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This discussion took place on the Wise-Women mailing list in late March 2001.

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Offering Print Products to Complement a Web Site


When clients want stationery to complement their Web site design, what's the best way for a Web site designer (who's not experienced in print design) to handle this? My original idea, that's not working well in practice, was to supply a high res version of the logo, redone in Freehand (the original gets done in Fireworks) and to offer a simple choice of two different letterhead layouts. Then after one layout is approved, I'd adapt it for envelope and business card as well. I state up front that I don't offer printing services -- merely the design which will be delivered in a variety of files. So what's a better way of handling it? Maybe to offer only a printable version of the logo, and abandon stationery design altogether?


Unfortunately what looks great on a website often looks like complete shite when printed out, so there is usually as much design in the letterhead use of a logo as there is in designing the webpage. If you think about it - if someone came to you with a logo and said , I want a website (and it should take 2-3 hours) you would laugh them outa town (well you would wouldn't you?) and honestly print work is the same. The easiest thing for you to do is just provide a logo such that someone can use it for print - but not actually do the layout. If they want you to do the layout you should assume that it's gonna be the same sort of time as doing a new page.

If it was me I'd want a logo that was 1 colour (black and white) 2 colour (assuming it has colours - so specify pantone colour) and full colour (CMYK). You usually would need to change the colours in the logo so that they print like they look on screen, and you'd need a pantone book to match it. Fonts and things often don't work so well in print as they do on screen - so on paper you usually want to have finer fonts etc.

In my experience stationery is an area fraught with danger - miss typed phone numbers, wrong stock (you thought it was going to be matt - they thought glossy), aligned incorrectly, only printed one side, wrong colour - etc etc.

The last time we did stationery for a client was the sort of model you're talking - it was 3 years ago, and we don't offer it now! The client organised their own printing - our price was printers fee plus a percentage - and she decided she didn't want to pay that bit extra. When I explained it was because there is a LOT that can go wrong in a print job, she didn't really believe me - and everything that could go wrong did, and they ended up having to redo the job. So advice would be..... don't do it unless you really want to. Because while I love printed things, if you're not prepared to find out all about it you'll just get yourself into a world of hurt (and that's a technical term :-)

If I offer a design at a low price, I am usually mistaken in thinking that I can somehow take shortcuts in the design process. Taking shortcuts assumes that clients will be easier to work with than normal or will somehow make fewer demands, which never happens. Clients only know how to be clients. If I offered a stationery package design for $65, it would still take several thousand dollar's worth of my time to please the client. Also, the business card is probably the most important part of a stationery package. Cards may be used several times daily, while some clients may rarely use letterhead and envelope -- especially if, like us, they do all their correspondence by fax and email. Cards are often the first graphic impression a contact has of a business, so it's reasonable for a client to want to see the card design before approving the look of a stationery package.

I'm not sure what printers in your area expect to receive from clients, but you should be ok with sending a couple of things. One, a Freehand document (for each item like business card, letterhead, etc.) with type converted to outlines (this removes the need to send fonts along). I'm not that familiar with Freehand anymore, but I would save the file as an EPS compatible file just in case the printer doesn't have Freehand. That way they may be able to open it in Illustrator or Corel or import it into Quark.

The other thing that I would send is a printout to show the printer what it is supposed to look like. If you can't do a color print, then be sure to mark up a black and white print so there is no question what is supposed to be in what color.

You are probably wise to stay out of supplying printer ready files. This is something that really takes a lot of time, and not really something that can easily be added to additional services for a small fee. You'll probably find it's more trouble than it's worth - unless you already have printing experience. You may partner up with a print graphic designer that you could refer your clients to (in the future) if they would like to take your designs and print them. I don't mind telling customers that I (personally) can't do something but I don't like not having options for them or being able to deal with other suppliers for them.

If you are going from a PC to a Mac (or the other way) the main concern would be with your fonts. Fonts are built and handled differently on a PC and a Mac. Even if they have the same font name, chances are it would still display/print differently. Plus it would not do any good for you to send your PC fonts because they would not be able to easily use them [I think there are conversion utilities to be able to take fonts across platform, but I do not know how they work. I doubt that your typical printer would have the knowledge to do this.] You will definitely want to convert the fonts to outline. Not considering fonts, files saved in the Freehand proprietary format will go from PC to Mac if you have Freehand on both platforms.

If you save the file as a tiff, the printer will be able to open the file in other programs (such as Photoshop). However, the tiff format may keep the printer from making adjustments to the file that are necessary for printing. Do you have any colors that touch? How many colors is this? If you have two colors that touch, the printer needs to "overlap" these colors to create a trap. A printing press is not as exact as say your color printer in placing color on the paper. If the colors shift, you don't want a white line (or the paper) showing through where the colors are supposed to touch. Most commercial printers do use Macs now, but they are probably used to getting PC files.

It may save you some headaches if you can find out who your customer is going to use as a printer and talk to that printer about their specifications for submitting electronic artwork. Having worked for a printer myself, I always welcomed questions from designers on how to better prepare files or give me something that I could work with.

Business cards are the "meat and potatoes" of small business printing. Everyone needs them. And addresses and area codes change so often that even a basins that doesn't go through many cards often needs to do another run every other year or so. (It's almost all they do in my boyfriend's print shop) As the first (and sometimes only) printed piece that someone sees from your business, it's little wonder that folks have come up with some really nifty ways you get *your* card noticed. I've seen brushed, die cut, and silkscreen printed aluminum cards, fully readable CD's cut to business card size, trifold cards with the bottom microperfed for easy removal (brochure and card in one), clear printed plastic, and on and on.....

> My current thinking is that I should offer only a high-res 
> version of the logo, and abandon stationery design altogether.)

Definitely! Stay out of other people's area of expertise. Team-up instead. Right now, you are actually losing money and giving to the client the false idea that what you do is worth this little.

Like most companies, printers only keep the most useful softwares updated. Freehand is not necessarily one of those, at least not here in Europe. Quark Xpress, Photoshop and Illustrator are essential on the Mac. For the PC (which we don't use much because of the above mentioned problems with the rip), Coral Draw, Photoshop and Illustrator are the norm (again in Europe, it might be different in the States).

However, sometimes there are other ways around problems; last week I had to plot films from a file, created in Coral Draw on PC that had been exported and saved as a Freehand file (PC). Illustrator refused to open the file (normal enough, it was a 16 page file), Quark refused as well. The file refused to be Distilled (again, normal enough) but finally I managed to open it with Adobe InDesign. Now, many printers / pre-press houses do have InDesign, not necessarily because they use it, but because it is Adobe and they got a .

Still, there were problems with the fonts, they had to be replaced before the files were ripped. No, the client was not charged for all the extra work and I would have preferred that the designer had phoned and checked before sending the files. We might have found a better solution, like a press-specified pdf file, for example. I think a phone-call to your client's printer and a good print-out, will get you out of trouble this time. For the future, you can still offer print-ready files, but talk to a good, local printer first. Ask them what they need from you, there are always ways to solve the problems and everything is easier if you are organised for it.




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