Are Design Proofs important?
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Fred Fleury

Are Design Proofs Important

First of all, most of you may understand the term proofing however many would be wondering what proofing actually is.

Within the education sector, you would recognise this “proof reading”, reading your work to find any possible errors as part of your draft or final copy. Once you have proofed your work, you would be ready to present it or hand it in as you are confident that your work is full of errors.

Graphic Designers in the Creative Industry actually create artwork based on or around your brand, your ideas or your competitors. Either way, once they have a concept, they send the drafts to the originator to get proofed in order to reduce the number of errors in imaging, content and copyright. Designers are trained to come up with lots of good creative imaging and content! Designers do also have a creative mindset, allowing them to come up with concepts and ideas specific to their personal experience or interests. A good designer will have an amazing ability to come up with concepts from any angle. Their training is however specific to the creation and application of ideas, they are not part of the “arts” and not necessarily trained in “language” or “academia”. A lot of designers do have a lot of good ideas related to creativity however copyrighting, grammar, English and spelling are not their forte and they rely on you or a member of their team to Proof their work too.

Due to this reliance, the creative industry hires content writers and copyrighters as their creativity is with language, not artwork, design or imaging. These professionals ensure that their content adds the wow factor in their marketing but also ensures that it is grammatically correct and captures the essences of its audience.

Suppose, you want to make a corflute sign. A creative studio will employ a number of professionals to complete a marketing campaign and will focus on colours, designs, legality, content, text, grammar, copyright and more. These departments and professional do not however know or understand the Printing Industry where artwork created simply gets printed. There is a whole new step in the process which is specific to the printing professionals: Prepress…

Once your artwork is ready (Or you think it is ready), depending on where you send it, they will require a different method to make the artwork “Print Ready”. Many factors come into play; which substrate or media you are using, which print methodology you are using, local or overseas, digital or traditional (Lithographic, Flexographic, Digital, large format, screen, and more)… All these factors affect the way a file should be set up and 99 times out of a 100, the designer has no clue and also could not care less as that is a technical and not a creative element.

At this stage, the printer will provide you information to give to your designer to make the files print ready! Again, 99 times out 100, the designer will tell you that it is not their problem or it is not their skillset because it is a “printer” issue or they will tell you that it is an extra fee to do that.

The printer generally can do the prepress on your designs and will do them if the artwork has sufficient properties to be made print ready! Printers certainly do not have to do this for free as some designs can take hours to make print ready, especially if you are not the “original” designer working on the artwork.

As designers all have their own identity, their own quirks, their own way to build artwork, making a file print ready takes a whole lot of skills in understanding how to dissect a file to ensure it prints to expected levels.

Fact is, when a printer is supplied a file that is properly set up and has no issues at all, the file should be able to be used and sent straight to print for processing. A proof (Soft or Hard copy) would be raised (Does not have to be) to show that what you have supplied as a file is also what is being printed.

When doing large runs of a particular type of print or multiple types of prints in a campaign, it is always recommended to organise a hard proof. A costly and time precious exercise however well worth it in the event there is an error in colour, imaging, content, text or copyright. Hard Proofing can save you thousands as proofing is your last step in the process to ensure everything is 100% correct and to specifications.

If the printer is supplied a file that is not properly set up or has issues with it, the file will generally rejected or manipulated to be print ready! If there is manipulation required, a proof will always be provided to show what has been changed but more so to confirm that what is being printed matches what the customer needs or expects. This Proofing process is in the control of the customer as the printer cannot be held responsible for any errors once it is approved to go to print. The customer is 100% responsible for the approval to go to print and needs to be 100% accountable for their own art.

Some Printers also do have Design Studios Internally! This means that you can go to your Local Printer and get all your design, print, finishing and distribution from the one place. Ultimately, in this scenario, proofing is even more critical however still remains the responsibility of the client to proof and approve.

Customers’ responsibilities

Proofing is evidently pretty simple: Pick up errors. Well, it is not as easy as that… You cannot just glance at a design and quickly provide an authority to print. If you do, and there is an error, it is the customer’s responsibility because they did not take care and time to properly proof the “print ready artwork”. If you do not take care and follow simple steps to ensure your design is error free, and you find an error after the design has been pushed to production, it is then your responsibility and at your cost to reprint if you choose to reprint.

Proofing Steps

First of all, request a High Resolution PDF to ensure that the file is as accurate as possible. This is also called a Digital Proof.

Step 1: Confirm that it is your artwork

Step 2: Check headers, footers, content and copyright for accuracy

Step 3: Check for colour consistency and accuracy

Step 4: Check for non-print information such as die lines, fold lines, printers’ marks, drilled holes, etc…

Step 5: If you are entirely satisfied everything marries up then you can give your authority to print to your printer. If you are >1% unsure, then ask for a Hard Proof so that the printer can produce a single sample so that you can hold it in your hand, share it with others, play with it and make sure that you are purchasing what you expected.

Step 6: Reject or Approve

Not proofing can be very expensive because it is not everyone else’s issue, it is yours as the customer as you are the one approving the process to continue and your products to get printed. Too many times we hear of customers wanting their money back, not wanting to pay for a job because they approved the job and the proof without actually proofing properly. This scenario is not fair on the printer and this also jeopardises the relationship between all parties concerned.

Overall, do your proofing steps carefully and you will not feel the brunt of the cost of a reprint.

In today’s world, there are a lot of resources available online and more often then not, the printers generally provide enough information for customers or designers to understand how critical proofing is. Printers have spent hundreds of thousands, if not millions in getting their terms and conditions of business approved and solicited in order to have cover related to poor practices in proofing.

Some of the leading designing software packages and online designer tools have also got access to hundreds of documents and teaching aids related to proofing. As a customer or a design agency, you should always read the terms of business associated with the proofing step as they are critical to any campaign, small or large.

One such company is Adobe. Their entire platform was built around the Design and Creative Industry. They have everything from Forums, to YouTube Videos, to resource centers, Questions & Answers as well as Live Chat. Their resources are impeccable and easily accessed. The Creative Industry has not changed in a long time but the way the information is accessed is now available by anyone in the industry. Not only is it accurate but it is also relevant. If you want more information about proofing, visit and follow the HELP links or SEARCH Functions in order to access their immense library of resources.

Happy proofing !

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