Thursday, April 30, 2009

Murphy's Law - Part Deux

So, we chose option #2. Our vendor was able to work out a new layout and prep it for a different press but, ultimately, we will end up spending a little bit more for the imprints.

In the meantime, we found out the envelope converter made changes to the square flap die cut. Oy! (Are you kidding me?) In this case, the simplest solution was to adjust our envelope design to fit the new die. Thankfully, our design was flexible enough to do so.

Finally, on to the press check… where, for t
he most part, everything went well. Our vendor showed a lot of patience with the designer and I as we diligently checked the printed items for overall quality, registration (does the ink line up? Are the lines on the type crisp?), color (does the image look realistic? Is it too yellow? Too red? What can we adjust to make it look right?), and for additional issues such as hickeys and blemishes (often dust or powder on the rubber blanket that transfers the image onto the paper, produces minor specks/spots on the sheet). After shifting the color on the letterhead four times and the color on the business cards once, we were finally happy with the outcome and we approved the run. These are going to look sweet!

While the wove finish creates an authentic and familiar experience, due to it’s rough texture, we experienced a bit of mottling (i.e. splotchy-ness) on the less opaque bands of color. And while we gained a classical, strong, and familiar look and feel for our products by using a premium uncoated paper, because of dot gain (ink seeping into the paper), we traded in crisp clarity for some loss of detail (but they still look awesome!!). I can't show you them just yet... but I'll post pictures when I get the green light.

The moral of this story is… for every job, it is likely you will face adversity and will be required to find solutions for problems that you did not anticipate. For every decision you make along the way, there are pros and cons, and you must give and take. The main mission is to maintain flexibility and always strive for the best. In the end, you’ll have a stellar product, one you can be proud to tout as your own.

Check it out!! They have arrived!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Murphy's Law

If I had ten dollars for every time someone told me, “This is gonna be easy,” well, let’s just say, my bank account would be a lot fatter.

One of the main reasons I really love my job is that no two projects are the same. While I have discovered certain techniques that I can apply to one project to emulate another, typically, I have to start from square one.

Besides the fact that each client is unique, each company is speaking to an exclusive audience, each business has a particular budget, and each designer has a particular aesthetic in mind, the paper and printing industry are constantly evolving. Papers are regularly discontinued, companies merge, new practices are introduced, and there are various ways to get a similar result. It is important to be on top of your game in this field, and have partnerships with vendors who know the business and can keep you up to speed on the latest, greatest, most economical, most cutting edge options.

Take the most recent example of a stationery system…

The designer takes brightness, weight, and finish into consideration and asks me to find a paper that fits the description. I go to the rabbit hole to see if I can find a paper that fits the bill. The designer and I agree, our #1 paper choice is Strathmore Ultimate White Wove – a gorgeous, premium, bright white, uncoated sheet, with a toothy texture that comes in a variety of weights.

On to estimating… should be easy enough, right?

Well, since this IS a stationery system, our preference is to match the paper for the business cards to the paper for the letterhead. Alright, no problem… the paper comes in a 80#C, 100#C and even 110#cb and 130#cb – all in a WOVE finish – finding a match should be a piece of cake! I received instruction that we should go with a lighter weight paper on the letterhead if possible. So, off goes the first of MANY RFQ's (Request For Quotes) to our vendors:

I'll take an order of 70#T (Text) letterhead and a side of 100#C (Cover) business cards.

(Mind you, I’m estimating this with three different vendors so… I get three phone calls, letting me know…)

The papers you estimated are “mill items” (i.e. we don’t stock that paper in-house and if we order it, we have to order a bucket load). Hmmm, OK. The 100#C is not available in smaller quantities, however there's an 80#T IS.

OK, we can live with 80#T for the letterhead (and the #10 Policy envelope. The #10 Policy needs to be converted - printed first and then folded and glued - so we can save money by running the #10 with the letterhead). Sweet. Two specs down, one to go.

Our designer is adamant - the paper must be:
AT LEAST 100#C or 130#C.
And… of course, it can’t be a mill item.

OK, well this paper comes in a #110cb and #130cb. That’s the same paper, right?


cb stands for cover bristol and even though it’s a wove, the finish is much smoother. I show them to our designer - nope, not gonna work.

Back to the drawing board.

After about 3 trips back and forth with paper samples, none of which fit the bill, eventually, our vendor found a 130#C, that’s not a mill item!
It’s even in the same paper family! It’s called Platinum White Wove.

Alright… bring it on!

I gingerly approach our designer and yes! finally! we found the right business card paper!! It’s thick, it matches, it’s going to be great!

We proof all our files, send the files to the printer… and we’re off and running, woooo hooooo!

Today’s the day, we get to see the proofs, we’re rolling, we’re on our way to a … screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeching halt.

See, the quantity on these cards are relatively low, so, to save money, we asked our printer to make masters of the business cards. In addition to printing the initial set of cards with the names on them, our vendor will print additional masters (i.e extra business card "backs" only, the front of the card will be blank). Then, they store them until the cards need to be imprinted again. This way, the initial set-up fees are not included in the price when they need to be reprinted.

Well, part of that “master plan” includes cutting the masters down to a smaller size. However, if they cut them down to a smaller size, it will cause issues with the reprint. Not only does the press they selected to reprint the cards have a size limit, it has a thickness limit as well and… you guessed it (!)… the printing machinery can’t handle the 130#C we selected!!! Ay yi yi.

So now… when it comes time to do the reprints, there will be additional problems to consider. It can be handled one of two ways:
1) Either the reprints are done on a digital press – which is an issue because, due to IT’S limitations, a digital press can’t EXACTLY match the color on the front of the card (which is extremely important in branding land) OR,
2) Our vendor can store large master sheets, which limits the ability to reproduce small quantities of cards and ultimately increases the cost.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! What next? The craziest thing is, this is a typical job. It’s a good thing MORRIS is the client!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

This layout is driving me nuts!

I'm not a designer by trade but I HAVE spent some time in design school. The layout of my posts are driving me nuts!! They look perfect on a Mac but they come out all wonky on the PC (gee what do you know?). Maybe it's my internet browser? Oy.

Figuring out blogger

For those of you following, I apologize if you are getting multiple messages re: my posts! I just figured out how to add links to my messages and from now on, instead of posting, editing, posting, editing, posting, editing... I will save as draft and post when I'm ready!! Thanks for your support and your comments! b

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bridget in Paperland...

I was asked to give a studio tour to an aspiring design student. Since I believe that knowledge is power, I made every effort to give her the most thorough tour I possibly could. This included a trip into what could conceivably be viewed as MORRIS’s rabbit hole… the ever so overwhelming paper cabinet, filled with oodles and oodles of inspirational and intricately designed paper sample books (I love those books!). As I explained the different papers, from uncoated to coated to specialty papers, from brightness to finish to weight, her eyes became big as the saucers you would find on the Mad Hatter’s table itself. Finally, she remarked, “Wow, I never would have imagined there were so many papers.” Well, me neither.

I have the amazing privilege of working with top notch designers at a studio that empowers its’ employees to drive big picture decisions for our clients. The most fulfilling jobs are those in which our clients instill their trust in our abilities to work within their budget to design the most aesthetically appealing project we possibly can. This includes selecting the right paper for the job. Paper creates a mood and speaks to its’ audience. It is intrinsically tied to the strategy of design, as it relates to its affect on the demographic the client is trying to reach.

There are three basic categories of paper: Coated, Uncoated, and Specialty. Within each category, there are several subcategories. For now, I’ll briefly stick with the basics.

Coated papers have a surface sealant. The sealant is made up of various liquids and clay. Coating allows ink to sit up on top of the surface of the paper without seeping into the paper fibers (aka dot gain).

Within the realm of coated stock, there are options: matte, dull, satin, and gloss. All give you varying amounts of surface sheen.

Uncoated papers do not have a surface sealant and are more susceptible to dot gain on press. The natural feel of an uncoated sheet varies from that of a coated sheet. Uncoated papers also come in various finishes from news stock to premium ultra-smooth sheets.

Specialty papers range from exotic finishes, which affect the texture of the paper, to papers printed with intricate design patterns. You can find opalescent papers, papers that emulate pigskin, papers that are made out of hops and barley, see-through, plastic, and synthetic papers, papers made from seeds, colored papers, etc. There are a wide variety of specialty papers that can have a strong impact on design. The French Paper company is a leader in the specialty paper industry. Here are some examples of their specialty papers:

Each of these paper types can be further categorized into different weights. There does not seem to be an overriding system of classification when it comes to paper weight. Sometimes you will see paper listed in points and other times you will see it listed in pounds (aka #).

Typically, we work with either TEXT weight or COVER weight stocks.

TEXT weight stocks are commonly used for pages in catalogs, books, as letterhead, etc.

COVER weight stocks are typically used for business cards, as covers on catalogs and books, for greeting cards, postcards, and items that require substantial reinforcement or protection from extensive use.

Simply phrased, COVER weight stocks are thicker/heavier than TEXT weight stocks.


Paper selection should be considered as early in the design process as possible. There are a variety of things to take into consideration when choosing a paper.

Who is your client? Are you designing for the technological sector or for folks in the educational field? Who is their target audience? Is it a children’s product or a product for seniors? Do you need to catch your audiences’ attention?

This could be the single most important aspect of selecting the right paper for the job.

  • If your client is an eco-conscious company, you can cater to their values by choosing a paper that is either FSC ( ) or SFI ( certified.
  • If your client wants to market their product to hip tweens, you can enhance your design by choosing a specialty paper that has a unique finish, such as a sheet that glimmers or is soft to the touch.
  • If your client is a top-notch college, a sophisticated, premium paper choice is appropriate for communicating with their demographic.
  • If your client sells underground art, a grungier paper such as newsprint or a paper with a grittier texture would help convey their message.
  • If your client is a children’s book publisher, consider a heavier weight stock, which will endure the routine of repeated use.

Now that you get the picture, here are some additional items to consider when making your paper choice:

How much coverage (aka ink) is there within the design? Are you flooding your pages with dark colors?

If you are using a lot of dark or solid inks in your design, choose a more opaque and/or heavier weight paper. There’s nothing more distracting than trying to decipher a sentence due to the show-through on the opposing page.

Is the item you are creating mostly pictures? Is it meant to be read? Where will people be viewing the document?

The content of your document and the final function is an important consideration when choosing paper.

  • If the purpose of the piece is to really showcase the imagery, typically, a coated sheet will reproduce images in greater detail, giving it a more photographic quality.
  • If the end-user is ultimately going to be viewing the document indoors, keep in mind the glare effect that is often associated with glossy papers under fluorescent/unnatural lighting.
  • If the majority of the design consists of copy, as in magazines, books and stories, an uncoated sheet or a dull/matte coated sheet is much softer on the eyes.

Does your design include folds? Does your design have die cuts?

  • Certain papers take better to folding or cutting than others.
  • If you intend to fold your design and it has heavy ink coverage, you could be in trouble. If you select a paper that is too heavy, it is likely you will see a lot of cracking in the creases (aka areas where the ink sloughs off).
  • For items that require die cutting, if your paper is too thick, when it’s cut it may leave ragged edges.

Regardless of your project, when selecting paper, lean on the professionals and test, test, test your papers!! Find a good paper rep ( or print vendor and utilize them as a resource! Contact the paper mills and request printed samples on the stock(s) you are considering AND request plain ole paper samples of the paper in its’ varying applicable weights. Another thing you can do, once you’ve determined or are close to deciding upon the specifications on your project, is to order dummies (samples of the items) made from the paper you are considering. You can order dummies directly through your paper rep and often times, through your printer. Ultimately, seeing and feeling the paper as you intend it to function will help you make the right decision.

A co-worker referred me to this hilarious link from American Psycho (The Card of Cards) on “The Daily Heller” site (brought to you by It really drives the point home.

Until next time, happy paper hunting!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Grammar... To comma-and or not?

One aspect of my job as the Production Manager at Morris! is QA - Quality Assurance (aka PROOFING); making sure that every item that goes to print gets the once, twice, and sometimes thrice (or more!) over, BEFORE the presses run. While proofing a 100+ page document can prove to be tedious, in the end, it pays off with our clients, who appreciate the extra effort.

One of the items we regularly come up against are grammar issues, PARTICULARLY, the comma-and (, and) relationship when separating elements in a series in a sentence. Some clients use comma-and, and some don't. Our main goal is to obtain consistency throughout the document so, I checked online to see what the actual rule is.

I found this incredible Web site DEVOTED to grammar:

The Guide to Grammar and Writing is sponsored by the Capital Community College Foundation, a nonprofit 501 c-3 organization that supports scholarships, faculty development, and curriculum innovation.

They DO recommend comma-and (, and) to avoid confusion (see below).

Use a comma to separate the elements in a series (three or more things), including the last two. "He hit the ball, dropped the bat, and ran to first base." You may have learned that the comma before the "and" is unnecessary, which is fine if you're in control of things. However, there are situations in which, if you don't use this comma (especially when the list is complex or lengthy), these last two items in the list will try to glom together (like macaroni and cheese). Using a comma between all the items in a series, including the last two, avoids this problem. This last comma—the one between the word "and" and the preceding word—is often called the serial comma or the Oxford comma. In newspaper writing, incidentally, you will seldom find a serial comma, but that is not necessarily a sign that it should be omitted in academic prose.

They also have quizzes on the site, to test your grammatical prowess. I got 100% on this one! See how you do:

Finally, a free, comprehensive, easy-to-understand Web site on grammar. Now, when are we supposed to use those n dashes?

Color Scheme Designer

This was a fun little tool that I found on For the designer who loves "The Pantone Guide to Creating with Color" by Leatrice Eisman, this one provides a plethora of combinations to make your designs truly stunning! Choose from mono, complimentary, triad, tetrad, analogic and accented analogic color schemes. Check it out!

Welcome to my Production Blog

As part of my goals for the year 2009, I wanted to create a space where I could share with you. In addition to the cool tidbits about design that I learn around the office, my main goal is to share the info that others have shared with me; providing you with the info I have been privy to re: print production and the process of bringing a high-quality printed piece or pieces to fruition. I hope that this will serve as a resource for anyone who's interested!