Let's Get Technical

6 Common Production Design Issues To Catch Before You Send to Print


Adam Steinberg


If you need to bring your creative designs out of your laptop and into the physical world, production design is going to get you there. Whether it’s a new (CPG) product, a product line extension, or supporting sales and marketing materials, production is where things can get complicated. You or your designer may come up with the most amazing creative concept, but if you don’t have an experienced resource that can do the technical work to adjust and fit your creative assets into your printer-supplied dielines according to their specific specs, you’re going to have trouble bringing your creative vision to market.

To give you a headstart, here are 6 common production design headaches to watch out for as you get ready to finalize your design:

Dieline layout

All too often, a design team will envision a fabulous product with unique features that will absolutely blow the consumer away, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty - the design frequently needs to be edited as a concession to what the packaging/label manufacturer is actually capable of producing. It sounds simple, but changing a precise layout and making it fit into new dimensions can be extremely challenging.

In the case that the graphic designer has created a product without the dielines as a reference, some common problems that arise are:

  • Inadequate or no bleed allowance
  • Important text or visual elements end up being too close to the edge or interfering with construction features like seals, seams and scores.

Tiny Gansta beer can

Unprintable designs that require adjustments

Ever seen a great flier or brochure but one or more of the images looks out of focus? This doesn’t always mean that the file was too small. Granted, that’s the most common reason for fuzzy images, but things like missing links and document raster settings in your design program are also common culprits. Likewise, depending on how a file was built, with the wrong output settings in place, even vector art can look terrible!

Occasionally your printer might come back to you and request edits that you weren’t expecting solely due to the content of the design. Depending on what print process you’ve chosen, some things simply won’t be possible. A skilled production designer acting as a checkpoint between your graphic design team and your printer can save you a lot of time and frustration.

Pulling your hair out

Color management

Again, depending on your printer’s capabilities, you will be faced with a variety of circumstances for color management. Are you working with a digital press? Offset? 8 colors or 10? Varnish or aqueous coating? All of these factors and choices are going to play into how your file needs to be built to be produced successfully. Many times, your artwork will dictate which of your printers you can and cannot work with on a specific project. Production designers are skilled in looking ahead to predict issues that might arise in the hand-off to your printer, and helping to mitigate them before they cause unnecessary delays.


Three-dimensional print continuity

One of the hardest things about designing for a three-dimensional object is predicting where the art needs to start and stop and what its orientation needs to be on the printed substrate in order to form into the desired shape without distortion or elements coming out upside-down. This is a great opportunity to remind you that you should ALWAYS leave time for a physical proof. We’re talking about the difference between a couple of days delay and having to start from scratch and spend the money to reprint the whole job. It’s never not worth it.

Packaging box

Layer and separation organization

What is a print shop’s biggest pet peeve? Files that are disorganized, jumbled, and not clearly marked for print separations. Nothing is worse than needing to make edits quickly before printing and being faced with hours of detective work and painstaking rebuilding to get things sorted out. Mistakes that happen in print shop pre-press often happen during this step. The print shop is handed a disorganized file and in the process of making it workable, a small element gets lost or a color gets dropped and it’s not always caught in the proofing process. Dedicated production will be specifically looking for these types of errors when preparing a file for press and will perform overlays and separation checks to ensure everything is set up correctly. Your printer will love you when you send them organized and separated files!

Frida Kombucha can

Misunderstanding printer specs/requirements

Not everyone knows how to package files, outline fonts, set color space and establish functional bleeds and that’s okay! Good production design means studying the printer’s specifications and capabilities and designing to meet the needs for the best output from that specific printer. Very few printers will be exactly alike in their requirements. What works here may not work there. Knowing that every single file must be approached uniquely is the first step, and part of what sets production designers apart from other types of graphic design. We’re here to solve your unique puzzle.

Printing press


Before you enter the production designstage of the product development lifecycle, revising and iterating your designs is straightforward and relatively inexpensive. Your designer can make quick changes and the only cost involved is additional labor hours. Once you move to production design, you raise the stakes. An overlooked error that doesn’t get caught until unusable proofs or even printing plates are produced can cost thousands, or even billions! Not to mention time. Unexpected rounds of revision can lead to missed launch deadlines and missed projections.

Save yourself the headache and leverage a team of expert production designers like KitPrint.