Quality vs. Vanity
I have been involved with many high-quality projects over my career and have witnessed the transformation of our industry from that of skilled craftsmen in a film environment to that of computers and digital preciseness. I can talk about the new advances in quality improvement, and I will.
But as I write this article, I feel a little hypocritical. As a consultant, it is my job to help my clients achieve the best possible quality from their vendors. Yet, I have witnessed the most ludicrous actions being taken based on the quest for the "best" and "highest" quality possible.
For example, a large consumer magazine once sent a photo editor on a press check to ensure that the editorial feature photos were printed to his/her exact standards. The editor spent a lot of time and a lot of money making color adjustments, affecting dots by less than 5 percent; considering press tolerances, the changes would be virtually unnoticeable.
Each fine color adjustment to a page with an editorial photo affected the color on another page … including the ads. The pressmen, who are trained to focus on the ads before the editorial pages, would then try to correct the ad pages. Changes went on and on in a circular pattern.
After getting "superb" quality with the editorial feature, the editor was happy. But the pressmen felt they were printing poor quality on the other pages.
They knew from experience that bad ad reproduction equates to costly makegoods. In this case, they shut the press down, sent the customer away, printed what was, in their opinion, "good" quality signatures for the majority of the run, called the editor in at the end of the run (not the beginning as the editor believed) and let the editor color correct to his or her heart's content. While deceiving the customer is not a commendable practice, the point is that everyone was happy with the "quality"—no one ever noticed the difference between the two runs.