Are Younger Designers Unaware of Local Printing and Support?

By | May 25, 2014

I have been stirring the pot around LinkedIn, asking questions related to digital print quality and particularly graphic designers’ and print buyers’ perceptions of what digital is capable of producing. While there are designers and print buyers who understand the full capabilities of digital production, there is still notable misperception that digital still offers more of a quick-print-quality output.

As part of those discussions, Stu Leventhal, president of Lexicon Communications (New York City) and adjunct professor – Graphic Design/Production at the Fashion Institute of Technology, made an interesting comment that I’d like to get your comments on here.

It is no secret that, in most cases, designers are not taught production in design school anymore. Consequently, young graduates may not understand the differences between production processes or even between Pantone and CMYK. They are learning on the job, and especially early in their careers, may not know the questions to ask to understand why some jobs are outputting well and others are not.

In this context, Leventhal pointed out that because younger designers often spec their print online, they may not know what they don’t know; and because they are disconnected from the process, they don’t realize that if they’d work with someone locally, they could have a partner who really invests in their education (and, consequently, their ability to output a much better quality job).

The unspoken issue today is that many young designers just know the online resources. They don’t even think to use someone local – or where there is a real person to help and advise.

So young designers may not know what they don’t know, and if they are outputting junk, they may not realize that it doesn’t have to be that way. That doesn’t benefit anyone — including the designer. This spotlights the need to encourage designers to tap into the expertise of local providers and to intensify education efforts among young designers.

Anyone have experience with this? Want to share?

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8 thoughts on “Are Younger Designers Unaware of Local Printing and Support?

  1. Thad Kubis

    My research indicates that the creative world has an incorrect understanding of print, printing and related verticals. There is a need for this market to be presented with the true value of printing, print and related verticals. Not only from the application side but from the impact printing, print etc., have on the results of the creative and design effort. My research indicates that just about half of those surveyed want to learn more, beyond techniques and about half don’t really care. What was more surprising is that just more than half of the creative or print managers did not want their design teams to be fluent in print and the use of printing, since they felt it opens the door to creativity that is not affordable, complicates their jobs and in the end transfers too much control to the creative.
    I have completed a well recieved introduction to a book on this subject but have not been able to gain sponsors to support the next stage of development.


  2. Simon Eccles

    When I was doing a full time print technology and management course in the late 1970s, our college department also ran “Design for print” courses for creatives. Those are long gone, and the old print colleges in the UK are mostly now “media departments,” for which read “web and video courses.”

    It’s a pity, because new print technologies are broadening the creative and marketing scope of printing tremendously. Think of digital for short runs, one-offs and personalisation, plus large format and UV inks that can print on practically any substrate.

    Sadly printers are notoriously bad at self-marketing, while the “creative” design magazines (print or online) seem to consider print is passé or at best a sort of woodblock based novelty item. So real-world examples of the exciting potential of today’s latest print processes just aren’t being transmitted to today’s new designers.

  3. vkellie

    Mr. Leventhal makes a much understood point (that most involved with print projects from inexperienced designers do experience firsthand) — the lack of actual print production education in design schools. The question is then, how can print production professionals help in resolving this issue; or maybe more explicitly, what should the print industry’s role be in helping to resolve this “educational” issue? As Mr. Kubis points out in his research, over half the “young” designers have a strong desire to learn (or at least be marginally aware), of how to better effect their design work specifically for print production. If the “design schools” do not provide this form of education — then who? There are very few resources available (and I will give kudos to book projects like “Real World Print Production for Adobe Creative Cloud”) for the young graduate designer to learn about “bleeds” and “resolution” and such “print-specific” instruction. And even less resources of this type on-line, where a young designer really spends the bulk of their time (as Mr. Leventhal points out)…In the end, these young designers will work with what they enjoy and understand…it only behooves the print industry, as a whole, to ensure that the resources designers need for print-specific design are made available to them.

  4. Joel Powers

    I’m fortunate enough to have transitioned from the pressroom (5 years as lead pressman) to prepress and then a designer, so I’m speaking from that background…

    As a pressman, I was furious, the way pressmen can be sometimes, at prep for giving me jobs arranged on the sheet in such a way that I would then fight ghosting or hickies all day. I would have to run the job so far out of normal parameters that I had to spend a whole shift to run a job that should have taken 2 or 3 hours.

    So I started to work in prep, because I wanted to help fix the problem. That’s when I found out how difficult the job can be when designers send their junked up files.

    Then I became a designer – which is what I really wanted anyway – and determined that I would never commit the sins designers don’t seem to realize they commit.

    The answer to the problem is that designers need to care enough about their work that they seek out places like digitalnirvana. PrintWiki,, etc. If they want their designs to reproduce properly, they should know about these resources. After all, if they design for screens, they’re all over the blogs and podcasts that cover that medium, right?

  5. Patti Worden

    Advanced Color Graphics does a company tour and Q&A for the visual communications design class at Penn State every year. The students are in general genuinely interested in the production – paper, press and bindery – more so than the prepress file aspect. I think that given the opportunity and seeing real-world work, most young designers would at least seek out a printer as a resource before taking on a print project. Maybe we should create virtual tours on our print websites 😉

  6. Craig Bower

    Having taught in a technical college setting for 11 years, there is no mistaking that design students who also learn printing techniques and theory are better designers and more successful long term. I have seen it over the years, and knowledge of print is not only needed for great design, its needed for great print as well.

    Sadly, many students just dont understand the need to learn about print regardless of their focus. I’m a creative professional with 25+ years of print experience, and that knowledge pays off EVERY day in my work.

    I do my best to teach the new design students coming up the importance of print and to their career. I’m just one person, but hopefully we can turn this concept around and bring print back as a skill that designers have.

  7. Richard Gwyn

    What a well-done piece on a rather involved subject. My learning days started in grade school where we were introduced to a foot operated printing press and I later started as an “apprentice” in and “art studio” in letterpress days. I am so grateful for my learning experience up through the years and the fact that I retained an interest in what happened to the job after it was approved for printing. It certainly has helped when I sit down to design a job. Congratulations to Digital Nirvana.

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