7 Costly Mistakes Print Design ‘Experts’ Make, And How To Prevent Them

Vladimir Gendelman, an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member in Michigan, is founder and CEO of Company Folders, an award-winning online printing company specializing in presentation folders. The company made the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America for three consecutive years. Vladimir shared how entrepreneurs can maximize their print budgets:

Once the ink hits the paper, there is no “erase” button in printing. If you’re not working with a genuine print design expert, you could get stuck with a substandard piece or have to waste time and money redesigning, reprinting, and reshipping your materials. 

Most designers will say they’re experts, but how can you tell?  

Common Mistakes 

Printing is complex; it’s not just ink on paper. Depending on the job, the designer may need to deal with everything from product choice to images, artwork, text, layout, print file preparation, printing, embossing, foil stamping, laminating, folding, gluing, cutting, and binding. There are so many opportunities for it to go wrong. 

It takes an expert in all areas of print design and production to avoid these common problems.

1. Design File Errors

As printers, we can tell you that real experts are rare. We have invested in tutorials, cheat sheets, and templates to prevent errors, and over ninety percent of the print files we get from graphic designers still contain them. We constantly see simple mistakes like blurry or pixelated images, lettering that bleeds together, and colors that don’t go all the way to the edge of the page. 

When your printer gets a file that isn’t print-ready, correcting any mistakes they find will cost you time and money. And often, to keep costs low, printers use automated processes to check files, which can miss errors, and then they send the piece right into production. 

Your best bet to avoid having to redesign or reprint is to work with a designer whose primary expertise is print and a printer who does manual file checks.

2. Printing the Wrong Color

It’s a nasty surprise when you open a box of folders and realize your dark blue logo shifted to purple when it printed. 

When you get a PDF proof, the color you see on the screen isn’t necessarily what’s going to print. Printing requires a color profile called CMYK, but the computer screen converts color to the RGB color profile. 

Your designer needs to understand what causes color shift and how to adjust design files to make sure color prints accurately. Most importantly, they should make sure you get a color digital proof shipped to your door so you can sign off without worrying.

3. Mismatched Materials 

It’s embarrassing to hand out a marketing packet full of mismatched materials. If your logo looks bright red on your glossy white business card and dull pink on your black linen folders, it’s not a good look. 

Inks, stocks, coatings, and imprint methods all affect your color. Colored stock can show through ink, changing colors. Coatings can change brightness and hue. Textured stock adds depth which reflects light differently. 

You want a designer who knows insider tricks such as running colored stocks twice — once with white ink and then with a PMS color. They should know to use similar coatings across your jobs and PMS inks to ensure accurate color on logos and other crucial branding elements. If they’re really sharp, they’ll ask the printer to do an ink draw to see the color that is produced when the ink and stock interact. And they need to work with the printer to make sure presses are calibrated so four-color printing is consistent across all your materials. 

4. Sloppy Quality

Messy details, no matter how small, make your entire presentation look cheap. For example, when the glue flaps that hold a folder’s pockets to its cover aren’t printed, you end up with a glaring white line between the pocket and the cover, which just looks bad. 

We see this all the time because most designers don’t know you can print on glue flaps, let alone have the capability to design for the technical challenge of gluing a printed surface. So, they just leave them unprinted.

It’s best to work with a designer who solves print challenges every day. They know how to get the details right, so you get a finished, high-quality look.

5. Costs Added Due to the Manufacturing Process 

When your designer gives you a price that sounds way too high, it’s probably because it includes unnecessary charges for things like hand folding or running a job through the press twice. 

Each printer has different machines, and each machine has different specs. If your designer isn’t an expert on a print shop’s equipment, they may create a design that’s too big for your printer’s folding machine or has foil areas too far apart for one run. Then you end up paying extra because your designer doesn’t know what the machines can and can’t do.

Your designer needs to know the machines and manufacturing process in the shop that prints your job so they can optimize your design to avoid hidden charges. 

6. Costs for Picking the Wrong Design Options

Many designers don’t know enough about printing to select products and options that save you money. They make simple mistakes such as designing for four-color process when they could reduce your printing cost by using a single PMS color with a gradient. Or they may order an expensive colored stock rather than printing a background color on a white stock as part of the printing you’re already paying for.  

Make sure you’re working with a designer who can create a cost-effective design while ensuring a high-quality look. 

7. Dull, Outdated Designs

Watching your competitor hand out a presentation that’s way cooler than yours is a terrible way to discover that your designer is out of touch. 

Most designers only see their own designs, work created within their design firm, or images in books and online. But, by the time a design trend makes it into books or online, it’s past its peak and becoming more outdated every day. 

Your designer must have access to a constant stream of current work to stay ahead of industry trends, learn cutting-edge techniques, and leverage new products and options. 

The Solution

To ensure customers get great work and to avoid costly design problems, many printers invest time and money in training in-house designers to be print experts. These designers review and fix outside designers’ files before they go into production, so they know how to create a perfect print file. They are familiar with the machines, work closely with print staff, and know all the products and the design options for each. It’s all they do, and they love it, so they’ll make sure you:

  • Get State-of-the-Art Designs. Designers at print shops see tens of thousands of designs each year, so they can glean insights from the best and cross-pollinate creative ideas from a variety of industries. Plus, they know how to add esoteric technical touches that make materials pop.
  • Save Time. With the print team under one roof, you won’t have to waste time communicating with two different companies to resolve complex technical print problems.
  • Save Money. Print shop designers don’t charge the premium prices independent designers and agencies do. Plus, their encyclopedic knowledge of design options and manufacturing techniques ensures work that is well-crafted and cost-effective.
  • Enjoy Peace of Mind. If something goes wrong with your design or print job, the printer is 100% liable for making it right.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.


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