Magazine production problems

by Dean Cook, September 7, 2016
Category: Blog,   Tags: Adverts in PDF format, applying changes to PDF files, compliant PDF standards, compliant standard, magazine design problems, magazine production problems, Microsoft Publisher, Native files, PDF problems,

The standards supplying native files for print is simply an old method of data delivery. It used to be a process employed before the PDF format appeared on the scene in the late ’90s but some are still exercising this practice. Dean Cook looks at the common problems which continue to be encountered today.

We often speak to a number of pre-press managers working for magazine printing companies and often feedback saying only 1 in 5 designers can supply PDF files to the correct standards – that is 80 percent who can’t. What is a shocking statistic is also worrying, and if you’re a publisher, then it should worry you too. The problem is many publishers are unaware because they are not technically minded when it comes to artwork — and it appears some magazine designers aren’t either.

The printing company receiving native files has to open, rebuild the files on their system by reloading the fonts and images which could invite unwanted problems. Printers are now tasked to spend time, often on deadline, on a document they weren’t involved with from the outset. To hunt down and correct errors the designer (or even the advertiser’s designer) unintentionally created and purely because they possessed a lack of technical knowledge to prepare the files correctly in the first place.

So what happens if the design has printed incorrectly? Simple, the publisher blames the printer. Right? Wrong.

The printer can only print what has been supplied, and if what has been supplied hasn’t been set up correctly then the only people who should be questioned is the designer/originator.

If a ‘pro’ designer is involved with commercial printing, then they need to understand the technicalities of the print process, and today should include being able to supply compliant PDF files for commercial printing. Having this knowledge will speed up production and avoid simple mistakes appearing when it’s too late to rectify — but ultimately reduce the time and associated costs.

Are you a magazine publisher reading this?

If the chances you are, then you may not be aware of or be concerned with how the background process of your magazine is constructed. We say you should if you want to see if you can find time and cost savings while working on a more robust solution.

Here are a few key identifiers which should indicate a need to review your production workflow.

  • Does your design or production team need to allow 24-48 hours after visual approval before the pages are uploaded to the printers?
  • Do you have advertisers call you to complain about the reproduction of the advert after it’s been printed?
  • Does your designer/production team need to extend the print deadline at the last minute to iron out problems?
  • Do you find your team always having to replace files after you thought the files were already with the printers?
  • Do you encounter unexplained production delays (often your designer/production team blaming ‘the printer’ or other ‘circumstance’)?

I could continue listing issues, but ultimately you need to aim for a streamlined process with unwanted errors removed.

Even if you self-publish using Microsoft Publisher to create PDF files, then you are also prone to artwork errors. You should never assume what you see on screen will be as you expect when it’s printed. Just because you are submitting ‘a PDF’ doesn’t mean it is a compliant PDF-X file. There are many variants of PDF formats, however, if you’re not too fussed about resolution, colour, clarity, overall design (but maybe your readers are) then the chances are you may not spot problems. For the trained eye working in a commercial environment dealing with high-end publications, this can be (and usually is) a big deal, and it would be unforgivable to allow anything like this to happen.

Delivering compliant PDF files for print and avoid the problems

Would you be surprised to hear from client approval we will only upload all the pages for print once the last page is approved? Not one page is uploaded beforehand. Instead, we prefer to collectively upload print-compliant PDF files to any printer in the world, have it technically approved and queued for plating in just a few hours, and we’ve been doing so for some years. Assuring printers of our standards to allow us access privileges means further time savings are achieved which is one of the very reasons why we check and process every single element before being placed on the page during production.

Consider this

If your designer/prepress department spent just one day per issue correcting errors, then the relative costs of everyone involved could be in the region of about £4000 a year. Not to forget either the subsequent costs for missing print deadlines or issuing credits/refunds to advertisers when it was their files that were void of being technically correct in the first place.

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