Step 9: Printing Your Materials

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Choices, Costs and Quality

By the time you're ready to print your materials, you have turned your vision, ideas and research into something that's nearly ready to put into the hands of your audience. Here are some things to consider and steps to take to prepare for the printing process.

Budget

  • Ensure that your printing budget builds in the potential for cost overruns due to unforeseen complications, such as last-minute revisions. Get a clear understanding of the payment terms with any vendor you use and make sure that you are comfortable with those terms.
  • Factor in storage and distribution costs. Do you have space at your site to house your materials or is an off-site facility needed? How will your materials get to your target audience? Will they be delivered to multiple locations or through direct mail or marketing? What are the costs associated with that distribution? See Step 10: Disseminating Your Materials: Ensure Your Message Reaches Your Intended Audience.

Selecting a Printer

  • First determine if you can print your project in-house.
  • Sometimes the terms of a contract dictate that you use a specific, preferred vendor. If that isn't the case, get quotes from multiple vendors to compare costs and options.
  • If the vendor you really want to work with doesn't offer the most competitive price, try negotiating with them.
  • When evaluating printers, get samples of similar work they have produced, including cost information. Ask for and check references.
  • Get everything in writing. Purchase orders should contain all pertinent information, including quantity, printing specifications, delivery date and location, price, whether proofs are required for approval and all other pertinent information.

Communicate with Your Printing Vendor

  • Get to know your printer or their representatives. Ask lots of questions and communicate what you have in mind for your materials. Good printers can help guide you on how to produce your job cheaper and faster without losing quality or effectiveness.
  • Make sure your designer clearly understands the specifications required by the printer. Ask your designer to talk directly with your printer when possible.

Design with Printing Costs in Mind

  • Depending on the type of printer you're using, four-color (full color) print jobs can be more expensive than black and white. Two- or three-color pieces can be a viable alternative to four-color.
  • Using standard paper sizes is generally less expensive than custom sizes, though there are times when your pieces can be designed to economically run two, three or four “up” on a single large sheet and cut to size.
  • Since paper is one of the most significant costs of printing, find out what “house stock” your printer uses. Using the printer's house stock can often save considerable money while achieving a similar look and feel.
  • If you need different versions of a particular material (e.g., in different languages), design your materials so that it is relatively inexpensive to produce multiple versions. For example, it may cost more to print multiple versions if the various brochures use different colors.
  • Again, communicate with your printer. Learn what you can about cost-efficient options before getting very far into the design process.

Quantities

  • In general, larger print runs result in economies of scale (the cost per piece gets lower the more pieces you print).
  • When deciding how many to print, consider the “shelf life” of your materials. Will you need to revise the materials in one year? In five years? Then do your best to estimate how many pieces you’ll use in that length of time. Larger print runs are only more cost effective if there will not be any unused product left over.
  • Find out what it will cost to reproduce your materials after you’ve used the initial quantity. Be sure to store all original files to facilitate reprinting.

Consider Online Materials

We Can Help

Whether you are trying to decide between traditional printing or online materials, TEAM Lab is here to help. If you have any questions about finding a printer, the printing process or your electronic alternatives, contact us.

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Resources

Evaluation

Materials Development Tips