FLEXO: Describe a typical prepress workflow today, and compare it to one from 1993.
Trisoft: “Automation” is the single word that comes to mind, summing up how our workdays have completely changed over the past 25 years.
Looking back, the early 1990s was a good time to get into prepress. Many new innovations were just becoming available, like Adobe’s PDF, Agfa Selectset film recorder and contract proofing. All were a huge step forward from the “old days” of the process camera, light table and razor blades that were ubiquitous only a few years earlier.
Trisoft was an early adopter of these new innovations and was one of the first to install a computer-to-plate (CTP) system, streamlining the workflow even further. Today, we continue to innovate, bringing flexo to new heights. Our award-winning UltraHD and FleXtreme process creates stunning color separations with unmatched plate performance. This workflow is setting a new standard in the packaging industry.
FLEXO: There is always some back and forth between a prepress provider and brand owner. What does a typical job look like in terms of creating your initial vision, getting feedback from a customer and integrating their notes into your design?
Trisoft: Here’s an example: A brand owner is launching a new line of bird seed and wants us to design the pouches. The new products need to integrate the logo and reference legacy products, but the company wants to add more color and “pop” to its new pouch design.
Here are the criteria/things we look at:
- Distinct: Stands out among competitors and catches the consumer’s eye
- Memorable: Makes a visual impact
- Scalable and flexible: Can grow and evolve with the brand
- Cohesive: Each item complements the brand identity
- Design: Intuitive and clear
The next step is selecting a color palette, typography and images that work together to create a cohesive design. All these elements are built around a design style. Let the design highlight what is special about the product so the consumer can connect with it. Have an internal review before bringing it to the client. Several variations of this design style are then shown to the client.
And speaking of clients—do not ignore them! They know the product a lot better than we do. It’s critical to be receptive to the brand owners’ feedback. Sometimes several people are involved in the decision process. We listen!
A truly great design starts long before the designer begins creating. It starts with the first conversation with the client. What are the objectives and understanding of the market? Our goal is to truly “see” these fundamentals, and design into them.
FLEXO: Why is the prepress side of package printing so important? What would a workflow without a real prepress voice look like?
Trisoft: On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and our new social phrase became “One giant leap…”. It was a “giant leap” for technical innovation and our country, but it would be many more years before the flexo workflow would make a similar leap. In 1969, the packaging workflow was a small army of mostly men, known as “strippers,” with razor blades in hand, cutting their way through film and rubylith.
This seems unimaginable now, but in a world without computers, graphics were all created by hand. Color was managed by craftsmen known as dot etchers who used alchemy to change the dot size of screens on film. The industry was changing, but it would take another 25 years before increased computing power would really drive the flexo workflow forward.
Advances in press, anilox and ink technology have played a part in pushing flexo forward, but the prepress workflow—including the flexo plate—has been the real mover behind the last 10 years of forward progress. With UltraHD imaging driven by powerful prepress tools, the flexo plate has become “smart”—smart in the sense that an artist can maximize or “tune” the ink laydown on a press with the click of a mouse.
Densities are pushed up and dot gain is pushed down, all via elaborate controls built into our FleXtreme workflow.
Without these innovations in our workflow, the many advances in press, anilox and ink technologies would not be fully utilized. Pack-aging has finally had its moonshot, 48 years later. The walk down the supermarket aisle has been transformed by stellar prepress.