Printing projects start with project design but marketers and designers aren’t always up to speed on printing industry developments. Lack of information can cause designers to miss out on exploiting new technologies or create unnecessary expense. Here are some trends and printing operation developments that can affect how creative people design print projects.
Printing presses can create only a portion of all possible colors by mixing their four basic inks; cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK). When colors must be exact, such as in a corporate logo, printers purchase specialty inks or “spot colors” that ink companies pre-mix to exact specifications. Ink companies create the colors according to the Pantone Color Matching System (PMS).
Sometimes specialty inks are unavoidable. Fluorescent colors and metallic inks are always applied as spot colors, for example. Insisting on specialty inks will increase project costs.
Newer printing presses may include optional additional print stations that could lower the incremental cost associated with specialty inks. Check with the printing company to see about their capabilities. Color technology development will eventually reduce the need to use spot colors. For now, document designers should acquaint themselves with press functionality and avoid unnecessary expense caused by arbitrary color selection. Environmental awareness has changed the way we produce printed materials. The print industry has been vigorous in efforts to educate, raise awareness, and make substantial changes to inks, papers, and production facilities. By specifying that printing companies meet certain environmental standards or certifications, designers and marketing professionals can be sure their clients’ printed materials align with corporate environmental policies. They must take care to ensure the desired quality can be achieved with the paper chosen for environmental reasons. Designers must also confer with printing companies to ensure the paper choices are compatible with the presses and finishing equipment.
Here are some prominent organizations whose logos and audits are often referenced in print applications. Paper manufacturers that source their materials in responsibly managed forests can be certified by The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). A chain of custody can trace the wood fibers in paper products to an FSC certified forest. The Sustainable Green Partnership (SGP) registers printers that manage their energy use and other facets of their business in an environmentally sustainable way. Recycled paper is an often misunderstood area. The printing industry works with materials manufactured with varying degrees of recycled content. When designers discuss recycled paper with clients in advance, they can include proper requirements in their printing specifications. Recycled: Paper must contain at least 30% post-consumer fibers. The proportion of recycled content can vary dramatically and still bear the “recycled” label. Pre-Consumer Waste: Paper scraps reclaimed at the paper mill to make more paper. Post-Consumer Waste: Paper that has been processed to remove coatings, ink, and toner. Virgin Fibers: Wood fibers that have never been used to make paper. Chlorine Free: Paper has been brightened with chemicals other than chlorine. Digital presses can create highly personalized materials with no impact on cost or speed. Printers can even outfit their offset presses with digital print heads to add personalization as part of the production process. Marketers and designers should understand the personalization capabilities and limitations of the printing operation. Communication is important when planning personalized printed pieces. Discussions about the data, document composition methods, handling, and delivery will ensure the designer’s vision is realized. Poorly designed personalized print projects can add costs to the manufacturing process and cause delays. Accurately matching personalized package elements is essential to project success. Markings and identifiers allow for automated matching and package integrity verification. Conversations about matching capabilities and requirements should occur before designs are finalized. Communicating with print operations at the beginning of a project will ensure the impending design incorporates all the benefits current technology can provide. Knowledge about the capabilities and limitations of the print provider and their equipment will ensure that design decisions don’t trigger unexpected costs in materials or manufacturing. The printing industry is transforming. Constant communication with printing professionals will allow marketers and designers to be abreast of the latest developments.