Special Report Printing, Paper & Production
By Gretchen A. Peck
This Special Report includes:
Catalog Design Duels,
10 Money-Saving Tips
What's New in Paper.
The challenges catalogers face today have been building in recent years. Schedules continue to be compressed, and postage, paper and transportation costs are rising. Moreover, you continue to face obstacles as you attempt to create an efficient digital workflow for producing both your print and electronic catalogs.
And all the while, pressures abound to cut time and expense from the process — without, of course, sacrificing even a smidgen of quality.
For this Special Report, Catalog Success went in search of inspirational stories of catalogers meeting these challenges head-on, including Logomark's experience transitioning to a new creative platform and managing its considerable library of legacy content.
And for those readers who continue to search for ways to cut time and expense from catalog design, production and printing, check out "10 Money-Saving Tips for Print Production" for tips and best practices on how to do just that.
Catalog Design Duels
Workflow in a two-platform world: QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign
There's been much talk in recent years about the "layout wars" raging between Quark and Adobe. While for many years Quark was seen as the only true graphic arts digital layout application, Adobe shook things up when it introduced its InDesign application. In fact, some people dubbed InDesign the "Quark killer."
Indeed, Adobe has made significant progress in taking market share from Quark, but it hasn't exactly taken over the market completely as some predicted it would. Today, both applications have their die-hard fans, which presents a new challenge to catalogers and other print publishers.
Within a single catalog company, for example, some departments may be using QuarkXPress, while others may have transitioned to InDesign — and yet, these two entities may need to share content. Or perhaps a cataloger has adopted the latest Adobe Creative Suite (of which InDesign is a component), but still has a large volume of legacy files built in older versions of QuarkXPress. Thus, the cataloger needs a method for repurposing that content, for bringing it into InDesign without having to recreate the document.
Similarly, catalog and commercial printers are finding they have to support digital files arriving in either QuarkXPress or InDesign native formats. You can see the challenge — how best to manage content, no matter the application in which it was created, without supporting multiple licenses to both layout applications.
While InDesign is reported to be somewhat "Quark friendly" — meaning, it'll open Quark documents from some older versions of the applications (e.g., QuarkXPress 3.x, 4.x) — it may not be as reliable for opening files from more recent versions. This presents a problem for catalogers who may be managing and reusing content from legacy QuarkXPress documents, or catalog printers who may be receiving digital files that were built in everything from QuarkXPress 3.0 to the most recent version, QuarkXPress 6.5.
But catalog executive Leon Lazarus has come up with a solution.
Design the Workflow
Lazarus is the creative director for Tustin, Calif.-based Logomark, a catalog company specializing in personalized promotional items, gifts and novelties. In this role, Lazarus oversees the proper application of the company's corporate identity for all of its marketing, catalog and advertising products.
"Logomark produces a range of print including catalogs that distributors of promotional products select from and carry with them as a resource and sales tool," Lazarus explains.
Under Lazarus' direction, Logomark's design team produced an impressive roster of print, including 24 "slim jim" books, its flagship catalog (672 pages with fold-out laminated tabs), a 134-page holiday catalog, six close-out books, and all of the company's advertising, marketing collateral and trade-show displays.
Logomark's digital workflow for print is quite streamlined. Catalogs come together rather simply. Once the product selections have been made, the designers work with brand managers to group them for layout.
"The images are shot digitally and accessed from the photo studio image library using AppleTalk," Lazarus explains. "They're clipped, cleaned, saved locally and placed in an Adobe InDesign document. Brand managers provide the product data and pricing, while the marketing department is busy writing the copy. All of this content is then aggregated by the designer who completes the layout.
"During this time," he continues, "the clipped and cleaned images — as well as the physical products — are sent to our prepress professionals who color correct the images and return them to us on DVD for final placement into the document."
The final InDesign pages are preflighted, converted to PDFs (Adobe's Portable Document Format), and sent to the printer for impositioning, color proofing and, finally, platemaking. The final pages also are archived on DVDs at Logomark.
The Logomark Legacy
While Logomark's digital workflow is highly effective for producing quality results on press, there remained a wrinkle in the process that Lazarus
wanted to resolve — how best to deal with legacy content. For many years, he explains, Logomark's design and production team relied on QuarkXPress for its layout needs — until Adobe's InDesign came along.
"We switched from Quark 6.5 to InDesign 4.02 in July 2005, after extensive research," he recalls. "We now use Adobe Creative Suite 2 exclusively."
One of the primary reasons Logomark made the transition to InDesign was because of its tight integration with Adobe's other tools that collectively make up the Creative Suite — specifically, Photoshop and Illustrator.
"InDesign is the core software for everything we do," Lazarus explains. "Ninety percent of our studio's work lands in InDesign, with elements created in Illustrator and Photoshop."
While he's pleased with the transition to the new application, it did present somewhat of a challenge, considering the company's large library of legacy QuarkXPress documents, which occasionally are repurposed for new print projects. So he looked for a reliable method for bringing these legacy documents — or the elements within them — into InDesign.
He found an inexpensive plug-in tool called Q2ID (stands for Quark to InDesign) from Santa Ana, Calif.-based Markzware Software. Q2ID is a plug-in for Macintosh-based Adobe InDesign (versions 3 and 4) that allows users to open QuarkXPress files in Adobe InDesign, simply by using InDesign's File>Open command. The software tool promises to convert most of the elements in a QuarkXPress document to a native InDesign format, including page positioning, color models, fonts and styles, images, and text attributes.
After using it for about two months, Lazarus says, Q2ID has enabled his team to cut QuarkXPress out of its workflow. "I no longer have to support Quark in my department, but I can continue to maintain our six-plus-year library of Quark documents as a live resource."
As with most digital content conversion tools, Q2ID doesn't always provide a 100-percent success rate, according to Lazarus. "Any conversion process will cause changes to the original document, and we expected this to be the case," he notes. "But thankfully, the problems are minor. Every QuarkXPress document we've converted to date has maintained its formatting and general layout characteristics."
While Logomark doesn't plan to upgrade its QuarkXPress license in the future, Lazarus says he plans to keep the current version on hand, "to access those files that may not open in InDesign using Q2ID. But so far, I haven't found one," he adds.
For Logomark, it doesn't appear the company will have immediate need to back content out of InDesign documents and pour it into QuarkXPress. But that could, in fact, be a requirement for other catalog
publishers. Not to fear, there's a tool for that, too. Markzware also offers a plug-in aptly called ID2Q, which enables content creators to bring native InDesign applications into QuarkXPress.
Gretchen A. Peck is a freelance writer based in Abington, Pa. The former editor in chief of Book Tech the Magazine and PrintMedia, Peck has covered the printing and publishing industries for more than a decade. She welcomes feedback at email@example.com.
Money-Saving Tips for Print Production
Here, industry veterans share practical advice to trim time and expense from your catalog production process.
#1 Trim down. "Reduce your catalog's trim size just a little, and do it horizontally," suggests Dan Sayin, vice president of sales for Catalogs America, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based catalog printer. "If your [catalog's] weight is less than one pound, for every eighth of an inch you shave, you'll save about 1.5 percent of paper and 1.5 percent of postage. You can save postage by reducing it vertically also, but you'll be throwing away a lot of paper, since most printing presses are built with a fixed vertical component."
#2 Practice good list hygiene. "Scrub your customer list extra well," Sayin says. "This will reduce undeliverables, which will save money on printing, paper and postage."
#3 Identify trends. Mary Ann Nisca, director of print production for cataloger Lillian Vernon Corp., suggests looking for trends, and listening to your customers. For example, she says, "Fewer people are ordering with our order form insert. There's been an increase in orders via phone and Web. Because of this, we eliminated our separate order form insert and went to an on-page order form."
#4 Scout out new papers. It's easy to get stuck in a rut, printing on the same stocks. Now's a good time to explore your paper options. You might be impressed with some of the new stocks and grades, and might even save some dough.
Nisca says, "We lowered the paper basis weight on our inner form. This will allow us to save on postage costs. We're also looking at alternative paper grades that may help offset increased costs in paper and postage."
#5 Conduct a weigh-in. "We're in the process of reviewing our page counts," Nisca continues. "One thing to note regarding postage: If your book weighs less than 3.3 ounces, lowering your page counts won't change your postage costs. We try to fill as many pages as possible to meet the postal minimum. The post office charges a flat rate for pieces less than that weight."
#6 Rethink how you buy paper. Sayin suggests, "If you use more than 500,000 pounds of paper in the course of a year, try purchasing your paper direct. You'll save at least 5 percent in printer markup right off the top. Then, ask your printer about some of the newer, lightweight, supercalendared sheets with high brightness and good opacity. You might find some real savings."
#7 Check your files. Bob Damon, prepress instructor at Fox Valley Technical College, Appleton, Wisc., notes, "Evidence of the importance of good digital file preparation can be seen with any job entering the production workflow. Problems with fonts, wrong graphic file formats, incorrect color modes, missing elements, and embedded font and graphic issues are compounded by poor techniques and bad file management."
Digital files being sent to a printer should be preflighted — that is, verified they're complete and accurately prepared — before they leave the cataloger's desktop.
#8 Embrace PDFs. Creating a "prepress-ready" PDF will ensure the smoothest and most reliable hand-off of your content to the printer, Damon says. But creating a PDF is a bit more complicated than just hitting the "Make PDF" icon in your desktop-publishing application. PDFs must be prepared with care, with the digital specifications of your printer appropriately applied.
"A printer can supply clients with [Adobe] Acrobat settings and preferences that should be used to improve the quality of the digital files," Damon adds. "Still, PDFs require the same careful preflighting. Since the components are actually embedded within the PDF, a preflight application that can look inside a PDF is essential."
#9 Don't let your assets manage you. Scott Seebass, CEO of Xinet, a Berkeley, Calif.-based software developer, says, "Retailers and catalogers whose inventory includes graphic assets and data that represent every SKU need a digital asset management solution that acts as the hub of catalog creation and production. Data is linked from inventory and pricing systems to product graphics, making it possible to go to market with the right offers, in a timely way."
#10 Experiment with new printing techniques. Sayin suggests using stochastic printing. Sometimes called frequency modulation screening, stochastic screening for print uses same-size dots but varies their density to create print that resembles continuous-tone (as opposed to halftone) output. In the right circumstances, stochastic printing can allow you to move to a lighter basis weight of paper without any degradation in overall image quality, which will save you paper and postage with only a slight uptick in manufacturing costs.
What's New in Paper
The Hybrids Have It
Freesheet Hybrid, a new high-bulk, lightweight printing paper from Bowater, contains a blend of mechanical and kraft pulp, and it maintains high strength, hefty bulk and high opacity, according to Bowater. The paper is lightly coated, which eliminates dot gain, and is available in basis weights of 40 lb to 50 lb. "Because of the high bulking characteristics, strength and surface, customers can move to a lower basis weight and enjoy improved print quality, as well as savings in yield and postage," Bowater officials note. For more, visit: www.freesheethybrid.com.
Innovative Offset, a chlorine-free and environmentally sound paper from Abitibi-Consolidated, uses about 50 percent less wood fiber than commodity offset paper, according to the manufacturer. It delivers a brightness level of 81 and whiteness of 90, and it's surface-treated to assure better ink hold and on-press performance. For more, visit: www.abitibiconsolidated.com.
A Standard of Sustainability
Weyerhaeuser's U.S. pulp and paper mills, and fine paper converting plants, have been certified by outside auditors to meet the procurement provisions of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) standard. To earn this certification, mills must know where their logs and lumber chips come from and the type of supplier; monitor suppliers' compliance with state best management practices; and promote sustainable forest practices among log and chip suppliers. The SFI standard is governed by an independent board with equal representation from environmental organizations, the forest products industry and the broader forestry community. It promotes the long-term health of forests through responsible forest-management practices and procurement practices by mills. Visit: www.weyerhaeuser.com or www.aboutsfi.org/core.asp.