Best Practices for Variable Data Printing


One potential pitfall, though, of variable data projects is the increased production time that is required due to the complexity of merging data fields of different sizes and formats into a fixed design.

Our team at Perfect Printing has significant experience in producing variable data projects and goes to great lengths to ensure that every record prints in the desired manner on any given variable printed piece. Preparing data for variable printing is a two step process that involves “cleansing” the data and then mapping the data to the design template. Cleansing the data involves making sure that the data in the file is consistent throughout. This process is much more time consuming than the actual mapping process and, depending on the amount of variable information being used, is the reason that a variable proof sometimes take several days longer to generate than a static print proof. The mapping portion of the process cannot begin until the data cleansing process is fully completed.

Below are some tips that can be followed when submitting data for use in a variable print project. Following these suggestions can help get your project completed in the quickest time possible.
1)      Only send files that are needed for the project. Often we receive a “data dump” of files. The additional amount of time that is required to sort through what files are needed and which ones are not increase the time it takes to get to the proofing stage.
2)      Make sure address fields are consistent in their format. The ideal format is to have any secondary address (i.e. suite number, apt. number) in a secondary field. Often we receive data that is mixed. Some of the secondary addresses are in the primary address field, while other records have a separate field. If it is not possible to present the data in the most optimal manner, clear guidelines should be communicated as to how the addresses fields should be imported.
3)      Much like address fields, name fields can also present a particular dilemma. We often receive mixed formats that include full names in a single field (i.e. Mr. and Mrs. John Doe) along with separate fields for other names.
4)      If you have specific requirements as to how you wish data to print (i.e. Street abbreviated as St. in the data file should be spelled out fully) communicate this prior to the start of the project.
If you feel that your data has some of the issues outline above, don’t feel like you are alone. Most projects that we handle have these types of issues. We can write programs that take care of resolving these issues. For those that are interested in using variable data, especially as an ongoing process, it best to try to continually improve upon your data submission. This will allow for faster processing and better turnarounds.

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