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DesignMentor Training is the professional design training division of Sessions.edu, online school of design

Going on Press, 24/7

interview with Laura Schwamb

Interview by Thom McKenna

Laura: Problems? Yikes. There are many. Printing is organic: nature and materials rule over technology, press expertise, and machinery. When a job goes well, it's a kind of small miracle.

I was on a run in Chattanooga, a web press. We had been working all day as the paper kept on tearing as it weaved through the stations. It was late, the paper was finally weaving fine and we started to see the final scent strip (scent strips are those magazine inserts that smell of a fragrance, always run on a web press).

I looked at the color and suggested just one adjustment, as it was really down to the wire whether we were going to make our flight. (It was the ultimate stress test, color vs. making the flight!)

web press Suddenly, one of the ink stations caught on fire! I heard my press rep quietly inquire "Why are there flames shooting out of the fourth station?" Suddenly everyone was in a fury "Get back, get back." Eyes bugged out, we were rushed back to the hotel and asked to wait for another whole day until they fixed the machine. More Coffeemate.

Sometimes the paper comes in bad and this is not found out until the ink hits it. Usually the press man spots the bad paper before I get there and has already started to try to doctor the inks to fix the problem. It almost never works. If the paper is bad, the ink doesn't lay down flat, you can see white specs on the sheet, or smears, or else it's too absorbent and the ink looks wrong. I've only had a bad paper experience three times, so, it's not so common.

Web presses are always tricky. As I was saying, there's usually some paper roll breakage that happens. Or, let's see. Sometimes the way the printer has laid out the order of how the inks go down doesn't work and they have to re-layout the job. That's very time-consuming. Or sometimes there is not much "make ready" (paper they send through the press while I'm adjusting color) for me to work with to get up to color and that's kind of a pressure.

Thom: How do you measure success before giving the printer the final sign-off?

Laura: When everything matches the client's foundations: when the inks are clean, the color is beautiful, the registration is perfect, the type is clear, and the sheet looks beautiful. I know the client will be seeing the sheet the very next morning and it's got to look good, or I'm out of a job!

Thom: Your company brief is "X-art directors who love working on press." What's the neatest thing about the job?

Laura: I would say the best thing about the job is being involved with materials. Materials have a set way of responding to each other; inks, color, papers, other materials, elements, (heat, glues, varnishes, foils, and so on.) It's a kind of science, working with facts and within the facts, rearranging the elements and making them work.

I always learn something new, in fact I just learned that both PVC (poly vinyl chloride) and acetate are seemingly clear. If you hold up a sheet of each you couldn't see a difference, both totally clear. Yet when the PVC is stacked you can see that it actually has a blue cast (see photo in slideshow). Hanging out with a new press rep each time is an adventure, and the travel's not so bad in the frequent flyer miles department either!

The press check lets you work with physical materials to get the best result.

final press sheet

Thom: Pity there are no printers in the Bahamas, huh?

Laura: You know, they do run bottle graphic screening in Barcelona! I almost had the chance to do that run when we were working on the Surface line for Aramis. But sadly, art directors don't give those jobs up so easily.

I think everybody knows where printing plants are! Out in the boonies in a big ol' dirty factory.

Some printing plants are nicer then others, some still are really nasty. The nice ones have super private lounges, complete with computer hook ups, TV, video, radio, lots of help-yourself food, and tons of magazines.

The not-so-nice plants are...well...think brown paneling, dirty industrial carpeting, dust, fluorescent lights, sad thick coffee with Coffeemate, always Coffeemate, why so much Coffeemate?

Think gray and beige and you got the picture. So, to answer your question about an exotic locale. Ah er um, nope. I've been to runs in Long Island, Upstate New York, Manhattan, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Indiana, Virginia, Chattanooga, North Carolina, Chicago, Ohio, Kentucky, some California, Minnesota, and Montreal. Montreal is the most exotic, always a very pleasurable run.

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Interviewer: Thomas McKenna

Thomas McKenna is a faculty member of DesignMentor Training, the professional design training division of Sessions.edu, online school of design. Thom is the Owner/Senior Creative Director of Flatiron Industries llc, a graphic/multimedia design firm based in New York City. Thom has over 15 years experience in the graphic design industry, including multimedia and television work within the advertising, design and publishing world. His current clients include American Express, AIG, CCH, Inc., MenuPages, The Corcoran Group, The American College of Physicians, Albert Einstein Health Network, Butterfly Worldwide, Sports Illustrated, JP Morgan, Thomson Financial, Thomson Publishing, TowerData, Berlitz International, Citibank, Tower Air, and Merrill Lynch.

About DesignMentor Training

DesignMentor Training offers graphic and web design training for professional or serious amateur designers. Our design classes bring an international design faculty and student population together in an engaging online learning environment. Classes are project-based resulting in portfolio-quality designs. Rolling enrollments mean you may register today and start right away.

DesignMentor Training is the professional design training division of Sessions, online school of design. Sessions.edu, Inc., ( www.sessions.edu), founded in 1997, was created with the goal of bringing new media design education to graphic and web designers worldwide, through online education.

A pioneer and a leader in the distance education industry, Sessions has delivered thousands of classes to students in over 100 countries. Sessions is accredited by the Distance Education Training Council and is the first online school licensed by the New York State Department of Education.

Also see:

SEE Designing For Print On A Budget by Thomas McKenna
SEE Going the Extra Mile in Design - interview with Lara Modjeski VP of Creative, Tom Ford Beauty
SEE The Apple Core vs. Linear Logic by Maggie Macnab
SEE Gary Dickson reflects on designing logos...
SEE Logo Design by Dan Antonelli
SEE Of Type & Lettering an interview with Leslie Cabarga
SEE Logo, Font & Lettering Bible by Leslie Cabarga


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