There is something unique and wonderful about a well-printed publication. To hold and read a piece that has been beautifully designed and been beautifully printed—especially if it has great photos—is to experience a powerful form of communication. And it’s one that still connects with people in this age of social media and multimedia.
When you see great printing, though, it’s easy to forget the work and skill that go into producing it. Technology today may be more powerful than ever, but printing remains as much an art as a science. It takes good judgment and great care.
All of which brings us to the topic of printing supervision, one of the least visible and most important steps in creating any kind of print communication.
The goal of print supervision is to maintain the highest quality throughout the process, from prep to ink on paper. It sounds simple, but things can wrong, even with the best printer. The printing process spans a complex series of steps from the initial handoff of digital files through printing, binding and finally shipping. And—to put it pessimistically—each of these steps presents the chance for a problem.
Yes, pages could get bound in upside-down and require a redo. But much more subtly, the result could fail to capture the look that the designer, photographer and client have worked so hard to achieve. By the time a job reaches the printer, our designers know how everything in it should look. They’ve worked closely with our client, getting input on issues such as accurate color use (perhaps school colors). Similarly, our designers and photographers have worked together to create powerful images. It takes precise directives to the printer to translate these through the four-color offset printing process and get the look we want.
It’s also important to realize that, while modern computer-controlled press can deliver remarkable results, they are not all-powerful. The designer and pressman are often faced with the need to compromise because of limitations inherent in offset printing. The key is to make these compromises wisely, keeping the vision for the finished piece clearly in mind. In reading through what I’ve written so far, I realize I’m probably making our whole staff sound a bit up-tight—obsessed with the finest nuances, worried over every possible sort of lapse. And I’m proud to say, that’s exactly how we are. We love beautiful results. We take the pains required to achieve them.