Monday, April 2, 2012
Thank you, The Wall Street Journal. You did me and a whole lot of other production managers a huge favor today with your printing foul-up.
Every couple of years, it seems, I have to talk an editor out of going along with a designer's proposal to jazz up a publication by getting rid of boring old black body type in articles. "Ooh, purple would look nice."
It was hard enough way back in the 20th Century to explain why printing 8-point type with four colors of ink would create an illegible mess. At least then most editors and designers had some clue about how printing worked.
Nowadays, you're likely to be dealing with someone who cut his teeth on the web and can't fathom why what he sees on his monitor can't look exactly the same when printed. ("I don't want four colors; I only want purple!" "Well, if the printer can't make the colors register exactly, get another printer.")
Now I have my evidence.
The Journal printed a graphic showing Pinterest postings intended to inspire innovation among General Electric employees. (Pinterest, by the way, is also known as OSASMCWOTT, which stands for "Oh, S#&t, Another Social-Media Craze We Ought To Try".)
The Pinterest captions use colored body type, which is fine for the web but looked like mud when printed in the copy of the Journal I have. I literally could not read some of the captions.
When I watch a six-foot-wide roll of paper zipping through an offset web press at 30 miles an hour having tiny dots placed on it one color at a time, I'm always amazed that the process can result in accurate reproductions of color photos. Getting those dots to line up precisely on a sheet of paper that changes dimension as it goes through the press is nothing short of alchemy, or maybe sorcery.
As Gordon Pritchard notes, one set of dots only has to be 1/300th of an inch out of place for the colors to be considered out of register.
The great thing about the Journal example is that the photos don't look bad for newspaper printing. But slight misregistration that is tolerable for photos becomes a disaster when applied to small type.