A Special Report from the Office of MIT President Charles M. Vest • June 1998

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MIT in Print

Better Publications by Design

The Publishing Services Bureau assesses its first year

With the help of the Publishing Services Bureau (PSB), getting a publication written, edited, proofread, designed, illustrated and printed can almost be fun. The PSB goal of increasing quality and saving substantial funds is now reality. Several MIT units report that PSB has helped cut their costs by up to one third while increasing quantity and quality.

Even visiting PSB is more fun these days. Recently moved from offices in Building 5, PSB occupies half of Building E28 on Main Street in Kendall Square. The new space, besides being light, airy and attractive, serves a variety of new functions aimed at making customers' lives a little easier.

Since PSB took over from Design Services and Graphic Arts a year ago, the bureau has provided a new way to handle print and electronic publications on campus. The goal is to help each Institute customer retain its ability to express its unique identity while integrating all publications into a larger visual and thematic framework.

Director Bruce Bernstein admits that it's not easy to get as large and diverse a place as MIT to buy into a new look. But by working with the MIT community to define how the Institute wants to present itself, he's confident that PSB will help present a more unified image to internal and external audiences.

For staff and faculty members who produce publications, the demise of Design Services and the Graphic Arts printing operation has meant a new way of accomplishing their task.

Instead of trotting around to different offices and braving the sometimes complicated world of printing presses, designers and electronic publishing, customers can use PSB as a single, coordinated center for publishing activities.

PSB's advisory services are free to anyone in the MIT community who purchases publishing services. Bernstein points out that customers can choose to get help with a publishing project from start to finish, or one piece of a project, or help with planning their long-term publication strategies.

Even a customer who is already in the middle of producing a publication can turn to PSB for names or price quotes from printers, photographers or proofreaders. If a customer is having trouble with a vendor, PSB will troubleshoot or mediate. It can also offer advice on assembling a working team to produce a publication within a department.

Last year, PSB managed about 1,400 jobs ranging from letterhead, envelopes and business cards to six-color glossy brochures, booklets and Web pages for 200 MIT departments, labs and research groups.

The bureau channeled more than $1 million in print, web, design and editorial services directly and another $600,000 through 20 firms serving as "interim partners" until a select group of print and design vendors is established later this year.

In October 1996, Bernstein took over as head of PSB, where he puts to good use his background in fine arts, photography and art history. He came from the Admissions Office, where he had worked since 1987 on communication vehicles such as the viewbook and video for prospective students.

PSB is staffed by a team of brokers who have expertise in purchasing, graphic design, prepress, printing, and electronic publishing. To ensure seamless integration of print and electronic media, CWIS staff Suzana Lisanti and Debby Levinson now work with the PSB on implementing publications or initiatives best suited to the web.

Reducing costs and improving quality

At one time, individuals around MIT worked with about 500 print-related vendors. PSB hopes to save a significant amount of money for the Institute by negotiating for preferred pricing with a smaller number of suppliers.

To help reduce design costs, PSB design consultant Tim Blackburn is developing templates for newsletters, business stationery and cards, and other commonly produced items. By using a template, a customer can drop text into a predesigned format without creating a new publication from scratch.

Blackburn also is working with Bernstein on an identity system for the Institute that captures MIT attributes such as innovation and enterprise. In addition to reviewing all publications, PSB staff are researching archives to see how MIT has represented itself historically.

The current "placeholder" for a new MIT logo is a squarish configuration of the letters "MIT" in an adapted Universe typeface. It is simple and straightforward enough to work well with other logos and headings developed by other centers and entities, Bernstein says, yet it clearly identifies each piece as coming from the Institute. Some department publications have lacked any indication that they were affiliated with MIT, he said.

So far, about 30 MIT publications have been designed with the new MIT branding system in mind.

Bernstein believes that the more information available to the MIT community, the better. He notes that the bureau can help people save money by offering information about whether a printer has the right press for a certain kind of job or whether a customer really needs to special-order a specific paper stock.

"We like to be contacted as soon as someone knows they need a publication," Bernstein said. "This gives us enough lead time to strategize about the audience, the budget and timetable, talk about the goals and needs of the organization and whether print or electronic publishing best serves their needs."

"We want people to get the most for their money," he said. "On many jobs, PSB has managed to improve the effectiveness and look of a publication and make it more user-friendly while reducing the cost."

Deborah Halber

Among the services available to PSB customers now or in the near future are:

n A "discovery area" of publications that allows customers to see samples of work by the designers and printers with whom MIT has worked; as well as a library of MIT publications with information on the budgets needed for various kinds of initiatives.

n  A CWIS satellite office where customers can view Web sites.

n A job-tracking system that catalogs and archives all aspects of a customer's printing history.

n Presentations and discussions about good prepress, design and printing practices; as well as classes, offered by Information Services and other departments, in PSB's new conference and presentation room.

n Templates for Business Reply Mail envelopes, postcards and other mailings that conform to current postal regulations.

n An electronic catalog that will allow customers to order business cards, letterhead and envelopes on-line.

n In-house purchasing staff members who can answer questions and minimize the hassle of getting jobs paid for.

n A repository of color slides of MIT campus scenes that are available for a small user fee and an electronic logo library that catalogs and archives all Institute logos processed through PSB. The future may hold an on-line database of images available to customers.

Success Stories

n  The Office of Communications has published MIT Facts annually since 1976. In the past, the office relied on Graphic Arts for printing and Design Services for creative services. Last year, with a design in place, they asked a broker in PSB to complete the project by securing competitive bids for printing. In 1996, the print run for this 48-page document was 10,500 copies; total print costs were $7,071. In 1997, the print run for a 52-page document was 11,500 copies, and print costs were $5,050. The unit cost dropped from $0.67 to $0.44. In addition, the broker suggested several changes that added to the production values of the booklet. "It was our office's first experience with the Publishing Services Bureau," said Lia Wainwright, writer/editor in the Office of Communications and Donor Relations, Resource Development. "I had no idea what to expect, but the broker really took care of things&emdash;it was great! I appreciated the expertise the broker brought to the job."

Linda Earle, administrative assistant for the Department of Chemistry, worked with PSB on a brochure for an annual visiting lecture series. The brochure, which the department distributes in the lecture hall on the day of the lecture, is an important public relations piece because the individuals who attend the lecture provide financial support to the series.

n  By printing the piece with creative use of pictures, a more conventional shape and using a better-quality paper stock, the budget stayed the same while the look improved. "Working with the Bureau was a wonderful experience," Earle said. "The broker brought great enthusiasm to the job and went out of her way to find the right vendor. The design of our new brochure is very professional and very creative. Since this piece is handed out to a broad audience, its new look is a real asset to the department. I'll definitely be using the Bureau in the future."

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