Saturday, January 18, 2014

My big work trip to Maryland!

My best friend in the whole world, Ericka is from Maryland. When we were there we'd eat some crabs, go motorcycling through chicken farms, (OK this only happened once but it was so awesome I'd like to pretend it was a regular occurrence) and just get out of the city. I have fond memories of Maryland—specifically the Eastern Shore where she was from—so I was kinda psyched for my work trip.

Now I wasn't going to Maryland to ride motorcycles through chicken farms, and I was pretty sure I wasn't getting any crabs to eat either. I was going to take a three hour Amtrak ride to Baltimore then a one and a half hour drive to Phoenix Color to press check Panic in Hagerstown, Maryland. The trip took place in one day. Being that travel alone was 8+ hours, we packed in a whole lotta adventures. Here's the break down!

First up, because I'm a total nerd for all things machinery, let's explore the plant! And yes, it's exactly how you'd expect it to be. If I had better editing abilities I'd make this. And I'd commission music by They Might Be Giants, but you get the idea. Each time I have the pleasure of visiting a plant, or anywhere where people make actual things I think of Sesame Street and the 1980's. Maybe it's all those "buy American" commercials that were popular then...maybe those commercials were only shown in Michigan. Anyway, I'm transfixed by conveyor belts, cutting machines, the rollers on the printing presses, glitter machines, embossing plates—everything!

Two picture books were being collated, bound, and well I guess "put together" while I was there. One is currently the #1 New York Times bestselling picture book and the other was one of my childhood favorites. Behold! The creation of What the Fox Say? and Corduroy.*

*Over simplified and maybe in the wrong order.

But we did work on our book too! After the tour (and again apologies if that was out of order, and I know it's severely lacking in actual information, but still it's fun!) we tackled Panic, and its awesome use of Litho Foil. Now, I don't know how Litho Foil works. A few people have attempted to explain it to me but all I can hear (and see!) is: It makes things pretty. It's awesome. It's new. It's on.

Getting the color of the foil to match proved to be a challenge, a lot of odd trapping (areas where the foil and the ink aren't lining up) issues were apparent. I won't pretend to know how the wizards at Phoenix fixed the white halo issues that surrounded the type. Something I did in my file wasn't translating to printing language. But the left over silver film was pretty cool.

Litho foil for cover and spine

When I say it was a while in getting there, I'm not kidding. A lot of really hard work happens here to get everything just right—most of it before I get to the plant. A jacket would come off the press, people look at it for color and trapping, then discuss what isn't quite right. A whole lot of buttons are pushed. Phrases like "Let's up the cyan by 2%" or "increase the black plate by x!" are thrown around. Then pull another jacket. This happens a few times before all the images in our minds pop out exactly the way they are supposed to on paper. And before anyone freaks out, all materials are reused or recycled, this isn't wasted.

Rejected Panic's!

I'm in so much awe at the people who make this all happen. I only know the process until a jacket gets to the printer, after that it's a mystery. After I hand the files off to my production department, all this magical stuff happens and a few weeks later I get a book, you get a book, we all get books! But it's the awesome visions and talents of a lot people that take whatever I have on screen and transpose it into a perfect piece of tangible stuff. And I have to say, it looks mighty, mighty fine...

Panic's final jacket will be gritty matte, litho foil, and embossed.

Panic is available in stores and on line March 2014.

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