It's a lonely life...that of the necromancer, er freelancer

A blog by a designer and illustrator, for designers and illustrators which may contain musings on art, movies and random weirdness.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Press Checks and Good Customer Service

When I was still working at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, one of my regular duties was to travel to Long Island, New York to supervise the printing of the bi-monthly members magazine. Press checks, in general, are not much fun but I actually really enjoyed doing this one. This was largely due to the talents of the sales representative for the New York-based company that printed the magazine, a man named Larry Whitten. Larry, who was from Long Island but lived in Andover, was our dedicated rep from the very start of our working relationship with Spectragraphics. He was a frequent visitor to our offices, and handled all aspects of the production, from color adjustment and retouching, to general trouble-shooting.
For the press checks, he would arrive at my house early in the morning and drive us down to New York. Larry was a very affable, energetic and upbeat man, and we would often chat away the time as we drove from Boston to Connecticut. We would take the ferry from New London to Orient Point and drive to Comack where the main printing facility was. Sometimes the ferry ride could be a bit scary, such as on my first trip down during a February winter storm with surface conditions so rough that the captain of the ferry requested us to sit or lay down in our seats for the duration of the journey. I spent the rest of the day a little green around the gills. My job was to make certain that the printed page matched the color approved on the final proof. This could be a bit tricky as the pages printed on a form containing 8 pages above and below each other, and the color on the upper part of the page could affect how the color appeared on the page below it. For example if you had a solid block of red as a page design element directly adjacent to a photo with a lot of people's faces in it. The red could make the faces appear as if everyone had a sunburn. But all the pressmen at Spectragraphics were excellent, and very good at correcting for such instances. This made my job a lot easier than it might otherwise have been. Press checks can be really boring, a lot of your time on a press check is spent waiting for a sheet to be ready for you to look at. There is a lot involved in prepping files, setting up the job and the sheet-fed press, and getting the ink balance and color to a point where it is optimal. Sometimes pressmen, like mechanics, can be intimidating or resistant to input, but at Spectra, they were friendly and co-operative.
The press checks usually took a day and a half, which meant that I would stay overnight in a hotel located near the printer overnight. This provided opportunities to sample the cuisine of many of the restaurants in Comack and the immediate area. I had my first and last White Castle burger as well as one of the best steaks I've ever eaten on one of these trips. Excellent customer service made what could have been a very tedious experience into one that was actually enjoyable.
Printers and vendors, take note...


  1. Sounds like it could be fun, but not a fan of White Castle?

  2. As always, I am impressed and delighted by your creativity. I look forward to reading the children's book and am interested on what new information you learned about the pepper trade.