The problem with poorly executed image compression

Century 21 Ad Campaign

Actual Century 21 Ad – unedited.

There was a time when image compression was both an art and a science. In the late 90′s I remember new tools coming out, like Fireworks, which gave us better quality images and smaller file sizes. Options like JPEG or GIF, baseline or progressive, selective or adaptive or… mattered. Many people have forgotten this, and many never knew how important it can be.

Often now we just make images PNGs, and we’re more concerned about latency than data transfer, so we often use sprites.

Century 21 Real Estate seems to be running an ad campaign. Unfortunately, one of the final steps in executing such a campaign – image compression – was mishandled. Undoubtedly, the process to create the campaign contained executives, product experts, at least one copywriter, photographer, makeup artist, model and graphic designer.

The problem with poorly executed image compression is that it renders all of those roles rather pointless. The execs and experts could be replaced by untrained monkeys. The copywriter & designer could be replaced by a three-year-old with a crayon. The photographer could have been replaced by a two-year-old with a camera phone from 2003, and perhaps some lighting tips from his mom. Continue reading

The time for changes is over when files are sent to print

I don’t do a ton of print design anymore, but one thing I’ve noticed is that often clients have a misunderstanding of what “proofs” are for, or how the workflow should work.

The short: When files are sent to print, the time for changes is over. The overall purpose of printed proofs is to catch printing errors.

The purpose of a “proof” is to spot issues like low resolution images or other potential printing errors. Catching typos at this stage, although they really should have been spotted sooner, is acceptable. Anything else that’s flat-out wrong is usually also acceptable to change. Some examples might be:

  • Wrong name cited
  • Credits/disclaimer incorrect or missing
  • Content being trimmed or position of folds miscalculated

What shouldn’t be open for discussion:

  • Copy change (short of typos, grammatical errors…)
  • Messaging – If you wrote “Buy one, Get one free!” it’s not time to change your mind and say “Buy one, Get one 50%” – all “mind changing” should occur before files are sent to print.
  • Swapping photos/artwork. If the wrong image was used (eg a FPO was not replaced) or if the image show it will not print well, then those items could be swapped.

What are the drawbacks of making excessive changes to the proofs?

  • It will delay the process more than if the changes were made during internal proofing (ie printing black & white samples for review.)
  • The cost increases. Most printers will charge for additional proofs.
  • Printers go through a fair amount of prep before those proofs are printed. They have to repeat those steps, and if they’re making changes along the way it can complicate the process, increasing the chance something gets missed.
  • Printers will likely give you less leeway next time. Rather than telling you they need five business days before delivery, they may tell you they need 10. And if you deliver files eight days out, they may tell you they will not meet your delivery deadline. Whereas if you show that you did you work upfront, and that their process will be efficient, they will allow you to give them less time.
  • As much as printers should have their process together, having to deal with multiple proofs can lead to mistakes. I’ve seen it happen where the wrong version of the proof gets printed.

Helvetica: A movie for anyone who uses type

Helvetica: “A documentary about typography, graphic design, and global visual culture.”

I’ve only been working as a designer for a little over a decade. Typography is a huge part of design and one of my greatest struggles has been attempting to convey they importance of typography to clients and fellow designers. The conflict I’ve faced has sometimes left me with a bitter taste.

The comments, expressions, analogies… from the designers interviewed in the documentary echoed many of my thoughts and beliefs. Although occasionally conflicting, the viewpoints expressed created clarity in my consciousness of visual communication.

Every designer should see it. Every person who thinks design is important should see it. Every person who thinks design is unimportant should see it.