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Content Inside: What to Teach Graphic Design Students About Printing Industry Guidelines by Jerry J. Waite, Ed.D, University of Houston Abstract dropped to the point that graphic designers and ad agencies could afford to buy their own robust workstations. Prepress departments in printing companies are, for numerous reasons, downsizing. As a result, there are In the past, graphic designers had to rely on printers and/ fewer people on hand to correct errors in jobs presented or prepress service providers to purchase prohibitively to the printing company by graphic designers. Therefore, expensive equipment and hire specialized, highly trained, it is more important than ever for designers to prepare and wel -paid employees to run them. Graphic designers completed files as accurately as possible. National and and ad agencies can now purchase a powerful computer international associations have produced guidebooks, workstation, high-resolution scanner, and a suite of image such as SNAP, GRACoL, SWOP, and FIRST. If students creation, editing, and layout software for less than $10,000. of graphic design know and utilize the guidelines Creatives have taken advantage of these low prices to outfit included in these guidebooks, they are likely to prepare themselves with everything they need to--conceivably--do files that will effectively pass through the print workflow. the work that was once accomplished by numerous prepress This article reviews a few of the more important recom- employees. "Conceivably" is an important caveat: although mendations of SNAP, GRACoL, SWOP, and FIRST that today's hardware and software can al ow a single individual graphic design students must know to be effective practi- to do the work of many, it is unlikely that a single person will tioners in the twenty-first century publishing profession. have the sum total knowledge and skil that those several pre- press people once possessed. In particular, people who used Introduction to work in prepress knew how the ink, substrate, printing process, and individual press would affect the printed out- Over the past decade, there has been an unmistakable come and would use this knowledge to adjust their processes trend in printing companies to downsize prepress so the outcome would meet the customer's needs. A graphic departments. A firm may have once employed dozens of designer, working in isolation from those who wil ultimately people who operated cameras, retouched film, duplicated put ink on paper, cannot possibly know al the interactions films, operated scanners, assembled film onto flats, and and permutations between ink, paper, process, and press. In made proofs and plates. Today, that same firm may func- fact, the designer may not even know which company is tion with five or six prepress personnel. going to produce the end product. Thus, work skil ful y and effectively designed using al the right software may not Why is this occurring? Prepress department downsiz- result in a printed job that meets customer needs. ing is primarily due to price competition that is a consequence of, among other things, the recession of the When graphic designers first started creating digital files early 2000's, tighter corporate print-buying budgets, using their own workstations, printers assumed that those internet portals that allow buyers to get quotes from files would be defective in one way or another. Thus, elabo- multiple printers from their desktops, shift of content rate preflighting (checking) and file intervention (repairing) from print to electronic media, and improved technology processes were put into place. Prepress people were kept in that allows printers to do much more work in far less place to repair customer files and make specific changes to time. In addition, advertising agencies realized that a optimize jobs for the company's presses. However, when great deal of their potential revenue was being lost to competition became fierce, printers invested in more capital- prepress service providers. In their minds, bringing pre- intensive equipment (such as sophisticated Raster image press processes in-house would allow them to acquire Processors [RIPs] and platesetters) so that expensive labor that revenue and increase their profitability (R. Zucca, could be reduced. Although printers stil do not assume that SWOP Chair, telephone communication, August 19, incoming files are completely accurate, the burden of prepar- 2005). However, none of these issues would have precipi- ing accurate files has been pushed out of the prepress tated prepress department downsizing if the power and department to the graphic designer. As a result, the prepress price of robust computer hardware and software had not departments of many printing companies now specialize in What to Teach Graphic Design Students About Printing Industry Guidelines