Quality control: four production tips to make your communications stand out
Times certainly are a-changin’.
During a conversation with Terry a couple of weeks ago about a report we were set to deliver to a client, we came to the realisation that it would be cheaper to create it digitally and present it to them on an iPad than it would be to give them the content in a physical book.
That made me a little sad. I’ve always been a fan of print and while the business benefits of going digital are well documented, there’s something about a beautifully crafted book that’s quite special. Simon has already discussed the immediacy that this digital era promotes – and I think the concept of quality production is at risk as a result of that speed to market.
When people think of production, many assume it refers to video, but it’s much more than that. As Head of Production at The Frameworks, it’s up to me to ensure every piece of communication we create – in any format – is perfect. From ensuring it’s on-brand and fulfils the brief to checking the tiniest details, like making sure text on a page is flawlessly laid out – to the millimetre.
BBH cofounder Sir John Hegarty says that advertising is “20% idea and 80% execution” – and I think that applies to all forms of marketing and communications. How you turn a concept into a reality is equally important as having that vision in the first place. Here are four tips that will ensure your communications stand head and shoulders above the rest.
1. Always ensure there's one last (fresh) set of eyes
All projects at The Frameworks are collaborative by their nature. But when you work so closely on something for a prolonged period of time, you can miss errors as well as opportunities to improve the work. It’s important that all deliverables are reviewed thoroughly by a fresh pair of eyes before they leave the door.
Traditionally, the typesetter was the last port of call. They would action any amends, deal with clients and generally handle all production issues. A designer would come up with the concept and its look and feel, then there would be a handover process. There’s a middle ground here, where production works together with design throughout the creative process – but it’s still vital that someone separated from the project reviews the deliverable at a granular level before it reaches a client. It might sound obvious, but it doesn’t happen as often as you might think.
A large part of this for a printed deliverable is press passing, which is the process of watching the printed sheets come off the press machines at the printers. The printing process itself has come on leaps and bounds and it’s all computerised these days, but to me there is still no substitute for the human element. Being able to watch the sheets come off the press one by one and having the ability to tweak the final product by aspects as small as percentages of colour is a wonderful thing and something I have a huge love for.
2. Remember that the devil's in the detail
The final review is so important because it’s the smallest elements that can say the biggest things in brand communications. For example, when we create printed collateral for clients, one of the very first things the team discusses and decides upon is the particular type of paper we want the final product to be printed on. One consideration is paper type. We need to select paper that will hold the ink in a specific way so we can plan what image sizes we will use throughout the deliverable; do we want images to look glossy like a photograph or matt like a newspaper?
Most people won’t realise this, but making sure you have the correct paper stock and grams per square metre (GSM) is as much part of a company’s brand identity as its colour scheme and logo. For example, on another project, the paper we chose rendered the brand’s core red colour as pink on a test print – proving that seemingly nominal considerations can prove to be the most important.
3. Think of the final product and work backwards
Considerations like these can bring gravitas to your communications. Almost anything is possible these days and with the software and hardware that is available to us, most concepts can be produced, albeit at a price. But you can’t just design and hope for the best – the final product has to be crystalised and planned out before you begin so that the correct materials are used in order to get the best possible results. That’s not to say you limit yourself because you have the end product in mind, but you need to know that you can achieve what you want to – on time, on brand and on budget.
4. Own the project (because ultimately the brand will)
A brand’s reputation hangs on the quality of its products or services. And when we create brand communications, that fact is at the front of our minds. There are two reputations at stake – our client’s and our own. From the first creative brainstorm to the final production checks and delivery to the client, you have to take ownership of what you are creating. Because once it has gone out of the door, you can be sure the brand will have to own it publicly.
The way we create and deliver communications for brands might be evolving, but the precision and care with which we do so should never change. Whether it's a beautifully bound book or a slick and interactive iPad presentation, our clients can rest assured it will be the best it possibly can be.