Preflight checks: The designers checklist before print

The following article is by Rob Steele – for the Roller banner stands team

Just as a surgeon prepares to operate, a number of checks have to be made to make sure there are no serious problems.

To preflight correctly it is a case of checking all of your projects components to make sure they pass the checklist to finally go to print. Normally the prepress printers personnel will check the files before they are sent to the rip, but it is good practice for graphic designers to preflight their own work so they don’t have the printers emailing or calling them up to rectify the problems.
Adobe indesign has a great built in preflight tool, I would advise this software for preflight checks on its own. You will still need to check the work with a checklist, Indesign has a links panel where files can be checked quickly for RGB imagery (the usual problem).

The common causes of errors is layout issues, hairline rules, elements not butting up to each other leaving horrid gaps.

Images – Another problem area, most newbie designers forget to convert their graphics to CMYK rather than RGB, are the photos low resolution (72dpi), any of these elements will flag up errors to be corrected before printing.

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Color spaces – Are your colours converted to CMYK? Is RGB used on any elements? Does your file contain pantone specific colours that need to be converted to CMYK colour mode?

The Adobe Indesign preflight tools

With Adobe Indesign preflight tools there is no excuse for any designers not to preflight.

Overprint – Indesign has a overprint previewer, you can preview on-screen elements that are set to overprint to avoid overprint errors when it goes to press. Overprint  is used to create a colour trap area where colours are adjacent to avoid white gaps showing up on the press. This tool will show you any problems before it gets to the press, basically you will see what the press sees but on screen. (Click – view – overprint preview)

Flattener – useful tool for displaying which fonts will be created to outline when the file is flattened (Window>Output>Flattener Preview and Window>Flattener Preview) The drop down box have several options, simply click the drop down to preview any transparent objects on a page.

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Live Preflight – Live Preflight (Window>Output>Preflight), does exactly what it says on the tin, it is to to alert designers of problem that may arise before the print process. Live preflight can be set to alert the designer as he/she works so errors or issues can be rectified instantly on the fly.

Print marketing tips

marketingtipsIf your printing business is struggling in the era of website promotion, look at my top tips below to achieve success.

Ordering online – sounds the simple option but it really does make a difference to your customers, majority of customers don’t have time to call or email and want a simple quick solution for their printing needs. Only today I was searching for business cards online and came across a few top sites only to find no online facility. Online ordering functionality can achieve huge orders if done correctly.

Online ordering will increase the number of hours your business is open and make it quicker for people to order when they want to and not dictated by office hours.

Don’t try to compete with the competition – As a small business I am only to aware that trying to compete with larger businesses is hard work and cuts into your profit margins.

Try to avoid competing and offer your customers a different sales technique, what can you offer your customers that the cheaper companies don’t.

Extra services – Print is an important part of your business, try to offer your customers a new service. If you offer Roller banner stands printing, add other related items to the services.

Business network – Avoid targeting online on its own and network in your local area, get out and talk to local businesses about your services and how you can help them. Networking will build brand awareness, is good for local PR and increases your business profile.

Date restricted e-mail marketing – Collect email addresses from your customer, ask permission and send out regular e-shots with date restrictions to encourage spending.

Designing a banner, roller banner or large format poster

hand_mouse.jpg&colour=ffffffGraphic design is a vast subject, it takes many years to master this art with so many different Medias and applications. To a new comer as I well know it can be very exhausting trying to find not only creative inspiration but also the knowledge of using the software tools.

This article will hopefully help budding new designers or even experienced designers in search of that extra knowledge. Below are some tips how to design for large format, roller banners and billboards.

Use large fonts for headlines in main titles, the title is the main heading and is usually the first point of contact with potential customers. There are two main things to consider with headlines;

  1. Make the headline provocative, it should entice the reader to read further and digest the rest of the content. Try to avoid confusing or over elaborate fonts, you don’t want readers to struggle with headlines.
  2. Ask questions of the readers to encourage interaction with you, for example have you seen a headline like; Graphic designers required, whereas a headline
    Do you want to be a graphic design?
    Is more of a leading question to entice the reader to get in contact.

Designs your graphics at high resolution make sure you export your files as 300dpi (dots per inch). When designing for large format roller banners or hoardings you can create your file at ¼ of the size to ease the use of Photoshop. A very large file in Photoshop can take huge timescales to save down or export. ¼ size files can also be up scaled in resolution to 400dpi to allow for increases to sizes.

Use colour mode CMYK, why use CMYK? Because this is the standard 4-colour process for printing mode. RGB is only used for screen purposes such as web design and graphics that are only viewed on a computer screen. Keep your memory free, using Photoshop layers can clog up the computer memory, it is good code of practice to delete any unused layers or graphics that you are not using. I have fallen in the trap of duplicating image layers only to find I have duplicated it a few times with a large image on each layer as 50mb each. This can cause issues with saving and sometimes crashes Photoshop so beware of unused or duplicated layers.

How to use social media for business

Using social media is one of the easiest forms of marketing available today, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to name a few are relatively easy to set up and reach potential new customers.

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Facebook started off in the early days as simple social tool, users would post photos, write posts and generally chit chatter socially in groups. It didn’t take a scientist to realise that Facebook has a huge potential in marketing business, pages were launched and business profiles built for businesses.

Twitter

Twitter was also predominately used as a social tool, friends and family tweeting posts, news and gossip with ease. It can be used as a powerful marketing tool, not necessarily to sell products but more as a brand awareness tool. Twitter is a great way to keep customers up to date on what you are doing as a business. You can tweet offers or send latest news about what is happening in the trade.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is another powerful social media tool when used correctly, Twitter and Facebook was invented for social purposes unlike LinkedIn which was designed for businesses. LinkedIn is the ideal tool for businesses to reach potential customers or simply raise your brand.

Play it safe

Using social media is great for business but use carefully assume your clients are seeing everything you are posting, make sure to keep your personal and business social media separate the last thing you want is a client seeing what a great weekend you had letting your hair down in the local pub. Post only business news and be professional always when using links or external websites.

These social media tools are extremely powerful ways to communicate with clients or prospects. To make use of these networks it does take time and effort but the rewards will follow once the leads come in and doors open for your business.

How to increase your websites conversion rates?

website_conversionsIs your website working for your business? Do you find customers reach your site but never complete orders or you receive emails about problems with the website? Below are some useful tips to help your website achieve great conversion success.

Google Analytics

It’s a great and very powerful tool, and best of all it’s free, yes free! Google analytics has been used by web marketers for many years, it can track basic visits to detailed journeys from customers. Google also offers ecommerce tracking facilities, you can track shoppers from when they first land on the site to which products they visit. Grab a copy through your Gmail account, if you don’t have one set one up.

Tracking with Clickheat

Click heat is a free heat map statistics tool, great tool to show you where your visitors travel on your site. Do they miss the registration button or cannot find the add to cart and checkout buttons.

Click Mapping helps provide an invaluable insight into what your site traffic do and what they are thinking.

Survey’s and feedback
No one knows better than the customer about your site and what they found useful or an annoyance.

Don’t be afraid to ask customers for feedback, they can help give valuable information about what works and doesn’t work.

Study your competition

Seems obvious, study your successful competitors what they do well and copy it. Use their good points and improving the bad is a good strategy in the short-term.

Top sellers landing pages
If you have a list of top sellers create a specific landing page for them. People will feel reassured knowing that other customers have bought the product they have interest in.

Call to action

Place Telephone numbers and email addresses predominately on every page not just on your contact us page. Customers feel safer knowing if there is a problem they can simply drop you a line or send an email, although nine times out of ten customers tend to use contact forms rather than call.

Powerful marketing tips for the small business

pwfulmarkMarketing needn’t be rocket science or indeed anything to be scared of, to get the word about you just need to be a little creative.

Rob Steele – marketer for roller banners looks at some of the best tips.

Fully integrated marketing techniques – Try varying your marketing don’t get stuck in a rut by employing just one. Social media, press adverts, press releases and classified adverts.

Communicate with potential customers in different ways will help to keep the potential customers digest your marketing and not find it tedious.

Create customer loyalty – When a customer purchases a product, strike while the iron is hot and send them an offer or discount. Thank the customer for their business and offer a discount with expiry date to encourage a spend.

Direct mail – some businesses or marketers think this is old school marketing but in my opinion it works even today. Produce a nice designed leaflet or flyer and mail it out to your customers. Why not send your customers a brochure whilst sending the product, saves on postage and could increase further spend.

E-news – Cheapest option there is for marketing, sending customers e-shots to the subscribed email address keeps them in touch and can also increase repeat visits to your website. Add a subscribe form to your website home page, add an offer if they sign up today to encourage sign ups.

Go social media – keep your brand in front of the customer each time you have a new product or service to offer, tweet regular and keep followers in touch with your brand.

Go easy though on how much tweeting and face booking as it might become annoying.

Gumtree – advertise on gumtree, its free and has lots of free traffic. Gumtree also ranks high in google searches.