No they are not!
Then how does one tell the difference? Why this company or that one? How does one judge? Well, the answer lies in several areas. Sometimes it is just the relationship has with one’s printer. Do you trust the person you are dealing with? Can you your printing company on the phone easy enough? Do you enjoy dealing with that person and is the quality of the work OK? However in these tough economic times, where every penny counts and you are trying to get the most bang for your printing buck you can, then other factors kick in. Ask yourself this question: WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME I REQUESTED A QUOTE AND THE PRINTER CAME BACK AND OFFERED BETTER SOLUTIONS TO SAVE MONEY? Probably never, as it is just not in the mind set of most printers to be that creative and do so.
If you had to judge on one isolated item only, then the question I posed above may be the one most important thing that your printer can do for you and that is looking out for your interests by asking the right questions, such as clarifying the end use of the piece and/or offering money savings tips without your asking for them. Another important item is does the person you deal with at the printing company understand not only your end use but your starting point? Do they even look at your files before they go to pre press, as it just takes a minute or two? This helps to make sure you did not trip over your designing ability or lack thereof and catch major errors that if caught at pre press would have been very costly. (Example: “Thank you for catching it and saving us a massive bill.” Johnie Burch, the Sentient Magazine.
There are, of course, many other substantive issues that are also important: One good one is if the capability of the printing company. Do they have sufficient capability in order to meet your needs? If the printing company can do all “in house” when producing your work, there is not only a bit better cost but more efficiency in turning around your job and on time, with less chance of error. One of my favorite suggestions to clients is that they never split the printing and mailing if possible, as if there is an error the two different vendors may point the finger of blame at each other. With one vendor doing both, the fine finger of blame can only point one way if it was a production error and not a design fault.
Many printers will never volunteer how the job will be produced. It is a good idea to ask how so. What press will it be on? Web or sheet fed 28” sheet fed or 40” sheet fed? The answers as well as your basic understanding of how things print especially of signatures or forms will help you well along the way. If you are printing a 64 page book, with a letter size page, sheet fed presses can run 16 up on a 40” press or 12 up on a 28” press. Here the answer is obvious, 16 page forms on the larger press will run as four forms on a 40” press, but as 6 on the less efficient 28” one.
Another thing to look for is if your printer runs both web and sheet fed, and your item falls between the two press types for press efficiency, is the printer willing to price the job on each type of press in order to see which one works best for you. Also with an understanding of press forms or signatures, you can ask about what size the press is and then judge if it is even right for your job. Many printers will in essence, try to fit a ten inch foot into an eight inch shoe, so to speak, as they never want to turn down work for their particular press configuration. Ask the right questions and you will be in far better control of your work.
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