Hints for better print design Part II

or how to make your print provider’s day go better; Part II

1. Do you PDF/X-1a?

Don’t be put off by the obscure and cumbersome acronym. Of the myriad formats and vehicles for sharing electronic files, PDF – specifically the flavor called PDF/X-1a – has become the standard in the printing industry. For good reason, we think.

After decades of struggling with dozens of divergent, incompatible formats, from Quark to Word to Postcript to My-Cool-Little-Layout-Program-That-Only-3-People-Use, not to mention platform-dependent idiosyncracies, the graphics world has settled on a system that smooths out virtually all the bumps in the road to reliable output (that means printing things the way you want them). Besides more predictable output, PDF has the extra benefit of slimming your files for sending to the printer. Instead of packaging up and transmitting 250 big ol’ Megabytes of documents, graphics and fonts, you can just shoot over a fit and trim 14 Mb (or so) PDF.

Continue reading this post »

Some Earth Day hand-wringing

Warning: Contains lamenting and finger-pointing

Having experienced the first Earth Day celebration as a school child in 1970, learning about new disturbing concepts like “pollution” and “endangered species,” doing projects and oral reports and listening to grownups talk about protecting our planet, it’s kind of cool to think that the commemorative date has actually survived these 40 years. It’s also sad and distressing to see that in terms of environmental sustainability we have actually slipped backward from those heady days when Nixon’s administration established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Why have the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act been battered and threatened almost to extinction? How did climate change explode on us to arguably become the number one threat to life on earth?

Especially vexing is the fact that there is actually so much more awareness now, and so many thousands of organized groups striving to save some bit (or all) of the planet. Great work is being done every day, from local initiatives like Boston’s Sustainable Business Network and the Massachusetts Energy Consumers Alliance, to larger national and global projects like those of Greenpeace (also founded in 1970), and Friends of the Earth.

You may have your own theories about the cyclone of environmental destruction. To me, a consistent policy of favoring big corporate power in the U.S. is always a ripe candidate for culpability. Oil companies are allowed to operate seemingly unfettered by restrictions or taxes and nefarious subsidies are issued to big polluting companies. Not to mention the massive corporate giveaway/environmental catastrophe that is NAFTA. To add insult to environmental injury, corporations have adopted greenwashing as a Standard Operating Procedure, making sure that consumers and shareholders are distracted by a facade of ecological benevolence.

These issues form a basis for a sort of  global economic idea of why things have gone so wrong. And for many of us here in the U.S., the whole picture of what is going on in China (Red China as we called it in 1970) is almost unimaginable. They are the fastest growing economy in the world, and poised to challenge us for the title of greatest abuser of natural resources. At the same time, they seem to be leaders in progressive environmental action.

Continue reading this post »

Green leaves | Free Vector Graphics

Free art is one of those commodities people have come to expect from the web. When that art comes with an actual license to use it pretty much as you please, then it’s guilt-free pleasure.

QVectors provides a nice assortment of tiny treasures. Download this leaf set from here

Green vector leaves | QVectors Free Vector Graphics.

Riding Along with Bikes Not Bombs

A local group with whom we share a lot of values, Bikes Not Bombs deserves all the recognition it can get. Here in Boston, they recycle bicycles, train youth, and help build a peaceful community. Besides all that, they’re friends of ours!

YouTube – Ride Along with Bikes Not Bombs.

Hints for better print production

or how to make your print provider’s day go better; Part 1

You love layout and design. Pushing around colors, text and graphics, manipulating pixels, and jockeying the mouse around the pasteboard until that eye-candy pops off the page. It’s got a rich, satisfying feeling like (almost) nothing else you do. And making the client happy with your cool concepts and designs yields the added bonus of bringing in the paychecks.

As printers, we love seeing those fine designs in all their glory on paper. In between the design and printing the finished piece, however, comes a lot of work. This stage is known as electronic prepress, or sometimes more simply as a boatload of pain.

Your carefully selected Pantone colors must be re-interpreted so they render with exactly the tonality you intended. The delicate transparency effects like feathered edges and layer masks must be brought down to earth so they look good when flattened into their 2-dimensional domain. And all that critical text, kerned and hyphenated to perfection, must come through the process with precision rivaling the work of a rocket scientist. In fact, the stakes might seem even higher than the star wars missile defense system. After all, this is no ordinary satellite orbit we are dealing with. It is your design – as well as your clients business – that is on the line.

The following tips are offered as a guide, a plea really, to design your print work with the actual printing process in mind.

In addition to this abbreviated roundup, check out Adobe’s voluminous compendium of data in their CS4 Print Production Guide, downladable here.
Disclaimer: changes in technology can render any advice obsolete rather quickly. But if you follow these principles now, you can help yourself – and your printer – stay ahead of the curve.

Continue reading this post »

Environmental impact of print vs electronic media

It seems easy to find fault with printing for its environmental impact. Millions of trees dead. Gone to the mill to serve our gigantic needs for paper products. Dead trees are a sort of poster-child for environmental destruction. Electronic media is in, dead trees are out, we are told.

While we won’t greenwash the effect of pernicious forestry practices (even certifications such as those from the “Forest Stewardship Council” are suspiciously tied to corporate interests), there is good reason to believe that much of the trend towards “all things digital” is equally the product of industry manipulation.

As a culture, we exalt the digital lifestyle, cradling our new iPads and demanding ever-increasing levels of computer power and industrial-scaled “server farms” to support our need for internet communication, social networking and entertainment. Few are willing to muse on the tremendous energy use incurred by these habits or on the gigantic mountains of plastic and silicon waste and toxic refuse generated by the digital lifestyle. This blog post is ironically dedicated to the poor worker in Thailand who is asked to take apart old computers to salvage what she can and to live among the toxic ruins of what she can’t.

Continue reading this post »

35 years of political posters from Red Sun Press

The work of Red Sun has yielded impressive graphic results for progressive causes since 1974. “Impressions for Change” is a touring show of posters printed at Red Sun focusing on peace, justice, and a sustainable world.

March 1- April 30, 2010

Wong/Yee Gallery

Chinese Progressive Assn.

28 Ash St., Boston

June 18 – Aug 27

Harriet Tubman House

566 Columbus Ave., Boston

Red Sun Press – Progressive Printers

Over the past thirty-five years, the faces have changed, but the mission remains the same. Red Sun Press has maintained its commitment to work with organizations and businesses that are building a better world. And we have continued to develop as a democratic workplace that integrates our values into our business.

Unlike most commercial printing companies, every worker at Red Sun Press is a member of the cooperative and shares equally in the profits. Women and men of all backgrounds have equal opportunities. Our “green” philosophy guides the decisions we make about paper and ink choices, recycling used materials, and health and safety practices. We have chosen to locate our business in an urban neighborhood that is close to public transportation and provides jobs within the local economy.

Welcome to Red Sun Press

Welcome to Red Sun Press. Enjoy our thoughts on printing, politics, the environment and progressive causes.