You’re working on a major piece of advertising or marketing for your firm (a brochure, an informational guide, an annual report, a website, etc.) and have decided to hire a graphic designer to make it look the best it can be. You’ve looked at a few designers’ portfolios and settled on the one whose style is most suited to the message you want to get across. Before you call them in for that first meeting, here are a few things to keep in mind to make working with your designer efficient, creative, and fun.
#1: Know Your Audience
Before you start a project, before you even pick up the phone to call a designer, ask yourself who the audience is for the finished piece. “Everyone” would be ideal, but it’s not a good enough answer. While a professionally designed graphic work will have broad appeal, a designer needs to know whom the message is for; quality requires specificity. To help you narrow down who your audience is, consider the following questions:
Who is your ideal viewer or viewers, the people we most want to see and be affected by the piece?
What concerns does the ideal viewer have? What do they want and hope for? What keeps them up at night?
What benefit will your ideal viewer get from using your product or service?
What do you want those ideal viewers to do after seeing the piece? Are they to buy something? Contact someone? Go to your website? Carefully define the precise action you want people to take after viewing the finished piece
What environment will they be seeing this project? Will it be hanging in a staff lunch room? In a magazine? On a poster on a busy street? Will it be distributed as a brochure?
This last set of questions is especially important as it dictates a lot of the design of the final piece. A brochure or informational booklet needs to hold attention, while a poster or magazine ad needs to grab it.
#2: Know The Size Of Your Project
Your designer has a rough knowledge of how long it takes them to complete a project of a given size from initial meeting through brainstorming and making the first proof, all the way to final publication. To give you a good estimate on cost, however, they need to know how big the project will be. Is it a three-panel brochure or a ten-page website? Is it a forty-page annual report or a single large format poster?
Most designers prefer to work by flat rate, where they quote you a price for the entire job rather than billing hourly. Expanding the size of the project midway through will require the designer to make another estimate. This will both frustrate the designer, who had scheduled working for you among their other clients, and raise your costs as they have to make a new invoice, billing for all time invested up to that point in addition to the increased length of the job.
#3: Agree To Delivery Format
In your initial discussions with your designer agree to the format for delivery. It is no good for the designer to submit you the image files in a certain format if you don’t have the ability to open them. While it is not time consuming to convert files between formats it is still annoying.
#4: Agree On A Delivery Time
Is this a one-week, two-week, or longer project? Be sure to have worked out when you need the completed piece, and make it one of the first things you discuss with your designer. If you’re hiring a freelancer (one not employed by an agency) they will have other clients needing their time and expertise. Agree upon definite deadlines for delivering the first proofs, any desired revisions, and the final proof copy (see also #7).
#5: Answer All Your Designers Questions
This is very important but often overlooked. Your designer will have a set of questions they ask at the start of every new contract. They are experienced, and have tailored their questions to match their design process and make everything run smoothly. Make sure that you answer each question – if you’re not sure how to answer then ask for their help; they’ll be glad to give it.
#6: Have The Text/Copy Ready
Whether it’s a slogan for business card or the text for an annual report, make sure that you have the text taken care of before finalizing the project. Your designer is passionate about visual presentation – they are not a writer, editor, or proofreader.
If you would prefer to save time and effort by having someone else write and/or edit the text, ask your graphic designer if they know a freelance commercial writer. A professional designer will often have a partnership with a professional writer whose skills they rely upon both for their own communications and to help their clients. Asking your graphic designer saves you both time and ensures that you will find a writer who can work in harmony with your designer.
#7: Remember That Quality Takes Time
Last but not least, remember the quality takes time. Your designer can, if pressed, slap together a logo or design for you but neither of you will be happy with the results, and your audiences will definitely be unimpressed. Budget time as well as money for your designer, and give them the opportunity to experiment with different designs to find the perfect look for your finished product.
Roxane Brisson is a professional freelance graphic designer and owner of Roxane Brisson Design.
Written by: Michael Flood
Michael Flood Writing Services