Quality vs. Vanity
Color Quality Is Overrated
Here is where I put my profession on the line … I believe that print "quality" in the magazine industry is highly overrated. There. I said it. As long as the grass is green and the sky is blue, the reader is happy.
The average reader can't tell "good" printing from "bad" printing. They read newspapers every morning, so any magazine is considered "high quality" when compared to cold-set newspaper printing.
But let's face it, we don't print to satisfy our readers, do we? It is our advertisers and competitors we worry about. And, let's not forget our own egos.
Ours is one of the few industries where we get to sign our name to our work: the masthead. Therefore, and this is a good thing, we tend to be perfectionists. But sometimes this search for perfection goes to the point of absurdness, especially when "good" quality is a completely subjective concept.
Let's be realistic. Most magazines are disposable and have a relatively short shelf life. New issues come out frequently. Quality is usually not critical to our overall success.
On the other hand, books have a long shelf life, and their subject matter may require exceptional quality. Catalogs, too, have critical color needs as they have to closely replicate product samples.
Books and catalogs have always driven the graphic industries to improve quality in printing and even paper characteristics.
Striving for the Best, But Within Reason
This is not to say that quality is not important in the sense that shoddy printing just looks bad and conveys unprofessionalism.
The good news is that today we can achieve better quality at lower runs and lower prices than ever before. Most publication printers use similar presses, prepress technologies, proofing systems and all print to SWOP standards.