Markzware

Intrigue with FlightCheck Preflight to Quickly Identify and Solve Problems

Adobe InDesign CS5 Preflight by Intrigue with FlightCheck
The importance of preflighting with FlightCheck, how it helps to avoid InDesign pre-flight problems, and the role of preflighting in the preflight workflow of their digital process is explained by Intrigue Design, a small print, photograph and design studio located in Melville, New York:

Markzware, makers of FlightCheck, the Adobe InDesignCS5 compatible preflight software, sat down with David Steinberg, who is the mighty wizard that wears a variety of hats, which include the technical support coordinator, systems specialist, graphic/production artist, proofreader and, last but not least, the preflight professional at Intrigue Design for the past eight years. “I wear many hats – which usually means that when something is not working correctly or a puzzle needs to be solved, I’m the one called upon to remedy the situation.  Whether it’s rectifying a graphics glitch within a layout or fixing a troublesome Mac, there is always something here that needs my attention in our high-paced daily routine.”

From Architectural Technology to Computer Graphic Arts

Steinberg, who originally planned on becoming an architect, because he really enjoyed technical drawing, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Technology in 1992. Because the industry had a down-cycle at the time of his graduation, Steinberg decided to move to plan B. “After an extended period of job searching, I decided it would be best to go with Plan B, which was Computer Graphic Arts, and to switch careers. To do that, I taught myself Quark, Photoshop and Illustrator, and put a basic portfolio of my work together. My first job in the industry was scanning and cleaning up textbook line art. It was a good way to get a foot in the industry’s door. After a couple of years, I moved on to bigger and better things. My interest in understanding how things work, and fixing them when they don’t, came in very handy over the years. I like to keep up with what’s going on in the technology and computer industries — especially with Apple and the Macintosh.”

Intrigue Design handles a variety of multiple projects on a daily basis that include digital photography, catalogs, brochures, sell sheets, banners, printing and website design.” It is very enjoyable to be part of a team that oversees every aspect and component of our clients’ projects from concept to completion – a one-stop shop, if you will. Every day, I find it exciting to tackle projects that may be both technical and/or creative in nature,” Steinberg expressed.

Common Preflight Problems

Tackling all these projects requires focus, attention to detail and technical expertise.  To help with ensuring that these projects get completed on time and without error, Steinberg uses Markzware’s FlightCheck preflight solution, which is compatible with Adobe CS5 CS4.  In this business, there are a lot of deadlines that need to be met, and Steinberg explains the process of their preflighting steps and the preflight workflow routine that is followed to ensure that there are aren’t any preflight problems.

Steinberg describes the routine he follows and some of the common problems that occur within common desktop publishing (DTP) applications such as Quark and Adobe InDesign CS5. “In the last-minute rush to make a project deadline, some things inevitably get missed along the way.  When I do a preflight on a job file, I have a routine that I follow.  First, I check to make sure there are no problems with fonts – and there usually will be!  Then, I’ll go in and check the layout dimensions against the job specs. From there, I will will check bleed and safety on all pages.  Next, I eliminate unused colors and verify the number of colors that should be printing.  After that, I check to ensure there are no missing or modified images being used. Lastly, I check layers, if any, in the layout and make sure they are set up correctly. Overall, what gets flagged the most is usually low resolution files, JPEGs, GIFs, RGB, or some other incorrect usage of color.”

Preflight Workflow

Steinberg explains, “We do a lot of spot color work on many projects.  However, sometimes we are asked to stick to regular CMYK to save on costs.  Inevitably, some of the project files have spot colors applied and shouldn’t.  FlightCheck helps us flag those immediately.  Also, on occasion, a few FPO stragglers will sneak through the workflow to the end.  FlightCheck catches those too – and we have someone change out the lo-res RGB JPEGS for hi-res CMYK TIFs.  I very much like the fact that it will flag layered TIFF! It’s almost impossible to know if a TIFF file is layered otherwise – unless you open each one. Some of our printing vendors prefer flat files, so knowing which images need to be flattened before sending the job is a big thing for us.

I also like how FlightCheck breaks down the information for each image file used in the layout and gives the equivalent resolution, which is based on the file resolution and the percentage at which it is scaled. It’s an easy way to tell at a glance if certain files will meet our equivalent resolution minimums for the job or not.”

Intrigue Design uses a variety of desktop publishing applications  such as Adobe CS5 CS4 Design, Quark, even Publisher when working on the many incoming projects in this all-Mac environment.  Steinberg explains the many software applications and machines that are involved in ensuring the jobs are completed in top-quality fashion. “We’re using everything under the sun, and more.  First, we are a Mac-based studio.  Always have been, always will be – wouldn’t have it any other way, as we can handle both Mac and PC files as needed.  Primarily, we design and build our layouts using QuarkXPress files, but we are doing more and more work in Adobe InDesign too.

Over the years, we’ve also managed to keep up with the new versions. At the moment, we have begun to upgrade some of our Mac workstations — a series of new Core i5 iMacs running Snow Leopard 10.6.3 have been brought in to replace older G4’s and G5’s. In the process, we are installing Adobe CS Design and Quark 8.1.6. Others are running a mix of Adobe CS3 and Adobe CS4, along with Quark 7.5.  We rely HEAVILY on Photoshop.  Did I say ‘heavily?’ Also, we’ll use Illustrator, and even Microsoft Word for some things. If a job is being sent to the printer as a PDF, we also use Adobe Acrobat and Distiller to handle it. For asset management, we use Adobe Bridge, Extensis Portfolio and Cumulus.”

Why FlightCheck

A lot of catalog design work is done at Intrigue Design and Steinberg describes the process that they follow to ensure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed in completing the final project. “The process is usually similar from job to job. First, we get a mock-up layout from the client to start things off.  Photography of the products and other design elements are either done by our on-staff photographer, or supplied to us by the client (or 3rd party vendor). We then color correct and retouch the photos that come in.

Backgrounds are designed and layered in Photoshop.  The design is laid out and typeset in either QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign.  A first round of proofs is printed and sent to the client for checking.  We then make corrections and refine the files and the design.  When it’s given the approval to send out to the print shop, we go in and finalize all the files for printing.  All specs are checked manually in Quark and/or Adobe InDesign, along with spelling.  When ready, we send the file, or files, through FlightCheck to flag anything we might have overlooked.  Any errors are corrected at this stage. Lastly, the job files are collected and either burned to disc, or uploaded to the company that will handle printing and/or distribution.”

Steinberg explains how Intrigue Design goes about preflighting with Markzware FlightCheck preflight software when it comes to the native files, like Adobe InDesign CS5. “Although, both Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress have some measure of preflight and job collecting abilities, they don’t give you a very clear picture of what is what, especially on large projects.  It is much easier to preflight and scan through the FlightCheck windows to quickly see where the problems are and what needs to be done to fix them.  Even when I’ve used the built-in file-collecting functionality, I still preflight the layout files through FlightCheck to see that I didn’t overlook anything.  It builds confidence to know that the files were checked in FlightCheck before going out the door.”  Steinberg continues, “When we send out PDFs, I prefer to run the native layouts through FlightCheck first beforehand.

With that said, our PDF/x compliant settings usually generate a flawless PDF.  That and our print vendors will check the files on their end, so there is not much need for us to ‘re-check’ a PDF after the fact.  Using FlightCheck gives us confidence to know the integrity of what we are sending to vendors and clients.  It’s the standard in the industry for a reason. Anyone doing professional-level work should already be using it.”

The future of printed material

With this preflight talk, Markzware was curious to find out how Steinberg envisions the future of printed material, so he shared this with us:

“They said that PDFs would eliminate the need to print so much paper.  That was back in the early 90s.  Little did anyone know, if anything, printing on paper has only increased since then.  Everyone wants a hard copy of everything on screen, so it doesn’t get lost.  With the improvements in technology, more and more people are printing at the office and at home, and achieving excellent results.  It’s no longer necessary to go to a print shop for basic needs; people can get decent print quality with very low-end equipment. For high-end projects, the need for print shops is still quite strong. People still want to have and hold high-quality printed materials.

The experience of holding and reading through a book, a catalog or a brochure is one that a computer screen can’t replicate.  Even though the web has taken off tremendously, and will continue to do so for years to come, there will still be demand for printed materials, no matter what. It’s too tiring and cumbersome to read from a computer screen over long periods of time.  Like everything else, it will evolve, and I think people will still embrace the printing medium, as they currently are with electronic mediums and distribution.”

Thank you, David Steinberg of Intrigue Design. Markzware FlightCheck is a valuable quality control technology to preflight InDesign. Now, Markzware asks you, the reader — What are your most difficult preflight problems that occur most often? How did you solve them? And, lastly, where do you see the world of printing heading?  Share your thoughts with us at Markzware, where you can find Adobe InDesign CS5 plugins for InDesign preflight and more CS5 plugins.

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