You’ve created a great design for your direct mail or print project. The copy is flowed in, and the client wants paper hardcopy prints to get proofread and reviewed. Now the rubber hits the road and before files get released, you need sign-off. You need InDesign file approval from every stakeholder involved.
File approval can be the easiest, or hardest, part of any print design and direct mail design project. As the designer, usually you, or someone you work with, is going to be responsible for making sure everyone that needs to has signed off on the files. A well-logged and tracked process makes approval and revisions smoother. One way to help that along is to use a routing and approval slug on your files.
Slugs can go beyond just job info, to be a QC tool
You already have job information that automatically appears in the “Marks and Bleeds” settings when printing InDesign Documents. A slug that goes beyond that information helps make sure files don’t escape the careful eyes of expert team members like proofreaders and production managers.
Add routing slugs and simplify InDesign file approval.
When I say slugs, I’m not talking slimy critters, or woodworking. A slug is an information logs and form on the outside non-printing area of an InDesign file, or is on a cover sheet. Most designers think about slugs as useful ways to track information they have to record, such as the file name, job number, etc. But that same slug can be much more useful as part of quality check, routing and approval. That’s why I refer to it as an approval or routing slug. Here’s an example:
Track changes and approvals more accurately.
When you use a slug to log routing and InDesign file approval, you can customize the slug to include all the approver’s initials or names, dates of approval or need for change, and any special notes.
Be sure you include checkboxes that indicate whether the file is either approved as is, approved with changes noted, or needs revisions and re-review (a new paper proof or PDF).
Scale your routing slug to your needs and situation
There’s no one slug that’s right for every client situation and every designer. I’ve used very simple slugs for clients with fewer stakeholders. For clients who had a lot of reviewers involved in the process of InDesign file approval, more complex slugs.
When a slug becomes too big to rest outside the bleed area of an InDesign file, it’s time to put it on a separate cover sheet that gets printed out and travels along with the other printed out sheets.
How a little bit of work and discipline can keep you out of hot water
Using a slug for documenting InDesign file approval buys you some protection by having something with initials and dates from approving parties. ALWAYS get them signed or initialed and dated. It could be what stands between you and an awkward misunderstanding, or a lawsuit.
Two must-have slug elements for InDesign file approval.
The first must-have element in your slug is proofreading. Especially on jobs too small to have a dedicated proofreader budgeted, the client needs to assume responsibility for proofreading. The second must-have element is a space for your client to sign-off. This is where you get proof of acceptance of the files and OK to print.
The designer or the writer should be reviewing files, but should never be final proofreaders. And even when there is a proofreader, the point of last review is the account executive and ultimately, the client. Each share responsibility for accuracy of information and content.
Hard-Learned Lesson: Hi-tech doesn’t always ease InDesign file approval
I love to do as much as possible electronically instead of on paper. But I’ve learned some very common truths:
- Many people, no matter what their age, don’t focus on electronic proofs as well as paper proofs.
- Add more people to your routing, and you’ll increase the odds of someone having technology challenges. If you really want to get a client angry, try telling them the problem is them. Or you could end up waste hours showing them how to manage electronic signatures on PDFs or other electronic methods. When these electronic means of approval work for everyone in the process, that’s good. But it’s not realistic to work that way with many clients.
- The more versions of compontents you have, the more confusing approvals can become with electronic proofing.
There’s also a critical plus to routing paper for InDesign file approval: You can attach mock-ups and multiple versions of letters, brochures or other components.
Get a jumpstart with a FREE slug file, and you won’t be starting from scratch.
Request my free slug art files to use on your own art files by using the form on this page. You’ll save time and effort, and you can customize the content to meet your unique situation. Even if you create a slug from scratch for InDesign file approval, you’ll make routing and approvals an easier process all around.