Graphic Design General, Graphic Requirements for Vendors, Large Format Graphics, Trade Show Displays

Required Reading

Graphic requirements are there for a reason

In the last 21 years I’ve worked with countless vendors that supply printing and other production services for graphics and each would have a graphic requirements sheet to use as a guide for submitting files. Though the printing industry has several standards depending on the style of output, you would be surprised at how many different requirements I’ve worked with. Each company tweaks the standards to work best for their shop and method of output. Therefore, it is vital that a designer read the requirements to ensure files are supplied exactly as requested. Doing so ensures you are at least beginning that print project by placing the responsibility on the vendor to output correctly. IE: they won’t be able to suggest that there was an error with your file preparation should something go wrong.

Over the years I’ve encountered many designers that would balk at very strict requirements and try to submit what was most comfortable to them or what was similar to other vendors. This baffles me to no end. The requirements are what guarantees you a seamless flight to the press (assuming the vendor is doing a good job). Therefore, why would you try to avoid these requirements just to save time or because it isn’t what you think a job needs? Occasionally I would encounter designers that simply didn’t have the skill to perform the job correctly and I would walk them through it over the phone if they were willing to listen. Other times I would be met with resistance and designers would simply refuse to supply the files to the requirements, suggesting that it was beneath them or it was some sort of risk to supply native files if that was what was needed. In cases such as this I would always recommend they resubmit the files, but attempt to work with what they supplied if nothing further was coming. But, I would always point out, on record, that the files may encounter issues or unexpected differences from what was expected because of the submission.

The fact is, as a graphic designer, you must read these requirements “before” you begin the job to ensure you will be sending exactly what the vendor needs to guarantee the best output. This may mean selecting a different design software than what you wanted to use, which means you need to be adept at performing your duties in all software available. Now granted, not all designers have all of the software due to cost or experience. Should that be an issue, I always recommend calling the vendor and discussing your concerns prior to beginning the job. Doing so usually clears up confusion and in many cases the vendor has experienced such things in the past and can recommend some tips so you can work in the software/format you desire while still submitting something acceptable.

Other items you will find in the requirements may actually make your job easier as a designer. For example, large format output such as Inkjet, Lambda or Dye Sublimation doesn’t need the same image resolution for raster files as standard offset printing. In most large format cases you can work at only 100ppi (I’ve even seen 72ppi) for full size raster images which will save you time and processing power. But if you didn’t read the requirements completely, you may end up sending huge 300ppi files that took forever to process and upload. And, that additional resolution won’t actually get you anything better in terms of print quality in most cases. In fact, your files will probably print cleaner if they are brought down to the lower resolution. We’ll explore this resolution question further in a future post.

The bottom line is that, as a graphic designer, you need to do your research on what vendors will be expecting before you begin the job. Do they want native files? Perhaps PDF’s are acceptable? Should your fonts be supplied or converted to outlines? Is the latest software acceptable or do you need to save it down to a previous version? Is your software outdated or not accepted? Did you use the correct template so the dimensions and bleed are a match? Doing your homework beforehand will ensure you supply the best possible source files for the task at hand. And it will also cover your butt if an issue does arise.

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About Jacob Norris

Graphic Designer with over 20 years of experience working in all forms of print media.
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