California State University, Fullerton

Printed Publications Best Practices

The Process:

Initial planning

The following questions may assist you in beginning to think about your need for a printed publication.

  • Is a printed publication indeed the best option for your promotional needs, and/or should it work in conjunction with other communication tools?
  • What is the specific intended audience for the publication, and what do you want from them?
  • What is the specific action you want the target audience to take, and are you prepared to make that call-to- action clear and compelling? 
  • How many copies of the publication will you need, and how will you distribute this publication to your audience? (Will this be mailed, and if so, will it be sent bulk mail or first class? Or is the publication a handout or table piece?) Where will you store quantities not used immediately?
  • What type of printed publication is most appropriate? A postcard? Brochure? Magazine?
  • Is there a need for an envelope, and if so, does it need to fit into a standard-size envelope? Is it a self-mailer? Are there inserts? Do you need a reply mechanism?
  • Will the printed piece need to be replicated online?
  • Are you aware of the editorial and graphic standards that govern non-academic university publications?
  • Who will determine the content for this piece? Who will be the primary staff member responsible for coordinating the project? Who will be developing content for the piece, and who will be the final sign-off?
  • Is this a one-time publication or part of a series? Does it need to coordinate with another publication? Could this piece have any other uses?
  • How much time do you have to develop this piece? (When does your audience need to have this piece? How long will mailing take? How much time do you need for labeling/addressing?)
  • What is your budget, and is it truly realistic?

The Project Timeline

Once you have determined the answers to all the questions above, you will want to develop a project timeline that will govern the development of your publication. You must identify the date you need the publication (if it is for a specific event, plan on having the publication as least a week ahead of time), then work backwards from that date to determine an appropriate set of deadlines. You must consider time to gather information, write text, review/approve text, design, proof, receive final sign-off, print and if applicable, assemble and mail your publication.

If you work with Strategic Communications, they can assist with the development of a realistic timeline based on many years of experience with a wide array of different types of projects and clients.  In most cases, it will take a minimum of six to eight weeks for all of the necessary work to be done and for a project to be delivered.

It is essential that all stakeholders understand and accept the adopted timeline. Any delay by one of the stakeholders in fulfilling their part of the process will delay the entire project.

Developing Copy

If you work with Strategic Communications, they can assist you in the development of text for your publication along with other elements of the project. If you are providing "starter text," copy should be delivered in plain, unformatted text with the following guidelines: 

  • Use a hard return only at the end of a paragraph.
  • Use upper and lowercase.
  • Use just one space between sentences.
  • Use tab settings, not the space bar or multiple default tab keystrokes to form columns.
  • Place suggestions for the designer in square brackets on the line above the text it refers to, e.g. [photo D here], [front cover], [caption for photo C], or [highlight this copy].
  • Leave paragraphs flush left and add a return in between.

Whether or not you partner with Strategic Communications, all copy must comply with established editorial standards. Also, as the client-of-record you will be responsible for the accuracy of written content of the delivered publication. Therefore, great care should be taken in proofing your project and securing all necessary approvals.

Providing Photography

If you have photography you are making available to Strategic Communications or directly to a vendor, 300 dpi is generally the minimum resolution needed for appropriate reproduction in print.

Your Role in the Production Process

Whether or not you are partnering with Strategic Communications or working directly with a vendor, here are some additional guidelines to help ensure a successful project: 

  • Secure a purchase order for the project up front, and secure internal commitment that the project will be printed prior to any work commencing.
  • Have one contact person. Multiple contacts can result in significant confusion and potential for error.
  • Be available. For many projects, there is a need for quick decisions and approvals to meet deadlines. 
  • When working with creative professionals, be open to listening to their professional counsel. If you have samples of other pieces that you particularly liked, it may be helpful for the decision process. 

Reviewing Design Proofs

Remember that when you sign off on a page proof, that is how it is going to go to the printer. Your page proofs are your last chance to make sure that all information is correct and there are no layout errors. 

Check that everything is in the right place, nothing has been omitted, and the copy is in the right order. Even though you have already read the text several times, check once again for spelling, punctuation, capitalization, hyphenation, paragraph breaks, headlines or missing text. Occasionally during the design process a vendor will have to re-key a section, or something may have been missed in the manuscript. If corrections have been made to the layout, the chance of mistakes is greater.

You are responsible not only for making sure that everything reads correctly but also that the layout looks right. If you see extra spaces or something strange in the layout, question the vendor.

If more than one proof is necessary, make sure each subsequent proof will be accompanied by the previous proof to facilitate checking. It is important that you return all materials and that each proof is signed.

If others besides the contact person need to see the proof(s), you may copy or circulate the proof, but should only return one proof back to your designer. The project contact person must consolidate all valid corrections onto the original proof.

Proofreading tips

Use spell check, but do not rely on this alone. Read to check for one thing at a time. Read the copy aloud. Read the copy backwards (right to left, bottom to top).

Getting Your Project to Print/Production

If you are working directly with the print or manufacturing vendor for your project. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • You should get at least three different bids for your project. 
  • Production time various greatly depending on the complexity of your project; make sure you find out how long the your project will take to produce
  • It is important to make sure that your vendor provides you with a proof. This will be last chance to make sure there are no mistakes. You may still pay for corrections, but it is cheaper than reprinting.

Distribution by Mail

If your piece is going to recipients by mail, here are some things you may want to consider:

  • Determine how you are going to get the addresses you need. You may be need to request an address list and/or labels from another department. This will factor in to your timeline.
  • Determine if you will be using a vendor to do your mailing or if you will be addressing the mail yourself.
  • Determine what type of postage you will be using. Will you be using the university permit or using stamps? Will they go out as standard or bulk mail? Or will they go First Class mail?

Whether you are using a mail house or doing it yourself, if you will be using university permits, you will need to contact the Campus Mail Center to find out what forms you need to complete before you send out your piece. 

For more information, please visit their website at

If you are producing a direct-mail piece, you must make sure your designer is following all United States Postal Service regulations to ensure the piece doesn't accrue any surcharges or is not mailable. Visit the USPS direct-mail help center at

University Policies on Buying Print Materials

Print and custom products are considered a service by Contracts and Procurement. Therefore you will need a Purchase Order to pay the vendor. In some instances you can use a P-card, but only if you acquire a Q number. Please visit the Contracts and Procurement site for detailed information about buying print services: