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Why We Use Visuals to Account for a Lack of Standardized Print Terminology

Matt Shanahan

Have you ever been bitten by a change bug? You know, one of those annoying bugs that cause pricing changes and delays on your print and mail projects, or any type of project for that matter. I think we would all be happier without them. So where do they come from and how can we eliminate them?

One of the primary sources of these annoying bites is a lack of standardized print terminology. Of course, we have many standard terms used across the print and mail industry, but many have slightly different meanings among different groups and sectors. Considering the fact that printing has been around since well before the United States was even a country, and the countless technological advances since the industrial revolution, it’s no wonder we have a massive vocabulary specific to our industry. Those outside our industry may even say it sounds like a different language.

You would think something like ‘piece size’ would be very clear. However, the meaning of the term ‘piece size’ tends to change depending on what step of the process is being considered. It could be the ‘finished folded’ piece size, the ‘finished flat’ piece size, or the ‘unfinished flat’ piece size. If you ask a graphic design artist to “add bleeds,” you will typically get a layout that is ⅛” oversized on each edge or a ¼” larger in height and width over the finished flat piece size. For the print and finishing groups, they will add at least ⅛” or more depending on the equipment when they see bleeds are required. This extends into many areas with overlapping and related terms like doc trim, chop cut, chip out, lockup, and gripper edge. With this lack of standardized print terminology, the confusion is often caused by a term that can be used to define both an attribute of the product and the process. This can lead to making the wrong assumptions on the finer points and details, resulting in inaccurate plans, estimates, schedules, and ultimately costs.

Using Visuals to Account for a Lack of Standardized Print Terminology

So what can we do to combat these challenges in our increasingly complex industry? The old cliché, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” summarizes it well. Visuals are very effective at creating clear definitions that are easily understood by everyone. Utilizing drawings and visuals will improve the planning phase of your project by clarifying definitions. It helps flesh out underlying assumptions in the visual and can help highlight those differences. This becomes even more impactful when the visuals are layered to highlight the personalized copy. It’s important to note that the effectiveness of the visuals will depend on the level of accuracy and detail used during their creation. As I noted in my previous post, small changes can either lead to large costs or large savings.

Creating a visual or set of visuals that clearly highlights and matches your requirements during the planning phase of the project can provide many benefits. And to take it a step further, you can use the visuals to create an actual sample. Armed with the visuals and a sample, you will be able to eliminate a great deal of risk caused by making assumptions. This will improve your estimate accuracy and reduce costly change orders, delays, and rework that can plague all stages of the job or project.

Communication is the Key to Great Results

At IWCO Direct, we utilize our design templates along with mock-up samples to improve our planning and estimating. This is especially beneficial when reviewing new or complex products. We are able to identify areas of concern that need further clarification and then resolve them during the planning phase. This provides the opportunity to eliminate costly impacts on production.

It isn’t realistic to think that our industry will agree on standardized print terminology; if anything it’s becoming more complex. But we will continue to do our part and help reduce questions and confusion through the use of visuals. The added time and energy required in the early planning stages pays dividends on the back end. Next time, make sure you ask for a drawing and a sample!

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2017/01/27/accounting-for-lack-of-standard-print-terminology/
Matt Shanahan


Matt Shanahan

Director R&D/Production Engineering and graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Bringing the philosophy of “anything is possible with the right planning and resources” to IWCO Direct for over a decade. A sports and outdoor enthusiast, two of his greatest passions are the Metropolis Rugby Club and hiking with his family.

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