On January 22, 1984, during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII, Apple Computer aired its brilliant 60-second commercial introducing the Macintosh. Directed by Ridley Scott, the spot depicted an Orwellian world of conformity—a thinly veiled swipe at IBM—shattered by Apple's new desktop. Admittedly, the early Macintosh was underpowered, but expected to improve with time. While many in the prepress business stood back and scoffed, others took a deep breath and went for it, realizing that they were witnessing the dawn of a new revolution, knowing that one day it would significantly impact their business model. And they were right.
The greatest impact of the subsequent Macintosh iterations has been on workflow. Apple has almost single-handedly caused the print production industry to push certain responsibilities and prepress tasks upstream. It's not news that designers prefer to create on their trusted Mac workstations, but there's buzz about a trend that saddles these creative folks with traditional prepress responsibil-ities. Is this really a trend? Are prepress tasks commonly performed now by internal agency production departments or design firms? And if so, what are the new skills our creative friends must learn now that their roles are changing?
The straightforward design of prepress is often dictated by the type of print project. For example, if the designer or agency is producing collateral like brochures, and it is being produced by a printer of the agency's choice, taking prepress in-house at the creative stage may allow the designer greater control of the project's outcome.
In a previous professional life, Kevin Daly, creative director for Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare was an independent designer. In this role, he frequently prepared final digital files for the printer, in addition to handling scanning and high-resolution retouching. His advice to designers is to be careful and cautious when selecting suppliers: "There are a lot of people out there who sell printing as brokers; steer clear of them. You need to deal with real printers with a good production team [that's] accessible to you."
Daly was fortunate. He always knew the printers with which he worked, and he always asked them to supply a contract proof for his final blessing. The proof not only acted as a contract, it encouraged dialog between designer and manufacturer, enabling each to point out problems before the files made it to press. He recalls his relationship with suppliers as open and honest. When it became evident that something went wrong because of a file preparation problem, they'd let him know and help him fix it.
Victor Basile, senior vice president/director of print graphic services, D'Arcy Advertising, ex-plains, "Studio and design staff need to be totally familiar with how to build files correctly, and as we move toward preparing file formats for digital ads in house, they will also need to know how to create and deliver files that work." How to address and improve the skill sets of any studio team is a tricky one, but Basile's given it lots of thought: "I think the short-term fix is to employ people from trade shops. However, long term, we send all of our Mac artists out for regular, extensive training."
-Eve Asbury (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior vice president/director of print and digital production for Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York City.