Thursday, July 24, 2014

10 Reasons To Send Us PDF Files

Having just spent twice as much time as usual trying to print Excel files today, I am making a general appeal to all our customers to always send us PDF files for printing. 

Canon came up with an alarming statistic that although more than two thirds of all business documents are now sent across the Internet as a PDF file – only 10% of our computers are capable of saving a file as a PDF.

Created in 1993 and perfected over more than 20 years – PDF’s have been one of the most welcome software developments for digital and document printing companies.

Editing documents in the world’s most popular piece of software for document printing - Microsoft Word - illustrates the problem.

Word files can be easy to create, save and send. However, if you save a Word document on two separate PC’s with different printer settings you will almost certainly get problems with pagination – line breaks, margins and page breaks can easily be altered. 

That 75 page document suddenly becomes 77 pages when it is printed and all the headings have jumped from the top of one page to the bottom of the next.

If you transfer between different versions of Word or between a PC and a Mac, the situation may be even worse.

Microsoft PowerPoint can be just as problematic.  And Excel can be a real nightmare!

So here are 10 Good Reasons why there are more than one billion PDF files in existence today and why it would really be appreciated if you sent us a PDF rather than your documents or digital printing in any other format:-

1.        What you see is what you get! 

PDF’s are viewable on any device.  They exist independently of the hardware, software and the operating systems.  It doesn’t matter what version of the software you run or whether you use a Mac or a PC.

The clue is in the name – PDF stands for Portable Document Format and is designed to be universal and work across all platforms.

We get digital artwork for print in every possible format from Microsoft Publisher for PC or Mac, to Quark Xpress for PC and Mac or InDesign for PC or Mac.  The permutations run into thousands!

Even if we had the same piece of software there could be big problems when we send a file to print.

It is not always the case – but in most circumstances – “what you see is what you get” when we print a document from a PDF!

2.        Trusted Security.
Many industries deal in sensitive material or intellectual copyrights that need a high level of security. 

The password protection option with a PDF allows both recipients and those receiving the file to know that their information is secure.

Even legal professionals trust PDF’s as their preferred file format.

For an electronic document to be admissible in a court of law, it must be created in a file format that cannot be altered without leaving an electronic footprint.

PDF’s satisfy that need.

And because records are stored in PDF format they are likely to remain the legal standard format for many years to come.

The originator can set passwords to protect the content or create permissions to disable printing or modifications and even add watermarks or encrypt the data.

Remember though – let us know the password for printing otherwise your delivery may be delayed!   We had a real rush job last month and were unable to print because we were not supplied with the password.

3.  Quick and Easy to Create.

Creating a PDF is no different to adding an extra printer option on to your computer.

You simply select the PDF creator as one of the printer options and can usually select the desired resolution – whether you want to just need the file to be read or printed contents. The press-ready option with some creators is designed to supply the highest resolution file for printing.

Your document is converted to a PDF file with a couple of clicks of the mouse and you can store it anywhere you wish on your computer.

Simply send it as an email attachment or upload the file for printing to our FTP Server or one of the file transfer services, like Dropbox.

With some software you can always easily convert them back into their original format if necessary, so that further editing and amendments can be made.

4.    Decreases the File Size.

You can usually convert any file into a PDF without sacrificing quality.   

The PDF should effectively embed all your fonts, text and graphics. 

This ensures that even if recipient doesn’t have the same fonts loaded on their computer they will still be able to view and print the file correctly.

When the PDF is created it also tends to compress large files so that it is easier to transmit over the internet.  On average it compresses the file to approximately a quarter of the original size.

This saves transmission time when sending the files or uploading.

There may be a slight deterioration in quality when printing or even some colour variation but this is often too small to determine and not usually applicable when printing documents.

With digital printing we sometimes print from the original file if there are no obvious issues to maximise the quality.

We have had a few problems with PDF’s but the number of issues is very small relative to the number of documents we produce.

5.   PDF readers and creators are Free.

Adobe Reader is a free download and can even be pre-loaded on new PC’s and Macs for reading documents on the Internet.

Anyone you send the file to should also be able to see the full version of your document on their screens and print it out without a problem.

Adobe and a few other suppliers can provide software for creating and manipulating PDF files although these come with a range of costs.

However, there are some excellent PDF creators that can be downloaded and used for free on the Internet.

For 20 years or more we have provided a “Useful Link” on to some of these.

CUTE PDF is a good option – and we have arranged for many clients to use the free download when sending us the order.

6.   Create Interactive Documents.

To create a fully interactive experience, the latest versions of the PDF software will allow you to add hyperlinks, rich media, music, movies, and many other advanced features.

You can even create interactive forms for a multitude of applications to save time, increase reliability and reduce the cost of postage of the more traditional methods of capturing and sending data.

7.    Mobile Access.

Mobile devices are taking over from PC’s and are beginning to dominate the digital world.

Fortunately, this is not a problem. 

Adobe Reader is available on any device, so people can read your PDF files anywhere they want, while still accessing a lot of the same functionality they would get on a desktop.  

8. Completely Searchable.

Users can easily find what they are looking for through a quick search.

PDF documents can even be organized with a table of contents that link all sections to the appropriate pages in the file.

There are two forms of PDF – ones created from an electronically processed document and a scanned PDF which has searchable capability.

Using PDF as the basis for document storage and archiving results in numerous benefits to companies wishing to reduce paperwork and free up time and space for more productive use.

And with password protection they can be stored without any tampering or changes applied.

9.   Provide Print imposition. 

There are some clever optional software features for specific applications and uses in different industries.

Within the print industry alone there are some excellent features to make the printing a lot easier.

You could merge multiple documents, such as spreadsheets, photos, and presentations, into a single PDF file.

You could simply impose files ready for printing - this is not only a great time-saver but saves any paper wastage as well. 

Some add-on programmes are designed to search out for any issues prior to printing.  This is designed to highlight problems such as low resolution images that would result in poor quality printing.

10. Document Tracking and Analytic Capability. 

In addition to the security measures mentioned previously, recipients can also view who has had access to the information within the document.

If the password is breached, the appropriate actions can easily be taken.

Anyone who originated the document can allow any of their colleagues to mark up and comment on the contents. 

This will allow them to respond and suggest modifications but still leave you in control of editing the original.

So these are just 10 of the obvious advantages. There may even be more.

They are just some of the reasons why we would recommend you obtain probably the most important piece of software that has been created and developed over the last 20 years. 

You can then email or upload a PDF file to Direct2Print confident in the knowledge that the quality will meet your expectations.

Especially for our own peace of mind!!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Creating Effective Printed Materials - Tip 5


The finishing touches of any printed item need to focus on the original objectives and purpose of the document.

This section may not seem applicable to all printed items but is still designed to make sure all your hard work has been worthwhile.

If you were producing a manual, a report or a document designed to educate it should be something that the recipient would want to keep “to hand” rather than lock away and never to use or refer to again. 

If it was a brochure or an item of promotional print - it should exude quality and create an image that will lay the foundations for a sale.

If it required a direct and immediate response - it should have one or more incentives and make the “call to action” immediate and available through a number of different channels.

These latter items are the easiest to evaluate and quantify but you should try and measure the effectiveness of all your printed items.


In theory the hard work has been done.  The content is relevant and the printed item is visually powerful and should effectively meet all your original objectives. 

The whole process so far has been to grab attention and create interest at a time when we are bombarded by a multitude of different messages from every direction. 

By following the Tips outlined in the previous Blogs you will have managed to build up trust, persuade or create a favourable image.  You have made effective use of good copywriting, design, colour, photography and visual communications.

The quality of the printing and papers/cards will also have added to the image.  You should have used production printing technology. Presenting your client with printed documents on an office printer would not compare with the 1200dpi quality printing from one of the production printing presses from the likes of Konica Minolta, Canon, Xerox or Ricoh!

You should have avoided all the usual common mistakes - like cramming too much information into a small area or made bad decisions over fonts and colour combinations.

Making spelling mistakes is still the most common error as we seem to have lost the art of writing and work in the short-hand world of texting and Twitter. 

However, even well-established brands can be damaged by something that passed through the checking stage - like this poster for Tesco’s Cash Back service:

We are getting to the moment of truth.

Now the last piece of the jigsaw is to make sure there is a “call to action” – the final measure of effectiveness of your communication against the original objectives.

The recipients will have been influenced by their emotions and they now need to justify their actions with logic to take the next step – whether this means actually reading and referring to your training manual, requesting more information or making a purchase.

And in terms of maximising your own investment and value for money you need to make sure the printed item you have created has been given the longest possible lifespan according to the business you operate within.

Keeping Content Fresh

One of the drawbacks of any form of printed documentation is that it is dated as soon as it is produced. 

In some industries this is obvious – selling products like car dealers selling second hand cars or an estate agent selling property.

In others it may be necessary after a year or more.

Training manuals will need to be updated to take account of any new technological developments, changes in legislation or any other variables that have caused a change in circumstance.

Providing training materials in lever arch files makes it easier to swap contents than if they were supplied as comb bound or spiral bound documents.

Some may only have a “shelf life” of a few months – particularly if a product is seasonal or at the “cutting edge” of new technology.

Content needs to be updated regularly if at all possible. 

This is the primary benefit of digital printing. 

You simply update, personalise or modify as and when you need. 
There is very little, if any, wastage.

Variable Data Applications

Another great advantage of digital printing is that it lends itself to variable data where text and images can be personalised on every printed item.

This makes the communication very personal and relevant – and usually very much more effective.

Variable data applications are now not just exclusive to improve response rates for sales and marketing departments – but also have a wide range of applications in finance and HR communications as well.

However, this is a big subject in its’ own right and will have to be covered at a later date.

Building Up Trust

The benefit of working for a company with a well-known and established brand is that trust is almost taken as a “given”.

However, for most of us working in the small and medium sized business sector we need to build up trust through effective series of communication methods and gradual persuasion. 

There are various methods to re-enforce the confidence you have in what you are trying to say. 

Good examples are testimonials, case studies, the offer of free no-obligation consultations and proposals, guarantees and any form of money-back commitment you can offer a potential client.

Case Studies always make an excellent source of credibility and trust.  The more respected the testimonial and closer the case study to the recipients own industry or situation, the better.

Offering a potential client the opportunity for a personal testimonial is a very effective conclusion of a personal proposal or quotation and a website or brochure full of testimonials provides a great deal of re-assurance.

Reducing any risk is the best way to build up trust.  Payment only upon completion of a project gives the purchaser a sense of comfort.  A money-back guarantee if anything goes wrong gives comfort.  Or a general guarantee in proportion to the value of the investment being made or for the longest possible period.  In some cases a Lifetime Guarantee can be a sales clincher!

We will all have examples of purchases which we have made personally where the guarantee has been a major factor in the logical decision-making process.

In the case of Direct2Print, we offer a total quality guarantee and a delivery guarantee which we try and honour when at all possible.

Sometimes this is an expensive commitment.  Our Fast service is a Guarantee to deliver printed documents within 6 working hours. 

We have been asked to meet this deadline on occasions and the number of times we have failed in the last 20 years can be counted on one hand.

We will do everything within our power to achieve customer satisfaction. 

One particular case that comes to mind is the production of training manuals for a customer having a training course in Geneva. 

Because the manuals were held up by Customs in Switzerland we had to arrange a 2 hour reprint and courier delivery on a Friday afternoon by a local Swiss printer – BTL Services.

The training course was starting the following day.  A full refund was not an option for the client.
We had to “bend over backwards” to resolve the problem.

The final cost we absorbed was five times the original retail value of the transaction.  But in the end our reputation was more important to uphold.

Give Them a Reason to Act Now

It is important to give someone a reason to act now rather than give them a reason not to do so. 

Otherwise all your preceding efforts to get their attention, interest and desire will have been wasted.

This is often easier to plan in marketing literature rather than other documents and business printing projects. 

We produce a large number of printed training manuals.  However, even with these feedback on their effectiveness after the course finishes is an essential component of the communication process.

The usual techniques in sales and marketing literature are in the form of a special offer, benefit, prize or gift as an extra incentive to respond immediately or to take action before a certain date.

But there are many other techniques – including highlighting a shortage of supply, possible volume or quantity rebates, a warning notice that prices will be increasing and the most important of all - introductory discounts.

In the case of Direct2Print we offer a 50% first time order discount.  This is the nearest promotion to an “offer you can’t refuse” because in most cases the profit in the first transaction is negligible.  Hopefully, by building a relationship even as an online printing specialist the repeat orders will justify the initial promotional price.

“Word of mouth” recommendation is the most valuable form of marketing.  We want to encourage the first order to overcome the potential risk of dealing with an unknown supplier and also to “spread the word” to all their contacts.

We have been able to trace business generated from third party recommendation and this is an active part of our strategy. We have effectively used a “Recommend A Friend” reward scheme for those passing on our contact details and using our services.

This service seems to have been superseded by social media.

Social media has made this aspect of referral even more important and websites such as Trip Advisor can make or break the reputation of companies – particularly those within the hospitality sector.

Finally, one interesting piece of research in direct mail claimed you needed an average of 3 benefits before a call to action to achieve good response rates and it often needed a final “push” with a special offer to get an immediate commitment or purchase.

In the old days – it was often in the PS of the correspondence – as a final and last attempt to persuade or prompt you to take action.

Make it Easy to Respond

You often have to tell the recipient what they need to do next.  Don’t just assume that they will look for your telephone number or visit your web site.

If you don’t tell them what action to take they will very often take the wrong course of action.
One direct mail tip was to involve them in actually doing something – like cutting out a coupon or completing a survey.

The golden rule is to give as many options as possible – let them respond by email, phone, fax, text, or any way convenient to the client .

Double check all this channels of communication are correct and working.  There is nothing so annoying to decide to find out more information only to discover the link has broken or the phone is not answered in a professional manner.

Also wherever possible make these lines of communication free. 

Direct2Print have been great advocates of the FREEPHONE and FREEFAX service and we have retained the same numbers for over 20 Years. 

The incremental cost is miniscule in comparison to the perceived value – especially compared to premium rate lines sometimes used for customer services.

One point to remember with 0800 numbers is that they are not always accessible from a mobile and you will also need to offer a landline number as an alternative.

BT were once the darlings of the print industry and they introduced new dialling codes to accommodate an ever-rising demand for new landline numbers – and Freephone not only overcame a geographical resistance but made stationery more long lasting.

Email continues to replace traditional channels and has revolutionised business communications. It has virtually destroyed the need for a postal service within the last 20 years – basically because it is immediate, free and traceable.

However, there is nothing more annoying than receiving spam email that is not relevant and this can seriously damage your reputation and relationship.

Technology will continue to make responding even easier in the future and it is important that we all keep up with the developments to enhance customer service.

Review and Evaluate

Finally, after the event it is time to sit back, review and evaluate the effectiveness of your project.

Ideally a combination of quantitative and qualitative feedback is required – but after all your hard work you may just want to feel that you have done your best and can have a great deal of satisfaction in the end result!

In the next series of blogs we will look at some specific Case Studies, new technological developments in the print industry and offer hints and tips on how to design specific items of business stationery.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Creating Effective Printed Materials - Tip 4


Creativity and skill are now needed to put everything together for your final document or printed item.

For those without experience, this can be a frustrating, daunting and time-consuming final part of the project. 

You could spend many hours completing a task that a trained graphic designer can complete within a few minutes.

Up until now the required skills have been more related to copywriting and photography – with an ability to create visuals of charts and graphs. 

Now it is the role of the designer to put everything together for maximum visual impact. 

Too many printed materials lack the professional layout finish at this stage and devalue everything else that has gone before in the preparation.

As any decorator will tell you – preparation is vital but if you do not hang the wallpaper correctly the results can be a visual disaster!


Having created the headlines, the copy and the visual images – now all you need to do is to put them all together in the most effective way possible. 

An age-old tip is to start with a blank piece of paper and sketch the layout style that is in your head before you get too far with the computer formatting at this stage.

When creating the layout it is usually recommended to always try and keep to a symmetrical design.  Formatting needs to assume that the pattern of reading is from left to right and from top to bottom. 

Making the balance between text and visual content to about one third/two thirds is also a good “rule of thumb” guideline for any designer. 

If your concept does not meet this ratio it is probably best to review it at this comparatively early part of the design process.

The ability to create white space is very important in all aspects of design – without it everything tends to look cluttered. 

So by allowing for as much “quiet area” as possible within your design concept will increase the effectiveness of your communication.


The picture below shows what 66,000 brochures looks like... ...before they are recycled. 

This was not one of our jobs I hasten to add - but a colleague in London had to scrap these corporate brochures because of a single error on one of the digits of the telephone number.

On another corporate brochure this month where “print-ready” artwork was supplied by the client, we picked out an average of 15 spelling and grammatical errors on each page before we even needed to print a proof copy.

When presented with a print-ready proof the reader’s eyes tend to glaze over looking at the overall appearance rather than the detail.

On occasions we have provided five or more printed proofs for the client to make changes and alterations to text or content.  This adds to the cost and results in delays to the deadlines.

It is therefore always recommended that serious proofing is done BEFORE all the content is entered into the layout template you have created.

And remember; do not rely on automated spell – checkers – many of the best “howlers” are not picked up because the word exists but in a totally different context.


You are now ready to begin the digital formatting of the document.

Create the layout grid in your software based upon the style and shape of your visual concept.

If you have a lot of text it is often better to use the column layout.  Decide whether you will be using one, two or three columns for the layout?

The next step is to import and position any photographs or other visuals across or within these columns of the page structure.

Consider using any borders for images or whether they are best to “blend” into the text.

Importing the text on a word flow allows a rough gauge on the total amount of content and work around this accordingly – according to whether you have too little or too much content.

Decide upon text wrap options, justification, line spacing and leading and begin to do the hard work involved in adapting the content to the best layout.

For example, to fill space it may be easier to expand the margins, increase the size of headlines or increase the point size of the first line of each paragraph.

Or be more creative with layout – for example, important points can be pulled out and highlighted in boxes, page numbering can be made more prominent, and headings can be designed using all the effects of colours and style.

Attention should be paid to minor grammatical and typographical mistakes at this stage.  Typically “widows” or “orphans” – these are words that have become detached from the main body of the relevant text.

Is there plenty of “white space”?   Remember this doesn’t have to be white; it just has to be blank so that it draws the eye to the text and makes everything easier to read and comprehend.

Ghosted photographic images in the background can also be effectively used as “white space” but try and avoid problems with particular colour combinations mentioned in the previous blogs. 

Make sure text flows easily and logically.   Is it visually clear and legible?

Ideally dark text on a white background but always dark text on light backgrounds or reversed out text on dark colour backgrounds.

Sub-Editing & QR Codes

At this stage you often realise there is just too much information and you have to be even more ruthless to reduce the amount of copy and sentence length.

Make sure the photographs or illustrations are adjacent to the relevant text and ensure there is consistency throughout the document.

Then be ruthless in the sub-editing of the copy and then if all else fails, reduce the size of the text and visual images to try and keep to the original design concept.

If there is just too much information then consider a re-design or perhaps the use of using QR Codes. 
QR Codes are a great way of integrating digital and printed media.  They work well where space is at a premium, for example on business cards or where it is expensive, such as in an advertisement. 

With a QR reader downloaded onto a mobile device – a simple scan can take the customer to a wealth of detail and information.  Direct2Print offer a free QR Code generating service for all orders for the design of printed stationery.

Consider using QR Codes in all aspects of your communications – for example, on the sides of your vans – so your customers can easily link into the digital communications of your business.

In some applications it is easy to see the benefits.  For example, estate Agents will no doubt continue to rely on their local newspapers as a cost effective advertising medium.  Now a QR code next to each advertised property can be scanned by a mobile device and provides an array of photographs and information that would cover many pages of printed materials.

But every business should be able to apply this channel.  Apparently, QR Codes have even now even found an application on gravestones!

Practical Issues

Practical issues often only usually come to light at this final stage of the design process.

The practical issues often relate to the usage planned. 

Are the margins of sufficient size to allow for binding or hole punching or drilling?  Does the paper need to be gloss or matt? Does the user need to be able to write or take notes on this paper?  If the document is to be folded or bound do the pages need to lie flat? 

Would tear-proof paper or lamination be a worthwhile extra investment for quality or practical application – if it is being used in a factory or kitchen environment where it would soon become grubby and damaged? 
If it is a comb or wire bound document would it be better to put acetates on the front and back for extra protection?

Having satisfied all of these points it is time for the final proof “sign off”

Print-Ready Proof

Depending on the project it is best to print out a proof as near as possible to the finished printed item.  With digital or document printing this is relatively easy because “what you see is what you get”. 

However, there may be some minor variations depending on the calibration of the printing press or even the climatic conditions – but generally, the purpose of this proof is to make sure the final product meets the original objective in terms of appearance, quality and feel.

Increasingly more printed products can now be produced as a single item.  For example, we can now produce a single A4 landscape brochure on our new KM6000 colour press which would not have been possible before.

When sending the printing for full colour process printing there may be colour variations with the digital print, but this is the too big a subject for this article.

At Direct2Print we offer a FREE TRIAL for when the content and appearance is critical. 
This option was popular in the past. These days most clients are just happy to get the job printed and delivered as soon as possible!

Hopefully, everyone will be happy with the final proof – otherwise changes at this stage can be quite time-consuming and expensive.