Mistakes happen. As the saying goes: Pobody’s Nerfect.
Hey, sometimes they can be entertaining. When he was host of the Tonight Show, Jay Leno had a frequently recurring segment devoted to misspellings and grammatical mistakes that changed the meaning of news stories and ads. He even published a book chronicling the most entertaining of the bunch.
However, there’s another popular saying: Comedy is when it happens to you; tragedy is when it happens to me.
Seeing an ad campaign derailed by a simple mistake – after spending many hours and dollars conceiving and creating it – is not at all funny to the people affected. This is especially true when you’ve gone through the expense of creating a large-format printed item, which is even more time consuming and costly than the average printed item. Spotting an error in a printed item is bad. Seeing an error printed 20-feet across is much worse.
However, typos and grammar mistakes are not the only issues that can impact a large-format design. Because these items are printed at a dramatically larger size than they were designed, many mishaps can occur between design and finished product. Here are some common large-format errors and what you can do to avoid them.
Font selection is always an issue when designing for print. There is forever going to be some push/pull between a desire to appear creative and the need for the content to be legible. No one wants to use the same boring fonts as everyone else, but those fonts are used because they are easy to read. There are several fun fonts that are available, but if every F looks like a Q, your message becomes lost and your reader becomes confused and annoyed.
This issue only becomes magnified (literally) when dealing with large-format printing. There are some fonts that become difficult to read when their size is increased.
In general, fonts with serifs are usually the easiest to read. These are the ones with small lines – or “feet” – attached to them. However, this is not always true for large format.
You have to take all aspects of the font into consideration. For example, fonts with too much space between the letters make it hard to tell when one word ends and the next begins, yet fonts with too little space make it hard to distinguish between individual letters. Fonts that are overly bold make the words look crowded, but fonts that are too thin tend to get lost against the background.
If you want to test a font for readability, type some text then step back from the computer and try to read it from a distance. In fact, you may want to ask someone else to do this, since you are familiar with the text.
Too Much Text
Once you’ve picked the font, it is time to decide what you want it to say. Because large format means you have a lot of space, often people will try to say several different things.
You shouldn’t try to cram every single thing about your company or product onto a large-format design. Crowded lines of text are difficult to read and viewers will likely not bother to put in the effort. For the most part, banners, billboards and their large-format brethren have only a few seconds to grab someone’s attention. They are just teasers to entice potential customers to want to learn more.
Remember, this will be viewed from a distance. Keep it simple and straightforward, and your message will be clear.
Not Fully Considering the Design
One interesting aspect of large-format printing is that the final product will be viewed from a number of perspectives. Make sure you consider the design of your signage at varying distances. You don’t want someone who sees your message from far away to have a different experience than someone who looks at it up close. Be sure that, no matter the distance of the spectator, you are sending the same visual message
You may want to have a mockup printed and stand two feet away from it, then move to 10 feet, then 15 feet—at each distance, notice what features stand out and what gets lost as you change perspective. Then you can adjust the design to have the same impact across the board.
Not Enough Bleed
This can be an easy mistake to make. Bleed is a part of the design that is intended to go past the edge of the area to be printed. The purpose of bleed is to ensure that your design goes to the edges of your printed piece.
Bleed is always intended to be only color. Text and graphics should never drift into the bleed area.
For most printing jobs, having 3 millimeters of bleed is sufficient. However, for large-format items, the size of the print makes it necessary to have a greater area of bleed. So, it is recommended to double your area of bleed to 6 millimeters.
Poor Color Choices
Color selection is always important in design. However, with large-format printing, this decision is critical because, with the wrong selections, your text could wind up blending in with your background leaving your viewer with nothing but a big block of color to stare at.
Select a background color that nicely contrasts with the color of your text and graphics. This will help ensure that your message can be read and understood.
Also, you want to leave the vast majority of the crayons in the box. Keep your color scheme simple. Select two colors, three at the most.
There are exceptions to this rule. If you are designing something that people will stop and read (like a poster), you can greatly extend the palette.
This one can be a killer. You have the perfect picture. It looks great in your design. But when your final comes out of the printer, your beautiful image is nothing but blocky pixels.
The best way to avoid this issue is to use vector images instead of a bitmapped image. A bitmapped image is comprised of individual pixels assigned with a fixed location and color value. In a vector image, everything is defined by mathematical equations, including shapes, lines, colors and text. This means a vector image will stay crisp and in focus regardless of how large you scale it.
Now we come full circle.
Spelling errors happen all the time, but when they crop up in a document or ad that is supposed to represent your company – not to mention a giant, large-format print – it makes the company look sloppy and amateurish.
Even in the biggest designs, it is often the smallest things that matter the most. So, take the time to proofread those designs – and have someone else look at them, too.
It can be difficult designing for a large-format print. Your best option is to go with a company that has the experience and equipment to make the process a painless one. The Trade Group has years of experience developing, creating, and printing eye-catching large-format designs. Give us a call at 800-343-2005 to see how we can help make your company live large.