Samples: The Biggest Source of Stress for Creatives
I had planned the project with the kind of precision normally reserved for military invasions. It was Christmas, after all, and I was in charge of dessert—a serious undertaking, I know you’ll agree.
I had hunted down the various ingredients and set aside the better part of a day to prepare 14 little French apple tarts. I roasted the hazelnuts, sautéed the apple slices…and if I say so myself, the first few tarts that came out of my oven looked fabulous—pieces of art.
Somewhere around tart number four, however, I started to wonder what they would taste like. I had never made this recipe before, and it was so elaborate that I did not have enough time for a dry run… They looked fabulous, though, smelled divine and tasted...horrible.
I was a bit dumbfounded, I have to admit. With a list of fabulous ingredients, how could this have gone so wrong?
Consider us the Client’s 'Taster'
And this is pretty much how we designers feel every time we send something to press.
We know what the finished piece should look and feel like. We have touched and approved the paper, know the individual print and finishing processes—our list of ingredients, if you will. And based on all this we expect a certain end result.
But no matter how much we like to trust that you, as a printer, know what we have in mind and that you will provide a more-than-perfect product, we like to be the first ones to see the piece—to "taste it" to stay with our tart analogy.
Like my tarts, I want to make sure they taste perfect before any of my guests (or clients) are exposed to them. So why does it seem to be so difficult for many printers to give us a taste before our client sees it?
In the last few months I’ve consulted on several print projects with various printers and not once did any of the design team members see the finished piece before the client. And believe me, it was not for lack of reminding and pestering the printers to send samples to us first. And the longer it took to get those samples, the more stressed out we became.
You might think that I—and we designers as a whole—are overreacting here. After all, the piece has been printed and finished and there is nothing that can be done anyway, right?
- In some cases the piece still can be fixed. I remember the accordion-folded brochure that was delivered as a roll-fold. The printer took it back and refolded it, but the client had already seen the less-than-perfect version.
- If there is nothing that can be done, at least we can try to explain to our client why something is not quite as expected and see if there is anything that can be done to rectify the situation.
The Greatest Source of Stress
You might think that the client pays the bill, so who cares. But by not sending us samples ahead of time, you are not doing the client any favors. And you definitely are not making any friends in the design community, the people who ultimately refer you to clients and work closest with you. That’s because we care deeply about our work and the less we hear from you, the more stressed out we get. After all, something might have gone terribly wrong.
So give us a chance to be the first to see our finished pieces, to sample our concoction. As for the French apple tarts, I had enough ingredients in the house for Plan B—a tried and true ginger apple pie—which was a huge hit!
Sabine Lenz is the founder of PaperSpecs.com, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.
Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.
Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge.