Designing for Inkjet
It doesn’t take much prodding to get Elizabeth Gooding engaged on the subject of designing for inkjet. She has no shortage when it comes to insights on the challenges involved in preparing files for inkjet printing. She could write a book on the subject.
And that she has. Last year, Gooding and fellow ink-on-paper guru Mary Schilling teamed up on “The Designer’s Guide to Inkjet” (from Canon Solutions America) that, despite its title’s suggested audience, is an indispensable tool for any inkjet printer’s library. You see, the problem with designers, printers and inkjet is that there is too much of a disconnect — the designer is far upstream from the printer.
In the end, if there are any issues that arise with submitted files, it’s often easier for the printer to fix and print as opposed to kicking it back upstairs to the customer’s designer. The printer may be swayed to pass along some ex post facto admonitions to keep in mind for “next time,” but that’s akin to taking an aspirin after your headache has subsided.
“In these situations, the disconnect leaves the printer as either a referee or the scapegoat when the piece doesn’t come out as the customer was expecting,” Gooding observes. “It’s in the printer’s best interest to provide education; they need to educate all along that food chain so that their customers are both satisfied with the design and the way that design ends up being printed on the equipment.”
Know Your Output Device
Part of the problem is that designers aren’t trained to produce work for various output devices. Gooding says the problems stem from designers not understanding how the dots go on the paper, and how different types of papers absorb ink. When a job is ticketed for inkjet by nature (read: personalization) the stakes of shorter runs are raised due to the cost of inkjet inks. Adding too much liquid to a page that is twisting and turning can be a costly mistake.
“It just hangs up finishing equipment, or it smudges, smears, runs, doesn’t perf well, doesn’t go in the envelope,” she says. “All of these bad things can happen if the designer doesn’t understand that you can’t put too much ink on the page.
“Designing for inkjet can produce great results; it can be cheaper to offer personalization and versioning,” she says. “The printer who can get out in front of the process and provide general guidelines, even if the design has already been completed, can help minimize the errors that exist in customer files.
“Just at that fundamental level, how could you possibly expect a designer to be able to create something that’s going to work well if they don’t understand the process through which what they’re designing is going to be reproduced?” she wonders. “There’s a real void in the marketplace as to who is going to give them that understanding. I’m not aware of anyone providing this kind of training for high-volume production digital printing.”
User’s Manual for Designers
One shining example of a printer who is detached from the creative process but has cultivated a system that ensures a minimum of challenges is Epsilon. A little more than a year ago, the company installed the country’s first Screen 520 HD inkjet press. Prior to that, the shop had 10 years of experience in working on the Xerox iGen line.
Nate Milliken — VP/managing director of the $2 billion a year marketing giant’s print production facility in St. Louis — and his staff worked with Schilling to create a user’s manual for the cadre of 300-odd designers in the company’s employ. As a result, Johannes says. “Now we can handle it all before it comes to press.”
Ink and substrate issues are nonexistent for IWCO Direct. The company has qualified about 50 sheets, with three of the top 10 papers most used accounting for about 60 percent of the overall volume.
As for advice to printers who are new to inkjet? Johannes simply recommends getting the book.
“From ink, paper, layouts and ways to optimize imagery, it covers all the important talking points,” says Johannes, who contributed to the book. “It covers the bases for all the things you should consider. We’ve given out a lot of them to our customers.”