k is for know

Know is defined as: to perceive or understand as fact or truth; to apprehend clearly and with certainty: I know the situation fully.

A young wife was getting ready to cook a roast and her husband noticed that she cut off the ends of the roast before placing it in her roasting pan. He asked her why and she commented that was the way her grandmother had taught her. When the young man had an opportunity to ask his wife’s grand-mother about the way she taught her grand-daughter to cook a roast, he asked:  “What was the significance of cutting off the ends?” Grand-mother stood silent for a moment in thought, then replied:  “Well…I cut off the ends so it would fit into my roasting pan.” How often do we misinterpret the actions of others?

There are countless opportunities in our graphic arts world to misinterpret what we see and hear, even while we are attempting to fully understand, as the young cook above.  Any action left undefined could be taken to heart and become something a person knows with certainty; like, the roast must have the ends cut off to be cooked correctly.

The only way I know to protect myself from misinterpreting is to ask good questions. Don’t be afraid of asking, because it’s usually the lack of questions that gets us into trouble.


J is for John…

John and I have worked together for over 22 years; and, John is my husband.

It’s always fun to listen to responses from other couples when they discover we work together. Some could or some would never work with their spouses; and, then hearing the varying reasons why is always interesting. Working together definitely has its advantages and its disadvantages.

The advantages are fairly obvious. We know each others coworkers and we understand completely the challenges we face each day at the workplace. I think it’s nice to see my spouse here and there throughout the day. Also, when one of us gets overwhelmed the other naturally realizes the stress and offers to help out if they can. Each of us has sales responsibilities that keep us in and out of the office so we are independent of each other. It’s not like we share the same office space. I think some people might imagine that we go home every night and discuss the day and all its adventures. We don’t. One of the most valuable behaviors we developed early on was to never bias our natural relationships with coworkers. How does this work? Well, you mind your own business and behave on a professional level.

Reflecting back over the years, the disadvantages seem more personal than professional. It’s hard sometimes to witness the strategic maneuvering that occurs in every business environment. On a professional level we can not fight each others fights even when it feels personal. While keeping autonomy at work seems difficult, it’s not if you truly walk the walk.

John earned my respect years ago and continues to by his  growth as a leader and his hard-earned success in sales and sales management. John is a big picture kind of guy, me, I’m the detailed conservative one. I have to constantly remind myself that you can’t steal second if you keep your foot on first. John, he’s already half-way around the field. That’s what ultimately makes us so good together.

I isn’t for printer error!

I work the crossword puzzle every morning and just the other day one of the hints was printer error. Do you know what they said the answer was? Typo. I actually stood up and yelled at my morning paper.  (yes, I still read the newspaper…sigh, much to the chagrin of my oldest son)

Printers get their fair share of blame, sometimes rightfully so, but in many instances we are held accountable for things out of our control. Years ago I worked closely with a marketing professional  in the cellular phone business. She admitted to me that in her manager meetings she was told if something was printed with a typesetting error that she was to fire the printer. She admitted it was unfair and to fight the mandate she was making everyone sign off on our proofs. Seems everyone in her office claimed amnesia if something went awry with a printed piece.

I understand the fear clients have of making errors. We manufacture a custom product that once it is done ~ it is done. I try to put time aside to proof read every job I have in house; however, ultimately the responsibility for proofing goes to the group who was paid for the design and writing, and the client who is required to sign off on that work. In our print shop, sales people, production support and pressman find typesetting errors quite often. We had an example just the other day. The brochure featured an artist and his name had an initial on the front cover that was different from the inside copy. Our pressman caught that. He saved the client $5,000.00 because otherwise they would have had to reprint the job to make it correct.

Collectively we all suffer when the occasional typo ruins the print job and subsequently our day. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, together we must slow down and retrain ourselves to reconnect with what we’re working on at the moment. I’ve been scattered and distracted by all of the communication tools we have today. While my cell phone is ringing I’m talking to a client on a land-line and trying to enter a job on the computer. I don’t care how good you are “multi-tasking”, eventually something will give.

H is for hot job!

This hot job post really has me stumped. Everyone knows what I mean by a hot job right? A rush job…gotta have it asap!

Is it a hot job, a hot-hot job, or a scorcher? As a client you might be surprised at how many hot jobs we have in production at a time. The worst moment for a sales person is when the hot job that was pushed through the shop doesn’t ship on the due date because we don’t have shipping instructions.

There have only been a few instances when I’ve not been able to produce a hot job for a client. For those few it wasn’t realistic because the job itself could not be completed in the time frame requested. It just wasn’t possible, there simply were not enough hours in anyone’s day to produce the job.  Do you know how much time you should allow in your schedule for your job to print?

The hot job could be anything from a post card to a multi-page perfect bound catalog. The production schedule required for a post card compared to a catalog is completely different. The post card job requires a single sheet of paper, simple in its press imposition and bindery work.  In comparison, a multi-page catalog can require much more time in prepress and proofing. The additional pages would also require more press runs and added bindery time for folding, gathering and binding the catalog.  Printers & designers must also take into account the time that clients will keep the proof out for approval; and, when it returns from the client, how many edits or changes they need.  If alterations are requested a new proof is required. It is difficult for printers to know the time required for proofing and possible changes clients might make.

Production schedules are easy to make but also underutilized today. Make a plan with your printer to establish production schedules based on true need. It’s like the boy who cried wolf…sadly if it happens too often, your true cry for assistance might be ignored. OK…OK…doubt it, but I had to try.

G is for Graphic Arts~

Print Industry terminology states that the Graphic Arts Industry is made up of the industries and professions related to designing and printing on paper and other substrates.

I began my career in flexographic printing, more specifically, pressure sensitive labels. It was different and I told my family about the exciting industry I found. Nobody in my family was familiar with Graphic Arts let alone label manufacturing. My grandpa tried to understand…but he couldn’t get his mind around what I meant. My brother was a computer programmer and my sister a paralegal, professions my grandpa understood. What was this Graphic Arts Industry anyway? Fast forward years later and now I’m selling printing. Grandpa still didn’t understand, but now he was intrigued. Cathy was a sales person?

When I went to visit him later that year I took my portfolio of printed samples.  My portfolio consisted of pieces I had worked on,  and they helped to make my sales calls more interesting. I sat down with him and went through the samples. One by one I explained a little about the process it took to make the piece. He asked who I sold this to and I told him direct clients like small and large companies and advertising agencies. Aha! Something he understood. He stood up and said, “Cathy is in Advertising” that makes sense. He was so satisfied that he understood and could brag about his grand children’s’ jobs….Tim the programmer, Shelia the paralegal and Cathy, of course, she’s in advertising.

I really miss grandpa and in some ways reminiscing about this conversation I realize that I miss the way I sold back then. Maybe it’s my fault…my portfolio sits right next to my desk where it has sat my entire sales career. I’ve been neglectful of its power and its place in what I do for a living. New processes have gotten in the way, like the computer I might be spending too much time behind. The computer has replaced the face to face conversations and hands-on review of my printed samples. I’m actually teary-eyed recalling the excitement I used to feel when a potential client appreciated my approach. So I think I’ll reach down next to my desk and dust it off and begin to use it again. Grandpa would like that.

F is for fundamentals of four-color process

I’ve had personalized plates on my vehicle for over ten years ~ CMYK2.

Two years ago I was late paying my plate fee and the DOT wouldn’t agree to tag my personalized plate anymore. As I stood at the window in their downtown Dallas offices, I was speechless. “But, I’ve  had that plate for over 10 years!”…. The clerk handled my disappointment very well, and I didn’t have any recourse because  I had fallen behind in renewing. I asked why they wouldn’t allow me to retain my CMYK2 even though I was only a few days late and she replied it was either because somebody else had snatched it up on my delay of payment, or the state had taken it back because they were issuing letters that were similar. It was frustrating to imagine that some other printer had laid-in-wait and had taken my specialty plate! My fault…my fault…move on. I waited for the clerk to hand me my new plates. As she did I looked at them and I had to laugh. My new plates are: MYK582. Really? How ironic that my new plates were only missing the C for Cyan.

Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black, or CMYK, the acronym for the four process colors printers use to create photo images and color on offset presses. Did you know that from the millions of possible colors displayed on your computer monitor that offset printers create those colors using only four process inks? These four inks are transparent so while combining them together in a series of dots they blend to create different colors. Think blue + yellow = green from art class. That’s exactly what we do. Want your green to appear more teal? Then we increase the percentage of blue dot. Want a more olive green? Then reduce most of the cyan and make yellow 100% and add a little percentage of black. You can imagine then that we are challenged when it comes to reproducing some colors on the spectrum of color. Many colors can’t be reproduced by combining four process inks. You would think this would be limiting, but with additional ink units on offset presses we can add Pantone (or color specific) inks that are specially formulated for a specific color. Although  costs are increased with the additional inks, many companies opt for the spot color to maintain their branding identity.

I think it’s just amazing we’re able to create all this color through four simple process colors.

E is for estimate

I’m not sure how many people outside the Graphic Arts Industry realize the options we have for print specifications.

I’ve never added up the number of paper options that are available; however, I’ve been known to compare the books of printing paper to books of wallpaper. Have you ever sat down in a retail outlet with a couple of hundred wallpaper books full of patterns, colors and texture? Well, there you go. Then, take a look at the paint options that now include metallic, flourescent and specialty colors. One day when I don’t have anything to do, I’ll add up all the ink options Pantone has to offer. That will never happen. Maybe somebody can Google it and let me know…

With all of these options it’s a wonder that the field of estimating is fraught with inconsistencies. Not only are we dealing with paper and ink options, you must add in a myriad of other specs to even begin the process of developing an estimate. What is the flat size, what is the folded size, how many pages, cover weight or book weight, scores, folding, 3-hole drilling, die cutting, perforating, the list is daunting. Miss one specification and you’ve lost your profit and/or commission. You might not be aware of how a missing specification could alter an estimate, not only the missing pieces of information but the structure of the estimate itself might need reworking from paper strategy to press imposition. (how the piece might fit on a press sheet)

Most estimating costs are a combination of  industry standards, individual shop overhead and job experience. The estimate is just that…an estimate of materials and time we think should be involved in producing your print project.  Hourly rates are adjusted regularly based on experience with similar jobs and the hourly rates built into  estimating systems are usually in-line with industry standards, their presses and their experience.

So why might you get three estimates and they’re all over the board? There are a couple of reasons. One might be simply that the shop doesn’t have the appropriate press for the work involved. This happens often when a shop has only large equipment and is estimating a job that could be successfully printed on a smaller press. Another reason might be misinformation or just an error made by estimating. As a buyer will you take advantage of the mistake? We’ll talk about that some other time.