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Sunday, September 20, 2009

You Can Not Make This Stuff Up….

A guest-post by a bewildered Zahava

[note from the management:  Those of you who are not designers and/or do not use computer design/layout software on a regular basis will find this post, er, mysterious.]

I confess. I love to make people laugh. I love a good tale, and have been known to, um, enhance certain details if it will make for a better story than the original. I state this preface so that those who know me well will understand that I am aware of the poetic license I often employ, and that I am being completely truthful when I insist that the following is the unvarnished (and un-enhanced) truth….

Here is a snippet from a real live conversation I had with a production artist at a publication with whom I filed an insertion today:

Production Artist (PA): Zahava, there is a problem with your file.

Me: Really? I saved it as a black plate through separations. What is the problem?

PA: It isn’t black. It also has cyan, magenta, and yellow in it.

Me: That’s not possible. When you said there was a problem with the original file, I re-saved it as a separated black plate postscript file and ran it through Distiller® as a press-quality file.

PA: Yes, but when I open the file, it shows the black as being made up as CMYK.

Me: Huh? How can you see the CMYK values in the PDF file? Is there a densitometer tool in Acrobat®  that I don’t know about?

PA: Huh? What’s a densitometer?

Me: A densitometer is a tool that measures ink values in printing. You are looking at the file in Acrobat, right?

PA: That doesn’t concern you.

Me: (beginning to lose my patience) Ummmm, you call me and accuse me of saving a file incorrectly, and then you want to tell me that how you are viewing the file ‘doesn’t concern me?’

PA: No one is accusing you. We want this to look good. We are on the same side.

Me: (with a real edge in my voice now) What program are you using to view the file?!

PA: Photoshop®.

Me: WHAT?!  WHY?!  Why would you take a vector-based PDF file and open it in a raster-based software?! You are aware that this degrades the clarity of the text, right?! RIGHT?! It also is a color-based program which reinterprets straight black into process values!

PA: (now also exasperated) This does NOT concern you.

Me: (yelling now – and for the record, beginning to worry that blood will begin to seep from under my eyelids and out my ears) This most CERTAINLY DOES concern me! Why the h3ll are you opening this file in Photoshop?

PA: Because the page layout application we use doesn’t support PDF.

Me: (now completely unable to control my temper) Then why, WHY, for the LOVE OF MIKE do you request insertions to be sent in PDF?!

PA: (now returned to a non-plussed state) Because it is an industry standard! Don’t you know that this is the best way to save files?

Me: (spluttering with complete and utter frustration -- and wondering how this woman managed to dress herself and find her way to work today, not to mention fervently hoping that I will soon awaken from this tedious nightmare and yet feigning a calm I can’t achieve) Yes. But the industry standard only works if the page layout application actually supports it!


As I said at the beginning… You. Can’t. Make. This. Stuff. Up.

Posted by David Bogner on September 20, 2009 | Permalink


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I can't believe I actually sort of understood that conversation. And you really don't have to understand the technical part to understand your frustration.

But I you didn't stew over this all yom tov....

G'mar Chatima Tova!

Posted by: Baila | Sep 20, 2009 9:57:45 PM

It’s always a pleasure to work with professionals, isn’t it? *gg*

Lucky you, the PA did NOT ask you to send a word-file. :-D

Posted by: Peter | Sep 20, 2009 10:19:26 PM


Except that I do believe you.

I wonder if the lady also uses tippex on the computer screen for mistakes?

Posted by: Noa | Sep 20, 2009 10:19:54 PM

I was about to go to bed, and decided I should stop by first -- glad I did.

It is even funnier when you tell it in person! (sorry to get my entertainment from your frustration!)

Posted by: Rivka with a capital | Sep 20, 2009 11:00:55 PM

I was about to go to bed, and decided I should stop by first -- glad I did.

It is even funnier when you tell it in person! (sorry to get my entertainment from your frustration!)

Posted by: Rivka with a capital | Sep 20, 2009 11:00:57 PM

Hah... that's funny.

Reminds of something a friend of mine says about the local level of service(or lack thereof). "Hi welcome to... how can I *not* help you today."

Posted by: mekubal | Sep 21, 2009 12:05:31 AM

Two things come to mind: 1) Baila is right. Your very justifiable frustration comes through crystal clear. 2) I love to hear people speaking in the language of their field. It doesn't matter to me whether or not I understand; I respect the education and experience that made such a rewiring of English stick in their brains. Years ago, I dated an astrophysicist. I couldn't understand a damn thing he was saying -- but it fascinated me that he could.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Sep 21, 2009 12:53:27 AM

As a PS, Photoshop at least in the CS releases(PS 8-current) has a function to import PDF files without the weird problems mentioned above. I know that Adobe software is overly complex, and some of the most user un-friendly stuff in the world. But really if the PA is going to be using it for something professional, you would think that they would take the time to learn the functions.

Posted by: mekubal | Sep 21, 2009 12:54:29 AM

ha! ...is there a densitometer in Acrobat...ha!!
perhaps she is looking at her monitor through a loop...ooo the colors oooo.

Posted by: weese | Sep 21, 2009 2:20:26 AM

I think she might be moonlighting as one of my users. Resolution: PEBKAC. (Problem exists between keyboard and chair.)

Posted by: Tanya | Sep 21, 2009 3:09:30 AM

Hah. You totally made that up. ;o/

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Sep 21, 2009 4:18:16 AM

@ mekubal: If they're using a layout program that doesn't support PDF (probably QuarkXPress 4) then it is unlikely that they are using a current version of Photoshop either... Wait, I take that back... I know of at least one place that has the complete CS2 suite (including InDesign), but still uses Quark 4 for some things... sigh...

@ Zahava: If they have Acrobat Professional (or whatever the full version is called nowadays) they can open the PDF in Acrobat and save as an EPS file. The problem with that is, it sometimes messes up the color saturation (possibly due to RGB-CMYK conversion issues). For color files, the best way to preserve the integrity of the color is to open the PDF in Photoshop and save as a Tiff -- even though it degrades the clarity of the text. Especially if you're printing full color on newsprint the difference in sharpness is not that noticeable.

Yes, I know *you* can tell the difference in sharpness, but your client probably won't. They *will* notice if the color is de-saturated too much.

Anyway, for the current problem, running the PDF through Acrobat to get an EPS is probably the best solution under the circumstances.

Shana Tova -- from one frustrated designer to another

Posted by: wogo | Sep 21, 2009 9:04:40 AM

Give me a densitometer and I shall move the world.

Posted by: Jack | Sep 21, 2009 9:24:23 AM

baila: TG, i had mostly calmed down by Shabbat/Yom Tov.... but sadly, this conversation pretty much describes most of thursday....

peter: don't laugh.... it has happened that someone has requested a word file.... [sigh]

noa: i laughed out loud reading your comment! and fwiw, i wouldn't be surprised if she does....

rivka: glad you enjoyed the replay. do NOT apologize for being entertained! knowing there was a good story in there is the only thing that got me through! :-)

mekubal: sadly, owning and understanding the software are not necessarily the same thing. also, given the page layout software the publication was using, it is a bit of a long-shot to think they might have anything resembling a recent copy of photoshop! i would wager a bet that given the number of insertions that they place, that they could afford to replace their page-layout application with one afternoon worth of their employees time spent converting pdf's into eps's! the fact that they are still "back-dooring" the process leads one to believe that efficiency is hardly their primary concern.

ruti: happy to amuse!

weese: thought you might be able to appreciate my sarcasm! :-)

tanya: hahahhhahhha! or perhaps, PEBE (problem exists between ears)?! :-)

wry mouth: thanks, but i am not that creative!

wogo: thanks for the sympathy and good advise. due to time constraints, i simply opened the pdf in illustrator®, tweaked the headline kerning, and saved as a vector-based eps file. had i known they really wanted an eps, i would have simply done the ad in illustrator to begin with. i concede that my clients might not notice the typographic degradation of a tiff -- but i would!

jack: or at least measure the cmyk values of it! :-)

Posted by: zahava | Sep 21, 2009 9:58:47 AM

I didn't understand, but I still found it fascinating. (Read it twice.) I am 60 years old and wish I had gone to college and learned all there is to learn about designing. You are a very talented lady who is married to a very talented man.

Posted by: Dina | Sep 21, 2009 10:06:01 AM

Oh... Yeah... I guess you could just open it in Illustrator... Hm... Funny I didn't think of that... I guess I've been focused on the production end of things for so long I forgot that many production problems could be easily fixed at the source.

I generally have these conversations from the other end -- talking to "designers" (and I use the term loosely) who sent in insertions consisting entirely of black text which they created in Photoshop and saved as a 72 dpi jpeg (RGB of course)... and then they want to make copy edits...

Not to mention all those people who are still using some prehistoric version of CorelDraw and keep sending in native files... [grumble grumble]

p.s. Was I right? QuarkXPress 4?

Posted by: wogo | Sep 21, 2009 10:42:41 AM

p.p.s. Please tell me they're not using PageMaker!?

Posted by: wogo | Sep 21, 2009 10:49:00 AM

wogo: truly impressive, your accuracy!

fwiw, a printer friend of mine back in the States once told me a truly hilarious story about a "designer" who brought her a folding dummy to procure a print estimate. my friend, assuming that if the woman could put together a decent comp, that she must be mechanical savvy, and gave her a standard price. the next day the client came into the shop with the mechanical. it was a simple slim-jim trifold, and yet the mechanical required 12 zip disks! seems the genius had put each line of copy in it's own text box! my friend wryly asked where she'd gone to school. when the response was a cheery, "i'm self-taught!" all my friend could do was choke out, "you don't say!" i'm guessing the note of sarcasm was lost on the client....

Posted by: zahava | Sep 21, 2009 10:52:31 AM

wogo: not pagemaker! but thanks for the giggle! :-D

Posted by: zahava | Sep 21, 2009 11:30:52 AM


I checked the release history of Photoshop, it has been able to properly import a vector based text file since version 5, and fully supported all vector based files in version 6. So unless they are using a version that is more than 6 generations out of date, which would not surprise me, they simply never took the time to learn how their overpriced software works(or understood the help tab).

Posted by: mekubal | Sep 21, 2009 3:16:08 PM

@mekubal: it isn't a matter of importing the vector art, as much as it is a matter of retaining the characteristics of the vector art. also, unless you initiate file production from within PS in a grayscale color space, the imported file (even if it is grayscale) opens with an enriched black..... which means that a grayscale PDF from InDesign opens with a black which has C, M, and Y values.

Posted by: zahava | Sep 21, 2009 3:36:22 PM

You can indeed view the seperations of a file using Acrobat (pro version only). Click on "advanced/print production/output preivew." Tada! I use this all the time to make sure that the seperations are output properly. You can catch those CMYK/extra pantone colors, etc. before sending the files to print.

Posted by: rena | Sep 21, 2009 4:49:57 PM

rena: GREAT tip, thanks! (fwiw, it really is like a densitometer!). used the tool (was saved properly)! am delighted to learn about this!!! admittedly, i could use a refresher course to learn how to make better use of all the updates! you really made my day! :-D

Posted by: zahava | Sep 21, 2009 7:17:52 PM

bahahahahaha :) You don't need to understand the technical aspect, the inner workings come through the story just fine. I have experienced this same conversation (with other variables) many times, sadly.

Just work at AT&T for a few years... :sigh: Glad you maintained your sense of humour about it, and more importantly, shared the laugh with us!

Posted by: Alissa | Sep 21, 2009 7:26:28 PM

Good freakin' grief!
I'm rolling my eyes right now.
Good one.
Thank you for sharing.
My word.

Posted by: At The Back of the Hill | Sep 21, 2009 11:31:30 PM

Glad to be of service ;)

Posted by: rena | Sep 22, 2009 12:02:20 AM

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