Proper margins rule



Yay for even the slightest hint of conscious appreciation of good design.

Shouldn’t be such a rare and precious thing to find in the world, but sometimes it feels that way.


This reminded me of some business cards I got recently. The company that made them is a hot, new apple-esque VC funded firm, so the decision was made to use them. I got my box of business cards, and the un-boxing was surreally exciting–wonderfully imagery, thoughtful notes, excellent packaging. Truly, the best experience I have ever had unboxing a set of business cards. And not only that, the graphic design is pleasing, simple, easy on the eyes, well kerned, and well proportioned. And like the article says, the paper just feels fantastic.

The I looked at them and noticed this.

No, that isn’t my camera messing this up. Everything is honestly printed like 150 dpi, even the text. And it is on every. single. card.

Details matter, and I loved every single thing about this physical object, except the part that mattered the most.


i am not complaining about our designers, or even the people responsible for reproducing the images. i am noting that this particular company made the conscious decision to sacrifice print quality for “the experience”. note the ‘solid blue back’ of the card. at first i thought it was done on purpose, but every single glyph and images has the same graininess.

honest question, what kind of printer do you think does this?


margins are an artifact of a bygone age.

we need simply to print edge-to-edge and supply the consumer with a stack of templates in which to mount the text, providing every conceivably desirable margin width. this stack would, unfortunately, need to contain at least 1,114 plates for each margin×text combination to accomodate the Pantone color system, but this is a small price to pay imho.

An appropriate article given what constraints are facing today’s designers. I’d also like to note that this is likely to be one of the few good takeaways with the shift away from print books to ebooks/digital print. That is, the fine design work called for in crafting a well-made book will become that much more expected, so while we may be reading less and less tangible items, the tangible items we do have will be that much more special (in terms of craftsmanship).


And really… If you’re producing the artwork so that the print shop can generate negatives off of, you just print everything at 400% of your final size and ask the printers to reduce it to 25% when they burn the plates - giving you 150PPI x 4 = 600PPI. Sheesh!

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I worked in my university library’s conservation department for a year and a half. My job was to repair and rebind old books by hand to help them live forever, as George Nakashima is quoted as saying. Some people in the shop were there for a paycheck but a few of us were deeply immersed in the craft and history of hand bookbinding.

We weren’t involed with the layout and typography of the text blocks themselves, even though at times we had to disassemble the text blocks into signatures and sometimes individual leaves to make invisible repairs to the paper and bindings. The pages and signatures would then be resewn into a solid, tight text block again.

Sometimes a whole new binding had to be constructed, and it that were the case we tried to make sure that the materials used were not only in harmony with the original book and binding but that it functioned optimally as a book. People don’t look at books as machines or mechanical devices, but a lot of engineering goes into making a sturdy, useful book that can survive a a lot of use and handling.

Many craftspeople tend to be perfectionists, and some are a bit high strung in their pursuit of perfection. I don’t know if the pursuit of perfectionism in craft makes you a little nuts, or if you need to be a little nuts to undertake it. The shop was run in the old-fashioned way with the director as master and the employees as apprentices.

It was one of the coolest jobs I ever had, and this article reminded me of things I hadn’t thought about in a long time.


I actually used to do that when I ran the art department at a flexographic print shop. I had a process darkroom but no proper imagesetter.

Margins have aesthetic and practical benefits. Showing some white around the edges makes the page look less cluttered and is perceived as less work to slog through.
It also leaves ample room to scribble “Yes, so true” in the margins of philosophical works so that we can make the ladies in the coffe shop think that we are deep and introspective.


antiphonal geometry

I think so.

More ‘disposable’ reading artifacts like newspapers, magazines and cheapo paperback airport-store books are fated to become all-digital because for most people, most of the time, it has been proven that convenience beats absolute quality. See music records vs mp3, Blu-ray vs. streaming, digital cameras vs. smartphone cameras, etc.

But a well designed, well-printed book will not disappear as long as there are people who can find it an object of beauty or love. Or at least pretentious pseudo-artsy ostentation. See vinyl records, film photography, etc.

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The issue here is probably not resolution. It appears you have a four color print. In other words, they are combining CMYK to create each color. This inevitably leaves this kind of half-tone. In order to get crisp text, you need spot colors, where you specify the exact pantone color for each color. The printer you are using may not be capable of that, and it definitely is a more expensive process, but any full service printer will be able to provide spot color prints.

i guess i am just flabbergasted–i grew up in a house of graphic designers and photographers, and it boggles my mind that the nuance of the actual product (the type, the printing, etc) is eclipsed by ‘the experience’. i only thought of this really because of the original articles talk of “this is how paper should feel”, while ignoring the final product (a dictionary).

i don’t think it is as simple as just a cmyk print job done bad. the ink has been laid down in a matrix that is too perfect to be an accident, but too bad to be a pedestrian mistake. for instance, the ‘e’ in the typeface on the first iteration always has a fraction of the bar too long, and every ink has a ‘matrix’ to it.

i have honestly never seen a print job like it. if it was just the ‘solid blue back’ it would actually look kinda cool–that is honestly what i thought at first, hey this was intentional. but like margins, kerning, and printing, it was not, and dangit it matters :smiley:

(p.s. i’ve always worked with spot, never ‘startup on-demand services’. i wish them the best of luck)

That looks like an extremely crappy digital press. Perhaps and Indigo or Heidelberg Digital press. Low res, crappy ink. But its cheap! Thats why suits love it. Those presses CAN print better, but that would take time, and printshops dont give a shit about quality anymore. (20+ years as a prepress tech/graphic designer. No more, ever)

Kill them (the presses) with fire :slight_smile:

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