I feel like people in the design industry have been saying, “print is dead,” since the days of flash-based websites…

Y’know, while they read their new copy of HOW Design magazine. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We see print everywhere; ads, posters, billboards, cards, etc.. At known, we’ve worked on a variety of different pieces for clients; whether it was business stationery, product catalogs, or other sorts of publications—even tradeshow booths, but that’s a different story. With each project, we’re always gathering quotes from both local and online sources to try and make sure our clients get the best bang for their buck. The questions we ask usually involve the following:

Quantity: This is two-fold. Firstly, in the case of business cards, each person is a “lot” and each lot may have a certain number of cards printed. So for a team of five, you might order four lots of 150 cards, and then one lot of 500 for your sales guy. Secondly, with other print projects, the more you get printed can determine whether you can get offset (large-quantity printing which we call 4-color process) or digital (best for smaller quantities), as well as a lower price-per-item.

Stock/paper choices: Believe it or not, the type of stock you choose makes a big impression, especially with items like business cards, books, and other publications. It all comes down to the tactile experience—what do you want people to think when they hold the item in their hands? Big brands like Neenah and Mohawk have been leaders of beautiful printing paper for any type of project for years.

Shipping/pick-up options: I get it, you needed this stuff yesterday. Well, this is where you put your money where your mouth is. Like with most things, you can opt for overnight shipping, ground delivery, or if it’s a local place you can just pick it up.

Now the big thing with print is that depending on the project, it can get pricey. Of course you want yourself and everyone else to be impressed with the final product, but there’s no need to hack a limb or two off to get some nice photo-books printed for your photography studio. So with that, here’s my quick two cents in how you can get the most value out of your print projects.

1. Check the files before submitting. Seriously.

Seems obvious, right? You’d be surprised how many things end up going to proofing, and there are typos and missing images all over the place. Now the printer resource, online or local, will totally help you correct your files…y’know, for more money. When you check your files, this is what you want.

Images: 300 dpi (dots per inch), CMYK color (not RGB because that’s for screen display) or greyscale.
Typefaces: These are either provided or changed to outlined graphics—the latter being the popular choice amongst online resources.
Colors: People usually miss this, but it’s a big one. All files should have CMYK (again, not RGB) colors for most digital and off-set printing. Pantone (PMS) colors cost more money because these “spot-color” inks are made in-house. If you have Pantones in your file, make sure you change them quick!
Content: Run spell-check and work that grammar. Not only do those cost money to change in production, but if you don’t catch them in time, you’ll feel like a moron.
Document set-up: Check with your printer resource. Getting things right like proper dimensions, bleeds and crop-marks are crucial, and are additional costs for fixing in production. If it’s an online resource like MOO, GotPrint, or JakPrints, they have file set-up instructions and template files on the site. If local, just give em’ a call!

2. Keep it simple.

Unless you have the undeniable urge for gold-foil or embossing, or die-cutting your business card so it’s in the shape of the Jurassic Park logo, keep it simple. Exotic printing techniques are great when used, but they come with a (hefty) price. More often than not, your print-house will outsource the actual printing to another vendor, in which you’ll end up paying an up-charge price. It’s not an uncommon practice, but why go through the trouble?

If you ARE actually in the market for different printing techniques, then work with your designer and printer to find how you can be efficient with the printed product. Some solutions may include one PMS spot color, using a house stock instead of a larger brand, or just a simpler design all together.

 3. Plan Around Production Times

If you are one of those “I need this yesterday” types, I got news for you: this shit takes time. By time, I mean at least a week/week-and-a-half for production alone, let alone time for shipping. You could also pay a bunch more money to make this a rush job, but that’s just bad planning. Also, keep in mind that production time also involves approving proofs, which is VERY important. Make sure you give yourself and/or your team a solid timeline to get the design solidified, and the items printed and shipped, before you need them in your hands. If you run a lean ship, you’ll work within a lean/affordable budget.

If you’re a person like me, you agree with this: Print’s not dead, it’s thriving and co-existing with digital. To this day, people still like holding printed media in their hands, receiving business cards from professionals, or even hanging beautiful prints on their walls. Getting things professionally printed and seeing them in real life can be a rewarding experience, especially if it’s for your company’s brand—it just doesn’t have to break your bank to do it.


Even before graduating from Massachusetts College of Art & Design in 2012, Chris Santoro wanted to start a kick-ass design agency. Fast forward to present-day, and not only has it happened alongside three close friends, but he's led the brand design for a wide variety of small to mid-sized companies and organizations. If he's not in the office, you'll probably find him shacked up in a nearby coffee shop or a ramen house.