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When Proofing Goes Wrong (And How To Avoid Costly Mistakes)

When Proofing Goes Wrong (And How To Avoid Costly Mistakes)

Read Time: 6 Minutes


18 Sep 2017

It can be easy to be caught up in the excitement of sending a digital piece of artwork to be printed into a physical product. Without a good check, re-check, and final check, it’s easy to miss important information.

When proofing goes wrong, it means vital details have been printed incorrectly or simply omitted altogether. This means you’ll need to re-do the artwork (sometimes needing to employ a designer again at extra cost), and re-print your product all over again. The time delays this can cause may have significant impact, too: missing a deadline for an event due to a reprint, for example, could mean far fewer people in attendance thanks to missed promotion opportunities.

TfL Pulp Half A Million Maps Due To Minor Mistake

A great example of how not to print your product came last year from Travel for London (TfL). Almost half a MILLION London Underground maps were recalled and pulped, all because of one small – but significant – mistake.

The final stop on the Northern Line (South) is Morden. The maps had incorrectly placed Morden station in a grey ‘special fares apply’ zone, instead of Zone 4 where it belongs.

This error led to 460,800 pocket maps, 4,000 posters, 8,00 larger print maps, and 1,500 ticket machine maps being recalled, pulped, and reprinted.

The error occurred in May 2016, and the problem identified mid-way through a print run, which means luckily the entire run didn’t need to be pulped. Just half a million copies were, instead.

TFL commented that they were able to reabsorb the costs through procurement efficiencies, including using recycled paper from the pulped products. While this large organisation was able to take the brunt of such a mistake, for smaller firms this could have been disastrous.

How To Avoid Costly Errors With Your Print

How do you prevent costly reprints and delays with your product? You proof!

To proof something means to check it over – thoroughly. It’s not just you who needs to take a look, either: get at least one – preferably two or three – other pairs of eyes on the final design.

It’s OK to tell people you don’t want their design input, especially if you’re worried about a ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ situation. Just let them know to check it over for all of the following information:

  • All spelling is correct (and consistent in US or UK English, if you have a house or brand style)
  • All phone numbers are correct
  • All websites are spelled correctly and are clear to see (i.e., not on highly patterned backgrounds)
  • Any event dates are correct – this is particularly important if you are listing the day of the week, such as ‘Thursday 1st September’, in case either the day or date is wrong!
  • Any images belong to your copyright, have been legally purchased, or are on a Creative Commons license
  • Images don’t conflict with the text making it hard to read
  • The document has a full 6mm ‘safe zone’ (9mm on spiral bound booklets) around the edges, with no text or graphics in this area, to prevent these being trimmed in the print process
  • Any important terms and conditions (such as non-refundable tickets) are included where necessary
  • Ticket prices are clearly listed – and correct!

Even if you think you’re absolutely, totally, 100%, entirely, definitely positive that your design is correct, it’s still wise to get someone else to check it over. When you’ve been looking at something for hours or even days, it can be easy to miss the glaringly obvious errors. We’ve all been there!

What To Do If Your Design Is Wrong – And It’s Too Late To Stop Printing

As with TfL, you might spot a mistake too late. With web-to-print systems, it’s likely you won’t spot the mistake until your flyers have already been printed.

It’s not all a tragedy, however: there are some steps you can take to remedy the situation.
The first option is the most obvious: absorb the cost, and arrange for a reprint with the correct artwork. This is great if you have plenty of time before your event, or before you send out your direct mail campaign.

If it’s too late to hire your designer, or you simply can’t afford one for any more work, don’t fret. See if there is a way your error can be corrected: if your ticket prices are wrong, can you arrange for fast delivery customised stickers to be sent out? Doing this will mean you can cover up the incorrect ticket price, for example, with just a little bit of manual labour.

You could also consider adding an amendment slip – either in the style of a compliment slip or as a small A7 leaflet – stapled to your flyer, menu, or price list. This again requires a bit more design and printing, but if you use a design online template you can get this put together in an hour and have it in your hands very quickly. This is often faster than recalling your designer to change the artwork and ordering a re-print.

Have Your Design Software License

If you often send products to print, it’s worth considering having your own license for software such as Adobe InDesign. You don’t need to be a graphic design whizz, but if you learn a few basics it’ll mean that you’re able to make last-minute changes to your artwork even after your designer has sent it over, complete with approval.

Leanne Bishop

About the Author

Hi, I'm Leanne and I head up the studio team at instantprint. I help customers understand how to supply their artwork for print.