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The Importance of Using a Paper Dummy

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then paper dummies are a designer’s thesaurus.

A paper dummy is simply a plain paper mock-up of a print project. While seemingly in-nocuous, dummies can actually make or break a print job. They help to ensure a smooth press run and keep the budget in check. Failing to make a paper dummy is like playing Russian roulette with your client’s money.

There is nothing like a print job gone south to make a designer cringe. Skip the whole would’ve, could’ve, should’ve game, and do yourself a favor by incorporating dummies into your design and pre-production process. It’s so much easier to correct a mistake ahead of time than to try and fix it while the press is running. When it comes to printing, time is money and the only thing worse than watching the clock tick by while presses sit idle is telling your client why you ran over budget.

Whether it’s a pocket folder for an identity system or an annual report for a seemingly simple direct mail piece, it’s always smart to get a paper dummy made— and the pro-cess couldn’t be simpler! When you’re thinking about your paper specs, you’ll want to request a paper dummy. When you’re attempting to choose the right paper for your project, request flat samples first so that you can compare things like color, texture and weight. Once you have narrowed down your options, you’re ready to request dummies.

How to Request Dummies

When it comes to actually requesting a paper dummy, you’ll need to provide the following information:
• Page count – ex. 24 pages + cover
• Text pages: Paper grade, color, basis weight, finish
• Cover stock: Paper grade, color, basis weight, finish
• Flat size dimensions
• Finished size dimensions
• Bindery Method
• Quantity – number of dummies requested
If you work with a paper rep, most will be happy to provide this service for you; all they ask is that you specify if the printer buys the paper from their company. If you don’t know a paper rep, there are online resources available to you— and for the love of print, ALWAYS specify the papers you want to use when requesting a print quote!

Why Dummies Work

These paper mock-ups work because they get you as close as possible to the final printed piece while giving to room to make any necessary adjustments or tweaks to things like bindery methods, page counts or finished dimensions before you print the final form.

Dummies are also great for flushing out any potential issues ahead of time, aiding estimating and production teams at the printer and can also help the designer by ensuring everything works as intended. Take an identity system folder for instance; it seems straightforward but perhaps the gusset or pockets aren’t deep enough to house the capabilities brochure the client is expecting to put in it. Your client might be pretty miffed having spent a couple thousand dollars on a pocket folder that doesn’t meet their expectations.

Speaking of clients, dummies can be a great sales tool for winning a client over. Be-cause most clients don’t do conceptual very well, having a physical representation of the piece to present gives you a big advantage when convincing clients to invest in the print project. This strategy utilizes the concept of haptics, or the science of touch, and it works like this: when someone can touch or hold the item in their hands, a sense of perceived ownership is created. This is why print reps also use dummies when at-tempting to sell a prospect to in-house marketing departments and end users.

We all want to try before we buy, that’s why the concept of a free trial works so well in sales. When it comes to print, that can be a little difficult because print projects are custom-made products—no two projects are ever identical. Print samples help, but still leave a lot to the imagination; dummies fill in the blanks. What better way to show the value you bring than by making your print design come to life right before the client’s eyes?

About The Author

Blog Contributor & Parse & Parcel Founder

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