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My LKCS Design Wish List

By on November 15th, 2016 in Design

My bosses are holding their breath right now. What more can she expect from us? Well, relax. You’re off the hook this time! What I would really enjoy comes not from my workplace, but from those non-designers out there who are asked to “save the company money” and create all business and marketing materials in-house.

I know…I understand your dilemma. A majority of business owners believe that if they provide their employees with a computer and Microsoft Office, ANYONE can create a professional document, even when they have not received proper training to make it happen. I have nothing against Microsoft Office, but as an LKCS graphic designer, I cringe whenever we receive so-called print ready Word documents.

With that said, the first mention on my wish list:

Wish #1: No more Microsoft Word or Publisher documents

While there’s nothing wrong with having letter-sized Word documents created and run off on the office Minolta, anyone in the printing industry will tell you those documents almost NEVER make it to the press without needing modification (bleeds, color, and image resolution are three of the top problems).

Professional graphic designers are creating documents and artwork in industry-standard software such as InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator. These programs have built-in features and prepress checks that prevent problems (like missing fonts and low resolution images) from showing up at press time.

Most print ready jobs quoted to customers don’t include prepress work to remedy production issues. The idea of supplying a Word file or PDF as a finished piece means it is ready to go to press AS IS. Based on my experience, it usually takes more time to fix all the prepress issues than it would for an LKCS designer to have created the whole piece from scratch.

Wish #2: Extra white space

Don’t crowd me in! Give me some breathing room. Don’t run your text full width of the page. Even if you are printing your project off your own printer, give yourself a minimum quarter inch (0.25”) margin to ensure that the normal image area of the printer or copier doesn’t cut off text or graphics. Opening up some white space in your document makes it more inviting to the reader, especially if it is very text heavy.

If you really want to make me happy, throw in some extra line spacing (leading) and space after paragraphs for good measure!

Wish #3: Invest in some professional images

Don’t borrow images from the Internet and expect them to look crisp when printed. These images are low resolution. That means they were intended to view on your screen at 72 dpi, not print at the standard 300 dpi a commercial printer would expect. So that means the JPEGs, GIFs and PNGs you grab won’t work. OK, so maybe if they are very small you might be able to get away with it. But then there’s the whole issue of possible copyright violation that I won’t even get into.

Check out stock photography sites like Thinkstock, iStock, and Shutterstock, to name a few. Small, Medium, Large, and XLarge sizes of photos are available in 72 dpi (web images) and 300 dpi. The 300 dpi JPEG images you purchase and download from these sites are suitable for printing purposes. Just remember if you are sending your file to a commercial printer, the image needs to be CMYK (printing colors), not RGB (web colors) as they are supplied by default (you’ll need Photoshop to convert it).

Wish #4: Bleeds

No, this has nothing to do with donating blood. But it does contribute to high blood pressure when it is not included in your file. What is a bleed? It is extra image or element which extends past the document’s edge.

Why do you need a bleed? Bleeds allow for any minor inaccuracy (such as printer bounce) when the document is trimmed to final size. Failing to provide adequate bleed means that the photo you thought would run off the edge of the paper didn’t quite make it. The result is a thin area of white along the edge of the paper that looks like an unintended mistake, not an obvious margin.

To those who say “let the printer fix it”, I have news for you: Contrary to popular belief, one click of the mouse doesn’t fix everything.

But you can! Set up your document with an eighth inch (0.125”) area of that goes past the document edges. Make sure your artwork then extends into this area. In a professional page layout program, like InDesign, this is easy to do. If the program you are using doesn’t have an option to set a bleed, try creating your document with a custom page size that incorporates your bleed (for a letter size document, create a custom page size of 8.75” x 11.25”).

Wish #5: Outline your fonts

By outline, I mean convert your fonts to objects, not add a stroke. This means that I won’t substitute a font you didn’t intend to use. What could happen if I did? Let’s say you used Garamond, but my computer only had Garamond ITC available. These fonts most likely come from different type foundries. Substituting my Garamond ITC may result in text that looks wider, or more condensed, or spaced out differently than what you expected (resulting in different text returns).

If you converted the text to outlines, there would be no missing font error for me when I open your file because the text is seen as artwork, not type. If you send your unconverted text file to an outside vendor (like LKCS), you’ll need to send all of the font styles used in the document ¬ (Garamond Regular, Italic, Bold, Heavy). Whichever option you choose, be sure to save a version of your file that is not converted. You may be asked
to make some revisions to the text later.

Wish #6: Check it twice

Sometimes in the rush to meet a deadline, you might skip a very important step – giving your document a final once-over. When a customer supplies a file to LKCS as print ready, our proofreader does not check it. We find that clients often ask us to make changes on our end, rather than return to the original creator for the corrections. This can be quite a challenge if we don’t have the font for the text that needs to be edited, or when we can’t select any text to edit because it is part of a scanned image. Remember when I asked that text be outlined? Well, this is one instance where it works to our disadvantage.

It’s always a good idea to have another person review the document for something you may have missed. Just to be safe, check your document for spelling and grammar errors one last time before you send it to the printer. You’ll want to save two versions of your file – one that is editable, and one that has the text outlined.

If designing will become a regular job duty at your workplace, perhaps you can create your own wish list.
Add to it a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud. For a small monthly fee, you would be able to download and use the Adobe programs most professionals use.

If that’s not possible, maybe you should just be honest and tell your boss that it would probably save more time and money if the company project was sent to a professional printer. At LKCS, we have many talented individuals that can handle every step of your project, from concept development, layout and design, to printing, and mailing. Think of how much more time you’ll have to devote to sales and service!

Regardless if I’m naughty or nice, before you send me your camera ready file, consider checking at least one item off my wish list. Not only will it make me happy, but your file will encounter fewer problems and look more professional when printed.