PRODUCTION MANAGEMENT AS A DISCIPLINE

Every great design firm needs at least one realist, aka the Print Production Manager. My name is Tiffany Gronski and my purpose is to fabricate and print projects to align with the vision of our designers and clients. A great Production Manager does this with specific training, years of experience and educated trial and error. Completely different than the throwing spaghetti at the wall method, although that does sound fun.  

THE OPPORTUNITY

Let’s take 3 Forks Restaurant and Bar for example. Located at the new Lake Lodge in Big Sky, Montana, 3 Forks offers exceptional views of some of the most stunning mountain scenery. The restaurant’s name was inspired by the 3 Forks ski terrain, a trident-shaped grouping of extreme couloirs at the far end of Headwater’s Ridge, which can be viewed right out the main window of the restaurant. EBD took this extreme alpine environment as inspiration for the brand identity.

The client was looking for some branded items for their store, bar and restaurant, as well as some unique items. I worked with the account and design team at EBD to bring these items to life.

Restaurant Collateral:

Menu Holder

Menu Clips

Bulk Coasters for bar and restaurant use

Rolling dice 

Bar Glasses (brandy & whiskey)

Matchboxes

Check Presenter

Bands for Check Presenter

Merchandise for Customer Purchase:

Cigars

Coaster Sets

FUNCTIONAL SUSTAINABILITY

Menu Holders are no longer no brainers. In the wake of the pandemic, and growing concern for the planet, we now must consider how to produce a high-touch item that is safe and reusable. With this in mind, we chose a synthetic paper that holds up to repeated use and heavy cleaning between touches. Everyone can feel good about that! Because synthetic paper isn’t – well paper, you must take the time to get samples and do tests. Most synthetic papers are not pure white and all samples fold to differing degrees. Based on this consideration, I asked our vendor to send us paper dummies (or folded samples of the finished piece on the correct substrate, no printing). As a team we carefully reviewed the tint of these options and measured how well the samples folded. It is impossible to get folded synthetic paper to lay completely flat but, as mentioned, some do lay better than others.

We made our selection and next asked for a color proof for review. When reviewing a proof keep in mind how the “tint” of your substrate might shift the printed color since the proof is not on the actual paper. We made a few color adjustments and then pushed print. 

PRODUCTION EFFICIENCIES

To purchase or produce? That is the question. Oftentimes we are asked to source and/or produce more common items. Some of the things I consider when trying to decide the best route is how intricate is the design? How important is the item to the customer? What is the timeline? When ordering stock items with custom imprints, you must understand that there is very little proofing and oversight, so you must be comfortable with a less than perfect result. But sometimes medium quality for a great price and quick turnaround is what the client is looking for. 

For 3 Forks, we explored both options for each item. In the end we decided to purchase pulpboard coasters, silicone bands and matchboxes with custom imprints. Other items, like cigars with custom bands and etched glasses require a specific production process so they are best left to the specialists (For all items, it’s important to find places in the process where the budget can be saved.) For example, while we could have purchased the glasses in Denver, where we are based, this option would have allowed us better oversight but since the client is out of town, shipping cases of glasses across the country twice didn’t make sense financially. So, the vendor shipped us a sample to approve.

SPECIALTY ITEMS THAT DIFFERENTIATE

That leaves us with Menu Clips, Check Presenters and Dice. We did a cursory look for these stock items but in the end, we couldn’t find what we wanted and preferred to do something a little more custom. 

Our client wanted to produce some higher end coasters to sell to patrons. We wanted to explore metal coasters, metal menu clips and metal check presenters. At this point, I reached out to one of our printers to test ideas and options. Working with our vendor, made samples to see how the designs would print, how to shape the metal so it acts as a clip, test the best materials, and literally work out the sharp edges. After many tests on several materials and processes we had produced a one of a kind brushed aluminum coaster set, a beautiful anodized custom shaped red menu clip and direct printed black PVC check presenter. 

The last piece of collateral was dice. We wanted to custom print all sides of a six-sided die, but due to the design intricacy, the die needed to be large. Really large. I sourced some large blank dice, but would any printer be patient enough to print each side of each die individually? It was a big ask, but if your production manager is doing their job, they have cultivated great relationships with many printers, all specializing in something unique. For this project, I went to our printer who specializes in patience and the unknown (not all vendors are this adventurous). No one was sure this would work, would ink dry on a die? Would the art print clean? After a few tests and design adjustments we had a winner. 

THINKING IT THROUGH

The takeaway from this behind-the-scenes peek is that, while the finished product may seem simple, there are multiple considerations, trials, research, sourcing and testing that go into each item. With a good Production Manager and great print partners you can sit back and enjoy the simple beauty of great concepts come to life.

Thanks for listening,

Tiffany

Client: Lone Mountain Land Company

Printers: Mittera and Platinum Creations




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