Monday, June 1, 2009

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute

A few weeks back, I riffed on the aggravating nature of nonstop incremental changes. Today, some thoughts on their evil cousin, Mr. Last-Minute Change.

Now, don't get me wrong--I like to make things perfect, too, and I can't stand to see a goof glaring back at me from a printed page. But I've been around long enough to know that 1) the later you add changes, 2) the more changes you make, and 3) the more versions of a document you've seen, your odds of creating a new, worse error start to trace an upward-curving parabola. It's as much a law of physics as it is human nature.

That's a lesson I learned the hard way: I was managing editor for a magazine that sent a last-minute "patch" to the printer to correct a typo...but in the mad rush to get the press running neither the bleary-eyed art director nor I noticed a small issue in the final blueline proof: The printer hadn't clipped off the bold heading that blared something to the effect of "PATCHES PAGE 14." So, that's exactly how 200,000-some-odd copies of the magazine read. Mona Lisa, meet Mustache.

In consoling ourselves, we prayed the message was so cryptic that our readers didn't think past "Hmm, that's odd." I felt a bit better a year or so later when my sister sent me a tearsheet of a magazine page captioned "BLOWQUOTE FROM SOME GUY GOES HERE" underneath the photo of a very dorky-looking Some Guy.

Obviously, the web takes the sting out of many mistakes because they're not technically permanent (outside of screen grabs). Nonetheless, I find the prurient itch to change things up till the clock striking 12, and then once again at 12:01, remains.


  1. I'd once left on vacation thinking I'd put all in order for the laser copy to be sent to the laser house. Turns out I forgot one line (I'd assumed it was preprint--my bad) and the printer typed the thing in himself. Unfortunately, neither he nor the guy in client services spoke English, so "wish" became "whish"--on a mailing to raise funds for a university, no less.

    When was it discovered? During a focus group session. With the client and I behind glass. Read aloud by a disgruntled ex-student. Live and learn.

  2. @ Jake: Man, I'm super anal with typos and the lot and have suffered many an "it's just one more small change" situation, but the funnest thing I ever managed to fuck up was putting the competitors name on a headline of an artwork. Classic....

    @ Teenie: A fellow Art Director from the biz was once fortunate enough to put the logo of a competitor on a brochure.... who noticed? The company president on a routine visit to one of the franchises.... ouch.