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How Print Technology Revolutionized the Pre-Production Sample

November 29, 2023 | High Velocity Printers

Committing a design to production is a costly endeavor. Once approved, the design or prototype is mass-produced for public consumption. Whatever errors or mistakes are present in the final design are now present in every future iteration. Ensuring the design is error-free is, therefore, of significant financial and reputational importance. A pre-production sample acts as a final check of a design ensuring that all aspects meet the desired standards and quality.

However, in earlier eras, technological limitations prevented designers from fully realizing their products. Only with graphic design software did the full potential of this vital design step take shape.

In this article, we explore how the evolution of print technology revolutionized pre-production samples, from the initial hand-drawn sketches to the wonders of digital design software. 

What is a Pre-Production Sample?

A pre-production sample, or PPS, is the final stage in the design process. Just before a design is approved for manufacturing, a physical or digital model of the product is created to capture the design, materials, colors, and functionality.

This sample is a “prototype” used to assess the design in all its detail. In particular, quality control (QC) looks to see if the product meets the expected standards and quality. Identifying any errors or changes at this stage prevents costly recalls and reputational embarrassment later on.

A pre-production sample is commonly used to identify and fix potential errors in industries like fashion, electronics, and automotive. However, it’s also an opportunity for designers, stakeholders, and manufacturers to provide their input. For example, a manufacturer might notice challenges in creating a particular color or shape, while stakeholders (with in-depth knowledge of the market) may suggest adjustments to align with current consumer trends or preferences. 

Evolution of The Pre-Production Sample

A pre-production sample might sound like a modern innovation; however, they have an illustrious history in the design industry. Beginning initially with hand-drawn sketches, the art has evolved significantly over the centuries. Let’s explore this transformation:

Traditional Hand-Drawn Sketches

Once upon a time, designers didn’t have advanced software packages or even modern print technology. In these early days, hand-drawn sketches were the typical form a pre-production sample would take. Craftsmen and artisans commonly used sketches to understand a design’s shape or function.

Functioning as the cornerstone of creative expression, designers could explore and communicate their ideas visually to potential patrons, clients, and other stakeholders. 

Famously, the Victorian wallpaper designer William Morris would create so-called “working drawings.” Although incredibly detailed, these designs – drawn on gridded paper – provided an unfinished window into the eventual product.

Elsewhere, legendary engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel developed various machines and infrastructure projects using hand-drawn designs. Although they’re not strictly “pre-production samples,” these drawings are the precursor to the computer-aided designs prevalent in the modern era.

And, of course, the Victorians spent endless hours creating sketches of dresses and various other fashionable items. 

Challenges of Time and Iteration

Despite their artistic value, hand-drawn sketches posed significant challenges. Time-consuming and requiring multiple iterations, these sketches were a laborious stage in the design process. Indeed, any tweak or alteration necessitated a new sketch – and communication between the designer, craftsmen, and clients was slow, commonly leading to misunderstandings and delays. 

Moreover, the physical limitations of sketches prevented designers from fully communicating the complexity of their designs. That meant products involving high precision or intricate details were often more cumbersome or simply not possible without multiple (expensive) rounds of prototyping.

Advent of Modern Print Technology

Print technology changed everything. Although the printing press was available in earlier eras, the Industrial Revolution and later the introduction of computers truly revolutionized the pre-production sample.

Suddenly, designers could produce high-quality, accurate representations of their sketches. These detailed mock-ups were more accurate and reproducible than hand-drawn sketches. And, if an adjustment was required, designers did not need to begin from scratch.

As the technology evolved further, graphic design software moved from two to three dimensions. Computer-aided design and 3D modeling mean that industries like consumer goods or machinery can do away with several prototyping stages. Designers can develop digital models that, once rendered, replicate the physical prototype in near-perfect detail. Some software packages even model the product in different lighting conditions.

The advent of online collaboration platforms and cloud-based design tools has democratized access to advanced design technologies. Designers and teams around the world can collaborate in real-time, sharing and refining a pre-production sample seamlessly.

Graphic Design Software and Pre-Production Samples: Key Benefits

Together, graphic design software and the ability to create a digital pre-production sample have radically overhauled the production process. Companies can save thousands (or more) by editing and evaluating designs digitally. Stakeholders, marketing experts, and other relevant parties can analyze the design, providing more detailed feedback.

The result? Fewer errors, greater refinement, and higher quality products. Some other benefits of this winning combination include:

  • Enhanced Accuracy and Detail: Graphic design software provides highly detailed and accurate models with precise measurements and specifications. This reduces errors in the design phase and ensures a higher-quality final product.
  • Rapid Prototyping and Iteration: Designers can quickly modify designs, allowing for faster iteration cycles. This agility in prototyping enables testing different design options and refining concepts more efficiently.
  • Realistic Visualizations: The software offers advanced rendering capabilities, enabling lifelike visualizations of products. These realistic representations are invaluable for decision-making and client presentations.
  • Environmental Sustainability: By reducing the need for physical samples, digital design contributes to lower material waste and environmental footprint, aligning with sustainable production practices.

Closing Thoughts

The evolution of the pre-production sample has revolutionized the design and manufacturing industries. Moving from traditional hand-drawn sketches to modern graphic design software, this transition ensures meticulous attention to every design detail. This scrutiny is crucial before mass production, helping to avoid costly errors and maintain a brand’s reputation.

Advanced graphic design tools in the pre-production process bring numerous benefits. These include enhanced accuracy, rapid prototyping, and realistic visualizations, which are essential in today’s fast-paced design environment.
Ashore stands at the forefront of this evolution, offering features that resonate with the needs of modern designers. Its automation tools streamline workflows, enabling rapid iterations and efficient feedback. The centralized communication platform eliminates cumbersome email chains, ensuring clear and effective collaboration.

Embracing Ashore in your design process transforms creative visions into flawless realities, setting a new standard in design excellence. Sign up for free today!

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