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I've been working with a couple of truly excellent designers lately but have been frustrated in their lack of knowledge about what happens once a design leaves their desk and goes into production. Things like the benefits of different file types, font selections and licensing concerns after a brand is delivered to a client or applied to a powerpoint and then shown on different computers, color build-up processes and the variances between CMYK, RGB, and Pantone for many color selections. I started in journalism (on the production side first) when I was very young so I feel like this stuff is pretty foundational but in talking to them learn that there isn't much of it taught in undergraduate graphic design programs as of late.
I'd like to find a training conference, bootcamp, or curriculum that I can put them through to make sure that they are setting files, designs, and clients up for success and to limit the back and forth with printers once something is sent out for production.
I do know that several printers in our area are trying to find snags that they can pull at to try to demonstrate to clients that 'fancy agencies' aren't needed and that they would be better off outsourcing design work to them (New revenue steam, perceived better margins) but I am not as worried about that as our clients are very loyal. Still, with ever more accessible and powerful design tools I am finding many designers jump right into the complex stuff without really understanding the basics. I want to find a way to get ahead of this trend by making sure my design team is well above average in their understanding of the big picture.
Additionally, any insights into the background you look for when hiring designers would likely also prove useful as I think through this evolving challenge.
We did some Lunch & Learn type of initiatives at our agency where different department heads came to talk to the AEs about what they do - one of those was our Production Manager, who discussed exactly what you're describing. Perhaps something like this may be of use, at least until you figure out a more permanent solution?
We experience this lack of knowledge as well. But I've never seen training for such in an organized graphic design program. The training I received many moons ago was from a local printer who held a single session training event after hours. And discussed the best way to send files to them.
I spoke with a colleague of mine and we are going to look for some appropriate resources and hopefully write an article on the topic. In the meantime, check out the Printing Industries of America organization, they seem to have some educational opportunities that may be appropriate. We'll post anything additional we find, as well.
I don't know of any formal training. I learned print production through a manager and then worked directly with the printer to learn what was needed. You could do a field day and take them to your printer and have them learn the process and what they look for. I know that has helped some designers I know.
As someone whose graphic design training was entirely B.C. (Before Computers), it horrifies me to realize that foundational production processes are no longer being taught to design school graduates. That's like training mechanics how to use the auto diagnostics computer but never actually giving them hands-on experience on an actual engine. How can you produce functional design lacking a good understanding of color, file formats, image formats, typography, paper selection, printing techniques, etc.?
I've been trying to find some training resources to refer you to, but they seem to be all of the Lynda.com style -- self-created tutorials on sites like the following:
These require someone to look at the videos until you find something that seems useful, i.e., build your own tutorial set. That may be the only short-term solution, if you have no senior designers with sufficient production backgrounds (and the time) to teach your junior team. And if you do have trustworthy vendors, I'd seek to partner with them. (Vendors who undercut you as your printers seem willing to do fall outside the "trustworthy" category. I might reach out to them and let them know they may be jeopardizing your relationship with your agency. Maybe the owners don't know what their sales reps are doing...)
My only other suggestion would be to check with local technical institutes turning out computer-skilled designers to see if an instructor might be willing to help with lunch & learns for a fee, or whether they offer courses your designers might be able to audit or enroll in. I'll keep looking for training resources, and will post anything I find. Good luck.
Here are three courses I found. My only concern is that some of these are already a few years old. Still, this is traditional print production, and that has not changed substantially--only the pre-press preparation. Note that the third author, a print production specialist, offers pre-press training as well.