When designing a piece for print — whether it’s a postcard mailer, a brochure, a package, a unique marketing application, or something else entirely — it is easy to focus on the most obvious elements. The color. The shape. The graphics. But if you neglect to think about the finish — and design with it in mind — the final product will never be as great as what it could have been.
No matter what actual finishing equipment you are running, here are a few things to keep in mind — or encourage your customers to think about before they submit files — to ensure the finishing isn’t just an afterthought tacked onto an already-completed design, rather than being part of a cohesive package.
- What is the ultimate purpose of the piece? Is it to draw attention to a specific piece of information? To highlight key details? To evoke an emotional response? There are finishing techniques that can help with all of these, and understanding early in the design process what the ultimate end goal is will help determine the best path forward.
- Think about how different finishing techniques could enhance that message. Perhaps a spot coating will help you truly make a specific area pop, drawing the eye to what you want them to see. Perhaps die-cutting an usual shape into the middle of the piece will create an eye-catching and unique effect that customers won’t want to put down. Perhaps a foil will help make a piece feel much higher-end and evoke a sense of quality. Perhaps an embossed area will entice people to want to pick it up and interact with it.
- Narrow it down. Finishing can take a design from good to stunning, as long as the right techniques are used — and you don’t overdo it. This is one of the reasons designing with the finishing in mind is so critical. It allows you to work through the different options and see which one or two make the most sense, instead of trying to throw everything at it, or worse trying to make those decisions when it’s getting ready to go on press and you just have to hope you’re making the right call.
- Think about the substrate. Not all finishing techniques work with all substrate options. As the design takes shape, think about whether you plan to have it printed on coated or uncoated stock, how thick you envision the paper, and what colors you plan to use. Knowing the substrates can help you design a more cohesive piece that truly takes advantage of finishing techniques in the best ways possible.
- Consider the costs. Finishing adds a tremendous amount of value to a printed piece, but it also adds extra production costs. While in the design phase, this is the time to think about which elements will ultimately bring the most value. The prettiest piece in the world does no one any good if it doesn’t fulfil its purpose, and finishing should contribute to that goal, not detract from it.
Thoughtful design leads to perfectly executed print applications, and finishing shouldn’t be left as an afterthought. By making finishing decisions early on, and making them an integral step in the creation process, it becomes a true enhancement that will only add value.