Several fundamental questions about graphic designers' print finishing knowledge motivated this thesis. Is there a gap in knowledge between the fields of finishing and design? What do designers actually know about finishing? Is this knowledge enough to enable them to communicate well with printers/finishers and design printed pieces efficiently so finishing runs smoothly? What happens when mistakes are made due to a lack of education and communication? If designers do need to know more information about finishing, what are the most important concepts? Are there any resources now that designers can use to learn more about finishing? Do printers/finishers have advice for designers about finishing?
In order to collect information on this subject, a questionnaire was developed, twenty-two professionals in the Rochester (NY) area graphic arts industry were interviewed and their answers were recorded.
The interview results were analyzed and common themes were discovered. Designers do not have adequate finishing knowledge and there is a communication gap between designers and finishing professionals.
Those just starting out in the industry with a degree in Graphic Design have not been previously taught about finishing and do not have the necessary knowledge of finishing operations and procedures to make correct file creation decisions.
Design professionals rarely communicate with printers/finishers except to acquire a print quote or sign a press approval. Designers also do not know what questions to ask. They see their projects on one-dimensional computer monitors and are not aware of the three-dimensional problems that occur in the finishing world. Designers often do not learn from mistakes made during project workflows because they are not aware of the reasons for those mistakes. Printers/finishers do not share this information with designers, increasing the chances that the mistakes will reoccur.
In the current workflow, designers and printers/finishers often do not interact or communicate with each other before projects are given to printers to be printed. Many assumptions are made throughout the workflow. Finishers think designers know the correct finishing information or are informed by their printers/printing salespersons. Printing salespersons often lack the knowledge about finishing operations and procedures. Sometimes printing salespersons have knowledgeable suggestions, but it is often too late in the workflow for designers to make changes to the digital files.
The lack of knowledge and communication in the graphic arts workflow results in the loss of time, money and resources for everyone involved. Each person in the graphic arts workflow needs to play his/her part in providing proper education and closing the communication gap.
In college Graphic Design programs, designers need to be educated about the entire workflow, from start to finish, including finishing materials, processes, limitations, key terms, financial ramifications and proper digital file setup. Designers need to know IX the right questions to ask printers/finishers about each of the finishing processes. Designers should tour a finishing facility and acquire hands-on finishing experience.
Design professionals need to ask printers/finishers questions about finishing requirements for proper digital file setup. Before submitting final designs to printers, designers should go over physical mock-ups with printers and finishers to ensure the designs meet printing/finishing requirements. Designers need to be open to feedback and suggestions made by printers/finishers and need to build time into their workflow so the suggested changes can be made. Designers need to educate clients paying for the projects on the importance of this step in the workflow and educate clients about production timelines.
Printers and printing salespersons need to be knowledgeable about finishing so they can answer designers' questions. Printers/finishers need to provide designers with examples of good design decisions. They should also show designers examples of poor design and the results of incorrect digital file-preparation decisions. Printers/finishers should create guide books or other resources about their specific printing/finishing requirements in order to help designers understand their processes.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Print finishing processes--Case studies; Graphic artists--Case studies; Designers--Case studies; Printing industry--Case studies; Business communication--Case studies
Print Media (MS)
Department, Program, or Center
School of Print Media (CIAS)
Lyon, Melissa A., "An Exploratory Study of: Designers' Finishing Knowledge and the Communication Flow between Designers and Finishing Professionals" (2006). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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