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The Impact of the Image Proof on Projects

February 9, 2024 | Design

No photograph, product design, or magazine layout ever makes its way to print or production without first passing through the proofing stage. It’s the final hurdle – the last chance to pinpoint errors and make corrections. An image proof, therefore, saves companies potentially thousands (or even millions) of dollars in product recalls and reputational damage. A wonky image or embarrassing typo can prove calamitous.

Take the 1988 Yellow Pages mistake, for example. Banner Travel Services’ “exotic” vacation destination raised eyebrows when the advertisement actually read “erotic.” The company’s predominantly elderly clientele took a dim view and stopped booking tours.

Let’s take a closer look at image proofs, their current role, and how they’ve evolved with changing technologies and expectations.

Image Proof: The Final Project Stage

Traditionally, image proofing began as primarily an error-checking stage. Just before a design or image could be given final approval, a hard copy was printed to identify any mistakes, typos, or other issues. The creative team would gather around to scour the image proof for such problems.

However, what once involved just a handful of creatives in a meeting room has, in the years since, evolved into a critical phase for creative collaboration. Rather than just creating a single image proof, several iterations are now included as the norm.

As part of this final approval stage, image proofing is defined by:

  • Integration of Advanced Technology: Incorporates cutting-edge technology like high-resolution displays and color-accurate monitors to ensure visual accuracy in proofs.
  • Remote Collaboration: Facilitates remote collaboration, allowing team members in different locations to simultaneously participate in the proofing process.
  • Environmentally Friendly Practices: Shifts from traditional print-based proofing to digital methods, reducing paper waste and contributing to environmentally sustainable practices.
  • Adaptation to Various Media Formats: Extends beyond print media to include digital platforms, ensuring the image is optimized for various formats like web, mobile, and print.

The Evolution of Image Proofing

So, what changed? Why did the image proof evolve from a small but important approval stage to a lengthy process involving multiple stakeholders, from clients to marketing experts? 

The answer lies in the changing nature of the work environment.

Hard Proof Limitations

Due to limitations in print processes, producing hard proofs (i.e., a physical copy of the image) was costly in terms of ink, paper, and running the printers. It was also time-consuming. Design agencies and publishers, therefore, preferred to minimize the number of proofs produced.

Furthermore, because proofing involved a physical copy, the stakeholders involved in reviewing it were also limited. Sure, the original design team would review the image. Maybe a few other professionals within the company may also take a look. However, outside experts and the client themselves frequently didn’t see the finished image or design until the day of delivery.

New Workplace, New Systems

What does that have to do with work?

Well, when the pandemic forced employees to work from home, everything changed forever. Currently, almost 90% of creative professionals work from home, according to Creative Pool. Fewer than 1 in 10 organizations are back to “business as usual”. This was the new normal. Companies had to find a way to share documents, review proofs, and grant final approval without a physical copy. 

Even before the pandemic, companies had explored the potential for so-called “soft proofs” – aka digital renditions of the final design – thanks to advances in high-resolution monitors, advanced color correction software, and collaboration platforms.

Companies could rapidly create these proofs at a fraction of the cost, share them with employees not physically present in the office, and even ask clients and other professionals to provide additional feedback.

Sure, a final hard proof might be needed in some instances. But much of the reliance on hard proofs was gone – image proofs were, for the most part, digital from here on out. 

Impact of Image Proofing

The story of the image proof over the past centuries is, in many ways, the story of cheaper printing processes. As the cost of each iteration declined, proofs took on greater prominence. Initially, laser inkjet printers revolutionized the process, allowing more iterations.

But, with digital technologies, image proofs are about as cheap as they’re ever going to be – and several industries are still evolving in response to this shift.

Nonetheless, several impacts are evident, including:

  1. Project Timelines: Image proofing can either extend project timelines due to detailed revisions or streamline them through efficient digital workflows. The balance achieved in this stage is critical for timely project completion.
  2. Client Relations: Strongly affects client trust and satisfaction by involving them in the review process. Transparent and efficient proofing can enhance client engagement, but mismanagement or miscommunication can lead to dissatisfaction.
  3. Final Output Quality: Plays a crucial role in enhancing the quality of the final product. Regular and thorough proofing ensures early detection of errors and adherence to client specifications, leading to a higher quality output.
  4. Cost Implications: Can have a significant impact on the overall budget of a project. Efficient proofing processes minimize the need for late-stage changes, which are often costly, while a lack of effective proofing can lead to increased expenses due to errors.

Join the Image Proof Revolution with Ashore

More iterations. Greater collaboration. Fewer mistakes. That’s the promise of the image-proof revolution. But to realize its possibilities, design agencies, photographers, and publishers need a platform to upload their images and share them with key stakeholders.

Ashore was developed by creatives for creatives. This online proofing solution allows companies to proof every file type, including images. Teams can then annotate, comment, and edit the images, rapidly progressing through the proofing stage while only spending a fraction of the cost of traditional proofing methods. 

Best of all, with features like version control and automated review reminders, you can manage any project without the confusion and complexity of email.

Upload your image proofs today with Ashore. Start your free trial and become part of the image-proof revolution.

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