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Getting Started: Questions for Every Print Project

Printed publications include such formats as flyers, brochures, invitations, advertisements, direct mailers, and posters. A print publication may be a stand-alone piece or one facet in a comprehensive communications plan that integrates multiple printed pieces and electronic communications. Once you have determined that a printed piece is part of your communications plan, you should consider many issues before proceeding. The following questions will help you formulate ideas as you get started.

Universal Communications Project Planner

Any communications project you undertake—whether print or electronic—should consider the following: audience, objective, message, strategy, methods, distribution, budget, schedule. Learn more.

Print and Electronic Communications: An Integrated Approach

It is important to consider at the outset whether print is the best mode of communication to accomplish your goal. If you do choose print, you should consider how your print materials fit into a comprehensive communications plan that integrates print and electronic communications. Learn more.

Resources: Who Should Do the Work?

  • Producing quality publications requires considerable specialized expertise, including writing, editing, graphic design and layout, and print production.
  • You should strongly consider turning to a professional project manager or to individual professionals—a writer/editor, graphic designer, and/or print production specialist—to help you develop your project.
  • Rutgers-affiliated units can work with external vendors who are selected through a competitive bidding process. To learn more, contact University Procurement Services.

Schedule/Deadline: When Do You Need Your Publication?

  • Always get started as early as you possibly can.
  • Quality publications take time to develop from concept to printer-ready electronic file.
  • Rush schedules are costly and increase the chance of errors getting through to your final piece.
  • Development time can run from a few weeks or a month to many months’ time.
  • The actual printing time alone will vary from a few days to a week for a simple, small piece to as much as three weeks for an elaborate publication.

Format: What Size and Shape of Publication is Right for Your Project?

  • Publications can vary tremendously in size and shape: brochure, booklet, flyer, postcard, poster, or a combination of any of these.
  • Advertisements usually conform to sizes supplied by the media in which you are buying ad space.
  • The length of your text and the photos, illustrations, or other imagery you want to include will drive what format will work best.
  • Consider your audience’s attention span: less is frequently more, and as the adage says, a picture can be worth a thousand words.
  • How will you distribute the piece? Will it be a self-mailer, placed in an envelope, or handed out at a fair or conference?
  • Consider postal regulations and costs as you choose a format.
  • Remember that budget limitations are always the final determinant.

Paper and Ink: Is Color Critical to Attracting Your Audience?

  • A professional designer or print production specialist can advise on papers and ink.
  • Remember that glitzy can capture a reader’s attention but can also communicate “wastefulness” in economically challenging times.
  • The quantity of publications you will need will also significantly affect paper and ink choices. Unit costs for color printing go down dramatically as the quantity goes up.

Printing: What Are the Options?

  • Traditional offset printing is now supplemented with a number of different options.
  • Color photocopying and digital printing may make small-quantity, full-color printing more affordable.
  • Offset printing typically requires the most time.

Quantity: How Many Do You Need to Last for How Long?

  • The more you can print, the better your unit printing price is likely to be. 
  • Consider when the content of your piece will become out of date.
  • Direct reprints are likely to be costly, relative to printing a larger quantity the first time around. On the other hand, cartons of unused pieces that must be trashed are financially wasteful and don’t help the environment.

Distribution: How Will You Get Your Publication to the Audience?

  • Be sure to consider distribution seriously from the outset of your project.
  • Your distribution plan should be in place—mailing lists, delivery to conferences, etc.—by the time your piece is printed.
  • Make sure you have room to store the boxes once your piece is delivered.
  • Remember, decisions already made on paper weight and size will affect distribution costs.

Budget: How Much Money Do You Have to Invest?

  • Many of the issues above need to be answered, at least tentatively, to proceed with cost estimates from the people providing services and from printers.
  • You may want to get some initial estimates to help with the decision-making process and then proceed with formal, competitive bids once the project is well defined.