School Magazines and the Joy of MS Publisher

Garden House School Magazine

Garden House School in Chelsea produce an annual school magazine that’s used as a school marketing tool and a great memory for children and parents alike. Throughout the year, pupils are encouraged to create and design their own class and activity pages in partnership with the teachers.

MS Publisher is their weapon of choice: relatively easy for them to use as it has similar features to the other Office products and economic for the school. The main problem is that, despite how it’s promoted, Publisher is not really suited to creating artwork for “proper” printing. Great for laser and ink jet printers but not so clever when faced with preparing high resolution files for 4-colour process printing.

That’s where NHA comes in. Having recently completed a fifth consecutive school magazine on behalf of the school we’ve honed the process to produce some very professional results and assume all the technical responsibilities on behalf of teaching staff.

Out-of-the-box, Publisher has problems with a number of technical printing issues: bleed and colour space being the main ones. Rather than baffle the pupils and teachers with technical restrictions they don’t want or need to know about, we now take whatever Publisher files they throw at us and simply take care of it all for them:

  • Fixing incompatible colours
  • Sorting backgrounds
  • Ensuring there’s sufficient bleed
  • Fixing missing or dodgy fonts
  • And… taking care of any other technical issues before organising the printing

For more information on our School Magazine service call Neil Hitch on 020 7436 3565 or e-mail us.

Online Scratchcards – The Perfect Promotional Tool

We’ve been producing printed scratchcards for years – starting with masses of the little blighters for a timeshare operation in Leicester Square but don’t hold that against us. Over the years the cost of producing scratchcards has dropped significantly but, even so, the processes involved dictates an effective entry level of 1,000 cards and not insubstantial amounts of cash.

Because of this we receive many more enquires than orders – so now we’ve developed a promotional scratchcard system that can be played online. And can be delivered at a fraction of the cost of a conventional printed scratchcard.

A promotion can be delivered to your target via a link on your website or in an e-mail and can be used for any number of things:

  • target new business prospects
  • remind lapsed customers of your existence
  • incentivise your staff
  • promote a new product or service
  • boost traffic to your website

The promotion can be fully branded and customised to reflect your brand values and design themes.
Read more

Happy Client

Friday evening, 10 o’clock, and the phone rings at home. It’s Patrick, one of our Nigerian clients, who supplies card issuing sytems to banks and financial institutions. He phones on the off-chance that we might be able to do something for his sister.

Maris runs the St Maria Goretti school in Nigeria and  has recently returned from a cultural school trip to the UK. She needs to produce a memorial brochure for parents and children but there’s a catch: the printed brochures need to be in Lagos by the following Friday. Producing a brochure within a week in the UK is not terribly difficult but we know from previous experience there’s a major transport issue, delivering material to Nigeria.

Before making any sort of decision, I need to see what we’re dealing with so Maria e-mails a draft of the proposed brochure in Word. On the face of it, it all looks reasonable straightforward but I need to check transport before commiting – and that can’t be done until first thing Monday.

And Monday is the 5th day of the Lord’s test with every chance of England beating Australia at Lord’s for the first time in years so I can’t miss that. The stewards at Lord’s are very hot on mobile phones so it’s back and forth between seat and the back of the grandstand making calls, trying to resolve the transport issue. Doesn’t look good when it becomes apparent that the brochures would need to be at Heathrow by tonight to clear Lagos customs in time for Friday delivery.

But what are friends for? Another of our Nigerian clients, Rockson Engineering, has a private plane leaving on Wednesday afternoon – if we can deliver brochures to Kensington by 3pm they’ll take them for us. Game on.

Fortunately Freddie destroys the Aussie resistance and it’s all over by lunch – shame in a way, as the atmosphere at Lord’s was simply fantastic.

Back to the office, and by early evening a draft design is on its way to Nigeria. A few corrections and tweaks on Tuesday morning, and by early afternoon we have approval and the PDFs are en route to the factory.

Sterling work by Prometheus to print the brochure overnight and have sheets drying on the floor by breakfast in time for folding and stitching. By midday transport is on its way to collect and deliver safely to Kensington (with a few minutes to spare!).

Late on Thursday I have a call from a very happy Maria.

Gas Ghosting – Well I never knew that

Even after years and years of print buying: dealing with everything from 4.5 million brochures for Toymaster ( to 250 business cards for our lawyers, every now and then a problem crops up that few have ever experienced. And it happened to us in the run up to Christmas with the Penhaligons ( Christmas catalogue which, sod’s law being what it is, was already running late.

The catalogue, designed this time round by the French agency, featured a special metallic gold as the overall background colour which needed to be printed as a fifth colour. Nothing particularly unusual about that and something we’ve seen many times in the past.

The digital proofs all looked fine and were approved with barely a tweak and all looked rosey. Until…

Two days after 60,000 copies had been delivered – and well-received by the client (and four days after the final sheets were printed) a strange “shadow” appeared on some of the pages. First reaction was that it must be set-off – the result of wet sheets sitting on top of each other and the image transferring from one sheet to the one above. But, on closer inspection, the “shadows” didn’t match anything as obvious as that so it couldn’t be set-off.

After a bit of judicious “wiggling under a light” and “holding it up to the window” to get a better view we realised it was the outline of the image on the other side of the sheet.

Lots of: “What?” “How can that be?” and “I’ve never seen that before.”

After a deal of sleuthing we identified the cause as a very rare issue called “gas ghosting”. We’d never heard of it but it turns out to be a chemical reaction associated with designs that call for heavy coverage of metallic inks whereby the ink on the opposite side of the sheet is prevented from drying in the conventional way because of a combination of the sealer varnish and the metallic ink.

It takes a day or two to kick in and then reduces over time. And there’s no known solution – apart from changing the design.

Even had there been time to reprint the catalogue without jeopardising the entire Christmas sales period we would have achieved much the same result.

You might think that leaving the sheets to dry between coats was an option but:

  • The gold was such an integral part of the background that printing the 4 process colours, allowing the sheet to dry and then adding the gold wouldn’t work because the registration problems would be impossible.
  • Similarly, printing all 5 colours and then leaving it to dry before adding the sealer varnish wouldn’t work because there’s no way of running a sheet with lots of solid metallic ink on it through the press without the surface being marked by the press rollers.

All we could do in the end was negotiate a discount and bear it in mind for the future.

Mind you, despite the amount of energy and anxiety expended by us, the client and the printers, not a single customer commented on it.