Interview – Luke Brown

Published:  January 7, 2013

Luke Brown explains how he started out in the industry and shares his favourite print finish.

What was it that sparked your love of print design?
My dad was a graphic designer for a small publishing company, mainly designing catalogues, posters, books and CD jackets. I remember being very little and visiting him after school, hanging around his office, looking at what he was doing and thinking it was great. There was a sense of craftsmanship and since then I’ve always loved print design; it’s something tangible, something that you can feel, collect and cherish.

What is your favourite print finish?
I’ve always been a sucker for blind embossing, like braille; it invites a sense of feel and a readership into its forms.

How do you determine when a particular effect is right for the project?
To be honest, I think a lot of the time designers will try to employ a fancy finish so it looks good in their folios, whether or not it’s necessary for the client. Just as often a client will ask for some foil or finish because they want the visual eye candy injected into their work without asking if it’s right for the brief or even necessary. I guess you have to ask yourself, “Does it enhance the messaging or does it cover it up?” A designer should use a finish or printing effect as a vehicle for the underlying brand values, essence and personality. If they are well-paired, you should feel safe in the knowledge it’s right for the job.

Estelle Deve branding

Estelle Deve branding stamp

Where do you find inspiration for print finishes and processes?

Working closely with a printer helps, getting their advice and access to a healthy sample and stock library. A lot of the time, finishes and processes are determined by the client’s budget, so that generally narrows it down.

How do you choose a printer, and how closely do you work with them on a project?
Again, printers can be determined by budgets, but generally I try to work with smaller printers who focus in one area as a speciality. Also working with local Australian printers and building a strong relationship is invaluable, they teach you things and keep you informed of new methods, techniques and stocks. Keeping it local is also good for Australia as a whole. I’ve had a great, ongoing relationship with Taylord Press in Melbourne, who genuinely care about design and print.

Do printers and designers speak the same language? How do you think we can better communicate with each other to ensure great outcomes?
I think these days they do; you’ll find a lot of printers really excited by projects and wanting to achieve the best result for everyone involved. I frequently work with speciality printers and generally they are smaller operations, so lines of communication are clearer.

How do you go about making selections for finishes? What qualities are you looking for in speciality stocks and inks?
It’s about the particular qualities. Generally I ask, “What does the finish or technique say?” and “Is this message aligned to the brief?” I also consider how well-aligned the finish is to the brand values and personality. We have to get to the heart of its purpose. If everything checks out, then I am satisfied it is the right process.

Reuben Hills stationery

Reuben Hills stamp

How do you bring a client to the party in terms of cost?
This can be tricky, but largely it’s about explaining to the client how that technique or finish enhances their core values and that if they want market cut-through, it’s techniques like these that are going to provide it for them. More often than not though, budget trumps additional finishes and printing techniques.

This is where we have to be creative in finding interesting solutions that work within the financial constraints.

As designers, we work largely in the digital environment, so how do you begin to conceptualise a print project?
Dimension and materiality should be considered before you start designing. Question the physicality before initiating the digital. What stock have you chosen? Have you thought about this before selecting a typeface or colour palette? Are you aware of a loss of sharpness, type scalability, any bleeding or fading? These questions will help inform a lot of your design decisions. How people handle the piece will affect things such as margins, cropping and what inks you use. Considering how is it mailed, stored or displayed will inform your decisions about scale and depth. These are just a few considerations. There are many, many more ‘physicality related’ questions to ask yourself before you pick up the tools.

What’s the most memorable mistake you’ve made on a print job, and what have you learned from that mistake?
Oh God, easy. I once cost a studio I was working for as a junior a rather large sum of money. The client approved the print roll-out based off screen proofs, where the main colour was a Pantone spot orange. When they received the artwork, they were shocked that it was a blood red orange and not a peachy orange.

Moral of the story, always get the client to approve a physical spot sample, not a screen proof! Everyone’s monitors are calibrated differently, especially between Mac and PC. Little did I know that orange was also the hardest colour to print match. My Pantone book now sits and will always sit within arm’s reach.

Thumbnail: Estelle Deve branding.

One Response

  1. I’ve seen that mistake been made before! (And am ashamed to admit, have done it myself too!)

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