How to Hire the Right Printer

Twenty years ago letterpress printing was considered an obsolete dinosaur and digital printing was in its infancy. Today, there are more printing methods in use than ever before. Letterpress is enjoying a renaissance, engraving is appreciated once again and digital printing looks as good as offset with the advantages of variable data.

So how do you choose a printer? Do you need one printer for each method? Do all printers use all methods? It’s actually not as tricky as you think to find the right printer. Here are five steps to getting exactly the right printer for your project:

First — Ask for recommendations from your professional circle. If you know you need a letterpress printer, be specific. That goes for all kinds of projects, if you need a large banner say so, engraved stationery ditto.

Second — Contact the referred printers and ask to see samples of the type of project you need. In the case of large format you may be given photos and a swatch of material, that’s okay. If you need a pocket folder with an embossed gold logo ask for pocket folder samples with embossed gold logos. You get my drift, be very specific.

Third — Scrutinize those samples! Printing companies keep the best examples of their work to use as samples. If what you are looking at is smudged, has fingerprints, or in any way deviates from what you are expecting on your project; run. That means that printing company doesn’t have the wherewithal to keep prime examples of their work or have very few good examples and neither of those are inspiring or build confidence.

Fourth — Meet the printer. Ask for a plant tour. It doesn’t matter if you can’t tell a six-color press from a folder. Is it clean? Does the shop look organized? Is it calm or does it look chaotic? Are there empty beer cans next to equipment? (I am joking about that one, but I have heard stories about back in the day…) Meet the rep, production person, owner, whomever might be on your team. How long does it take to get an estimate? A proof? How does their production schedule compare to a competitor? Sometimes the differentiator you need on a project will be price, sometimes schedule. You should be able to discern a pattern and respond accordingly based on your needs. Always get multiple quotes if you can, that’s just good business.

There are some more technical ways you can interview a prospective printer, by taking a look at their equipment list and social media sites. But the four steps I have outlined above will get you directly to your target.

Your printer(s) will be become your partner(s) in brand consistency, time to market, prompt delivery and a myriad of other ways. Be honest about yourself and your workflow. If you are always last minute and rushed, explain that and ask if that will be a good fit. Believe it or not, all the print reps I know will be very up front and tell you if it that will make for a good relationship. The last thing they want is the last thing you want, to go down a path with a partner that is not a good match, so that you — and they, have to start over.