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Cutting corners doesn’t pay…

I know I’ve written blogs around the topics of design, useful tips and quality of reproduction before. But this seems to raise its head frequently and needless to say, things don’t change. The adage of what goes in is what comes out. Whether it be mail merge data, which hasn’t been prepared correctly, or the consistency is random; flyers that are produced without any thought to the target audience or how they will be engaged with are just a few of the many challenges to great results. The small nuances are the finer detail which is all part of what we do. Some might say it’s the 80/20 rule, but of course, it’s the last 20% that makes the difference.

So here are a few thoughts regardless of what your project is…


Failing to plan is planning to fail as the adage goes. Print is a pivotal point in a marketing cycle, being scattergun with it doesn’t help you. Having a production plan, including textual copy reviews, branding coherence, ensuring imagery is spot on, now’t worse than text saying one thing and your imagery speaking the opposite.

Know your audience

Absolutely critical, mapping this out will provide you with the key approaches to ensuring you successfully engage your decision-makers. This pen portrait will ensure you know who you are “talking to”

Use your budget wisely

This is where your 80/20 rule shows the most. Cutting corners can do more damage than the difference in the saving. Good design artwork doesn’t have to cost the earth. Good printers have experienced designers in-house. If part of something more critical, a graphic designer will add more flair to a larger project. Rule of thumb, design/artwork studio time within a print house will be £25-£35 p/hr whereas creative designers will be £40-£75 p/hr. Getting your design/artwork right will drive the results, so this is money well spent.

Ensure great reproduction

When a printer has been involved with a job from the start, if they have a good background with traditional “repro” as it was called, they will optimise images to ensure great reproduction. Or as one client called it “Sows Ear into Silk Purse”. See the blog on the Lost Art of Repro

Print has never been as affordable

True fact, print comparatively is more affordable than it was 10-20 years ago. So don’t try haggling, you just rub the printer up the wrong way. The advent of digital print has reduced the cost of entry. However, set up fees; disk/file handling charges still apply, as it still requires someone to get your file ready for print. The downside of short-run print (small quantities) is that finishing set up costs for lamination, foiling, creasing, folding and other bindery work.

Working with a good print provider will help you to control your project costs, they will suggest ways to ensure you can measure the performance of your printed item. Printers are real-world people, with significant experience of working across media to ensure integration. Yes, you can ship your file to a big internet shed, have it squirted through a machine, and we know the chances of total satisfaction won’t be as high, a local printer does a lot more than you probably realise, above all they are human, and love engaging with people like you.

The lost art of repro

Our Stuart unpacks some of the traditional knowledge when applied to digital print, really packs some punch in creating stunning results.

In an age not that long ago, there was a rare breed of skilled craftsman called Repro Technicians. Usually found in something called Repro Houses, or Prepress departments in reputable print businesses. They had a unique skill set, high-level understanding of colour, making the printed image sharp, understanding the magic of half-tone screens and many more mystical things print-related. They were masters of ensuring that that was given to the press operators allowed them to produce top-notch results on press. A classic case of quality materials provided is indicative of quality out.

As technology evolved, Repro Technicians also did evolve. Grasping colour scanning, this was substantially more than your desktop scanner. With equipment which was tuned with fine optical lenses and sophisticated electronics, this produced results which were often tailored to “High-End Repro”. This entailed ensuring good reproduction in the shadows and highlights, correct colour balancing, bringing out detail in mid-tones, sharpening and lots more finessing of quality photographic images to deliver exceptional results. This knowledge is still applicable even in a totally digital environment.

A recent example has been using location pictures from a Royalty Free library. The quality is very mixed due to the content creators being of mixed professional background. Taking some of our high-end scanning and retouching knowledge. A first point can be looking at the details in the horizon line, the point of focus is the edge of the water, so the trees and bushes need to be more defined. The building is rather flat, it is the point of focus of the composition, highlights and mid-tones addressed. The crane on the horizon also lacks the right impression, so removed. Skies evoke so much storytelling, so ensuring an aspirational blue and clouds with contrast and shape, flat of lack-lustre don’t help. Final point, the water needs to reflect the tone of the sky, equally a dirty grey provides no aspiration.

There isn’t a week that goes by, where some of this knowledge is discretely applied to our work. Stuart’s professional development was in this very area; Repro. Ensuring the colour is balanced, points of focus are sharp, retouching is applied to maximise the result. Getting the artwork and imagery right before you print, can really maximise the end result, what goes in, comes out. So why scrimp on your artwork and imaging?

Customer is king, so why do so many businesses forget about the customer experience?

Over the last decade, I’ve watched the business world go very polar in the extremes of customer service. Every time I talk to fellow business owners at any form of networking or subsequent 1-1, the one resounding point is service. Something which the small business world seems to have caught a massive leap over the big box shifting internet sheds.

The simple phrase people like people is at the heart of the small business, we trade with people we like, equally with people of similar values. People understand each other and flex accordingly to meet each other desires. Even Maslow touches upon this in his hierarchy of needs. So the un-educated who drive their transactions only on simplistic reasoning of price, miss the core premises of the underlying intrinsic premise of support, service and satisfaction – I struggle to find an online example which does this truly well.

One point which truly shocked me, was when a professional service provider, a one-man band, said, I need your documents uploading to the portal. This word, portal defines to me bad customer experience, you’re just another number, ticket, automated action, all of which are synonymous with big we don’t value you, internet online businesses.

Go back to my grandparents, they experienced great customer service, and they felt that their hard-earned money was appreciated in their local communities. What makes me say this, they knew their butcher, who would advise and treat them as individuals, they would go in the Co-op and they would be known, their “divvy” would bring them back to spend again as they had a relationship / tie with the organisation/business.

Even if I look back a few decades, in the print business, we had substantially more tied/committed business, purely down to the management of relationships. Interestingly we won business recently, producing a calendar, purely on the ground of how we handled the enquiry, provided answers, questioned their needs. All of this is not an online process-driven, but an individual pathway, from experience and a desire to deliver. The customer said he was put off by the levels of automation. 

The larger the business the greater the need for automation, which is great, but it strips away service and added value that brilliant staff often provided. After all, Richard Branson is renowned for using the phrase look after your staff and they will look after your customers. Which is bang on true. However, we are talking about individuals here, and unfortunately not clone-able. I’ve seen it in many medium-large businesses, who say everyone is replaceable, however, some people require multiple people to step into special shoes of skilled practitioners of customer service.

Capping it off, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. 2020 has shown us that service and support do drive good business, perhaps if you believe in a better pedigree of service, you know where to go.

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