Just do it . . . I trust you

Proof stampJust do it . . . I trust you.

These may be words that every adolescent male dreams about, but they strike fear into a printer’s heart.

At the printshop, these words are not cooed softly. Rather, they’re an exasperated exclamation as a harried customer walks out the door.

What the customer thinks he means is, “I’m sure you’ll get it right.”

What the printer hears is, “If I don’t like it, you’ll eat the cost.”

The printing projects we produce at AlphaGraphics are almost always custom. They will work for one customer only. If Joe’s Body Shop doesn’t like his business cards, we can’t sell them to Joe’s Spa and Massage. The businesses may sound similar, but the activities at the two addresses could be completely different. Imagine the dismay of the customer needing car repair who walks into the massage parlor (or vice versa)!

We try not to make too many requirements of our customers. We require proofs. We require that each customer approve a proof before printing takes place.We ask this of our customers even if a job has been done before and the customer says that it is an exact reprint.

“Why?” you ask.

Because printing offers so many wonderful opportunities for mistakes. For instance, we printed envelopes for the Edumacation Department at one of the local universities for several years before it became the Division of Edumacation, an important change for those who were getting edumacated. If we hadn’t proofed the envelopes each time, mail might have been returned to a department that didn’t even exist any more.

On a more serious note, we have had customers who did not thoroughly proof their business cards, received cards with an incorrect phone number, gave out half a box, then wondered why they never received a phone call.

Printers are nowhere near immune from mistakes. Poor Richard’s law #34 states, “the more creative the graphic designer, the more spelling mistakes he/she will make.” I’m convinced that the best designers all type with two left hands and all thumbs. And don’t ask me why spell check is anathema to graphics people. They used to get away with the excuse that it wasn’t built into the page layout programs. That’s not the case anymore. Now I suppose that misspelling has become a part of artistic license. Anyway, designers won’t use spell check.

At AlphaGraphics, we do internal proofs. If there’s a lot of text involved, we ask Joe to do the proof. Joe went to school in the ’50s and ’60s when they still taught people to punctuate and spell. Most of our internal proofs are checked more for form, flow and position than for content, though.

We’ve also gotten stung quite a few times. We’ve frequently corrected spelling, punctuation and occasionally syntax in text that a customer has provided only to have them uncorrect it at proof. In these cases, the customer is right; even if the necklace they are describing is not made of eggs (hint: it’s an amulet, not an omelet).

It’s really pretty simple. There are just too many jobs coming through the shop to catch everything. That’s why it’s important for each customer to receive, carefully inspect, and approve a proof. We appreciate your trust, but we’re careful. You still get a proof.

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4 Responses to Just do it . . . I trust you

  1. 10th Way says:

    Man this article is good! I couldn’t agree more, thanks for sharing.

  2. Anne says:

    You are so right. I am a graphic designer and just had a client try to make me wear the cost of a tshirt print run because the particular file chosen on the CD I supplied, appears was incorrect. The job was not proof checked prior to printing by the client (ie it seems no proof, visual or pdf etc was given). I did not produce artwork for any tshirt (though I had supplied some visuals) or even knew it was being done at the time yet it was indicated that it was my fault even though they did not check it prior to printing. Even though I was not currently doing any work for this client they could not understand my position and their responsibility as a client to check proofs. Proofs are a godsend to those in the graphics and allied industries. Now if only they could understand about how color on screen is different to color in print, that PMS spot color is not 4 color process et etc.

  3. […] we’re at it? It’s been a while since Poor Richard has written about proofing (see Just Do It . . . I Trust You!). At the printshop behind the red awnings on Poplar Street, we generally follow Poor […]

  4. […] It’s been a while since Poor Richard has written about proofing (see Just Do It . . . I Trust You!). At the printshop behind the red awnings on Poplar Street, we generally follow Poor […]

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