Reconciling The Connection – Part 1

November 4, 2010 at 6:34 pm Leave a comment

We are excited to feature our guest blogger this week, Ryan Hahn.  Ryan is a Senior Graphic Designer with Guess, Inc. and has written an insightful blog for us from a designer’s perspective.   We truly appreciate his input and look forward to hearing more from him. 

Ryan has visited our seminars and is familiar with our ink products and techniques as well.

This week, we will feature part 1 of his blog with part 2 following next week.  Enjoy!


Since there has been screen printing in the Fashion/Retail industry there has been an underlining tension between printers and designers.  The problems that cause this tension come equally from both sides.  What I would like to do is discuss some of these obstacles and then help to find a way to eliminate them.  The more seamless we can make our relationships (printers & designers), the more seamless the process and the products will be.  In my experience, designing for the biggest corporate companies down to the smallest customers, the number one reason a product is not successful is due to the execution.   Let’s take a look at how both parties can help prevent this.


I cannot count how many times I have sent out printing instructions, waited a month, and then received a strike-off that had none of the techniques I had requested.  On other occasions I have even gotten back samples where my artwork was actually altered or even changed all together.  In my case most of these issues could have been resolved with a simple question. 

Printer altered artwork file when printing and lost much of the detail

All too often printers are afraid to ask questions, as they don’t want to seem like they have lost control of the situation.  It’s not an ego thing; it’s a professional thing.  Printing is your career so you must always seem calm and in control even when the environment around you is chaotic.  This “sense of control” can still be accomplished even if you have some concern.  Concern is at the cusp of control; without a hint of hesitation we are all just in a race with disaster. 

No matter how simple the question is… Ask it!  Your customers will appreciate the proactive approach and will continue to use your shop.


As designers we continuously push printers to read our minds.  We must learn to be better partners and stop making our vendors carry all the weight and take all the blame.  As I stated above, printers need to be more proactive in asking questions; on the same note designers have to be more proactive in their instruction to the printers.  This will help remove some of that concern and plug some of the holes in the process.  If you want to use specialty inks or transfers, do your own research and request samples from various ink/transfer companies so you can find the best product for your need.  When you request these samples ask the companies the best processes to use when printing (mesh size, heat, etc).  Another option is to go shopping and find actual examples of the effect you want to achieve.  Send this to your printers with your artwork callouts to help them physically see what you want to achieve. 

This is showing how to reference specific inks/techniques

All of these things will give printers specific direction, which will in effect streamline the printing process.  I have done my best to inject these principles in my work and it keeps the number of sample cycles to a minimum, gives me precise results, and reduces sample costs.  But most of all this has helped me to develop solid relationships with my printers.  I have shown I am willing to go the extra mile to make their life easier.  In return I get special attention to my product and more often than not, get a beautiful product.


Common sense and knowledge are the most important assets we can hold as designers and as printers.  Without these two things we are just wandering in the dark with no sense of direction.  We are lost and have no hope of being found.  Our process will be broken, our product will suffer, and eventually our business will fall.

Excerpt from technique book explaining exactly how to accomplish a technique

In our industry common sense is nothing without the knowledge of what we are doing.  Learning the proper information will allow us to apply our knowledge to the situation and come up with a common sense solution.  On both sides we must constantly be pushing to educate our employees and ourselves.  The printing industry is just another form of technology.  It is much more of an organic art, but like computer technology it is ever evolving.  There are new techniques, inks, and machinery being developed every day and it is our job to be aware of these things.

Printers should be constantly researching the market for new products and new training to help stay up to date.  Imagine if Ford was still using the same technology for their cars that they used in the 80’s.  They would be obsolete in the extremely competitive auto industry.  This applies to each of us in the printing industry as well.  If you have customers sending you samples of new techniques then you must know everything that is out there.  Otherwise there is a good chance you won’t have the knowledge to give them what they want.  You’re still stuck on puff print… or whatever your crutch is. 

Example of Ryan's work translated from artwork to print

This also applies to designers.  Most designers I know would have no idea what to do if a screen printing press was put in front of them.  This is at the core of so many development issues within the apparel printing industry.  Designers wanting to do something that just cannot be done, or they just don’t have the knowledge to explain it correctly.  This creates numerous problems like over sampling, getting off calendar, double sourcing, etc.  To prevent this, we designers should set a challenge for ourselves to learn the manufacturing side of our artistry.  This is a step that will make you an invaluable designer and partner for any company you work for.

More examples of Ryan's work

 Part 2 to follow next week.

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For more on International Coatings products, please visit our website at

All images courtesy of Ryan Hahn, Guess Inc.

Entry filed under: General, How-To. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

SGIA ’10 Las Vegas A Success! Reconciling The Connection – Part II

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