Business inspection: Serving a chic and unique client base
Monday, July 28, 2014
To make the most of its specialist talents Pressision has branched out into fashion.
To say Pressision in Leeds is passionate about creative print would be a serious understatement. Managing director James Taylor recalls how, when the firm first started life in 2003, he and a few colleagues would go in on Saturdays to spend hours tinkering to see what unusual results they could get.
“Believe it or not we used to do really sad things like go to the factory on the weekend when the press was free and experiment, trying to print opaque inks on recycled grey boards, for example. Just messing around to see how we could push the boundaries,” reports Taylor.
In fact, the whole rationale behind the business in the first place was to fill a gap Taylor had spotted in exactly this kind of boundary-pushing print. Taylor explains that although he went on to hold various reprographics jobs after studying graphic design at university, he kept in touch with his peers who’d gone on to work in design agencies. And it was these contacts who alerted him to something of a dearth of creativity in print.
“The conversation came around to the fact that they could be creative with a lot of mediums, but not print, because there were no creative print suppliers that they could access,” reports Taylor. “That’s why I decided to start up.”
Although the company, which Taylor set up with his mother, started out with flyer and poster products and projects slightly less ambitious than the high-end catalogue, brochure and R&A work Pressision now processes, creativity has always been its core USP.
Understandably the company felt it couldn’t afford to be too picky about jobs coming its way though. Which meant that up until the last year or so the company did accept more ‘standard’ jobs, with print management and print broker jobs constituting a fair chunk of its workload.
The problem with this strategy was the creation of something of a split identity, explains Taylor.
“The difficult thing is every single member of the team needs to be very very experienced and at the top of their game to be able to create these projects. And what we’re finding is it’s difficult for people to switch out of ‘churn it out cheap’ mode into high-quality mode,” he reports.
So the team decided to really follow its heart and concentrate on really creative high-end jobs. “We’ve decided now we’re doing just the high-quality work, because that means the mindset of people in their daily role stays the same all the time,” says Taylor.
So far, so impressive. But the company of course needed something to fill the profit gap left by those more straightforward commodity print jobs it was now turning away.
The answer came in the form of a photographer client referring fashion label Paul Smedley to Pressision, and in the installation in October 2012 of a new five-colour-plus-coater Komori S29 press, along with high-quality Screen CTP and Equios workflow kit.
Thus a niche in high-end print products, including catalogues, look books, invites and swing tags, for fashion clients, was born.
John Smedley came to Pressision because it was having problems with moiré clash on its brochures, due to the tight patterns in the fabrics featured. “They’d been having problems with moiré clash and the previous printers had just been putting a blur on the images to get rid of it, so lowering the image quality,” says Taylor.
“So we started producing test sheets and wet proofs and they actually asked us ‘where have you been all our careers?’”
Smedley has gone on to be one of Pressision’s key fashion clients, along with other prestigious names such as Wrangler and Harvey Nichols.
Taylor explains just why the company’s new Komori and Screen kit is able to achieve those levels of quality so critical to this kind of work: “Traditional halftones with different sized dots at certain screen angles can give you problems. For starters there’s a visible dot that can give you rosette problems. Because each colour’s dots are at a certain angle, it can give you either a jagged edge on diagonal lines on things like fonts, or moire clash, where you get that weird swirling with garments with tight lines,” he says.
He adds: “Our technology uses one size of dot which is ten microns. It either clumps them together or spaces them apart randomly to give you the different colour tones.”
Expert and patient pre-press is another crucial factor. Taylor reports that the team spend on average two weeks carefully colour matching and preparing the master files for each John Smedley catalogue or look book.
“We spend ages printing out test sheets and matching them to the actual material. We get a big box of materials and do a lot of work correcting it at the front end. When we print it, it’s as near to the fabric as we can get,” says Taylor.
Taylor reports that the company has two pre-press professionals. “They obviously need colour correction and retouching experience; it’s not just about standard pre-press skills,” he says. “Luckily for us we’ve got people who have been involved in colour correction previously, back in the days when you used to scan and do all that stuff. I suppose it’s a traditional repro house skill, so I suppose we’re keeping some of those older skills alive.”
Also important to attracting high-end fashion work is the company’s general vibe; a slick, well-designed website and premises is key.
“Our sales office is decked out like an agency; it’s quite creative. My office is just covered in sheets all over the walls of jobs we’ve done. It’s quite modern, we’re not like a traditional printers,” says Taylor.
As it stands, 10%-15% of the work that Pressision processes is for fashion clients, with the rest made up predominantly of high-end R&A work, direct mail and other quality brochure and catalogue work for a range of both SME and blue-chip companies, including sofa and chair retailer Sherborne Upholstery and baby brand Cosatto.
The company hopes to grow the fashion side in line with growing the business in general though. It hopes that this will make up around 25%-30% of its turnover within the next 12 months, and that company turnover will subsequently grow from £1.3m currently to £2.6m within the next three years.
Going after more fashion work will involve a more concerted marketing push in this direction in future, says Taylor. “We’re thinking of having a case-bound box containing a series of cards on different materials with a traditional image printed in halftone and our high-definition image, with a dot glass so people can see the difference in quality,” he says.
For now though, Pressision is very happy with the insulation fashion work has provided after it moved away from print management work, and from the recession in general.
The company is also extremely proud of the creativity going out of its doors to its fashion clients, and the way this has fed back into an innovative approach to all work.
Particularly innovative fashion jobs have included letterpress swing tags for boutique brands sold in Harvey Nichols, halftone work, and a fashion look book which was a collaboration between several people, including photographer Guy Farrow and designer Richard Colvol.
“We’ve done some halftone foiling, which is a bit unusual, and we did one look book for Guy Farrow and Richard Colvol where we replaced the magenta ink with fluorescent pink in an otherwise standard CMYK configuration,” says Taylor. “When you looked at the image you couldn’t quite understand what was different, but it was just really vibrant.”
Innovative sewn finishes are very popular with fashion clients, adds Taylor. “We use a Singer sewing machine – either side-sewing, which is basically sewing through the side of the spine to give a perfect-bound kind of look, or centre spine-sewing, which is like a saddle-stitched book but you’re actually sewing up the open book, up the crease,” he says, adding: “A lot of customers like to leave the thread trailing as well for a tactile effect.”
Pressision has very much achieved its aim, then, of being a hub of creative print excellence and quality. And, with its eye on targeting even more fashion work in future, and with the installation of a new HP Indigo 5600 with white ink due later this summer, it looks set to push the envelope – literally – even further in the future.
Vital statistics – Pressision
Inspection host Managing director James Taylor
Size Turnover: £1.3m; staff: 17
Established In 2003 by Taylor and his mother, who is now administrative director. Taylor, a graphics design graduate who had gone on to work in reprographics, had discovered a need among design agency former classmates for more creative print, and set up Pressision to fill this gap
Products A range of commercial, banner, window cling, POS, R&A, brochure and catalogue work for a variety of SME and blue-chip companies
Kit Screen PlateRite 6600S, Equios-Pre4m with Trueflow SE workflow, “high-spec” five-colour Komori S29 with inline coater, HP Indigo, Konica Bizhub c6000, Roland XC-540, Heidelberg Puricelli hot foil printing cylinder SBB, Heidelberg foil blocking platen, Heidelberg letterpress printing platen, Stahl
KD 78 Folder, Heidelberg Prosetter saddle stitcher, Polar 76EM guillotine, Swift Glue & Press (duplexing kit)
Inspection focus Working with high-end fashion clients
Consider whether you can juggle both creative and commodity print. Pressision puts its success down to concentrating on the latter, so that the team are always in creative mode.
Staff skill levels will be key. “You’ve got to have an experienced and open-minded team of people. The equipment is only a part of it; you’ve got to have the skill. Some of these processes are real crafts,” says Taylor.
Ensure more old-school skills, which are nonetheless vital to fulfilling high-end work, aren’t lost. “We’ve got a 61-year-old Heidelberg letterpress printer. We’re currently looking at putting an apprentice in that department to try and pass the skills on before the other guys retire,” says Taylor.
Quality of kit is crucial. Not only does Pressision’s Komori S29 print to exceptionally high standards, it also enables the company to offer unusually sized products, popular for fashion work. “The Komori is over-sized – 29 inches – so we can do unusual, bespoke-sized products, such as square brochures,” says Taylor.
Always be up for experimentation. “We’re just so open to experimenting with new things and to input coming back from the client too. So maybe it’s trying to suggest alternatives if they’re trying to fit within a budget. So you are effectively a creative consultancy,” says Taylor.
Look and act the part. Your website, premises and general ethos should match that of your clients. Which means with high-end fashion work, and high-end work in general, you need to be pretty slick. “Cossato are an example. Company to company we form a good relationship because we’re alike,” says Taylor.