It’s encouraging that designers rate a reasonable range of printers (see survey, page 14). Given that we deliberately trawled only a small bunch of design groups, known for the quality of their work and their concern with detail, the outcome suggests that there’s a good deal of mutual respect between designers and their suppliers – something we aim to foster by highlighting printers that satisfy designers’ needs the best. We’re not looking to show which printers have the best facilities, but to honour those which combine the best service with intangibles such as caring and commitment. It’s about going the extra 100 metres.
The top three printers, deemed by respondents to be best, were rated way above the rest – no mean feat given the range of criteria they had to fulfil. But beyond that there was a fairly even distribution of names, partly reflecting the specialisms of some printers.
Best of all, many designers responding to the survey ranked personal relationships with printers above all else – evidence that they believe collaboration gets the best results. This view is common among designers in Germany and The Netherlands, where exemplary work is, more often than not, the result of close working between designer and printer. The culture in those countries is one of respect and good communication between both parties. It is more akin to the legendary collaboration between Italian furniture manufacturers and designers than the British tendency to apportion blame for failure but not applaud success.
By acknowledging the best relationships, we hope to start to change attitudes on both sides. So far we’ve trawled designers mainly concerned with print – and we plan to repeat the survey next year to build on our findings. But, at the request of several designers, we are likely to survey the opinions of the top branding and packaging consultancies of printers specialising in their sector.
However, we can’t change culture on our own. It takes the will of the design community to do things differently. Apart from producing better work and making the process more pleasurable all round, designers need the expertise of printers more than ever now. Developing technologies render the printing process more complex, but refinements to equipment, materials and techniques mean you can achieve even better results. The best way to unlock that potential is to bring in the expert.
If a printer understands what you want to achieve and sees your passion for perfection, he’ll more than likely respond with a passion of his own. There’s much to gain from sharing pride in the job.