Where do our brochures, catalogues and posters actually come from? What does a printing press look like? What route does a PDF take on its way from data file to hard copy? Setting out to answer these questions, my colleague Aileen Ripper and I – accompanied by our trainee Media Designer, Lorena Treccarichi – visited our regular printing company, Oliver Wilhelm Medienservice. This was a fascinating experience for us Marketing employees. We were able to experience the production of our printed media “up close”.
Not your typical Monday morning
We were picked up by Mr Oliver Wilhelm on 30th January 2017. He has been our contact at the printing company for many years. A little excursion like this to kick off a Monday morning is a rather welcome change from the usual routine at the start of the week! The printers are based just a stone’s throw away from us, so the journey seemed to fly by. However, this may also have been due to the upbeat conversations we had with one another en route to their premises. In the printing company’s office, we were first greeted warmly by the Managing Director, Mr Ullrich Wilhelm, and by Lille, the company dog.
From data file to hard copy
Our tour started with the pre-printing process. Here, the data for our printed materials that we send to the printers are received and prepared for the actual printing process. In addition, so-called “printing plates” (in this case made from aluminium) are created from the printable data. During the production process itself, these printing plates are coated with the four printing colours (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) on the gigantic offset printing press. After this the image is transferred to the printing material. We were also talked through the individual steps of the printing process. Also how many inherent possibilities and variations that this entails.
Expertise drawn from practical examples
The aim of our excursion was to give our trainee Lorena an insight into printing technology. This also allowed her to expand the specialist knowledge she had acquired at university with these practical examples. Among other things, it is important for Media Designers to be familiar with the range of options in terms of paper types and colours. They should also know which printing processes are beneficial for which product. Furthermore what options there are for subsequent processing. Depending on the technical considerations in each case, the printed product may need to be appropriately changed as early as the design phase.
At each stop on the tour, we had the opportunity to ask questions to our hosts. So it’s no surprise that we didn’t have any left at the end! Messrs Wilhelm both gave us an excellent, informative insight into the printing process. After all, we Media Designers only usually learn about this from books!