Saturday, July 23, 2016

Publishing's Invasion of the Monitor Lizards

"It looks fine on my monitor."
Magazine publishers' moves into digital media have spawned a new type of monster -- the monitor lizard.

"It looks fine on my monitor" are the favorite words of monitor lizards. Our Publishing Word of the Day describes designers hired for their digital-media chops who find themselves creating work for an unfamiliar medium, print.

These reptiles don't understand that what appears on their screens is a somewhat idealized version of what will happen in print. They don't realize that, without a few simple precautions, that beautiful page they created could turn to disaster.

I'm sure the infographic excerpted here from a section front of The Wall Street Journal, with a blurry "France" and nearly illegible "Germany," looked stunning on the designer's Mac. But the mess that resulted should have been no surprise: Small "knockout" (white) type atop a multi-color background is a recipe for disaster.

Blurry "knockout" type in The Wall Street Journal
It's one thing when the lizards are inhouse, where the production director has (some) credibility and can show the designer that printed colors don't usually "register" (align) perfectly.

You can eventually get them to understand that, because the printing and trimming of pages are somewhat imprecise, there are industry standards and a few basic tricks they have to keep in mind.

But now the monitor lizards have invaded the advertising business. These poisonous reptiles seem to have taken over the entire design and production functions at some small and even medium-sized ad agencies. Clients are paying these agencies good money to do something they have no clue how to do -- create magazine ads.

I find myself increasingly having to reject  ads for the most basic of problems -- like PMS colors in what's supposed to be a four-color ad, lack of bleed, and failure to include crop marks. Sometimes it's just carelessness, but often I have to explain some real Print 101 concepts to the agency personnel so that they can fix the ad.

And sometimes we just say, "Screw it. We'll add the crop marks ourselves."

Other articles in which Mr. Tree has gotten his print geek on include:


George Beltzhoover said...

I and many, many others in the industry have been saying the same things since film was supplied to us with those same issues. Yes, I have been in the industry since film was king, and armies of strippers did what we had to do to make it possible for printers to do their job. I since have dived into the digital world, and still have clients, salesmen, and others who insist that if it looks god on their monitor it should print well.

Design schools pay scant attention to the needs of printers. They typically don't include the needs of prepress in their courses, concentrating instead on web. A good designer, IMHO, should have some experience in prepress, so their beautiful designs will print, and still look beautiful. That won't ever happen, but...

Anonymous said...

There should be no design curriculum that doesn't include a semester of print instruction. New designers need to be at the press during a set up to start getting some understanding of the down-stream processes.