Customer file submission

Macmann

Well-known member
We have an ongoing debate amongst the Prepress team, management, and customers as to how files should be submitted to us. In most cases, we receive Adobe Illustrator files that need a fair amount of massaging to prepare for our process (we are an industrial screen printer). Prepress understands we will need to check for bleeds, trims, trapping, and colors used, fonts-the usual preflight items. Management assumes we are getting perfect press-ready files and is constantly questioning the time needed to prepare the files for production. Customers typically supply files that appear to have been made by a novice. Basic things like objects not aligning...just look it over-zoom up, use spot colors, check your gradients, convert to CMYK mode and use separation preview. So frustrating! WHO is teaching these people? How are they getting degrees in this craft? What are your experiences? Does anyone reject a job until the customer fixes it? I know customer training is in vogue but it is a rare client who will take direction-no one wants to be told their baby is ugly ;-)
 

namelessentity

Well-known member
My boss loves this because we bill for the fixes. Prepress hates it because it's a bunch of awful work that never goes away because our boss would rather bill than educate.

As for where these people are getting degrees; they aren't. They're self taught and laughably bad at it.
 
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Macmann

Well-known member
Oh I get billing for it. We do as well. The gray area we get into is we are now altering their design and "changing their vision". The endless rounds of file submission for their approval creates a time crunch.
 

jwheeler

Well-known member
We have an ongoing debate amongst the Prepress team, management, and customers as to how files should be submitted to us. In most cases, we receive Adobe Illustrator files that need a fair amount of massaging to prepare for our process (we are an industrial screen printer). Prepress understands we will need to check for bleeds, trims, trapping, and colors used, fonts-the usual preflight items. Management assumes we are getting perfect press-ready files and is constantly questioning the time needed to prepare the files for production. Customers typically supply files that appear to have been made by a novice. Basic things like objects not aligning...just look it over-zoom up, use spot colors, check your gradients, convert to CMYK mode and use separation preview. So frustrating! WHO is teaching these people? How are they getting degrees in this craft? What are your experiences? Does anyone reject a job until the customer fixes it? I know customer training is in vogue but it is a rare client who will take direction-no one wants to be told their baby is ugly ;-)
As @namelessentity stated...they often don't have degrees. Or worse yet, those who do have degrees went to a school that didn't really cover the production side of things. I got my bachelor's degree in graphic design, and out of 4 years of classes, there was only 1 class that briefly covered the ideas of file prep. I was fortunate to be working in a print shop while going to school so I learned what happens in pre-press, the pressroom, and bindery/finishing (95% of my career has been around offset presses and digital printing, but I did start off with screen printing). After my class graduated, I had a few colleagues call me over the years asking me to explain PMS colors, bleeds, resolution, CMYK vs RGB, etc because their files were getting returned by printers. I even remember hiring a colleague and having to teach them about trapping.

I've worked in pre-press and eventually promoted to being a manager having more direct contact with the customers, so I know what both sides are going through. To answer your question about managers rejecting jobs/customer fixing it - I don't think there is one specific answer to cover all situations. If I had accounts that were regularly sending orders and they had similar issues, I would take the time to explain how to properly prepare their files - perhaps it was as simple as explaining how to add bleeds or keeping even margins.

If it's a one-off job or first time customer, we'd just fix it so we don't lose the order; sometimes we charged extra - however, every job was already padded with a file preparation fee. If I'm getting files designed in Microsoft office programs or similar novice products, I wouldn't bother trying to train them since they are clearly not a designer - we would just bid the jobs with extra pre-press fees. If the files were made in Adobe products and looked mostly professional, I'd call and give them some pointers. I might tell them we'll fix it this time, but next time there will be a fee.

If you start rejecting every job with an issue, customers will leave you and you'll start getting a reputation as a difficult printer to work with and businesses will decline.
 

gregbatch

Well-known member
Sadly, many of them do have degrees. But it's all about making it look pretty, and very little about the mechanics of print. We give one freebie repair and outline all of the issues that needed our correction. We ask them at that time how they want such problems handled in the future. Do they want us to send it back for their team to correct, or do they want us to do it for $$$ per hour. $$$ = actual time correcting + paying people to stare at the equipment, or rescheduling the job on equipment, etc., although we charge some of that anyway if they do the repair, we don't hit them as hard.
 

kslight

Well-known member
Many of our customers have removed their full time design staff in the last couple years, instead resorting to an overworked receptionist / social media person or one freelancer or another. Very few of our customers provide truly print ready stuff, most requires finesse in some way or another. If I see Adobe files but no bleeds, for example, I try to educate…but half the time “you get what you get” and it’s easier just to bill for time. I have some customers that seemingly do 30% of the job then throw up their hands and expect me to take it over the finish line.
For the most part I do not think schools teach much related to print, so even if they are formally educated it wouldn’t matter. Most of our clients definitely aren’t paying their “design” people enough to justify a college education, I have seen their job openings before and it’s pretty sad.
 

Macmann

Well-known member
Great feedback people-keep up the comments! As jwheeler mentioned, I am afraid we are going to lose business to a management mindset that thinks files must be perfect before we'll accept them.
 

Craig

Well-known member
We tell them what's wrong and if they want us to fix it we bill in 1 hour increments. They didn't want to pay for design service and want us to quote print ready files. We only except PDF's.
 

chriscozi

Well-known member
With apologies to P.E.T. - Parent Effectiveness Training.
Always give the 'child' options. All options achieve YOUR goals.
'Dear Customer, we can generate the files as is and you will have to pay for them as they are and “you get what you get”.
OR
You can trust us and pay us to make the repairs we have noted.
OR
We will be happy to wait for the corrected the files from you.
In all three cases the work will reflect YOUR CUSTOMER'S design and cost decisions.
'Thank you for your business.'
 

namelessentity

Well-known member
We also had a designer on staff that was let go that would constantly complain that he had to "dumb down" his designs for our equipment. It wasn't our equipment that was the issue, it's that he was a web designer, and didn't understand that his designs weren't possible to produce. It'd be like an architect designing something that defies the laws of physics and yelling at the construction worker when they tell him they can't build it.
 

RealX11

Member
You can show the management what you did with a problem file and how much time it took.
Or you can prepare a report. A KPI chart. Bosses love such things. :)

Sample;
If the file comes to me without any problems, I can do 200 jobs a week for you.

If the print-ready file doesn't arrive, I can do 120 jobs per week.
You can give such examples.
Because people who do not know the job will not run out, there will always be.
It would be more appropriate to train and explain the management.
However, it must be done wisely.

PDF files that are not ready for printing cost you so much time and money. With such examples.
 

TJPrinter

Well-known member
We tell them what's wrong and if they want us to fix it we bill in 1 hour increments. They didn't want to pay for design service and want us to quote print ready files. We only except PDF's.
This is how I go about it too. If I can't modify the pdf quickly in Pitstop then it goes back to the customer.

Long ago I had a designer that kept sending files with margins that were almost bleeds. I told her over and over that the gripper will leave marks and I need .25" on either the top or bottom. Finally I lost it and just printed the job with the grippers leaving marks at the lead edge. She finally realized that she had a "ugly baby" and I never had the problem again.
 

RealX11

Member
This is how I go about it too. If I can't modify the pdf quickly in Pitstop then it goes back to the customer.

Long ago I had a designer that kept sending files with margins that were almost bleeds. I told her over and over that the gripper will leave marks and I need .25" on either the top or bottom. Finally I lost it and just printed the job with the grippers leaving marks at the lead edge. She finally realized that she had a "ugly baby" and I never had the problem again.
There is a saying in my country; One misfortune is worth a thousand advice.

That is, instead of constantly saying something, printing out the faulty work he sent and making him understand.
So you did well by doing so. :)
 

lenasal

New member
I got almost all of my software and print production training in the early 90s at a vocational training establishment. After a couple of years of practical work experience, including time in a print-shop where I learned how to burn plates, strip negs, and shoot camera ready art, I went on to art school where the party line was (and still is) "We teach design, not software", which I get - I mean they're educating creatives: designers and art directors. So a lot of the young designers I graduated with had no idea what separations, trapping, or color profiles were all about. What I also found were a lot of very talented older designers who hadn't kept up with technology or software enough to translate their design processes into updated, workable art files. While I am usually hired as a graphic designer or production artist, my career has really been built on my technical and software skills. After more than a couple of decades in this business, I'm now at an agency where most of what I do is look at files and make sure they are print-ready. When there are issues, I really make an effort to educate the designers and teach them how to correctly use the software and create clean files for print, although some days it's almost like giving a history lesson.

But I have a question: I'm assigned to the creative department, which makes sense since I deal with the art files and the designers. However, the persons who get the bids, do the purchasing, and determine the print specs are the ones that communicate directly with the vendors about file set up, then they pass the information on to the designer, who then creates the art and hands it over to me to make sure the file is clean). I've always worked hard to have good working relationships with every vendor's pre-press department, and I've learned a lot from them over the years so it's really weird for me to have to go through a couple of layers of communication to get art set up right. There are rounds and rounds of test files, and back and forth from me to our "production" department, from them to the vendor, then back again. Is this normal practice? Do pre-press departments prefer this kind of workflow? It seems kind of weird that the purchasing dept. does the press checks, not the creatives. Or maybe I'm just being old-school about things...
 

Magnus59

Well-known member
I got almost all of my software and print production training in the early 90s at a vocational training establishment. After a couple of years of practical work experience, including time in a print-shop where I learned how to burn plates, strip negs, and shoot camera ready art, I went on to art school where the party line was (and still is) "We teach design, not software", which I get - I mean they're educating creatives: designers and art directors. So a lot of the young designers I graduated with had no idea what separations, trapping, or color profiles were all about. What I also found were a lot of very talented older designers who hadn't kept up with technology or software enough to translate their design processes into updated, workable art files. While I am usually hired as a graphic designer or production artist, my career has really been built on my technical and software skills. After more than a couple of decades in this business, I'm now at an agency where most of what I do is look at files and make sure they are print-ready. When there are issues, I really make an effort to educate the designers and teach them how to correctly use the software and create clean files for print, although some days it's almost like giving a history lesson.

But I have a question: I'm assigned to the creative department, which makes sense since I deal with the art files and the designers. However, the persons who get the bids, do the purchasing, and determine the print specs are the ones that communicate directly with the vendors about file set up, then they pass the information on to the designer, who then creates the art and hands it over to me to make sure the file is clean). I've always worked hard to have good working relationships with every vendor's pre-press department, and I've learned a lot from them over the years so it's really weird for me to have to go through a couple of layers of communication to get art set up right. There are rounds and rounds of test files, and back and forth from me to our "production" department, from them to the vendor, then back again. Is this normal practice? Do pre-press departments prefer this kind of workflow? It seems kind of weird that the purchasing dept. does the press checks, not the creatives. Or maybe I'm just being old-school about things...
As a Prepress operator, I would much rather have direct contact with the people creating the files, but that's rarely the case, there are a bunch of people in between who will do everything they can to prevent that direct contact, I suspect it's a self preservation thing. This means that I mostly have to go through our CSR, who will then go to the purchaser, the process may go through a couple more layers and eventually get to the creatives. I do try to shortcut this system whenever I happen to have contact details for the creatives.
The other thing that happens is that I will advise our CSRs that a file doesn't meet requirements and give them a summary of the problems, I will tell them what we can fix and the time required.
They will then go to our internal design department, get them to fix the files and come back to me with a "new file" thinking I'm too dumb to know it's been doctored by our designer, a quick check on the designer's folder on the server usually confirms this. This means the design dept gets bogged down doing Prepress fixes instead of their own work, and the customer keeps on supplying the same incorrect files because nobody is telling them there's a problem.
 

Macmann

Well-known member
Thanks for all the replies-PrintPlanet is the best! lenasal your experiences mirror my own. It appears there may be a consulting opportunity for someone like myself who is at the tail end of their career. There seems to be a never-ending supply of designers who know jack diddly about prepress. Not sure why management is always so reluctant to allow a prepress jockey to speak to the designers? It's been this way since I got into this in 1989 :-/
 

xmoles

Active member
Thanks for all the replies-PrintPlanet is the best! lenasal your experiences mirror my own. It appears there may be a consulting opportunity for someone like myself who is at the tail end of their career. There seems to be a never-ending supply of designers who know jack diddly about prepress. Not sure why management is always so reluctant to allow a prepress jockey to speak to the designers? It's been this way since I got into this in 1989 :-/
I don't understand it either, but I can say that when I have the chance to talk to a designers I have the feeling that they are grateful.
 

chriscozi

Well-known member
I don't understand it either, but I can say that when I have the chance to talk to a designers I have the feeling that they are grateful.
In my experience there is a not irrational fear of several possible occurrences.
1. The 'customer/designer' getting annoyed - possibly subconsciously - that their work is considered less than acceptable regardless of attempts to convince them it is 'just technical issues' and they take their work elsewhere.
2. The 'customer/designer' gets frustrated and disbelieves prepress so they take their work elsewhere - we often hear 'but the other shop printed it just fine.'
3. The CSR can't control the direction and scope of the job specs when a designer and prepress are 'in cahoots.' This leads to them to controling the 'cahooting.'
4. The CUSTOMER has the same issues as the CSR but instead of worrying about production they are worried about cost and result.

These are some of the issues I can raise just in the 5 minutes it took to type this. ;-)
YMMV
 

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