I firmly believe that in order to start a project properly, you need to understand how it is going to finish.
I recently worked for a new client and after the first week they told me how surprised they were that I knew more than just the design process. This client, like a lot I work with, have separate design and artworking teams. It’s really common for me to see this setup now, but it wasn’t always.
When I first started out, I honestly didn’t know that there was a difference between design and artworking. As far as I was concerned, if you design it, you should know how to get it ready for print, and even know exactly how it is going to be printed. But these days designers aren’t expected to know all of that. Which is fine if that’s what the company wants, but in my experience knowing that little bit extra has actually given me an advantage over others.
What is good to know
I like to know as much as I can about my core day-to-day tasks, and then a working knowledge of the areas around them. For example, I build the occasional website with WordPress. I buy pre-built themes and customise them, which requires very little coding (if any), but there has been the odd occasion when I need to change the code in the site files. So having that bit of extra knowledge in coding really paid off.
As a designer, I use the Adobe Suite (as I am sure most do). The programs I use more than others are InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. But I feel it is important to know the others as well, and as a result of studying I can now use Dreamweaver and Flash. I am also now looking into After Effects (I’ll let you know how that goes). For all of that studying my site of choice is Lynda.com. It is about £15 a month and is actually recommended by Adobe. I find it really easy to follow and money well spent.
As for the print process, just ask your suppliers. Most print companies and paper suppliers will happily show you how everything works; the more you know, the easier their lives are.
Keep learning, you never know when that random bit of information will come in handy.