One of the greatest challenges in any organization is education. The need for education about color quality runs the gamut from internal client services teams to external designers. A comprehensive education program has never been more important. With the advent of easily accessible desktop publishing tools like InDesign and Photoshop, large numbers of people are creating print pieces without a lot (or even any) of the formal training and understanding of color that was required of print professionals in the past. Couple that with a sales force that has been selling lithography print for decades and who suddenly has to consider all of the pros and cons of digital print, and it becomes clear that education has never been more essential.
Who Needs the Education?
Where does one start on this journey of color quality education? The initial focus needs to be your internal teams. If your own teams are not up to speed, how are you going to get your clients up to speed? Your sales force needs to understand how this new digital technology differs from the lithography print they have been selling for many years. How are brand colors affected by different stocks and technologies? Client services needs to understand how different stocks will affect the color, and how different run speeds will affect production. Marketing should understand how to sell the benefits of certifications like G7 and process control as a value add. Prepress needs to understand any special color management requirements needed to support your inkjet equipment.
Then there are the people providing the files to you. Do you have design guidelines in place? Do you have packages for your current press standards in place, including .icc profiles and Adobe Color Settings with instructions on how to install and use them? When questions about color quality come up from your clients, who answers those questions? Clients are looking to you to educate them on the needs of your company regarding color. Most want to do the right thing. They just need you to show them how.
Common Education Needs
Where is the greatest need for color education? Several areas come to mind:
The Effect Stock Will Have on Color
One of the biggest challenges I see across the board is a general lack of understanding of how certain paper types will affect the color quality. Since most designing is currently done from the default color settings in the Adobe Creative Suite, there is a disconnect from what the designer is seeing on the screen and the color that is going to print on the paper, especially on uncoated/offset stocks. We get questions all the time as to why the printed piece on offset stock does not match their Pantone 293 Coated swatch. We have spent considerable time training our staff on the differences that stock can make on meeting clients’ expectations. By providing both coated and uncoated proofs, we are better able to show clients what their printed piece is going to look like.
Part of this is also managing expectations about how stock choices affect brand colors. Clients who have only seen PDFs of their art may not understand how their brand color is going to look on different stocks, especially uncoated. Proper education on how Pantone colors appear on coated and uncoated stocks is of critical importance.
The Effect Technology Will Have on Color
Piggybacking off how brand colors look on different paper stocks is how different printing technology affects colors, especially brand colors. Some clients have only seen their designs as a PDF or their brand colors as swatches in a coated Pantone guide. Transitioning to uncoated stock or digital can be a challenge that requires education to help overcome the color disparities. Making sure everyone in the supply chain understands that spot colors printed on uncoated stocks will be matching uncoated Pantone libraries is critical. In the digital realm, where spot colors are often printed as four-color, this requires even more education. While inkjet or other digital print can offer many advantages over lithography print, properly educating the client on how color behaves differently in the two environments is important.
Benefits of Print Standards and G7
As has been discussed in several articles before this (see links below), Print Standards and G7 can play a large part in stability and consistency of printed pieces across multiple substrates and technologies. Sales and client services should be able to articulate those benefits and use them as a value add for the organization. IWCO Direct has done extensive training with our staff on print standards and G7, as well as educating our customers on how it will positively affect their final product.
One of the best ways to manage customer expectations is through education, both internally with sales and client services, and externally directly with clients. Putting together a dedicated education program and doing regular training and refreshers can be a key building block to your success.
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Mike Todryk is a Color Technical Specialist for IWCO Direct. He has more than 20 years of printing industry experience and has specialized in Color Management for the last 18.