Ed #10 Prepress

Start: Talking

Yet, while much has changed, success begins where it always has—with effective communications. Completing a printing project successfully still means sharing your thoughts, opinions, requirements and information. You still need what you always needed, which are answers to, oh, about 1,000 questions.

The questions begin the moment the job does, with the first talks with your client. A little time with the client’s existing publications or on the Web will provide some background information, but that’s only the start. When you’re taking on a project, especially one for a new client, it’s virtually impossible to ask too many questions. Along with asking about schedules, quantities, and other practical matters, you should try to get the bigger picture: What’s the background of the project? Who is the audience? What are the key messages? How does the client want to be perceived? It’s hard to predict where an idea will come from, so the more you can get your client talking, the better. Then ask, “Is there anything else we should be discussing?”

Almost always, designing a project and planning for its production are intertwined from the start. It’s difficult to develop concepts or a design until you have a sense of the schedule and budget as well as your client’s objectives. If the deadline is short, you may need to skip the global photo shoot in favor of stock images. A tight budget might rule out the use of metallic inks or spot colors.

As the answers you get begin to shape the design and the specifications, it’s time to start talking with your printer or, more often, your printer’s sales representative. It’s never too soon to make contact, especially if you’re looking for advice as well as an estimate. The printer’s representative will likely ask about schedule, colors, quantities, trim size, the number of pages, type and size of any images, paper choices, special inks or coatings, finishing and binding, and your plans for distribution or shipping. Virtually every choice can affect the entire process. The way that the project is bound, for example, will have an impact on layout dimensions, finished trim sizes, and possibly the design itself. Special stocks, coatings or finishing techniques can add days or weeks to production schedules.

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