5 Things I Wish a Print Salesperson Had Taught Me

Starting a first job, fresh out of design school, can be both an exciting and eye-opening experience. In school we’re taught to be creative thinkers, to present our work with gusto, and how to mockup anything from a business card to a paper clock. But we’re fledgling at best when it comes to the technical side of producing a project.

There are five things I wish a print salesperson had taught me when I was just starting out as a graphic designer:

1) How to handle a press check with confidence.

Most fresh graduates and graphic design newbies haven’t spent much time on-press with projects. When they do finally get on-press, there tends to be high anxiety because they feel as though they should know what they’re doing. I wish a print salesperson had taken me under his/her wing as a young designer and invited me to participate in other client’s press-checks so I could learn the process through watching experienced professionals.

2) Involve the printer from the get-go.

This seems counterintuitive to designers because we think of printing as the last step in a project. And most designers don’t think of their printers as “idea people,” but rather as mere producers. I’ve found printers not only have great ideas, but they often are able to offer cost- and time-saving suggestions (which makes everyone happy).

3) The whole wide world of paper.

The options for paper are almost as vast as our font libraries, and it can be overwhelming to choose. To be frank: young designers have no clue about paper. Some papers don’t fold well, some are slow to dry, some are beautiful printed offset, but not made for digital…these are all foreign concepts to a young designer. I would have greatly benefitted from a crash-course in paper early on (beyond what little knowledge I absorbed during the cocktail hour at a paper show).

4) The many production options.

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  • Printer

    Those young designers that know nothing are among the best clients you will ever have if you handle them correctly. Everyone wants to do a good job (well most everyone). If you teach those young designers the things they need to know to look good, you will earn a customer for life. Complaining about what they do not know will almost surly guarantee that they will find a new favorite rep. Once they trust that you are working on their side, they will work with you and will do the things you ask (that they probably should have known already). And sometimes those fresh designers that did not know anything get better jobs and handle more work in the future… Be nice to them, they are your future.

  • Robert Bloecker

    Here at Rapid Color Printing, http://www.rapidcolor.com – we try and follow all of these steps, but its always good to get a fresh list, keeps them fresh in your mind.

  • Sandra Wilson

    After twenty two years in pre-press I am now two years into digital press operation. I think all the artists/designers should follow all the jobs they can out to the press and learn what fonts do when they leave the screen and become actual printed documents.

  • Print Fairy

    New designers often fall short when it comes to knowledge of how to create print-friendly designs. Schools are doing a disservice to students when they do not have a "field trip" (at minimum) to a print facilty to gain a better understanding the things involved in manufacturing their creations.

  • Vic Favot

    Shame on your design school for not teaching you any of those things! You should demand and get a refund!

  • Tom

    I found this article to be very refreshing. As a commercial printer for 35 years I have not experienced a willingness form designers to listen to the ideas or suggestions of the printer. I am amazed at how often designers don’t supply PDF files with crops and bleeds or can’t understand the difference between reader spreads and printer spreads. And don’t get me started on RGB compared to CMYK

  • DesignED

    This could have just as easily been titled "5 things I wish that my post-secondary graphic design program had taught me" . . . hmmmm

  • stacygestring

    Excellent & Helpful Article – All designers & print buyers should read!

  • Gary Smith

    Agree almost completely, except that it should not all be on printers and salesperople to push forward information. Graphic designers have a responsibility to learn the technical as well as creative aspects of their profession. Schools should encourage them to seek input from a variety of sources, and not be so isolated from the people who can help. As a designer for 40 years, I have a couple of trusted printers who I always seek out for advice on projects. They know things I don’t, have great exposure to a wide range of projects and ideas, and are perfectly happy to talk for hours about my project and do enormous amounts of research to help me bring the project to fruition. And all I need to do is send some work their way. Your printer is your friend!

  • Carole Arrantash

    Hi Bill, I have always worked in a consultative capacity in print sales, and love to help designers and other clients find the best options for their projects. You should always be with your client when passing on press, especially those who are not used to doing this, so that they can express their views more easily with someone they know and trust. I have introduced paper merchants to clients so that they get a feel for what is on the market, what works (and doesn’t) with certain projects and show them finishes that can enhance a job too. To me this is part and parcel of my remit.

  • Elaine Neiss

    Great stuff here. It certainly is a mutual responsibility for both the designer and the printer. Smoother production and less stress are welcome bonuses with a little advance planning and communication right from the get go. We always encourage our clients to involve us in the process early on so we can discuss in our production meetings and make intelligent suggestions.

  • jakethejeep

    Excellent tips, and the one I’d emphasis most is #2 – many print reps are more than happy to use the sales/designer relationship as a method of enhancing the education of the designer, and the rep can learn from it as well.