What's Wrong With Me?

This is a project I present to upper level students in the graphic design program. The project requires an intermittent to advance working knowledge of Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. I should mention that the project’s intent is not to train a pre-press professional but to educate graphic design students on pre-press processes and how to properly build files that are error free, saving time and thus cost in reproduction. The project is not a comprehensive example of all the issues I present in this class but the first in a series. I may post the complementally projects at a later date. The project is introduced several weeks in to the quarter and after all of the topics contain within have been covered and I am confident of student comprehension. Those topics include registration color, transparencies, FPO, missing fonts and images, cropping, color modes, object layer options, ink limits, spot colors, override master, bleeds, resolution, text wraps, true type and postscript fonts, overset text, overprinting and more. At this point in the quarter the students have only deal with images and had a brief introduction to fonts (fonts are covered in greater detail at a later time in a different project). But the basic have been covered. “What’s Wrong With Me?” is a sort of reverse engineered problem. Rather than ask the student to build a print ready file (which at this point they have already done) I give them a package folder with an InDesign file, links, fonts and printing instructions. I then tell the students to think about everything then have learned in class up to that point. I follow that with “you are now employed in Joe’s Pre-Press Company” you have two hours to make a print ready PDF-X. Here comes the fun part. I have sabotaged the files to include some really common issues and some more difficult errors a pre-press department may face when processes files. Of the 21 problems built into the files I ask that the students find and fix (correctly) 15. I really like this project. The student is tasked with demonstrating their knowledge of up to date course content but it also teaches them an important lesson. The project illustrates that in the life cycle of a print project it is a heck of a lot easier for the designer (them) to build print ready error free files then it is to pay someone down the line to troubleshoot and fix errors after the fact. I tell them they have two hours but not once has any student accomplished the objectives in that time. Also by placing the student designer in the shoes of pre-press they get to experience firsthand the frustration of spending what little time was allotted to a project troubleshooting and fixing errors. Of course the experience of troubleshooting in and of itself is beneficial too as it builds a valuable skill set and creates a more independent worker. Included in the attached zipped file is the “What’s Wrong With Me?” packed folder as well as a PDF that identifies the location of the errors and suggested fixes. All the images where found using Google and were mark as "free to use, share or modify, even commercially". As always feedback is appreciated. Materials: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat.

Jody Campbell
Last Updated April 27, 2021


Graphic Design

Student Time

3-5 hours estimated class time

Education Level

Higher Education
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