I'm a graphic designer by day, novelist by night, but I do still enjoy my current employment immensely. However, apparently an advertising company we've been dealing with are not such happy campers. Back in January I designed an Advert for the _____ magazine. I hope to confiscate some of the extremely abusive e-mails the woman who works there has sent us, but for now I will write from memory.
Back in January I sent their production e-mail all the information needed for our advert, as well as a small .jpg to show them what it was, and an .ai file - saved as a legacy format, fonts outlined, stroke outlined, file at-size - for them to print from. We didn't hear from them, but figured this would be regular, as we know they are an EXTREMELY busy print/production shop. We thought, well, no news is good news!
Come February their ad was printed as a pixellated mess, next to unrecognizable, in one of the top business magazines. All the blood drained out of my face when my employer and good friend, M, showed me the advert. Dazed and confused, I double checked the file - yes, it was vector.
Recently they finally began to respond to M... in one of the most condescending and rude manners I have EVER had the misfortune of viewing from a business.
They told us that it was our fault that the file turned out poorly. When we insisted that there should have been NO possible way of this file turning out this way, short of file corruption, they responded, 'we printed the .jpg. It was sized wrong', or something to that effect. Dumbfounded, I asked M to reply and ask them why they did not use a vector format. Apparently, despite being a high-volume print shop, they don't know what vector files are and have never used them. M, though he may have a short fuse, is usually extremely polite, yet even I couldn't fault him when he responded with, "we are not STUPID!!!" when she continued to treat us as if we were some sort of cave animal for even suggesting she use vector. Or, dear lord forbid, contact us when they didn't know what we sent them!
I thought about it when M was driving me home, and I put together an e-mail. I've sent it to the office for M and I to go over in the morning:
While you have previously been discussing this matter with M, I feel that at this point you have begun to go into territory that is directly related to graphic design, and I would like to address some of the points you have made. While it is true that you most likely have more experience than myself - you say you began in the industry in 1987, which is the same year I was born - I do believe you still have some room to learn in terms of modern (post 1994) graphic applications.
Adobe Systems was created in 1982, and the Creative Suite was released in 2003, though Illustrator itself has been in common use since 1986, well within the bounds of your career. This program creates something called "vector" art, which allows the art to be changed to any size without depreciation to the quality. If you open a vector file in a vector program, when you click on the lines, little points will appear. These are called "nodes" or "nodules". This is how you can, primarily, tell the difference between vector and bitmaps. (A bitmap is an image file format used for representing raster graphics. A .jpg is not technically a bitmap, but is referred to as such lazily, as often explaining it to customers can be more than is necessary: all they need to know is the type of file needed.) Vector has existed since the mid 1980s, and has increased in popularity since then. A .pdf is an all encompassing file format which may have almost any type of graphical file stored in it. You may not know, but you have probably been using '.ai' files for a long time! Often an .ai is saved into a .pdf, as it is one of the formats that is used universally. However, the assumption is usually made when sending to a printing shop of some sort that they will have a program capable of running .ai. Truly, sending an .ai file is more a sign of good will, as it can often save time for the designer on the other end. This file is not erroneous, nor useless. It is a standard in the print industry, nearly as much so as .jpg and .pdf.
I'm not sure of your awareness regarding print programs, but there is a program called "CorelDraw" which has existed since 1987, and until Adobe products began to dominate the market place, was common to find in any print shop. CorelDraw, a part of the Corel product line, is able to read .ai files. An .eps and an .ai are both vector, just as a .cdr is, and can all be read by the program. Most programs outside of Microsoft Paint are perfectly capable of reading, or at least importing and embedding, vector files.
You had mentioned inDesign? inDesign is produced by Adobe, and is available as both part of their suite, and as a stand alone program. It is also capable of reading and translating vector files. Another that can do this is Quark. I am not certain of the programs you have available to you, but there are a lot of files that are able to read vector. Did you know that Microsoft Word has been a vector compliant program since its conception? If you open it and choose to insert clipart, the vast majority of the clipart is vector. In fact, vector has become so common that the people who create the codes for the internet have begun a project to replace bitmaps, .jpg, .gif, etc. with something called .svg, 'Scalable Vector Graphic'.
Overall, as compared to vector graphics, raster graphics are less economical, slower to display and print, less versatile and more unwieldy to work with.
If someone contacts you with graphic files and asks for a pantone colour, what do you do? I have to ask, as I cannot imagine being able to satisfy customers with no ability to use vector files. The Pantone system has been in effect since 1963 and have slowly become a printing industry standard, easily translatable into CMYK. With a vector image, you can change the "path" and "object" to the colour you require in a few simple clicks in almost all vector programs.
I would also like to address your comments regarding what you perceive to be an error on our behalf. Unfortunately, I had made the assumption that you would understand graphic design files, and I had not meant to confuse you. We had never received any feedback from your company about whether you had received the file, nor a proof, which we took as a sign that you had received the artwork in good order. You never extended us the common courtesy of a call back, and, when clearly confused, did not bother to contact us. I understand that you are working under deadlines - we are not immune to that either; as the graphic designer, I must say I understand the immense pressure you are put under. However, despite my blood pressure, I will not send something to print if it is shoddy quality unless I have made the customer aware that their file is not proper. This is customer service, and, though I hate to be so rude as to say so, I find you severely lacking in both this, as well as civil manners. Your sarcastic remarks and patronizing tone is not remotely appreciated, and I cannot imagine any customer willing to work with such degrading behaviour. As a member of a business myself, I would feel no remorse should myself or another member be fired for treating a customer the way you have treated Morgan. Please consider that you are dealing with other people, as I understand it's very easy to become sharp over the internet when you are not face-to-face with a person; I have been guilty of this same offence in the past.
The comments regarding .jpg being the proper format are also ones I hope were written under extreme stress, as, for the success of your own company, I truly hope this is not true in your mind. We were not in any way being "unprofessional" in our file provision. We supply the same formats to the Yellow Pages, Maple Leaf Directories, Stacy's Screen Print, and a multitude of other companies. We have never had problems with any of these companies, and they have all been kind and courteous to us. While I'm sure there is some natural ribbing towards others in the same industry, I feel you have forgotten that we are, in fact, your customer, and should be treated as such.
Will you please supply us the e-mail address of your manager, as I feel that discussing this matter with you has lead only to abusive remarks and poor service on your behalf.
When this is sorted out and you have calmed down, I would be more than happy to explain more about design programs, vector, and how to use them on my own time. Please do not consider this remark as an insult; I am only trying to resolve a problem that you may increasingly face as the industry changes.
Despite the fact that you are busy, you seem insistant on replying to us. Please do not place blame on us, as you have the physical and mental control over yourself to wait to return an e-mail. I'm concerned that this situation may have inflamed your temper, as may be understandable, but dropping work to respond with sarcastic remarks isn't very good for us, or you. Maybe you need to step back from this situation and allow another person - such as your manager, as I requested - to handle this, so as not to put undue stress on your production time.
I'm mostly appalled due to the fact that the entire magazine they produce is such a huge publication all over Canada, and they do not know what .ai is! Not only that, but they gave me NO information regarding what they need for their design specifications. On top of all this, putting our advertisement in black and white for ONE volume costs the same amount as a full colour 1/3 advertisement in the Yellow Pages for the entire bloody year!
Though this is not my bad service story, the Realtor who we knew and was included in the information package they threw our way was not informed that the list she provided them of her suppliers for real-estate items would be solicited for advertisements.
Ideally, my personal opinion would be that they add a note in an issue with an apology for their artwork mishap, as well as the PROPER advert, for no additional cost to us. While this may seem severe, the amount of people it effected by seeing our shop as though we cannot properly produce graphics actually saw a decline in real estate customers.
Sorry, I messed up my tags! Fixed now!