getting working files from graphic designers?

bcr

Well-known member
I'm not sure if this is in the correct sub forum, so apologies if not.

In short, my organisation contracts out a lot of graphic design work. Normally this is contracted out to external printers for printing.

We have an in-house repro and we're dipping our toes in printing some of the booklets etc in house.

Problem is we only ever have a PDF from the designer which might not be set up properly for us to print, or there may be errors which need to be fixed. Or we don't even receive the version for printing and just get a digital copy intended for use online.

I was wondering if it's normal/acceptable practice to stipulate with a graphic designer that they supply you with their working files, so that you can export them with your own desired settings, and fix errors, or whether there is a simpler way of handling this? On the other hand I get that the designers might think you want to re-work their files to create new content and cut them out.

I'm very ignorant about PDF standards and pre-press etc, and what we should expect to receive to print from. Conscious that I need to learn about that. I've also never used indesign, but one of my colleagues has a licence and I could have a bit of a dabble there.

Thoughts and advice much appreciated.
 

chriscozi

Well-known member
About the design files:
If the designers are on 'contract' for products then you definitely need to stipulate the product. (files)
If they are 'hourly' or 'salary' you should 'own' their work product.
This is not true everywhere. IANAL. (I am not a lawyer)
About 'using' an employees license to INDD - BAD idea speaking as someone who loathes Adobe.
-> Do NOT forget to license Pitstop Pro.
And 'dabbling' in file output is asking for disaster.
Been doing this since '96 and if you really want to take a significant risk with generating unacceptable output without training - go for it.
Sigh.
At least take an online courses in color management.
And then you'll spend $2k for the software you'll need. (Adobe, Pitstop, Etc.)
Then be ready to deal with constant file issues - even WITH the 'native' files from your designers.
:)
 

bcr

Well-known member
About the design files:
If the designers are on 'contract' for products then you definitely need to stipulate the product. (files)
If they are 'hourly' or 'salary' you should 'own' their work product.
This is not true everywhere. IANAL. (I am not a lawyer)
About 'using' an employees license to INDD - BAD idea speaking as someone who loathes Adobe.
-> Do NOT forget to license Pitstop Pro.
And 'dabbling' in file output is asking for disaster.
Been doing this since '96 and if you really want to take a significant risk with generating unacceptable output without training - go for it.
Sigh.
At least take an online courses in color management.
And then you'll spend $2k for the software you'll need. (Adobe, Pitstop, Etc.)
Then be ready to deal with constant file issues - even WITH the 'native' files from your designers.
:)

Thanks for this! I think colour management training is definitely high on the agenda!

The designers are all external businesses so we're specifying a product like you say.

I won't be using any unlicensed software either fwiw..
 

chriscozi

Well-known member
Thanks for this! I think colour management training is definitely high on the agenda!
The color training will help you learn to manage your software and devices.
And additionally show you gaps in your current processes.
I would tread lightly with changes in your processes until you determine WHY things are the way they are.
As you use outside vendors they will have processes in place to manage your files, hopefully.
Just my 2¢. YMMV.
 
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kslight

Well-known member
We get files from all sorts of folks - a freelance designer, marketing company, in house, etc. In a perfect world I would just get a print ready pdf and never touch the native files or never make corrections to their pdf. I’ll let you know if that day ever comes. I often receive native files along with a pdf (though I’d greatly prefer just a print ready pdf most of the time), and never have to use the native files…but it saves everyone time to avoid requesting new files if I can just make the change myself (and bill for the correction).


Since you’re contracting the work out, just stipulate to the designer the kind of files you prefer and expect. It shouldn’t be a big deal to get the native files if that’s what you want to work with.
 
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bcr

Well-known member
The color training will help you learn to manage your software and devices.
And additionally show you gaps in your current processes.
I would tread lightly with changes in your processes until you determine WHY things are the way they are.
As you use outside vendors they will have processes in place to manage your files, hopefully.
Just my 2¢. YMMV.

thank you.
honestly - we don't really have processes. various people from different departments in different continents just contract out design and print work to external places without any coordination or consistency.

i'm trying to in-source some of the printing now that we have capacity in our repro.

i think if anything me getting more knowledge on what good practice should look like might help to at least build some institutional knowledge about how to do things more consistently, if not necessarily for us to print in-house, but at least to be able to get our previously designed materials re-printed by a shop of our choosing in future..

I know there's a lot of work involved - but every print shop starts somewhere, right?
 

bcr

Well-known member
We get files from all sorts of folks - a freelance designer, marketing company, in house, etc. In a perfect world I would just get a print ready pdf and never touch the native files or never make corrections to their pdf. I’ll let you know if that day ever comes. I often receive native files along with a pdf (though I’d greatly prefer just a print ready pdf most of the time), and never have to use the native files…but it saves everyone time to avoid requesting new files if I can just make the change myself (and bill for the correction).


Since you’re contracting the work out, just stipulate to the designer the kind of files you prefer and expect. It shouldn’t be a big deal to get the native files if that’s what you want to work with.

yeah - this is not a million miles away from us except we have very limited in-house design capacity. there are a couple of people in another department who use in-design for publications though and I think i can work with them to try and do some joint training and help each other out. they have a knowledge gap on printing, and i have a big knowledge gap on design and colour management.
 

Dmiller35

Well-known member
As others have said, in an ideal world you'd get a perfect print ready pdf but we all know that doesn't happen. I have clients who will send me work with a great print ready file and then the next day they'll accidentally send me a pdf that's in reader spreads with no bleeds. That aside, when requesting work you should be able to request a standard whether that is print ready pdfs or packaged indesign files. When that's outside your control, just try to be clear to the client about what you need. In the end, the only thing you're trying to do is to get them the best product and most people understand that. Of course there are always those exceptions.
 

lenasal

Member
Problem is we only ever have a PDF from the designer which might not be set up properly for us to print, or there may be errors which need to be fixed. Or we don't even receive the version for printing and just get a digital copy intended for use online.

I was wondering if it's normal/acceptable practice to stipulate with a graphic designer that they supply you with their working files, so that you can export them with your own desired settings, and fix errors, or whether there is a simpler way of handling this? On the other hand I get that the designers might think you want to re-work their files to create new content and cut them out.
In my previous years as a designer, not only was it normal practice, but I did, and still do, expect to have settings, templates, and all print specifications from a printer before I set up a job. If I don't get those at the outset, I will ask for them before I get too deep into a project. I also send a lot of test files to confirm that everything is aligned on both the design side and the production side of the print process. It saves the designer, the agency, the client, and the vendor a lot of wasted time and cost.

In my current position as a production artist, the designer creates the art to vendor specifications, then it comes to me to review and pre-flight before it goes to the vendor. I'm always amazed what I see in files that were set up to "vendor specifications", but still need a lot of fixing.

As a designer and production artist, I have no problem submitting packaged art files, however if a vendor is going to re-work the files, I always ask why. Unless it's a simple change, I prefer to re-work the files myself and re-submit.

I've never had a vendor complain when I ask questions or submit test files. Problems only arise when I can't get the information I need, then I submit the files, THEN I am told that I didn't do such-and-such, or that they wanted it this-way-or-that.
 

tngcas

Well-known member
Problems only arise when I can't get the information I need, then I submit the files, THEN I am told that I didn't do such-and-such, or that they wanted it this-way-or-that.
I will sometimes ask for a sample file first if a customer is using words in their email that I know are frequently confused. For example: A lot of customers will use the word brochure when they mean a fold and staple booklet. It saves everyone time if I don't send an explanation of what I need that doesn't make any sense to the customer and just confuses them. Before you say "but I'm an experienced designer and know what I'm talking about" - maybe 10% of the experienced designers are actually easy to work with. The rest don't know where the stupid checkbox is to export from indesign with the bleeds included (why doesn't indesign make this the DEFAULT setting for print exports).
 

keith1

Well-known member
I like to hire designers for prepress positions and watch them realize how little they actually knew about commercial printing . . .
Many have never set foot inside a real print shop. Copy shops don't count.
When I took a course in film assembly, learning camera work and all the cool things that are done on computer now, such as outlines, drop shadows & so on (i'm not old ;) part of the course included field trips to a pre-press shop and a couple large print shops. I think that should be compulsory with graphic design type courses. As far as I know it's pretty rare.
 

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