They say that behind every great man is a great woman. I donʼt know if thatʼs true, but one thing I have learned through working with John Valleau is that behind every great print there is a high quality, professional graphic. JG Imprinters wants the very best for your business and is working hard to deliver the information necessary to help you get the very best prints possible.
Next up in the Graphic Designer Insights series is Buck Sommerkamp, of KCDesignCore.
Tell us a bit about your graphic design background: Did you go to school for graphic design and/or marketing? How did you get started in this ﬁeld?
I actually studied Communications, Broadcasting and Film when I was in college. Although I took some graphics classes at Central Missouri State University (now the University of Central Missouri), I did a lot of self-learning. It just naturally tied in with my interest in all forms of media. I worked in radio, television, and print during those years. I put together the CMSU Alumni magazine, Alumni Today, back when ﬁles were sent via dial-up modem to the university graphics department and output as galleys for pasteup. Those were the days! 🙂
Why do people need a graphic designer for print media?
That’s a good question. With so many “amateur hour” tools available for computer users (I’m looking at you, Microsoft Publisher!), some people might question why they should spend the money to have a pro do the work. The fact remains: no matter how easy-to- use the computer software is, it simply can’t replace the “eye for design” brought by a professional designer who understands typography, color theory, white space, and trends in the industry. Using those little “stick ﬁgure” guys in your printed work screams out to the world, “I just used the stock clip art I had on-hand and was too cheap to invest in my image!”
What tools/system do you use?
I’ve used Adobe tools for many years, and actually never fell into the Quark Xpress world. I went straight from (Aldus) PageMaker through the current version of Adobe InDesign. I love Photoshop and Kuler (for choosing colors). Adobe pretty much invented modern Postscript, and everyone uses it via PDF on a daily basis. I trust Adobe because they’ve been an integral part of the industry since its infancy (well, other than that Gutenberg guy! I don’t think he worked for Adobe).
Why should a graphics design program such as Creative Suite, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, etc. be used instead of a desktop publishing program such as Word or Publisher to create ﬁles used for offset printing?
It’s all about precision. To do a quality design, you need to be able to specify things in tiny, fractional parts of an inch. You need to be able to carefully kern your type so it looks good. You can’t rely on “desktop” type applications for high-quality output, because they’re simply not tuned for it; they work ﬁne with laser and inkjet output, but not as much for professional printing. It’s worth investing in high-quality tools so you have the necessary precision to get the output you want. Good designers are intimately familiar with those tools and know how to make them work for you.
In your experience, do most people who use desktop publishing programs understand vector art, CMYK, embedded fonts, curves, outline or color gamut?
Absolutely not! Most people are used to “just getting it to print” on their own devices, and haven’t learned how to make their ﬁles cross-device compatible. They might take a pixelated .jpg ﬁle of their logo and expect it to output well in a nice glossy catalog, and that just doesn’t happen! It’s important to learn all you can about vector vs. bitmap ﬁles, and how to optimize for the press.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you have seen people make when preparing ﬁles for offset printing?
Most problems deal with resolution; you can’t take a camera-phone picture and expect it to look great on a magazine cover. Logos you save to a document (or worse yet, cut- and-paste) from a web browser are going to fall apart when printed on a high-quality press. Make sure you over-compensate for the resolution of the ﬁnal output, even if it means larger ﬁles. Don’t go crazy, but it’s better to have to scale something down than up! Make a PDF of the ﬁnal output, and zoom way in on it. If you can see jagged lines on-screen at high magniﬁcation, that roughness will probably carry through in an offset printing job. I hate to sound like a broken record, but “when in doubt, ask a professional designer who works in the world of print on a regular basis!” Mistakes can be costly and are certainly avoidable.
Buck is an interaction designer and manages a local Adobe software user group, KCDesignCore. For details about getting involved, visit KCDesigncore.Org.