Author: Oli Gunson

Large Classroom Education Toolkit


With this real job, it was made clear right from the start that it would be an intense project, as our client – Katja – needed it to be invoiced and sent to print within a month of the original brief. Being our first true real job, this really put the pressure on and informed many of our design decisions throughout – making us work with efficiency and speed, as well as quality.


To summarise our brief, our client had requested us to design a folder which contains around 35 sheets of information, varying in size of paper sized A4, A5 and A6 for lecturers to use in aiding lecture planning activities at The University of Reading. Different sizes of paper were to be used to denote different complexities of activity ideas.

The brief also asked for a ‘premium’ and durable feel to said folder which would remain clean and solid after much usage. It was at this point we questioned the budget, to which we were told any expense would be covered. Whilst this opened many opportunities to the way in which we could craft the folder – it was also quite a daunting prospect to potentially be designing something worth a lot of money and that would be costly to produce.

Response to brief

The originally requested folder – an ‘A4 plus wallet’ – which we quickly realised would not fit the required content. Therefore, being quickly changed to an A4 plus ring binder.

Throughout the briefing session, our client kept referring to the folder as a ‘paper wallet’.  We found later after discussing the project with our supervisors and DPS that a paper wallet would no be suitable. This is because the material would be short lived and unable to hold 35 sheets of paper.

To remedy this and create a more durable folder, we proposed the usage of a 4 ring binder to hold the sheets in to our supervisors. Whilst our supervisors agreed with this change, it was still our job to return to our client and convince her as the designers in the room that this was the better option. Our client was very understanding of this, and it felt good to have a client respect our design expertise and decisions.

In this meeting, we also proposed to our client that we used the University templates as a basis for design. This template enabled our designs to be ‘on brand’, creating a consistent design which would be in keeping with other pieces produced by the University.

The University of Reading brand guideline examples
Examples of documents produced by the University of Reading, a brand that we had to follow and design within the templates and guidelines for this project to work quickly and efficiently.

Our client seemed slightly reluctant to this to begin with, but we explained that it would be a good compromise to make sure that we could hit the tight turnaround deadlines and make sure the overall design was still of the highest quality. From this experience we learnt how to express our thought process and ideas by having a professional and formal discussion. This has helped us understand how to approach this problem in the future.

Our final part of responding to the brief was to get an estimate together for the agreed materials to be produced. We found that this was a much harder process than expected due to the complexity of the different sizes of paper and varying suppliers of the ring binder – but working with Geoff and DPS eventually arrived at a figure. This figure came out to around £3000 for the requested 300 copies of the folder, and although we were told “budget didn’t matter” at the beginning of the real job, we still needed to run it past our client. This figure came as quite a shock to our client and so it was our job to meet with her to explain the current costs as well as how to potentially reduce costs. The solution we arrived at was to print a third of the amount of folders, as well as to use a lighter stock of paper and source the folders from elsewhere – leading to a reduction to a much more comfortable £1500. 


After receiving the templates and waiting on the copy for the document, we worked alongside our supervisors to amend the templates whilst using the University’s brand guidelines, but still created a ‘new’ document so to speak. This process taught us both a lot about working within brand guidelines, and paired with the large expense of the project made the project feel very live and ‘real’.

Initial templates
The first draft of the adapted University templates to match the document to our needs. These created space for the copy to be received at a later date and gave us a starting point to design from.

These initial template designs were received well by our client and supervisors, this is because they were partially derived from a template so there weren’t many major problems. The most noticeable changes (shown below) were present in the cover, where a more ‘exciting and colourful’ cover had been requested and within the folder where small changes to the typography and typesetting were required.

Developed templates
Once copy was received, we were able to add this content into the templates, as well as update the document cover to be more colourful and exciting.

Once these changes were finalised, we both worked together by splitting up the necessary tasks to efficiently work as a team, typesetting the supplied copy into our templates. This process was completed in a matter of days and we contacted our client throughout to update them, as well as query about any errors or parts of the document we were unsure about. This style of work massively aided the speed of the design process and we were both impressed that we could typeset such a large amount of content in such a small time.

Before thinking about sending the document to production, we had to check in with our supervisors – who raised a few small amends with the document – the corrected document was sent to the client for sign off. This process went very smoothly as our client had seemed happy with our work throughout and this did not change in the finalisation process. It was then our job to go through the document to make sure it was set up correctly for print, as well as the files being properly set up and ‘clean’. During this process, we liaised with DPS and decided it was best for us to create a mock-up of the document so that we were both in agreement of what was being produced. This practice proved helpful on both sides as DPS could understand exactly what was to be printed, and we were able to check that the document would print properly.

Images of a production run ‘Large class education toolkit’ including sample pages from various sections.

 After delivery of the final product, our client got in touch requesting an interactive version of the document to be used online. We did not have much time to do this and so most the interactive document was lifted from the print document, with links and a clickable contents page added to an interactive PDF. Given more time, it would have been interesting to work on a truly interactive version of the document, but we learnt that it was better to work efficiently on this project as opposed to trying everything possible during the design phases. 


As a first experience of a live – and expensive – design job, this Real Job taught us a lot as a trial by fire. The main learning point being a quick turnaround of a project, where all parties involved are highly responsive and involved. Balancing speed with quality of design was difficult, as it meant having to swallow your pride on some aspects and not being as experimental as usual.

Having professional compromised discussion due to conflicting views with our client was something we had to self-teach. This was a great learning experience as it has prepared us for such conversations in the future.

We also found the estimation and production phase to be a steep learning curve, as we had to come to terms with a complex production, as well as managing cost and our client’s expectations during the production process.

Letterpress Wedding Invitations


From the very start of the Real Job, it became clear that this was not an ordinary Real Job, nor an ordinary client. Geoff approached us – having completed the letterpress module the term prior – to print the wedding invitations for the wedding of Paul Luna’s son, David. This was intimidating at first as we had only ever heard about Paul and his design reputation within the department, so we knew we would have our work cut out.

During the briefing, we realised that rather than being involved in the design process like any other ‘regular’ Real Job; we would instead be purely involved in the production process – letterpress printing. During an informal meeting with Paul, overseen by Geoff, Paul laid out what he wanted to achieve and the full requirements of the job. If it wasn’t intimidating to begin with, after his request for 200 invitations to be letterpress printed, it certainly was. In the letterpress module, we were only required to produce a set of six identical prints for submission, so 200 seemed like a near impossible task. During this meeting, we also got an understanding of the ‘perfection’ that our client would like, as he showed off the invitation design, and we discussed colour and card-stock.


During this Real Job, we gained real experience working in the production phase of the design process that is often underappreciated. We took several steps to ensure that time management and quality of the final prints were at their best. We mixed the colour whilst waiting for the printing plates and paper to arrive, as this was the most efficient use of time and allowed us to begin promptly when the plates finally arrived.

To ensure we could manage the workload, we decided as a production team to work in ‘shifts’ with two people working together in the workshop, while the third person had the time off. In reflection, this was a fantastic decision as it allowed us to work efficiently, whilst not taking up too much space in the printing workshop or constantly knocking into each other. The exception to this was while mixing the colour, as we decided it would be best to have as many eyes to judge the colour match as possible. Paul provided us with Pantone references, and colour samples to be used to match the inks to. These informed all our decisions, and we tried where possible to get a perfect match. Mixing the colours was very frustrating at first, as we not only had to match the colour to the standard liked by Geoff, but also our client – Paul Luna. The level of perfection needed in a match, took hours to achieve at first, and made us uncertain for the future of the Real Job as we were unsure if we would be able to meet the high standards expected for the print itself. However, we eventually arrived at the two colour matches that Paul was looking for.

Ampersand colour match
An example of the colour matching process, showing around 50 ampersand prints each with the same colour printed and controlled throughout.
A test print, showcasing the first time we managed to match the printed blue, to the specified blue on the pantone books.

The same keen eye for perfection was also witnessed when Paul rejected the original printing plates as they had imperfections – making us agonise over the quality of the print that was expected. In reflection, the pressure that this created was a good thing. Although we all faced frustration at the hands of not being able to meet the high bar set for us, it meant the job arrived at a very high, near professional quality.

As expected, the days spent in the workshop were long with the team not stopping until we had met the quota of prints needed to keep with the tight schedule. The first session took around seven hours to get the correct colour flowing and the alignment exact on the ampersand, as well as running off 50 prints to give an idea of the length the job would take.

Another hurdle we faced was the fact that each invite would have to run through the press four times, to account for the double-sided print and the two colours used on each side. This was difficult to comprehend at first, realising quickly that to get the 200 flawless invitations, we would have to print around 400 of the first plate to account for loss at each stage. One of the challenges we overcame was adapting the colours to ensure a better coating on the heavy card-stock, especially the duck-egg blue that did not print the fine lines of the ampersand as crisp as we would have liked. After the addition of solid white, this drastically improved the print quality, while staying true to the original colour swatch, as the solid white compensated for the off-white card-stock. Other challenges included the appearance of ‘wonky’ registration between plates, and inking consistency. Through Geoff’s careful guidance, we found ways to alter the inking impression and flow of the ink by changing the height of the plates and amount of ink on the rollers.

As Paul works heavily in the department, he was also able to drop by to provide feedback and was on hand for instant critique at each stage. This also meant that he would drop by the workshop and watch us print occasionally. Although his company was welcome, we learnt how nerve wracking it could be for a client to be in the same room, constantly evaluating us whist we work. This would be something we would all like to avoid in the future if possible.

Contrary to this, when we did achieve perfect prints, which as time went on happened more and more often, we were able to see our client directly look happy with the work. This was beneficial over having to decipher their response via emails, like many other jobs. This was a welcome change, watching Paul excitedly sending pictures to his son of the process, kept us going throughout the project.

As time went on, we became very efficient at printing as a team, and began timing our prints out of curiosity and found that we could print at a sustained rate of 1 print every 30 seconds by the end of the job, using the Plantin press with 2 people. This put into perspective how difficult it would have been to create long print runs when letterpress was the only option for production, and even more painful for the printer who was repeatedly operating the press, as it took a lot of effort from the operator, comparable to a core workout!

Final reflections

This was one of the first live jobs that we had all felt a considerable level of frustration towards, between the long hours and energy put into it, and the high bar of quality expected, we all had our work cut out. The job also happened during a period when we were all very busy, and therefore, taking whole days out in the printing workshop became very difficult. However, this made the job that much more rewarding, and seeing Paul’s happiness with the invitations made it all worth it.

It was also eye-opening to be so involved with the production process, giving us all a new-found respect for how hard production teams must work to achieve perfection, giving us all something to consider when we send a job off into the void of the press. It also gave us a chance to have a break, away from our computer screens, and go ‘back in time’ so to speak, which in a sense was a nice change in pace from design. This physicality also gave us the opportunity to watch ourselves improve over time, eventually arriving at the 200 near professionally finished wedding invitations all on time and ready to be sent to the guests.

The finalised wedding invitation print. Unfortunately we had to use mock-ups for this as all of the invitations were required to be sent out before we were able to photograph them properly.