Artwork approved

Artwork approved and it’s time to print, your job is done?

Every designer will experience the issue of what the word “approved” means with a client. It seems like a pretty straight forward process...

You get a brief from your client who provides you with some general information about their job and its requirements. You then spend countless hours working through the design process: rough concepts, first drafts, second drafts and then finally a proof concept is sent to the client.

They provide you with some minor design suggestions, changes to content and pick up a few minor grammatical issues (which were in the original documents they provided) and you send them an “approval” document to be signed-off prior to printing.

“Approval Accepted”

You may need to wait a few days (or even weeks) but the approval of your work has finally been provided and it’s now time to package your artwork and send it to the print team or company. It’s now time for you to move on to another project and wait for the final product to be produced.

If you’re lucky this will happen 9 times out of 10, but the “Approval” issue will hit you eventually.

You check with the print team and your job is well into production (the run time is set, the plates made, stock ordered, ink requirements checked, trim and packing booked, delivery date locked in).

Then it happens; you get a quizzical email from your client, suggesting that their boss has been reviewing the approved artwork and has recommended that we should make a content change. It’s only minor and shouldn’t affected the run or delivery times. You read the email a few times to make sure you are understanding their suggestion.

They want to make a change to the “Approved” artwork. They must be joking; it’s been approved and is well into production; they must understand that the approved artwork is the final version.

What to do now?

  • Halt the printing process immediately
  • Make the changes to the “Approved” artwork and re-send to the print team? Expecting them to update the job for you, without incurring any additional costs.
  • Discuss with the print team and work out how far into the print process they are and what the additional costs will be. You’ll just add it to the clients bill and expect them to pay the extra fee.
  • Make the changes and absorb the extra printing costs on behalf of your client to keep them happy.
  • Discuss with the client that the printing process has already commenced and that making the change will incur an additional fee. Which they will need to pay.
  • Walk away from the job. You’re stuck in the middle; the client doesn’t want to pay any additional costs and the print team won’t stop the job and reset without charging you for it.

All of the above options are feasible and could/have been used in the past.

How do we avoid this situation completely or minimise the chances of it happening?

The best method is to detail the process with your client when you forward them the first proof (the one prior to the approval document). At this stage of the job the client needs to be made fully aware of the printing process and what it means to “approve” the artwork.

Most marketing or management teams will have an understanding of this already, but sometime their bosses will want to input something and it is usually when the job is already approved or nearing completion.

The same set of rules apply to all electronic formats and mediums; websites, touchscreens and presentations. Everything should be approved in writing prior to launching; even if it is an email saying “all good” you have a record of the approval.


NB. We were presenting a final product to a team (8 weeks of work) when the CEO walked in and wanted to contribute to the project. His comments added 2 additional weeks and a complete redesign (: