simple shapes without depth perspective—i.e., flat). Other pages include flow charts, text charts, and call-outs.

The call-outs (which really are more multi-layered subheads) are in blue, as are square bullets before list items, and all subheads. Other text is in black, except for the multi-colored text in the infographics.

How This Relates to Web and Print Design

Simplicity Is Rule #1.

Actually, this is true for both the Internet and a print book. Breaking information into small, easily digestible chunks makes for immediate recognition as to what data, information, or thoughts pertain to what other information. Particularly on a Web page, immediate recognition is crucial.

My friend broke down the intro page into a series of horizontal and vertical rectangles (the page grid) into which copy, and color, could flow. This is also an example of simplicity.

Another example is the infographic, which is based on a circle broken into four quadrants, each with an arrow. The arrows are set at 90 degree angles to one another. Text blocks are nestled into the space between arrows, and in each text block one word is larger than the others and is highlighted in a color. The reader can choose to read only the highlighted words (and perhaps the headings, reversed out of the four colors of the four quadrants of the circle), and “get” the meaning of the visual in two seconds. If the infographic interests him/her, he or she can read further. This is simplicity—for both a print book and a Web treatment.

Readability Is Rule #2

Text pages are created in three-column format. Therefore, the reader’s eye only has to travel a short distance before coming back to the left-hand margin. My friend, the designer, has added a few extra points of leading between lines of type to facilitate reading on both the Internet and in the print book (remember, there will be only one design that must function on both). Also, her choice of a ragged-right text format improves readability when compared to justified type (because the spaces between words are all the same).

All text and headlines are set in different faces of the same type: Andes, which has enough flourishes in its letterforms to be interesting, but which is easier to read than a serif face on a back-lit computer screen.

Any reversed type is large enough to be read on the screen. (The book pages, saved as PDFs, are smaller than the A4 format of the print book when displayed on the computer screen, so the threshold of legibility of type reversed out of a background color requires short lines, large letters, ample leading, and the thick bold format of the sans serif typeface.)

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

  1. More and more you may be called upon to design print books that will be saved as PDFs for reading on the Web. In many cases the two versions will be the same.
  2. If they will be the same design, it will be important for you to make design decisions that will be readable (and visually appealing) on a computer screen.
  3. Keep in mind that colors will be cyan, magenta, yellow, and black in the print book and red, green, and blue in the Internet version. This conversion can be made during the creation of the PDF. Some colors will not translate as well as others, so check them on screen and in your color swatch book.
  4. More leading makes for easier reading, so don’t set lines of type too close together. This is particularly true for reversed type.
  5. Shorter lines of type make for easier reading, as does ragged right formatting.
  6. While various studies of readability say that in a print book a serif typeface may be easier to read (there is still some disagreement on this), on screen a sans serif typeface is easier to read. Design for simplicity and readability. Particularly avoid Modern typefaces: those with great contrast between thick and thin letter form strokes.
  7. Closely examine and deconstruct the design of print books and online versions. Look particularly for those qualities (color, type, margins, etc.) that facilitate reading. Then incorporate these attributes into your own design work.

Custom Printing: Web Design That Translates Into Print

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

Creating a visual identity for a business is a formidable undertaking, rife with visual implications, functional issues, and connotations and nuances in tone. Therefore, it’s important to approach it with a sense of humor and play: an experimental approach that allows you to try many things, fail at some, and succeed at others. Being too serious about this will cripple your efforts.

My Associate’s Email Signature

To give you some background information, an associate asked me to comment on her email signature today. She is a writer, editor, and writing instructor, and she wanted some feedback.

First of all, a definition: An email signature is the contact information at the end of an email. It includes your name, physical address, phone number, email address, and, if you have a business, perhaps a tag line promoting your business. It is a great marketing opportunity.

My associate included all of this information for her writing-education business, but she set the type in a sans serif face in lowercase letters. She thought this added a fresh tone to her business. Her coach disagreed, saying it diminished her “stature and expertise.”

Here’s why I disagree, and how I think my associate’s novel approach can not only benefit her brand image but also be translated into effective print collateral.

  1. Her business name includes the numeral “7,” as in “7 Steps to Superior Writing Skills.” (I’ve made up all of these names and descriptions to focus less on my associate and more on the typographical, design, and marketing issues her choices reflect.) For the most part, people reading anything on the Internet (blogs, for instance) like to see numerals. It gives them an immediate idea of how to solve their problem in the shortest amount of time (7 steps are better than 10, for instance). And people have a much shorter attention span now than in the past, since there’s so much more information out there to digest.
  2. The lower case version of my associate’s email signature gives prominence to the numeral “7.” This would not be the case with an upper and lower case treatment of the business name. (In this case, the upper case letters would have the same alignment as the top of the “7,” and this would diminish its prominence.)
  3. The “shape” of the words (based on the ascenders and descenders) is bold and definitive due to its simplicity and casual look.
  4. The implication that good writing can be relaxed, sexy, and fun (implied by the lower case letters) challenges the readers’ assumptions, piquing their interest. The tone of the business is reflected in the typographic choices.
  5. The short lines of copy (about 20 characters each), shifts in color (red, blue, and black), and vertical dividing line used within my associate’s business name, break the information into small, digestible chunks. This fosters easy reading on a computer screen.
  6. This approach will be just as effective when the electronic media image is brought across into her commercial printing work. This is important because my associate’s clients will need to make an immediate mental link between her business card and her Web image. To be effective, all print collateral and Internet content must share a coherent look.

So I would respectfully disagree with my associate’s client and business coach. Particularly in this age when writing has been democratized, when citizen blogs compete with professional reportage for the reader’s attention, it’s important to project a tone in one’s corporate identity materials that invites readers to approach a business. “Professional” doesn’t need to be synonymous with “stodgy.”

Moreover, pairing sans serif typography with short, digestible chunks of information facilitates reading on a back-lit computer screen (which tires the eyes more than reading ink on paper). My associate even omitted all punctuation in her email signature and instead distinguished between chunks of copy by adding extra space.

A Comparison to a Much Higher-Profile Business

Another associate sent me an email link to a fashion website today. The company is a major player in this field, yet the typography in its online advertising actually impedes readability.

The type is set in various sizes of a Modern typeface. Although I’m not precisely certain of the typeface (it could be Bodoni), I know it is a Modern (as opposed to Old Style or Transitional) typeface because of the sharp contrast between the thick and thin strokes of the letterforms.

On paper (within the print magazine produced by this fashion juggernaut), the typeface works beautifully. However, on the screen, the contrast within each letterform makes reading difficult and tires the eyes. The thinnest strokes disappear on a small screen, and the thicker strokes of the letterforms appear blocky.

On this particular Web page, the designer also set some advertising copy in all capital letters. As I have mentioned in prior blog articles, this renders the shape of all words the same (a rectangle). With upper and lower case letters or even all lower case letters (as in my associate’s email signature design), you have the ascenders and descenders of the letterforms to help you identify the words (you identify them by shape, not by reading each word letter by letter).

What This Means to You As a Designer

Increasingly, designers are creating both printed materials and Web pages. Therefore, it is prudent to understand how reading on a backlit computer screen differs from reading ink on paper. It is also important to understand how to coordinate the appearance of both online and print collateral messages while making reading easy and pleasurable in both media. This involves an awareness of how the eye and brain work as well as a grasp of aesthetics, in order to effectively create a unified print and online experience.

This is hard stuff to master. It always helps to share your work, to get feedback (from older as well as younger readers), and to constantly observe typography and other design elements on the Web and in print.

Pocket Folder Printing: Pocket Folder/Brochure Update

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

They say, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and a recent creative solution provided by a print brokering client of mine exemplifies this approach–totally.

She has been working on a custom pocket folder with either four or eight interior pages as well as the pocket. To make the piece stand out, she has chosen a 12” x 9” oblong format over the traditional, upright, 9” x 12” version. The folder will have a pocket on the inside back cover into which her client will insert about six or eight laser printed, 8.5” x 11” sheets. This pocket will be vertical rather than horizontal, open on the left rather than at the top. That is, the pages will slip into the pocket on their sides. To keep them from falling out, my client is considering a diecut tab to hold the exposed, short edge of the inserted sheets.

We have discussed using a 130# cover stock for the custom pocket folder and 100# text for the interior pages. To add visual interest, my client plans to stagger the interior pages. That is, they will be stepped down, with each successive leaf (two pages) being 1” longer than the preceding leaf. All interior pages will be saddle stitched into the center of the pocket folder.

A Perfect Hybrid Printing Project

Since my client’s client only wants 100 copies of the product, I initially suggested having the job digitally produced. Unfortunately, the vendors I approached said the pocket folder was too large to fit on the 13” x 19” HP Indigo digital press sheet and would therefore need to be produced on an offset press (an expensive proposition).

More than anything, this was due to the oblong nature of the project. Had the pocket folder been vertical (rather than oblong), it would have just fit on an Indigo press sheet (although the printer would have needed to produce the pocket separately and glue it onto the folder).

In short, the HP Indigo 7000 series’ 13” x 19” format was limiting. Going to the larger format (approximately 20” x 29”) used on an Indigo 10000 and above might have been a good idea, but I didn’t know anybody with one. And by “know,” I mean “trust”—deeply. I’m a firm believer in not starting out a new custom printing supplier with a complex job.

So the preferred option came to be the following: Print the interior brochure sheets digitally, and print the exterior custom pocket folder traditionally on an offset press.

Such a hybrid job would play to the strengths of both offset and digital technology. The exterior pocket folder would contain “evergreen” information (that would presumably be accurate and useful for years). My client’s client could print 1,000 (rather than 100) of these and then store and use them as needed. (This would be more economical on a per-unit cost-basis.) The interior pages would be printed digitally in batches of 100. Their text material could be updated with each custom printing run, and the pages could contain the dated material relevant to my client’s client.

Problems with Paper Size Begin to Occur

All of this seemed to work well as a concept, but the 13” x 19” Indigo format still provided challenges. If the custom pocket folder contained four stepped-down pages, the folded and stitched pages would fall several inches from the edge of the 12” x 9” pocket folder (its face margin). The interior brochure would look very small inside a big pocket folder. Adding eight stepped-down pages would make for a more substantial interior brochure. (Assuming each successive, stepped-down leaf were 1” longer than the preceding leaf, the final page would fall much closer to the trim.)

A Solution to the Problem

What I found both intriguing and encouraging was my client’s solution: a pocket folder with a short-fold front cover.

The front cover would be 8” wide rather than 12”. The back cover would still be 12”. This would afford a 9” high and 8” wide area inside for the brochure pages, while the pocket would be visible to the right of the 8” wide front cover. Depending on how my client handled the overall design, this would break up the booklet into a brochure with cover on the left, and a pocket folder containing the six or so pages laser printed by her client on the right.

The physical design of the piece would group (or separate) the various components. As long as the visible portion of the back interior cover included a design that was integrated with the rest of the job (rather than just looking “uncovered”), this could actually be a more interesting piece than initially conceived.

In addition, the widest stepped-down pages (flat, before being saddle-stitched) would be no larger than 16” x 9” (small enough to fit comfortably on the 13” x 19” maximum HP Indigo 7000 press sheet).

In fact, there would be even more room if my client continued with her approach to staggering (or stepping down) the interior text pages.

The only question now is where to put the business card slots?

What You Can Learn

Here are some thoughts:

  1. When you’re totally stumped by the physical limitations of a job, think creatively (sleep on it, if necessary). My client created a more interesting overall design when she couldn’t fit her desired brochure pages on the 13” x 19” Indigo press sheet. You can do the same. Granted, it requires sweat, insight, and good luck.
  2. As noted in the prior blog posting about this job, consider blending technologies. If you need to do an ultra-short press run, perhaps you can justify doing part of the job offset (and printing more than you need, to be spread over multiple years) and part of the job digitally (and then updating this section as needed).

Custom Printing: The Power of Large Format Print

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

My fiancee and I were driving to an appointment yesterday, when we saw a delivery truck parked diagonally in a lot. Normally that would not have raised an eyebrow for either of us, but the large format print sign on the side of the truck was facing the oncoming traffic at the perfect angle to position its message towards anyone driving up the pike.

The ad was for kitchen appliances. I took a photo with my smartphone so I could study the image later and consider exactly why I thought it made for such good advertising.

First of all, the sign included the company logo and a bright photo of sample kitchen appliances highlighted in red (a color certain to catch the eye of oncoming drivers). It included the price (in red type on a black background), the URL for the company’s website, and a tagline reversed to white on the red background. All type was set in a simple, bold, sans serif face.

Beyond the powerful nature of the ad on the side of the truck, my fiancee and I both thought about the implications of such signage:

  1. After all, the company that owned the truck presumably neither had to pay rent for the advertising venue nor get approval from the local government authority for its display. I may be wrong, but it seems like he or she was getting prime advertising exposure for free. Should anyone complain, he or she could just move the truck and capture an entirely new set of onlookers, many of whom might be interested in kitchen appliances.
  2. Beyond township permit issues and advertising charges, the idea of an ad on a truck reflected the fact that a fixed sign such as a billboard (which would be the nearest equivalent) would only be seen by select individuals driving on a particular route. Mobile signage could be repositioned as needed to vary the demographic exposed to its message.
  3. Similar advertising tactics are reflected in the use of bus graphics, fleet graphics, car wraps, and even the much older practice of mounting double-sided signs on flatbed trucks (the driver’s equivalent of a fabric sign tied to a small plane at the beach). All of these not only display the promotional message as a large format print, but they also can vary the audience exposure as needed.

The Target Store Trucks with Their Red Bulls-Eyes

Moments later my fiancee and I saw two Target trucks unloading inventory into a large, beige Target store. The red bulls-eye logo on the trucks echoed the bulls eye on the side of the building. I’m sure all of these logos could be read from low-flying aircraft. In fact, if you had removed the name of the company and had just kept the bulls-eye logo in that particular red color, you would still have had an immediately recognizable icon.

What You Can Learn from These Observations

Here are some thoughts you can bring to your own large format print design work.

  1. It takes work to link a logo to its brand attributes in the minds of your target audience. Much of this work involves consistent exposure. That said, be mindful of the viewer you wish to influence and consider how best to approach him/her. Large format print signage is an excellent approach. However, it’s important to consider not just your message but also the consumer. How can you capture his/her interest, and where will your best venue for exposure be?
  2. The color red was integral to both the roadside truck sign and the Target store logo. Both stood out dramatically. Consider the blue in the IBM logo and the orange in the Home Depot logo. Even by themselves, these colors can bring to mind the two companies due to the consistent pairing of the color with the logo. In your own work, consider how well your logo colors will stand out, and be aware of what attributes people will associate with the colors (the color green is often associated with natural food stores, for instance).
  3. Be bold and creative with your marketing initiatives. You may have qualms about leaving a truck-sign in a parking lot to get (presumably) free advertising, but consider wrapping a car with a vinyl, ink jetted car wrap and paying someone to drive it around advertising your company. If you can coordinate this with an Internet initiative and perhaps a radio spot, all the better.

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