To “Get what you expect” requires an expectation; a belief that something will occur in the future.
An experienced graphic designer peers with satisfaction at her screen after the final touches to a brochure are complete; how is it she is so confident the final product will succeed? How does she know the effect will be what the client wants? How can she be so sure it will win an Addy Award?
The printed piece is a fundamentally different entity that the screen image; how the transformation happens should not be a mystery to you. The more you understand the more likely you are to be satisfied, even thrilled, with the result.
Here are common techniques for managing a print project, ranked from most to least effective.
Compulsive attention to detail is one approach. This person carefully considers the color model of the printing, and is sure their file is prepared to match. All their colors are Pantone-specified having examined the printed swatch books. A folding template is employed right at the beginning, and actual paper samples are carefully scrutinized. Finalized timeline, proofing, and delivery details are communicated in clear written form. In my entire career I have worked with a surprisingly small number of people who use this approach, and like anything rare I value them tremendously.
Most people use a business as usual approach. This is what you do because you did it before and your expectations were met, or, if not, it wasn’t bad enough to change. The vast majority of print projects fall into this category, and with good reason; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Consider, though, the possibility you’re setting the bar too low; maybe ask a few follow-up questions to learn how the process can be improved. Printers have a bad habit of fixing customer mistakes, for the sake of expediency, without telling anyone. Just because it ain’t broke doesn’t mean it can’t be better. Maybe much better.
Then there’s good old-fashioned dump and run. You don’t have time to mess with it, now it’s our problem; and you’ll take what you get. We understand and we’ve got your back; we promise to do everything possible to keep you out of trouble and not give you any grief. Seriously. Sooner or later we’ll have a problem, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Remember that printing is custom manufacturing. Since it’s made just for you it’s important you provide enough information, and ask enough questions, to insure the project you understand is the same one we plan to produce. Our goal is that, when you open the box, the product is right on the button; and that we’re all thinking of the same button. It’s an old saying, but a true one: there are no stupid questions.