Last week I was talking to a friend in the print room of the Language and Media Center, and they pointed out a small flyer on the wall with information about fraction and decimal conversion. I had seen the flyer many times, but it had been there so long that I never paid much attention to it. It’s something that you would expect to see in some sort of wood or machine shop, where people are working with precise measurements. As we were talking about it, he said, “You know, that would be a perfect card for the idea passport. In fact, it’s already shaped like one.”

When he said that, I realized he was right. I decided to move forward with replicating the image for a new idea passport card because I thought it would start to solve a problem that I frequently see in the LMC. One of the major hurdles for the people that I help is deciding on the dimensions of their project. Some people have a tendency to open a new document and start designing without any thought about the end product. If I can help them do the formatting before they begin designing, it makes the process so much easier later on, because we can take the constraints of the equipment and the dimensions of the media we have available for printing into account.

For example, something that happens all the time is someone comes in who wants to print out a poster on the large format printer. When I tell them that the document needs to be set to the specific dimensions of the final poster before they start adding content, they have no idea how big they want their poster to be. I like to show examples of posters and fliers we have around the LMC to help them decide, which often involves getting out a large ruler.

The other problem that I’ve been seeing a lot is when people are formatting documents to use with the digital cutter. People have started printing on both sides of the document, and then cutting out the paper. However, if the design and the cutting paths aren’t precisely positions on the document, the cuts aren’t going to look perfect. To fix this, I always show them the same feature in Adobe Illustrator, which is handy toolbar that appears at the top of the screen when you click on an object. It looks like this:

For some reason, this toolbar is ignored by some of the people I help, and it drives me nuts. Using this bar to size and position everything ahead of time would save so time and effort later on while trying to print and cut their project.

I also think it’s super important to think about adding bleed to projects like the ones mentioned above. If they make their design slightly larger than they want their final product to be, it leaves room to cut the design down to make sure there’s no unwanted white margin on the side.

I hope that the ‘Fractions & Decimals Card’ will come in handy for all of the issues I mentioned above and others too. In an effort to make it slightly more practical for paper projects, I added a tiny ruler at the bottom of the card as another way to visualize the conversions. I don’t expect the card to solve all of the issues mentioned above once and for all, but hopefully it’s the first step in getting designers to think about formatting and dimensions before they start their project.