Every once and a while—no matter how much I try to avoid it—a client needs a rush design and printing job, like this package put together in record time for the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families’ spring board meeting.

A little bit of planning and lots of clear communication took this project from “You want it when?" to "Let's do this!"

“Given our organization’s fast-paced environment, it is important for me to work with a designer who is not only skilled at graphic identity and brand management, but one who also possess the wonderful ability to handle projects that sometimes come at us ‘on the fly,’” says Jaime Winne Alvarez, director of media relations and communications for Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. “This was certainly one of those times, and lucky for us, Joanna was up to the challenge!”

“Our open communication about the design and scope of the package that we needed to create for our stakeholders was essential in making this work, nailing down the drop-dead deadlines and looping in the print vendor to ensure that they could meet our request,” adds Alvarez. “I’ve been working with Joanna for a little over a year now…while the client-designer process that we have developed together was essentially quite seamless to begin with, I cannot praise her enough for the fantastic job she did with what could have been a very stressful project. Instead, working together, we made it work and met our deadline, with the end result being a set of outstanding printed collateral that continues to earn us the highest compliments from our constituents and collaborators alike.”

Whether you’re a client or designer,  following these five simple steps will reduce the drama level of your next rush job:

IVMF board meeting package

The board meeting package included a four-color pocket folder, gatefold development brochure, and 24-page prospectus booklet.

1. What’s the drop-dead deadline?

Determine the absolute latest deadline by which the pieces must be delivered. Figure on the day before this as your delivery date—Murphy’s Law and all. Key questions to factor in: Will the pieces need to be shipped to another location? Will the client or the printer be stuffing pocket folders or folding letters?

2. Be realistic about how many copies you need.

If you’re printing 100 copies but you really only need 25 by the deadline, let your printer know that you’re open to a partial delivery, with 25 copies delivered on your deadline and the balance at a later date. If there’s any hand assembly or bindery required (such as gluing pocket folders), this may buy you some time.

3. Size does matter.

Before starting the design, contact your printer to find out if the planned pieces are within their capabilities. In this case, short print runs necessitated digital printing and required that the brochure be a quarter inch narrower than planned to fit on a standard digital press.

4. Make the printer your partner.

Let them in on the deadline and ask when is the latest that you can deliver the files to them in order to meet it. If you need more time, ask if you can pay a rush fee. Most are really great at turning jobs around quickly, but I’ve never met a printer who is a mind reader!

5. Divide and conquer, locally.

Don’t be afraid to use more than one print vendor. Some may be set up to handle letter-size jobs efficiently, while others may specialize in folders and business cards. If you’re asking for a lot in a really short period of time, consider spreading the wealth around town. The prices and promises of online printers are tempting, but in a case like this, chances are a local shop is going to go the extra mile for you—plus there are no rush delivery charges.

What are your favorite tips for meeting red-hot deadlines? Let me know in the comments!