Bless whoever thought of having the customer sign off on an approval sheet before allowing a job to go to press. I’m sure that thousands of years ago, when the first newspaper was produced, whoever was running the job on the press had the bright idea of making someone else sign off. By having a client sign an approval, which is a standard procedure in the industry, you basically do one thing – defer blame.

If only the rest of life was so easy! We could all walk around with little approval slips in our pockets. “Excuse me honey, would you mind signing this slip stating that you’ll pick up milk on your way home?” And then, at six o’clock, when we sit down to eat dry mashed potatoes without a drop of milk, I could reach into my pocket and serve him with the signed slip, which would clearly state that he had, in fact, agreed to buy the milk.

There would be no arguing as to whose fault it was that the potatoes were dry!

But, no, real life is not so easy. Luckily, however, our business life can be made more efficient and rewarding if we use simple policies such as having all customers sign proofs on all jobs all the time.

When you’re simply responsible for outputting a document, you need only “flip” the art files onto a proof sheet (or these days, a PDF) and send it off to the client for approval. When you have had no input into the file, it’s not necessary to proofread everything as obsessively. However, it’s still a good idea to give it a quick once-over in case you can save your client from printing a flawed file. Have your graphics department ensure that the files are set up properly before printing.

It’s when you’re responsible for the artwork and layout that things can get tricky. That’s when it’s our responsibility as graphic arts professionals to check, verify, read and re-read. One mistake can not only cause tremendous problems all the way down the line, but can also be costly and affect your health (trust me…sleep does not come easily when an erroneous file has been sent to press).

As with most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So, even if your client is legally responsible after signing off on a project, you still have a moral responsibility to review it.

A checklist can help designers make sure that they’ve followed all technical steps to ensure that all images, fonts and measurements are included properly. If you’re coordinating the project, whether it’s for an in-house promotion or a customer’s project, it’s well worth the time to review it carefully. Even if it’s technically the client’s responsibility, it’ll just be more headaches for you if there’s a mistake. When it’s time to review the text, it’s best to sit alone in a quiet area where you won’t be disturbed and look over everything carefully. Here are some tips that may help. You can even encourage your clients to follow the same procedures.

1. Work with a printed-out copy rather than working directly from your screen. Use a brightly coloured pen to mark corrections.

2. First review the most important information, such as phone numbers, addresses, e-mail addresses and dates. Compare the information on the file to the information that was given by the client and to the copy that was approved by the client.

3. Read text from back to front to check spelling. This will prevent your eyes from naturally “sweeping” over text and not actually reading it.

4. Check the information off-line by line as you approve it.

5. Let a trusted work associate review the project.

6. Put the project down and take a break before returning to give it a final proofing.

7. Even if it’s a project that you have done several times, always re-verify all information. You never know when someone could have accidentally used the wrong file or re-typed something.

No one is perfect and unfortunately, mistakes do happen. When they do, you need to be pro-active and figure out a solution immediately. While a re-print is sometimes necessary, you can always get creative with other solutions, such as reprinting one colour only over a specific area to change some important information, covering a mis-print with a sticker or embossment, or trimming the job to cut the error right off (yes, it has been done!).

If the mistake is in the right place and you use your creative powers, you might be able to save time, money and produce a job on schedule, while “fixing” the error so that most consumers wouldn’t even notice it.