Faculty Feature: John Clifford Prepares FIDM Design Students for Pre-Press Production

John CliffordWhen it comes to creating highly refined, versatile printed marketing materials, sometimes applying the use of advanced printing process like varnish, embossing or de-bossing could make all the difference. But how do you actually produce these types of finishing techniques to give your creative projects that extra boost?

FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Graphic Design Students learn not only about what design opportunities exist during the printing process, but also how to execute such advanced techniques to make their designs come to life in their Pre-Press Production class, taught by print industry expert, FIDM Instructor John Clifford.

“In today’s society, we tend to get so focused on the computer, that we don’t consider that there are things beyond it, and that there are limits to it,” says Clifford. “These are the key things that a Pre-Press Production class will teach you: what are your (design) limits, and what are the things that are beyond the computer?”

Some of the key concepts that Clifford reinforces with his design students include:
•    The definition of color… not only what it is, but how it is reproduced.
•    Design elements that can be produced during the print process that you can’t execute on a computer screen, such as foil stamping, embossing, varnishing, and the use of spot colors that are “out of gamut,” or invisible, on a computer screen, like neon.
•    The limitations of the printing process, which doesn’t always allow designers the freedom to replicate the appearance of their designs.

(Business card for The Eve night club in San Francisco using gold foil and spot gloss highlights for a truly elegant and classy image by Taste of Ink Studios)


(Business card design for Dyalect, a marketing and promotions company in New York, printed on a 16pt silk matte finish card stock and uses spot gloss highlights on both sides and a custom die cut punch, designed by Taste of Ink Studios)

Clifford has been teaching courses like Pre-Press Production and Desktop Publishing at FIDM for more than five years helping design students to understand how to prepare their files for print. After owning his own typesetting company in the late 1970s and early 1980s serving the Hollywood entertainment community, and working for decades as a consultant in workflow management, Clifford is well-versed in his subject matter. He also “played a key role in creating PDF based CD-ROMs for the Academy of Motion ­Picture Arts and Sciences, Mosby, and McGraw-Hill,” among others, and in addition to serving as a FIDM Instructor, he has also worked as a composition/production consulatant for  Benjamin Cummings Publishing, and currently oversees pre-production at Printco/Lotto Graphix.

This year, Clifford was also asked to speak at Graph Expo 2010 (the largest and most comprehensive exhibition and conference for the graphic communications industry in the Americas) in front of educators from universities, junior colleges, vocational schools and high schools from across the country about his unique Pre-Press Production course curriculum. What makes FIDM’s Graphic Design program unique is that while most programs are focused on training future print professionals how to fix designers’ file errors, FIDM’s program teaches future design professionals how to prepare their files correctly from the start, says Clifford.

“Rather than teach (future printers) to accept designer’s files with problems, I’m trying to teach designers to send printers files without problems,” says Clifford. “It’s coming at the same problem from two different angles.”

By preparing FIDM Graphic Design Students about the realities and limitations of the printing process, and also how to utilize design elements such as embossing, foil printing and varnishing, Clifford is preparing FIDM graduates to handle real-world obstacles as future designers.

“I’ve had feedback from former students who say that they have seen career advancement that they attributed directly to the fact that they understand a lot of (the print process), especially color separation and how color works, and advanced techniques like blind varnish,” he says.

John Clifford’s Recommended Sites for Staying Up-to-date in the Technical Printing Industry:
•    PrintCEO.com
•    Tv.adobe.com
•    Don’t Miss Print Industry Expert Frank Romano’s Video “History of Printing in 15 Minutes” Video (click here)

In addition to all of his accomplishments within the printing industry, John Clifford also has a deep interest in the historic preservation of buildings and landmarks. Since 1999, he has served as the Webmaster and Newsletter Editor for Hollywood Heritage, an organization dedicated to preserving Hollywood’s landmarks, Webmaster for the Los Angeles Wine Festival, and as Newsletter Editor and Webmaster for Pomona Heritage. He is also a Commissioner for the City of Pomona, and the current President of Friends of the Pomona Fox, an organization dedicated to the historic preservation of the historic Pomona Fox Theater and its role as a cornerstone of Pomona’s Downtown.


Check out more pictures of business cards designed by Scottsdale-based design firm, Taste of Ink Studios using advanced print process techniques:

(Business card design for Penny Lane Photography, using a blind debossing pattern designed by Taste of Ink Studios.)

Do you LOVE graphic design? Check out FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising’s program for Graphic Design/Branding where you can learn all aspects of print media, including typography, digital photography and publication/layout design, and FIDM’s Digital Media program where you can learn editing, digital composition, motion graphics, 3-D modeling & animation, and sound design.

Visit our main site, FIDMDigitalarts.com to view multiple galleries of breathtaking graphic design and digital media, created by FIDM Alumni.

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Author: Mani O'Brien

Mani O’Brien is the Online Editor for the FIDMDigitalArts Blog and the Social Media Marketing Manager for FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in print journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Arizona State University in 2006, and Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Design (Professional Designation) at FIDM in 2010. When she’s not brainstorming social media marketing ideas or writing about the graphic design and digital media, she enjoys practicing yoga, reading magazines, and hanging out with friends and family in Los Angeles.

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