Print and Learn

Published:  November 24, 2011
Print and Learn

I personally have a keen interest in the development of print knowledge with design students. Much of my time has gladly been dedicated to helping the industry gain a better knowledge and obtain a more commercial understanding of how to work better with printers. When I am presenting, I usually experience this familiar scenario: the presentation begins with a brief introduction of me and my credentials. I start with a visual component – mainly photos of digital print created by some of Sydney’s leading design agencies – and I always minimise as much written material as possible. In this way I am merely showcasing the type of work the students will have the opportunity to produce in the future. The audience’s interest intensifies as I run through the photos. By the end of the presentation, I always allow time for the students to physically inspect some of these items, igniting interest and ideas for their own projects, namely portfolios.

While it’s great for the students to be exposed to such a variety of techniques, there is no point trying to utilise these unless you know how to apply them successfully and, of course, are aware of what sort of costs are associated with these techniques. You have to crawl before you can walk. Where am I headed with all this, you ask? Bear with me and all will become as clear as a spot varnish. Portfolios are an important tool, not only for design students working on their final semester project or graduates going for that first job interview, but also for established design agencies, and freelancers, needing to pitch for new business. Learn how to apply the right technique to your design and you will be heading in the right direction to success. But where do you start? Without stating the obvious, you have to make sure you have something to sing about. Your designs are special and have taken you hours to do. Your work reflects your style and this can influence the way people view and react to your work. Let the graphics work for you. The printed portfolio will only enhance what you have already done. I always ask both students and clients to work out their budget beforehand and not to get carried away with the printed product, as you may actually be missing what it is you are trying to do.

Singer sewn book with French folded pages and red eyeleting - design An Do UTS Final Year design submission 2007


The first step is to figure out what outcome you require. Ensure you let your printer know how much you have allocated in your budget as this will help you stay within the parameters and ensure a smoother production flow. Be aware that even if you need a small quantity, there will still be a set-up cost and the per unit price will reflect this. If you are prepared to pay a fair and reasonable price for your treasured portfolio, credentials and documents, you should have the opportunity to meet with your printer for a consultation and have test prints prepared, resulting in the finished product exceeding your expectations. I always recommend that clients and students show me examples of work they have sourced and like the look of. It provides us with a starting point, which then leads to more inspiration and ideas for a successful outcome.

Another recurring issue I have encountered when presenting to students is the request for a bespoke work of art created in minimal time, with a small budget and unrealistic expectations. My suggestion is to have either your lecturer or a nominated class representative approach your printer, outline each student’s budget and carefully coordinate appropriate time slots, so that the printer can plan production efficiently, and therefore reduce costs.

Printers have a responsibility to help students learn more about the industry – if we take the time to carefully educate and provide guidance, students will have a much better head start in their career. Similarly, if printers help their clients with their tender documents they have a greater chance of increasing their business opportunities. It’s a win/win situation.

Finally, through education and professional guidance, the design community will be kept abreast of all the latest and most innovative resources available.

My advice is to embrace that old school motto of mine: ‘Only effort earns success’, and soon you will reap the rewards.

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