Fine Print

A Career Designer’s Take on Creating Award-Winning Work Rick Brooks, CJE, Creative Design Manager, Jostens

For the last 30 years, I’ve worked as a creative design manager at Jostens, a lead- ing provider of publica- tions, jewelry, and consumer goods serving the K-12, col- lege, and professional sports markets.

In that time, I’ve seen a great deal of change in the pub- lishing world. But through

The Magazine 14 4.2017

all that change, something has remained the same: winning entries of Printing Industries of America’s (PIA) Premier Print Awards have always been attractive, well-printed, and expertly bound.

Of course, it’s tough to compare a book of today to one published in 1990; the quality of print is so much higher now, and multicolor presses and direct-to-plate technology have proven revolutionary in the publishing world. In many cases, the final print product is as good as or better than the original.

Jostens is proud to have a bevy of Bennys, Awards of Rec- ognition, and Certificates of Merit. We’re even prouder that many of our customers have been recognized with Premier Print Awards.


There is a great deal that happens prior to entries being sent to PIA. I’ve managed Jostens’ entries for many years, and I work with each of our print facilities’ cus- tomer service teams to include their best publications. Months prior to the entry deadline, nearly 300 college and high school books arrive at my door, each critiqued and evaluated for the characteristics of a perfect entry.

Selecting the final entries is an arduous task. Every detail is considered, from cover to cover—the methods

of creation, visual impact, level of difficulty, precision, paper type, and press techniques. On average, Jostens submits 20–30 final entries to PIA annually.

The Selection Process Several factors contribute to the selection process. It’s crucial to consider the look of the book—looks do matter. Anyone who has worked with graphic design or adver- tising knows that. Regardless of how good the content is, if it’s packaged poorly, it’s perceived poorly. In this case, you can judge a book by its cover.

It’s also important to consider more than just the print quality of the piece. Eye-catching photography also plays a big part, so color correcting is key. Print quality must also remain consistent. If the first signature of a publication looks great and the third is out of register, the entire publication will fall short. Also, text should never fall off the pages, and photos should never be bitmapped. And as for the binding process with head and foot bands, spines that are rounded and backed and end sheets that are aligned perfectly make a huge difference.

Sharing the Knowledge

I’m very fortunate to actually work with and help many of Jostens’ colleges and high schools with the design portion of their projects—creating page concepts that will work with photos and text, and helping with theme and cover design. Theme is not unique to yearbook publishing but it’s handled very differently, with both visual and written aspects in mind.

For most non-yearbook publications, however, theme is very visual and most often easy to grasp. Yearbooks are about students, a specific school, and a unique year. The entire design process has to always focus on creating a project that meets the needs of the students


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