Does Your Design Make The Cut? 
Wednesday, July 26, 2006, 03:46 PM - Bindery/Post-Press
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of graphic design is desingning for production. Not only does a product have to look good on the screen, but someone has to actually make it. There are many logistical factors to think about before you even begin to design. This can save a lot of time later, or prevent re-printing a job at your own expense.

Lets begin with how jobs get printed. Unless you are ordering a large poster or a whole press run, your job will be printed on the same sheet with other jobs. This is called a "Gang Run", because multiple jobs are run together. So if you order 1000 business cards, we don't print a sheet with 80 copies of one card, because that would only take 13 sheets. Instead, your card is on the sheet once with many other jobs and we print 1000 sheets, which is much more efficient.

A common assumption is that every sheet of paper we print on is exactly the same size. Actually, there can be a lot of variation in the size and shape of each sheet. However, for subsequent cutting it is essential that the image is in the same place on the sheet. As the sheet goes through the press the image is registered to one side and one corner. This is called the "Gripper and Guide". Also, the sheet can stretch up to 1/16" as it goes through the press, depending on the type of paper. On a 23" sheet this is not really noticeable, but worth mentioning.

At Wizard Graphics, we have extremely tight tolerances to reduce error as much as possible. Our cutter is accurate to 0.001 inches, and can easily cut 300 sheets of cardstock at a time. The many cuts required for a complicated gang run can be programmed so that 1000 sheets can be cut the same even if cut 300 at a time. In our business card example, when a gang run comes off the press as a stack of 1000 sheets, someone has to cut it out. The sheets are jogged into the cutter by hand to the gripper and guide so that the image will be in the same place on every sheet.

You might be asking, "Why does this affect how I design my job?"
In theory, it shouldn't matter at all, but in real life it is important to understand that people are involved and there must be some room for error. On that note, it is easy to design a job that does not account for this. Really thin borders or borders that are close to the edge are noticeable if cut even slightly wrong. Also, text cannot go right up to the edge of the page because it might be cut off. The easy fix is to make sure all borders and text have at least a 1/8 inch margin from the finished edge of the page. The bigger the margin, the less noticeable it will be if it is cut slightly wrong. It is also for this reason that we ask for 1/8 inch bleeds past the finished edge of the page.

In summary, this is not to discourage you from being creative in your design, but merely some helpful information to ensure that all of your printing looks the best that it can. Understanding every aspect of commercial printing including production is the first step to becoming a better designer.
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