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Frustration Has a Banner Day

Posted on 20th April, 2005 at 7:01pm by joel

headline image for “Frustration Has a Banner Day”This banner is driving me mad!

Time, file size, time, failed vendors, time, and pressure combine to make this particular project a nightmare. I need more time!

Let me begin by pointing out the fact that just a few weeks ago, a new 1.8GHz iMac G5 with 1.5GB of RAM replaced the old 450MHz PowerMac G4 with 1.25GB of RAM on my desk at work. This iMac has been an absolute joy to use���and to abuse. I’ve been throwing more multi-tasking at the iMac in the past two weeks than I ever did at that old PowerMac. The results, so far, have been spectacular. I’ve been extremely happy with the iMac’s ability to handle some very, very large files. The files themselves, however…

All that glorious gushing about the iMac aside, the past 18 hours or so���no, the past week or so has been a nightmare. Approximately two weeks ago I finished designing the banner for our trade show booth and sent it off to be produced by a company in Wisconsin. This company did some banner production for us back in September and did an excellent job. We were very happy with the finished pieces and service, so we decided to have them work on this project as well. As it turns out, that was a bad idea.

Shit, meet fan

Mark called this company on Friday to inquire about the status of our banner. The person on the other end said something to the effect of “What banner? I do not show an order by your company in my system.” Whoops. A few frustrated transfers and conversations later and Mark learned that they 1) forgot to enter our order into the system and 2) lost our CD. This was very, very bad.

Mark and Sue were scheduled to leave early on Monday for Nashville and needed to have this banner waiting for them in Tennessee when they arrived. We went into emergency mode with this banner company. I set right to work compressing the 300MB+ banner file down to a more FTP-friendly size. Even with the speedy new iMac, it was a full 20 minutes later before I was finally ready to send the file. We then received a phone call: they did, in fact, have our CD and would get to work on it right away. Temporary relief set in and pushed the incredible frustration to the side for a moment.

Fast-forward to Monday. I was on a trip to a mail house in the Cities with an 11,000-piece mailing for a different client. The banner company had called to tell us they were having file problems, but wanted to talk to Mark directly. Unfortunately, no one took a message so I was completely in the dark as to their problems when I returned four hours later.

On Tuesday evening I was at church for a meeting when the phone rang. It was Mark and he was panicking. The file problems I didn’t know about resulted in the banner company not producing a banner. Mark and Sue were 16 hours away from the opening of this trade show and had no banner for the booth. They had found a local FedEx Kinko’s (could there be a more awkward name for this store?) that could print 42″-wide pieces as long as one wanted. So, I headed back to the office to resize an 8′ x 5′ banner down to 8′ x 42″. That was the easy part.

Allow me to go on a quick tangent here as I describe this file. It was created in Photoshop, but 95% of the artwork is vector shapes styled with gradients, color overlays, blending, strokes, drop shadows, and so forth. With the exception of our logo, everything was, in theory, infinitely scalable. To preserve this, I saved the Photoshop file with all the layers intact. I have discovered that saving Photoshop EPS files with vector artwork intact results in files many, many times larger than the original (an example: one particular 18MB PSD saved to a 1.09GB EPS)(does anyone know why this happens?), so saving this 300MB+ Photoshop file as an EPS would have been disastrous. I then stuffed the file (20 more minutes of waiting) and sent it off to Nashville. They got the file. Excellent. They asked that I send a zipped file as well just in case they have problems with the .sit file. I could handle that, as what’s 20 minutes of waiting at this point? Nothing. Done. By now it was 10pm and I was still sitting at the office. Oy.

Oh, it gets worse

I came to work today fully expecting to find out that all has been going well and the banner files have been well-received, printed nicely, and delivered to Mark and Sue at the trade show. They say that no news is good news, right? Right. There was no news. Excellent. About 11:15 or so, I asked “other Joel” if he’d heard from Mark or Sue yet today, as I had run to an appointment from 10 to 11. He said he hadn’t. Excellent again. Then the phone rang and most predictably, it was Mark. For me. Panicking. Kinko’s had been unable to use the file I sent. They could open it in Photoshop, but couldn’t convert it to a PDF or resize it (I’m still a little confused as to why not, but I digress…) for printing. I talked to the Kinko’s folks a few times and set to work abusing the iMac again. Converting the Photoshop file to a PDF with vector artwork was not appearing possible. The processor spiked to 100%, the fan revved up, and the progress bar didn’t move for 15 minutes. I assumed the resulting file would have similar problems as an EPS. So I gave up on the vectors, flatted the artwork, saved it as a PDF, and called it good. The resulting file was a robust 50MB. That’s not emailable, but it is still doable.

As I type this, I’m on the phone with the Kinko’s. As it turns out, the file transfer service on the FedEx Kinko’s website is merely a wrapper for an email transmission. The woman said that Netscape email is choking on my attachment. Well, yeah, it’s 50MB! I asked her if I could post that to my FTP server and give her a link to grab it. The silence on the other end was deafening. So now they’re trying to get the attachment in their email again. I’m not overly hopeful at this point. She did tell me to go ahead and post this on our site and email her the link. Let’s all cross our fingers…

So, loooooong story short (and unresolved), this banner has been a nightmare, the iMac has been gamely playing along with all the abuse I’ve given it. Every time I sit and stare at that slow-moving Photoshop (or DropStuff) progress bar, I can’t help but wonder just how long I’d be waiting for that PowerMac G4 to do these same tasks. I’m ready to pull my hair out at this point. I think I’d be bald already were it not for the iMac.

The Saga Continues

Well, it has been a few hours since I wrote the bulk of this post. Since then I’ve learned that while the FTP server worked like a charm (more or less), they cannot open/handle the Photoshop PDF I sent them via this particular method. They said that it “locked up” the computer. Of course, they didn’t bother to call me to tell me this. They just discovered that it didn’t work and when Sue bugged them about the banner, they said “Oh, yeah, we can’t get the file to work” and she called me to inform me. So I called and asked them if they could take a JPEG. They said “Sure, give that a try. We’re running out of ideal options at this point.” Well, yeah. I uploaded a zipped JPEG to our FTP server and sent them a link. “The server isn’t responding,” they told me. That’s funny. I just finished emailing the zipped JPEG to them, but not before begging our web host to allow attachments greater than 20MB in size. He said, “Let me know when you’re done so I can switch that back.” At least he was willing to let me send this one! And now, we wait [more]…

…I just know I’m going to jinx this right here, right now. Not 20 minutes after writing the preceding paragraph, I learn that Kinko’s has the JPEG. They opened the JPEG. They’re going to try printing the JPEG. ::crosses fingers::

Well, this is interesting. They “sent it to the other store” and are going to pick it up. This has gotten so ridiculous, I’m officially done journaling the story.

Filed under: graphic design, rants

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3 Responses to “Frustration Has a Banner Day”

  1. 1max sayeth:

    20th April, 2005 at 9:23pm

    Good lord.

  2. 2John Pennypacker sayeth:

    21st April, 2005 at 9:31am

    wow. I hate those last minute jobs that are all important. It seems as if they are destined for failure. And if you add Kinko’s to that list, you can all but bank on extra trouble.

    I don’t know if you’re a fan of Chappelle’s show, but he did a bit on a ‘copy store’ that sums it up well. If they bring in a PC disk, tell them we use Macs. If they have a Mac disk, tell them we use Windows. If they bring both, tell them we use Linux.

  3. 3Shawn sayeth:

    21st April, 2005 at 10:40am

    Yeah, never fails: rush + dependent upon others = disaster.