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Poor Instructions

March 25, 2007

Hmmm well, I have just spent the last few days doing some freelance work. It’s the first time I’d freelanced in my life. There was a certain amount of fear, uncertainty and doubt before I embarked upon it. Normal I suppose, it’s a bit like starting a new job, which in effect I was.

I gets there full of trepidation and wonder what awaits. On the face of it, it was remarkably straight forward. Take design scamps and work up three variations as artwork all in Illustrator. I’ve been prepress for a long time and this should have been as easy as falling off a log.

The brief was poor, I wasn’t given a specification, only a cursory glance over their way of storing a job and its related elements (folder structure) and zero technical stuff such as overprints.

Time to put my investigating feet on… For crying out loud, I’m an artworker not Sherlock Holmes.

So I open the design files in Illy and switch on ‘Overprint preview’. Nothing changed. Hmmm, there are spot colours, what am I supposed to do, select every element?

I was only dealing with the carton the product would come in. The actual wrapper for the product was signed off and ready. I opened the wrapper art after I had managed to find it and had a similar result. So it must be flat colour, no overprint. My life had become remarkably easy.

So I get variation one under way, only to discover that there are something like 120 layers in the Illy doc. It’s not excessive, but it’s more than enough. After recreating the file I had managed to get it down to around 6 with about 80 ‘sub layers’ – a much cleaner and more logical make up.

More was to come. Some text was raw, some was outlined within the same grouped elements, but no difference in appearance, so why outline it? All the text had a ‘fringe’ around it but no stroke applied. I became concerned. My first proofs had been rejected so I went to see the designer.

The job looked entirely different on his screen. What was orange on mine looked brown on his, the ‘fringe’ around the text had disappeared. Not only were the guns out of alignment on my monitor but it was impossible to calibrate it well enough to take account of the colour shift because of the overprint settings.

All in all it left a bitter taste. For example, they have a layer naming convention I was not told about. If a layer begins with ‘OP’ that’s an overprint – thanks for the heads up. If the layer begins with ‘op’ that’s an option. No chance of confusion there then.

I hand the job back to the designer and say I’m done, but the Production Manager comes along about an hour later with further changes. Clearly he’s told the designer and we couldn’t possibly be working on the same file at the same time could we? Guess again.

What a shambles.

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