Today if you ask prepress technicians what percentage of files they receive are “print ready,” they will most likely say something around one percent! While alarming, this number is not that far off. I can remember when I sat in that chair and experienced the same thing. One month we decided to do a test and mark down every file that came in. It was a simple evaluation: either the file was OK to print or needed changes. Ironically it wasn’t until the last week of the month, on Friday afternoon, that we received a file––our very last in the test––that was perfect! What this proved to me was that nearly every file that comes in needs some sort of change before it can hit the printing plates. Now that last sentence is telling. We were working at a shop that was primarily traditional offset litho. Some may argue that any file can be printed digitally, and they are not too far off, but why should we accept subpar file structure?
John Carew wrote last Tuesday about image quality and how we as a society are accepting low-quality images because of their ease of use. This theory is directly related to my discussion of subpar file structure. Desktop publishing has basically given anyone who owns a computer the ability to become a graphic designer. Although desktop publishing represents a great technological advance, it has diluted industry standards. You can basically track back to the widespread adoption of Microsoft products (Word, Publisher, PowerPoint, and Excel) and see the overall quality of graphic design deteriorate. It has forced our industry to accept files in any program available and puts the onus on us to make them work. God forbid that what a client designed on screen in Word doesn’t match what comes off the press.
Basically what this all boils down to is industry-specific education and client management. We as industry professionals have to educate our clients on best practices. We must let them know when we have to make changes to their files and tell them what it’s going to cost. Accepting files in Word and fixing them for free without telling the client isn’t doing anyone justice. We as manufacturers are losing out on revenue, and the clients are thinking that everything is OK and will continue making the same mistakes. Do yourself a favor and communicate with your clients. Offer them your services, and discuss the best ways to arrive at an aesthetically pleasing piece. Remember, we are only as good as the end product, and if we start with garbage, you know what will come out!
So, keep this link on your toolbar––it’s a great reference tool! http://goo.gl/XGoBG