Getting Started with Print and Publications

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.

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.