This holiday month, I'm at the tail end of a project that has been in progress since June. It's a longer than usual timeline for a project, but because of all the elements involved, this one requires much preparation. It's the kind of project designers like me love to work on. But because of its high bar, it's also the kind of project that requires a great deal of commitment and attention to detail: checking every detail along the way, often looking at layouts and proofs multiple times with sometimes minor and other times major changes.
This particular project is for a client I have worked with for several years. We’ve done one major print project each year for about seven years now, and every year I'm grateful for the opportunity to spread my design wings and travel to new horizons. And of course I'm riding alongside my client, who has impeccable taste and is willing to push boundaries. The project is a major team effort with multiple parties, so it is much like a dance throughout.
Because of the nature of this project, we always work to create the “wow!” factor. It's the only major printing job that's delivered directly to their target market. Their other marketing is delivered through publicity channels, digital marketing, or smaller print elements like the ads and flyers provided at conferences. The “wow!” factor needed for this annual project has really strong potential for adding greater impact to my client’s overall marketing efforts. The piece we create is something we want people to hang on to, to revisit and/or pass along to others in their lives. So it had better be good!
This year we’re pulling out all the stops—not only with great graphics and photography, but also specialty printing processes like embossing, die cutting, and the addition of what’s called a tip on (a piece that is pre-printed and glued onto another piece). And we're altering the theme slightly from that of recent years, by changing paper and color scheme while maintaining the brand look.
Budget is always something to keep in mind, so this year, in addition to a specialty-printed piece, we are developing a sister piece that has a lower unit cost and fewer bells and whistles while also being impactful. This piece will mail to their larger market of alumni, while the one I like to call the “bling” version will mail to those with the greatest potential for referrals and/or new clients.
A multilevel project such as this requires an ongoing attention to detail from all parties involved. Those parties include not only me and my client’s team members, but also all of the accounting departments of the companies involved. Estimates for the project have to be gathered and sometimes reworked to meet budget constraints until the project is finally approved. During this process, not only is the design for both pieces being developed and refined, but orchestration of all the vendors’ specifications and costs—a dance unto itself—is taking place.
This team effort includes: the paper mill and supplier (paper has to be the right color, thickness, size, quality, price point, and availability within the allotted time frame); the offset printer (they have to be able to manage various processes, color modes, deliveries and pick ups, not to mention multiple print estimates); the specialty printer (who needs to be able to traffic the production of all the specialty processes like making sure the die line, embossing and tip on are all registered to align properly while also having the personnel scheduled to manage the hand assembly in a timely fashion); and lastly the mail house (who needs to estimate the postage and processing fees as well as stay current with the seemingly endless and often changing requirements from the postal service). When you add to that all the proofing that happens along the way beforehand—including design approval after multiple comprehensive layouts, copy proofing, refining photo usage, color and placement, and finally layout and press proof approval followed by a press check—there is no questioning the need for a lot of necessary check points along the way. Inattention to detail and rushing the process, even after several months of developing and refining the project, are NOT an option. Patience during all the months of careful planning ultimately pays off.
After all of the steps along the way, the moment this project rolls out will feel like Christmas morning for the entire team. The suspense and excitement of sharing such a high-achieving, collaborative work are palpable. I look forward to posting the end result on my web site, so please check back in a few weeks! Crafting a memorable design with a positive message is what I love to do!