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Old fashioned values…

There’s not a week that goes by, where we see an example of this. So hence I will try to sanitize this in the essence rather than give examples from seen and witnessed experiences to save blushes from the offenders.

Yes, print has been around for decades and centuries…. however, it is still a craft, which needs the understanding to get the best out of it, dared I say, this is getting forgotten, mislaid and ignored. 

Print exists at a point of delivery in the marketing and communications processes. It is a technical art, which requires knowledge to maximize its performance, and technical efficiencies to create stunning pieces which deliver spot on. What doesn’t help is the race to the bottom, the rising cost of materials in the current economic climate and the lack of understanding of how it works.

True story one… we have seen a set of brand guidelines from a client, rather sparse on meaningful print-related bits, or with minimal print-related colour information. The client on starting the first job mentioned minor issues with colour. We ran the job, needless to say, in different lights, eg morning, and late afternoon the colour shifted and other issues around metamerism, subject to the profile of the light hitting the page. The job returned for a reprint a few months later, picking up on the feedback, we endeavoured to work around and correct the issue. Please note, that the first printing was to their supplied artwork and colour specification breakdowns. We did get it better, however, in rectifying one issue it identified a subsequent issue, with a secondary colour when it sat alongside the key/ predominate colour. So the job returned for a third printing, this time, we ended up requesting agreed satisfactory materials (samples) with the correct colour to the client’s perspective. On cracking open the brand guideline documentation, we then realised the colour under the technical mix (CMYK) breakdowns was different than the specification labelled on it. Shock horror, fully knowing that the client wasn’t going to either care or understand, we needed a way to resolve this. So using the sample, we matched, in neutrally balanced daylight, to a Pantone colour reference guide. This determined the best colour close, which was printable. It was a colour close to the edge of the colour gamut (within the match of reliably printable within a CMYK process). Establishing this allowed us to define how we would tackle the printing of this job.

The moral of the story, is if you are having branding created, and more of it is going to be in physical form than online form, engage a designer that has proven specialisms with print, paint, and signage (all of which are within additive value colour spaces). As the online world uses subtractive colour models or RGB colour spaces. Getting colour right is so essential, understanding colour and how it works is essential to a great delivery of a brand.

True story two: Material specification. Print is wonderful for using many different materials, which provide different stimuli and receptive feelings and emotions for the end user.

However, understanding how these materials perform in a production environment is key. All because it is right for the aesthetics don’t mean it will be right for the budget of the client. The design has and always will be about how something is created for end users and what the end use achieves. Understanding the how is essential, you would not find a cast metal specialist trying to create something out of timber.

A great illustration of this is when a graphic designer specifies a laminate on a disposable giveaway item like a leaflet, equally when the leaflet is also printed on the heaviest weight board going as well. In both instances, it isn’t environmentally friendly, as the resource used for the item is purely for aesthetics only. Design is also about functionality and budget.

Another illustration is a bound job, where a non-folio stock is used as text pages within a bound job. So what is a folio stock? It is best described as a paper weight which works within a binding process. So, using a 170gsm or 200gsm stock as brochure or book leaves on a saddle stitched job, will require every section to be creased, and folded separately to prevent cracking. What is cracking? When using heavier weight stock, an indentation is made in the form of creasing or scoring the substrate to compress or control the fibres of the board in the sheet. When loosely folded, these fibres are still uncontrolled, thus they break the edge of the sheet when folded. So if you have a 20 or 28-page saddle stitched book, every 4-page section will need creasing before folding, gathering and stitching. Point to note different print methods also behave differently when it comes to print finishing. The implications generally are budgetary, as the number of processes often increases the budget. It isn’t common for bindery lines which gather stitch and trim to inline crease printed sections prior to binding. This results in hand collation before stitching, which is removing automation.

Raising on the point above, materials are at the heart of what we do as printers, we work with different substrates every day, and we understand what they will do in production. Being savvy with specifying means being savvy with your budget. 

As print professionals, yes we design artwork pieces for print. However we understand you need creative input on occasions to shift the thinking and presentation, and we applaud you for it, however, bring us on your journey with you. As champagne on lemonade budgets doesn’t help if you cannot afford to properly implement the scheme. 

So who am I to make these comments, with over 30 years in the trade, I’ve handled a vast range of print and moved it through to successful completion. Not only experienced but educated in print (possibly last generation with such a broad experience) so ND in graphic design, with hands-on with different processes and allied work experience whilst in education. Followed by HND in design print management, where my scope, understanding of processes, materials and working practices was homed even further. Subsequent education in the form of a C&G level 3 in photography. Also BPIF Young Manager in Print runner up in 2003. 

In summary, Good design with an understanding of the process is so essential, however, coupled with relevant experience to deliver is challengingly missing from so many. Ask the right questions, see portfolios, and ask for learning points from every example, if they are purely creative, then do you want to engage that designer on your job?

How we get there….

Stuart reflects on a few things recently, working on some projects have made me realise that everyone expects the result, however, the route we achieve to gain the result has shifted somewhat.

First observation, the net product of the inputs gives the result. In the rush to get to whatever you’re trying to achieve, it’s so apparent that cutting corners doesn’t cut it. Being brought up in a proper print repro environment, with good design and carefully crafted materials to work with provided exceptional results. With clients expecting the results with smartphone photographs and “canva” generated artwork doesn’t hit the gold star result, yet the expectation rises to think this will work. It’s like building houses without foundations. What’s created at the beginning of the process matters. We’re the first to champion vector artwork and studio-grade photography, all with processes in place for managing colour, ensuring reproduction supreme.

Second observation, think, and devise the process in which you need your campaign to work within. It is truly scary when clients openly admit to not having their ducks in a row. The culture of digital communications almost makes them spray and pray and disposable. Print is a different beast. Its power lies within the capability to accelerate conversion through timely nudge. Digital creates a lot of noise, and how much is remembered? Can anyone truly define or answer this I’ll be impressed if they can? Print builds trust, creates longevity, and acts as a valuable point of reference when other touchpoints have long been forgotten. However, I will admit print is not a cheap tool in the marketing tool chest, with rising costs the physical element of marketing has also been hit along with everything else. So wise deployment is now even more essential. We’ve talked clients through cost reduction methods for brochures at exhibitions, which surprised them with the leverage they could harness in the process – just as one example.

Third observation, “baby out with the bath water”. The future is truly omnichannel. Not multi-channel, but smartly using CRM data to steer customer journey progression. Multi-channel is like Arnold Schwarzenegger firing his oozy nine-millimetre rapidly in the hope of conversion. Omni channel is a well-constructed domino track with each ready to knock on the next. With so few marketers using the “mix” of physical and digital, connected and using specific landing pages from print media with the right offering.

Importantly, the above takes planning. Firing rapid bullets as previously illustrated, purely costs in wasted effort. Which indirectly is wasted money. We’ve been rightly scuppered when one project curve balled us totally off schedule. The juggling to manage expectations certainly provided one heck of a challenge.

Do we learn? Do we apply what we’ve learnt? Has the “plan, act, review” cycle now become something of history like the other traditional skills? Or needs speed overtaken, quality, fit for purpose and good design now is something of the past.

Here at HAD-Print, it’s not just about the product, the journey is essential too. We’ve said before looking at the pedigree of your print service provider can tell you a lot. It is a craft trade, fewer people are now brought up proper with education and time served experience. You can have cheap and fast, however, the remaining element in the unattainable triangle will elude you, quality and getting it to the expectation and performance you expect. Being able to combine good print knowledge with marketing understanding is now part of the essential means of integrating physical calls to action into your customer journey.

Ethics…

Authenticity and knowing what is real and what is less so is a real challenge in a world which is extremely fast and evolving. When it comes to ethics, authenticity is something you dismiss, as ethics shouldn’t be fluffed.

We’ve always been open about the where’s and wherefores about what we do, equally our offering in product and our culture. We’ll try here to unpack a few of the attributes around what we do.

Paper, is sourced from credible sources, through mainstream paper merchants, with products whose supply chain we can identify back to the source (paper mill) and then through to the content pulp for the product. Much has changed in the last 5 years, traceability is now even more critical. We advocate certain producers, whose carbon footprint mileage on to us is as low as it can be. (However understand that sometimes, other factors influence purchasing decisions) Equally, we will source paper through channels which means we enable reuse, where it might be unsuitable for other production processes, where we can purposefully bring it into production.

The toner (ink) in our digital presses, is 94% plus compostable. Our presses whilst well used, are still within service tolerances, we chose to ensure we maximize the use, and lifespan of any physical resource as the manufacture of machines does incur a carbon footprint, which we aim to minimize through extended working life. We run a policy of not running machines on standby, reducing our electric consumption. We still have Riso type machines, which are also low power consumption along with running soy-based inks, which are an environmentally friendly option. Interestingly our digital presses print already reaches benchmarks that Royal Mail has specified for sustainable mail pieces.

Large format print is latex and dye-based inks, both are non-solvent based inks, which are environmentally friendly. We are in the throws of exploring and product beta testing non PVC materials for banners, further demonstrating our commitment to moving our operations in the right direction.

We are well aware of the issues around laminates used both in sheetfed print and large format. The evolution of products in this area to counter the need for plastic for protection is evolving, we actively watch this. Equally, we do question the need to specify and equally, if we can substitute other products like direct printing onto polyester, a good example is hospitality menus which have been previously Matt laminated, printing them on a nevertear polyester product. This is great as it can be recycled and also kept hygienic by being able to be clean with alcohol-based cleaners.

Like many other businesses, we ensure our office products are sustainable too, recycled plastic in our biro’s, our office waste paper gets combined with our production waste paper for recycling. Our paper recycling also has a tangible minimal carbon footprint, it’s recycled less than 10 miles away by Sonoco, turning into cardboard tubes.

For garments we use for apparel, we use credible brands, with traceable certifications, coupled with organic and sustainable recycled polyester products. Responsibility for specifying will see garments shift considerably in the next few years, we actively spend time expanding our knowledge to deliver the best solutions we can. Print technologies are shifting as well, and we expect to see progression in what we offer soon.

That’s a lot about the tangible items in the business, intangibles still are a substantial part of what we do. A significant group of staff in the business are Scout leaders and have interests in other community-focused groups, this does make “how” we do things slightly different, values are a big part of the way we do things. You can see from many of the blogs on this website about thinking.

We as a business also see our responsibility to encourage and develop other local businesses too. Through business networking, building connections to enable the best local. Encouraging startups, taking care of neighbours and doing our bit to ensure our immediate environment is pleasant and welcoming.

We do aim for a holistic approach around our ethics in the business. We’re not box shifters, we proudly describe ourselves by offering an honest service. It’s a rounded encompassing, personal service, aimed with respect for what we do for you.





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