One factor that leads to high quality print materials is the relationship between the designer and the printer. Believe it or not, most printers want to deliver amazing print materials and excellent customer service. Some even manage to do so despite the poor quality files supplied by their customers. However, it’s the customer who pays for it in time and money or both.

Conversely, you, too, can have a mutually beneficial relationship with your local printing company.  I’ll suggest how in two parts.

In Part 1, I discuss the types of printing companies with whom you should look to build relationships. In Part 2, I will detail how to investigate or research the production capacity of printing companies.

Part 1

In college, I can remember one of my instructors telling the class that the most important relationship we would have as designers would be with the printing company we hired to mass produce our work. And as an experienced graphic designer, I have found this analysis to be completely accurate. My efforts to build amiable relationships with local printers resulted in discounts on paper costs; paper samples and dramatically discounted printing costs that I was able to pass on to my customers. Most valuable to me was the reduction in costly errors. Error reduction was a direct result of the pressman calling to confirm information, to ask questions or to make recommendations prior to printing the project.

Thus, I always strive to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with at least two local printing companies:

  • A quick printer
  • A high-end small printing shop

This strategy works even if there are no printing companies in your local area.

Quick Printers vs. High-end Printers

As you might guess, quick printers produce high volume at dramatically discounted prices due to printing multiple projects on a common paper sheet called “ganging” or “gang run printing.” On the other hand, the high-end printing companies produce high quality yet more expensively. However, they often allow press checks, offer more accurate color matching and have a more expansive printing capacity.

At this time, you may be asking why choose small printing shops when large shops can do the same. Here’s why. I choose high-end small printing companies so I can work directly with the pressman thus cutting out the middleman, i.e., sales people. I don’t have anything against the sales staff, as I understand their role in the process. It’s just the way I like to work as I find pressman to be more knowledgeable about the printing process and more able to quickly help me resolve issues. However, It’s up to you and the budget. Larger printing companies equal bigger presses specifically web offset presses and sales people. Thus, when you have to run 35,000 copies of a 32-page saddle-stitched guide on newsprint a large shop cannot be avoided rather in terms of cost it’s the best bet. Just expect some answers to your questions to be delayed, as the sales people have to run some questions by the pressman.

Buyer Beware

I find each printing company to be slightly unique which requires a sort or “know before you go” work style. For example, some printing companies “gang” jobs that may cause a 10% or more variance in color. That is, what you see is not what you get. Therefore, if your job requires color accuracy, a printing company that gangs print runs may not be the best choice. It’s also important to note that some quick printers in terms of capacity print only cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks (CMYK). Whereas many high-end printing companies have a more extensive printing capacity and they can print six colors or more and specialty inks. That is, they can print soy/vegetable and low VOC inks, metallics, Pantone, Toyo, and other inks used for spot colors as well as the standard (CMYK).

Thus, if possible, its best to base your decision on using a specific printing company on their capacity rather than just cost. I want to make sure you understand that printing companies that “gang” jobs are not “bad” although you should be wary of the disadvantages; rather, they are offering large volume at a reduced price unfortunately color accuracy is the thing that suffers. It’s just something to think about or decide prior to printing the job.

In summary, establish a relationship with a quick printing company to handle jobs where cost is the major factor and color accuracy is not so important. Alternatively, look to develop a relationship with a high-end printing company that has a more expansive printing capacity and that will allow press checks or that guarantee color accuracy with match prints when cost is less important than color accuracy.

Lastly, I purposely did not mention customer service or dwell on quality. One can receive excellent customer service from quick printers, high-end printing companies and large printing companies. Then again, one can receive poor customer service as well. I find printing companies want and need our business; they do what they can to make their customer happy. If the printing company asks for feedback, give it. They are looking to improve their customer service. As for quality, most companies offer some guarantees on quality, yet not all of them live up to those guarantees. Experience is the best teacher here. I worked in Fairfield, CA as a graphic designer for 18 years and in terms of quality only one high-end printing company stood out time after time. Their motto was “Quality Breeds Success.” The quality of their work is excellent as is their customer service. This is what you should look for and expect. It’s worth it when you find it.

Look for Part 2 of this article end of next week. I’ll discuss how to investigate or research the production capacity of printing companies.