Are you using a graphic designer as part of your communication team, or are you commissioning a designer to work on a project for your company? Here’s some tips that will allow you to get the most out of your designer and end up with communications that solve your problems beautifully.
First meetings are so much more efficient with a brief–or at least something that you can use to help the designer understand the problem you’re trying to solve with your project, and what you envision. If you can’t articulate it, the designer won’t be able to either. What you don’t want is just as important as what you do want. If there’s things you won’t put up with or don’t want, make that clear as well–it will save your designer time–and you money.
Have a budget for a project, or at least a budget range. This will help the designer understand what can be done, and what can’t. I’ve had clients ask me how much a website will cost before explaining to me what they need. To quote a designer friend of mine’s reply to this–”how long is a piece of string”.
Beautifully designed things appear effortless. A designer works to communicate a message, draw attention to a product, or make an experience better. This takes time and effort. “Make it look nice” or “jazz this up” aren’t statements that help your designer do a good job for you. It may look like your designer is just prettying things up, but they’re really making decisions about the best way of communicating with your audience. One thing I hear all the time is “we need it right now!” Don’t ask for rush work or pressure work unless you really need it. Good design takes time, a designer works through a process of roughs, research, experimentation to come up with a well thought out plan to answer your needs. Rushing it does nobody any good.
People absorb information better when its easy to read and is engaging. Good design helps your audience–trust a designer’s training and experience to enable your audience or user. Getting involved in the minutia just muddies the water for the designer, you, and your audience. Knowing what you want to achieve, what you like and dislike is helpful to a designer. Telling her to make things “pop” or “sizzle”, or “you’ve got complete creative freedom” aren’t helpful. Your designer knows that your users or customers want to see benefits or advantage, not sizzle. I mean, what the heck is “pop” anyways.
Being organized helps a lot. I’ve been in situations where a project is almost complete and a client changed all the texts–that can be frustrating and costly. Have a final draft of any texts you’re planning on having before engaging a designer, Sometimes things change–but you should really strive for this. And assign yourself or someone at your company as the point person with your designer, having the whole marketing department making suggestions and changes directly to the designer is a recipe for disaster. The more revisions are made, the more mistakes that can creep into your project. Ideally two or three stages of revisions are normal in the flow of a project. If you’re on revision set number thirteen, everyone involved in the project is going to start overlooking things (imagine reading the same book thirteen times). Don’t let inexperienced people be in charge of a project or have input. If the secretary hates red, or Bill in accounting thinks all the headings should be in Comic Sans, they’re really not trained to be making those decisions. A poorly assembled “Focus Group” can kill a project and divert it from it’s intended goals.
Knowing a little about the process will make your life easier. Your designer is usually the person between you and your printer or programmer. So knowing a few terms will help you not feel like you’re out of the loop. I always hate it when a mechanic tells me I need a new something or other, and I don’t have a clue what that is. Logos are usually vector files, created with programs like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. They’re as sharp as the text in a document and can be scaled to any size without loss of resolution. Websites have a resolution of 72 pixels per inch (imagine a square inch with 72 little rectangles of colour within it). Printed documents are usually 1200 dots per inch for text and graphics (vector images), and 150 dots per inch for photos. So if a photo is going on a webpage, it has to be a minimum resolution of 72 pixels per inch (ppi) at the size you’re going to use it. So your avatar from your LinkedIn page–that’s as small as your thumbnail can’t be blown-up to 10 inches. On the same token–you can’t pull an image off your website and print it the same size in your Annual Report, it’s resolution is just too low. Photos can only be scaled up slightly, never more than 10 or 15%. The internet and your monitor are using a RGB colour model (red, green and blue light), printing uses Four colour process (cyan ink, magenta ink, yellow ink, and black) or Pantone colours (PMS–Pantone matching system). Trying to match a colour from a monitor to print can be tricky at best and downright impossible with some colours.
A good designer will want to do a good job for you. They want you to be successful, its in their best interest. If you’re successful in your business with my help, you’ll continue to use me. If our “partnership” can help you reach your goals, I’m a happy camper, and I’ll help you be too. A relationship with a designer is very much like a partnership, if we both respect and understand each other, we can get done what you want.