In 2014, we recognise that design agencies are going to have to invest a lot further in print and production technologies and the training of production staff, to confidently deliver an end-to-end service, following on from a typical design brief.
To do this well, Adobe Creative Suite can only take you so far. So 3D technologies, colour management and accurate colour proofing are at the top of the list and we will continue to invest in these products in 2014 to strengthen our commitment to the end product.
Agencies are no longer being briefed on just creating the design aesthetic, the look and feel for a brand, but are asked more frequently to help deliver the final execution of the brand; all the way to shelf and beyond.
This means taking the lead in print and production management early on in the design process, working closely with the right partners, adding value by considering not only the technical requirements of a project, but also other elements that can cut time out of the process, save on cost, or improve the overall quality of the work.
This approach can also remove the usual overlap, which is often present when design files or guidelines are handed over to a repro agency to carry out the traditional ‘rollout’, where the educational piece and learning around the brand or design intent starts over.
Our creative services team take this even further, as production knowledge fed upstream opens up possibilities of expanding gamut opportunities in print, whilst also achieving a more stable and efficient workflow.
ECG is something we feel will grow further in 2014, so we recently sent our resident colour expert, Peter Aldous, back to school at Clemson University and The Sonoco Institute to learn about Esko’s Equinox, the latest in Extended Colour Gamut solutions. Whilst in South Carolina USA on one of Esko’s ECG seminars, Peter saw first hand how this approach would benefit clients and found this to be a real eye opener:
By reviewing all data upfront it’s possible not only to define the print but to simplify the process and manage it with a more efficient approach. We believe we should always design for the brand not the process. Having to make compromises due to the print process limits the options and therefore the outcome. If there is a way of increasing efficiency and achieving design intent, yet still using the same print process everyone is a winner.
ECG is truly colour management based, it works on standardising the process.
Instead of using CMYK and 2 to 3 individual spot colours that change job-to-job, ECG uses the same inks 5, 6 or 7 inks that in combination achieve a wider range of the colour gamut. By defining standards and tolerances ECG allows the combination of these colours to consistently achieve areas of the gamut previously not reached. By assessing lightness, chroma and hue it allows for predictable colour expansion. Peter also explains:
We find choosing spot colours for individual elements of design can actually be restrictive. Having a brand mark take one sixth of available ink stations for a very small presence on pack leaves branding options for colour at a disadvantage. So with ECG we not only have the ability to replicate these spot colours but also push the achievability of all colour.
Aside from obvious fixed palette printing savings and reduced TAC making printability more efficient, it also allows savings in the press room. Not washing up after a run for another colour and the ability to place more than one job on a sheet thus cutting press time are two of many huge financial benefits. ECG is definitely the future of our industry purely as the final outcome is far more predictable. To achieve more of the gamut many considerations have to be put in place. From fingerprinting of presses, ink formulas, defined standards, tolerances, profiles and improved proofing upfront.
These all make printing less about guesswork and more considered. However all these are currently used in printing so what’s new. The answer is aligning all of the parameters and linking seamlessly. Using spectrophotometers to align the process from beginning to end it increases colour achievability accuracy. Only with this high level of accuracy it is possible for solutions like this to be viable.
Not only was the improved colour capability impressive, but also the complexity that was once avoided can now be achieved. We are looking forward to working with a client who might want to consider implementing this approach to colour management – as the best place to start with any trials is during design.
So agencies that offer more than just design execution (or design rollout) will be kept busy as clients look for reliable partners to solve not only design challenges and to rollout their new brands, but to add value and help navigate print and production management, as part of the design process.
Written by Mark O’Donnell