Always assume it is wrong…

Proofing a document is easy isn’t? You just ‘take a look at it’, right? Wrong, and here’s why…

Looks good to me…

It’s natural when viewing a piece of marketing material you’ve created yourself (or commissioned someone to create), to look at it with the wrong ‘set of eyes’. “but…” I hear you cry “…I only have this one set of eyes!”

The thing is, it isn’t literally about physically swapping your actual eyeballs, but more about setting your brain to use them to look for the correct sort of things. When you review a leaflet, website, roller banner or anything else it is entirely natural to look at it in a relaxed ‘ah yes, this looks good’ sort of manner (assuming it does look good of course), and in this way you are not really expecting to see errors, so you are more likely to miss any that are there.

Instead, a more effective frame of mind is to assume that there are multiple errors and if you haven’t seen them yet, you aren’t looking hard enough! Take this approach and use some of the techniques in our article on proofing techniques and you’ll become a much more effective proof-checker. Remember proofing is not just looking at something – it’s a detailed process that requires true concentration and to illustrate that point here are a couple of amusing/worrying stories…

Is it Chrsitmas already?

Yes that is a deliberate error, and one that clearly got past the proof-checkers at a national chocolate brand for their last Christmas campaign. We received a brochure from them with all their festive chocolatey offerings and there were three products on the first page, all with ‘Christmas’ in the title, and in one it said ‘Chrsitmas’ instead – oh dear!

Yep, they ‘look’ great

You would have thought that with business cards being pretty small and having limited content on them, the incidents of errors would be few and far between – not so. There seems to be a blind spot with business cards, especially in larger corporates and it maybe the fact they are simple makes people too complacent and assume it is all ok. One company I worked at had three new managers in the US and I produced the cards. The first two directors came back very quickly and said “yep, looks great” within about five minutes. After about 20 minutes the third guy said that the fax and office numbers were the wrong way around (the form that I was provided with had them in a different order to the artwork so I had made a copy/paste error). Within minutes the two original managers said theirs were wrong as well! Now obviously I made the error, but mistakes do happen and it is much more difficult to proof your own work, so the onus is always on the client to approve the artwork. At Pixooma we carefully check our work as we take our responsibilities seriously, but the final sign-off has to always lie with the client, after all they are the specialists and this is their material, but what this story proves is that the managers were simply ‘looking’ at the cards and perhaps thinking “yes, that looks nice” rather than reviewing the detail.

One-sided approach

This final story is my favourite… many years ago when I was employed in an in-house studio I designed a leaflet for one of the directors, printed off a proof and put it on his desk to be checked. He came all the way downstairs and through another office to get to the studio and stood with a beaming smile in front of my desk. He held the leaflet out for me to take back and said “fantastic, looks great, let’s go ahead and print them”, but just before I took the leaflet from him he absent-mindedly turned it over. “Oh, there is stuff on the back…” he said! How could he have accurately ‘proofed’ the document without even turning it over? It still makes me chuckle (and shake my head in disbelief) thinking of it now…

So the moral of the story(ies) is that as the client it is your responsibility to proof artwork comprehensively. Yes, the designer/printer should take pride in their work and carefully check it themselves, but aside from the fact it is difficult to spot your own errors, you are the expert in your own field so there could be mistakes in terminology (amongst other things) that only you would know about. Errors do happen – they are almost inevitable – but our guide to proofing will help you to ensure that they are minimised wherever possible. And of course, if you have produced the leaflet/website/banner yourself, ask someone else to check it (and perhaps send them the link to our guide), as you will have a harder time spotting any errors you’ve made.

If you have any queries please get in touch we’d be delighted to talk to you about them but in the meantime… Happy proofing!

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