Unless you are a web designer, exclusively, it is essential for most graphic designers to establish good working relationships with various types of print vendors. Finding good vendors that you can rely on can sometimes be a monumental undertaking. We have been currently looking for some new print vendors and the question always comes up whether to go with a web based company or a local print shop. There are obviously benefits to both. While having a local printer suites your need to see the physical product and make last minute changes or adjustments, they are typically more expensive than one you might find online. Although an online printer could serve your purposes inexpensively, some designers might feel there is a bit of disconnect because they are not dealing face to face with a person and one can’t see the product until it is delivered. The truth is there are benefits to both options. The trick is finding what works for you.
We find that there are some really great printers online but it usually takes time to find out which ones are up to your quality standards. The internet is littered with options for printers so tossing the proverbial dart and hoping for the best one might not be the best way to go. Any reputable printer will offer to send you a sample pack of all their products. Make sure you take them up on that and keep the sample pack in place where you can find it. We often use these different sample packs when we meet with clients. They are extremely useful for customers who want to feel or see different paper stocks or thicknesses. Also, if you can, try to speak with your customer service representative. If they are not accommodating and informative about their products you might want to consider another printer. Nothing is worse than having a problem or issue arise and having a rep who is unwilling to compromise and help you resolve it. Representatives that don’t know their product will not be able to accurately answer any questions you might have before or during the print process. This is never good. We rely on our vendors to keep us informed about their products and ones that don’t know about their products are useless. This does not only apply to online print houses. It is also true when using a local printer.
Using a local printer has it’s pros and cons as well. The perk of working with a local printer is obviously being able to meet face to face with an actual human being, and being able to see what they’re printing on at a moments notice. Usually the major down side is that they are more expensive than printers you find on the internet. They may also do much less print volume, which could be both an advantage or disadvantage for you. Because they are exposed to less print challenges they may have a more limited knowledge of new technologies and techniques that could fix your problem. Or, may not have a large variety of printing equipment capable of meeting your needs. But, if you forgot what a certain paper stock feels like, or you want to double check colors, or you want to know how certain t-shirts fit before you buy them, you can talk directly to your printer and get your answer right away. Being able to go right in and ask questions about products or iron out mistakes that might have happened during the printing process or to just pop in and talk shop, allows you to build a much stronger working relationship with your printer. This is good because, if you have a good relationship and they feel comfortable working with you, they are more likely to let you know if they see a design/copy mistake, if they think there will be any issues completing the job on time or if they want to give you a price break for being a loyal customer. Although you can usually find someone to print cheaper online, because the printer pool is virtually limitless, it does not always work out to your advantage. Even if a local printer is less expensive it pays to do your due diligence and make sure they really know their products as well.
In conclusion, it is obviously not a good idea to just go out and use the print shop that is least expensive. You usually get what you pay for. However, that is not always the case and even expensive printers can make huge mistakes. The important thing is to find out how your problems will be handled when they arise. If you do business long enough you will come to realize that it is not a matter of “IF” a problem could come up but more likely “WHEN”. You want to use companies that stand by the quality of their products and are willing to work through issues with you. Sometimes you will have to “eat it” but it helps when someone else is there to make sure you don’t “eat it” every time. It is good to establish strong working relationships with every type of vendor and that is why, when you find one that works for you, it’s important to make sure you hold on to them. Finding a new one is obviously a time consuming task. And, always remember, “time is money”.