{ Proof } Reading & The Importance of a Graphic Designer

I'm going to preface this post by forewarning you that I'm going to be speaking quite frankly and honestly. This is definitely not a self-promotion thing-- it's about letting our clients know all that goes into getting your job designed and printed right. The first time. I hope I don't offend anyone-- I just want to help-- so we are going to discuss the importance of proofing your project (and that means having someone else look over it more than once, as well!) and using a graphic designer.

First up, you need a second set of eyes.

Proofing is SO incredibly important but it is often overlooked because you're rushing to get your project to us to meet your deadline. I'm guilty of this, too, but here's the thing: when you look at a project for hours and hours, you see what is supposed to be there sometimes instead of what is actually there. This is where having a colleague or friend not just look over the project-- but also thoroughly read it. You may not catch the bad line breaks (one too many hyphenated words in a paragraph) or widows (when a paragraph ends with only one or two words on a line), but a second set of eyes might. Spacing in paragraphs is just as important as spelling-- when you step back and look at the paragraph with your eyes squinted.... does it look proportionate?If there are a ton of hyphenated words, people are naturally inclined to pause when reading because they have to get to the next line to see what that word actually is without assuming. You want to make your piece easy to read for your audience.

In the example to the right, the first paragraph has multiple bad line breaks and ends on a widow. The example at the bottom uses typography techniques to fix those items and make the paragraph read more smoothly. All of this is a part of the proofing we do and this is why we always ask that the text you send us has already been proofed for content and sentence structure prior to sending it to us because every time you say "change this word to this" or "add this sentence", we have to re-flow the text into the document which requires us to start from scratch on all of the proofing you see to the right here!

As a graphic designer, a tip for making sure you don't have abundant fixes after your final proofing is to start off designing for your intended medium. When you're designing a tri-fold brochure, for instance, you need to make sure you know where the fold lines are going to be. There's nothing worse than having a fold smack dab in the middle of your heading. (Did you know that all 3 panels in a tri-fold brochure are not equal? This is for folding to ensure the brochure closes and lays flat!).

Importance of Proofing

To download a copy of our trifold template, click here.

I'm not saying I haven't missed something when proofing-- because I have -- but taking your time and reading through it again an hour later or having someone else read it is vital. Now that we've gotten that out of the way.... I'm going to get to the nitty gritty.

Brace yourself. Here it goes.

Not everyone is a graphic designer.

I'll give you a minute to let that sink in. You're probably thinking "but I can download a template," "I can create something in Publisher," or "I know a web designer who can do it", "I have a friend who can do that for half the price". That's all fine and good--- I believe you--- but let me elaborate on these thoughts of yours a little more.

First and foremost (and one of my pet peeves)- templates are great-- you can use them to save time but if you don't know how to properly link files, prepare files with bleeds and adequate margins, embed or package fonts -- chances are, it takes me longer to decipher that mess than it would have taken me to design and prep your files for print from start to finish. Take tri-fold brochures, for example --as I mentioned before, not all panels are created by simply dividing a piece of paper into three equal parts! Did you know the reason we require adequate bleeds and margins? When we print out tri-folds, we have to account for variations and slippage in scoring/folding and cutting. As a graphic designer who has been doing this for the last 20 years, designing specifically for print-- I know to account for these things when I'm designing for you. I spend a lot of time going back and forth with clients just like you after placing your tri-fold into one of our cutting/folding templates, pointing out that your text spreads across the fold or your panels aren't sized correctly.

Next up: Publisher. I'm sure it's wonderful and I've actually been told that there are more Publisher users out there and Creative Cloud users. It makes sense-- Publisher is readily available and great for the every day person-- but it doesn't have the capabilities to do the things that professional design software can do. The same issues arise from Publisher as arise from the use of an untrained eye using templates. When you send us publisher files, we will make a pdf of what you send us and print from that anyway-- but sometimes that means we have to go in and "fake" bleeds or even recreate your document when pictures and logos aren't actually linked to your file.

Moving along: Designing for web is not the same as designing for print. This is one of the very reasons I started this blog. We get tons of files created by designers whose primary background is designing for web-- unless they have experience in printing, they often don't know about including bleeds (how to or why), aren't used to files requiring margins and often "design" in photoshop and worse, in RGB. When files are set up in RGB, many photo filters and effects don't translate when we convert the files to CMYK. (Check out past blogs about color, document types, etc to understand more about that.)

Lastly, I'm sure your friend of a friend's aunt's daughter's husband can design it for you for half the price. But-- he's going to do that after work as a freelance "extra cash"/ "on the side" thing in between chasing his 2 year old around the house, falling asleep on the couch watching Good Girls (or is that just me?) and not giving it his full attention because he isn't getting full compensation. Trust me. I've tried adding some side gigs and when I'm not being paid according to what my effort is worth, my level of effort is reflected. (I told you, brutal honesty here). Not only that, you're not going to be able to reach him when I email you and tell you that I need the file sent with bleeds included but without crop marks and it's due in an hour and he's not responding because he's in a meeting and you end up dissatisfied with your project because I can't fix his publisher file. Okay, maybe that's a bit catastrophic and extreme but I made my point, right? My job is my livelihood and I take pride in what I do because it's a reflection of me (and my company), not just you (and your company). Your success is my success. I want you to be happy and look good.

You might still be thinking you can do what I can do. I can probably do it in half the time, blind folded with one hand tied behind my back. (Seriously, I've done it. Just kidding.) On the topic of time --- good design takes time just as good printing takes time. When you send us a design, there's a lot of "behind the scenes" that you don't know about. We have to go through a pre-flighting process to make sure everything prints the way you intended it to. This also includes file preparation and finishing for printing-- we have different print settings for particular papers, imposition for business cards (when we run multiple business cards on a large sheet and cut it down to the finished size), color settings, scoring, folding, cutting ("bindery")--- all of these things influence the final piece and we have decades of experience doing this to make sure your piece comes out right. We don't simply press "send" on our computer and "poof" five minutes later your 16 page brochure is printed, folded, stapled, cut, and boxed up neatly, all complete and ready for pick up. On high quality digital printers like the ones we use, we don't spit out 28371 sheets per minute like your desktop printer does. If you send us a big job, it's really unrealistic to expect it to be complete in an hour.

Yes, I know I got side tracked with the time on bindery but that's just it--- Chris, who handles 95% of our production -- often tells me how much time I save him because I know to have everything set up properly for printing. Do you know why that is? Because I am an educated, experienced, trained print graphic designer. Do I know how to do everything out there? Absolutely not. I see some amazing things other designers have mastered and I weep with envy-- but when it comes to designing for print, it's my jam.

I wish that good design didn't take so much time since unfortunately, time is money. I hear you. Life is expensive. I find that many times (and we're all guilty of this) we all want to get things done in the least expensive way possible-- however, sometimes that reflects poorly on your and your company's image. When you try to DIY a brochure, 9 times out of 10, it looks like you DIY'd that brochure which leads your clients to think that you are 1. cheap (eek!) 2. don't value your company's professional image (so how could you value their image?) and 3. think that you have poor time management skills because you obviously waited until the last minute to do that.... (did you?).

When you don't use an experienced graphic designer, many times you end up with business cards, brochures and flyers that don't look like they're from the same company. There is nothing cohesive about your marketing pieces when they aren't designed by the same individual (or at least one who has a knowledge of your company image, branding, colors, etc) or when you just pick and choose from the templates you like because you like them, regardless of whether or not they accurately reflect your company's branding. When you hire someone who is experienced and trained in visual identity, marketing, branding and design-- it helps your image and puts your best food forward.

All of these statements lead me to another one of my blogs about cohesive business sets (check it out) because truthfully, first impressions and looks DO matter. Hiring a graphic designer to get it designed properly for the intended medium (print versus web), is part of your first impression. I value each and every one of our clients who trust me to represent their brand and company accurately and I would never steer you wrong. I promise.


About Heather

Heather has been into graphic design since she was a little kid, growing up passionate about designing for print. She graduated from Penn State with degrees in Art and Advertising and then pursued studies in Publications Design at the University of Baltimore. Over the last decade, Heather has designed publications for major communications companies in Baltimore and North Carolina, before settling into her role as a print design specialist here at Evolution Printing in Manassas, Virginia back 2016. She loves the tangible aspect of print and sharing her designs, ideas, knowledge and experience to help clients get the most from their projects.

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