Working with your graphic designer

Introduction

From effective briefing to concept designs and creative production, this article provides valuable insights and practical tips for working collaboratively with your designer.

Enhancing communication efficiency to maximise results

A graphic/web designer with experience and knowhow in branding, layout, words, pictures and technologies offers a specialised and valuable combination of skills. 

Having a good working relationship with one can be very beneficial for you and your business, saving time and money. Learning how to communicate with a designer will improve everyone’s experience, especially if saving money is your priority.  

Here’s a basic overview of some of the key things that will help to improve your results.

The Design Process

There are three steps in the design process.

  1. Briefing
  2. Concept designs
  3. Creative production and artwork

Design and creative production is a specialised industry with specific practices that have been developed over time. For good reason, we follow these. It avoids confusion, mistakes and time-wasting. These principles apply to all areas of design including website development, interior design and video production. 

1. Briefing

This is the most important stage for you! It’s mainly about planning. Be clear from the start what your instructions are. Prepare as much as you can before talking to the designer. They can’t give you a price or designs without a clear idea of what you need. 

See our Briefing Checklist below.

2. Concept Designs

Concept design usually happens in two stages for new designs or for where the instructions are not specific. For new concepts, the designer may offer two layout approaches for discussion. This then leads to a second refinement of the design based on your feedback. Further developments are usually categorised as follows:  

  • Corrections: A correction is a change that must be made when a designer doesn’t follow your specific instruction. You are not charged for such a change. 
  • Author amends: An author amendment is a change that needs to be made because the customer has changed their mind about something. This may include a change of brief, and is therefore normally chargeable.
  • Improvements: Sometimes it takes two shots at a design to get it right. If at this point the customer is still not satisfied with the layout, then either the budget needs to be increased, or the project may need to be reconsidered.

Most design projects allow for one round of author amendments. This is built into the cost model. If however, you’re looking to achieve an extra low budget, then you’ll need to be particularly mindful, and understand that this only really can apply to projects where the changes are very basic.

In all cases, please give specific instructions (see checklist) and the designer will mostly get it mostly right on the first pass, and the second pass will give the client the chance to adjust and tweak to achieve the best result. 

3. Creative Production and Artwork

Once the design is finalised, we go to the production of the ARTWORK. This stage is where text and images are prepared in their final form. During this stage, there’s a lot of creative work to do as well – page layouts, photography styling, and all text and elements need to be developed and thoroughly checked. Changes to the brief at this stage are likely to impact on the schedule and cost, so be especially aware of the impact of any new instructions. To avoid this, double check your final designs before agreeing to proceed to artwork. As the project settles down, again, even minor changes can be reasonably classed as Author Amendments

Giving instructions in the Design Stage

Always give feedback to help the designer understand how things are going. It helps to start with saying … “this and this and this are good, spot on!”. A designer needs to be fully in the picture on how you feel about the design. Be honest. If you don’t like some of it, state this clearly and say why you don’t like it. i.e. it’s too dark, too colourful, too small etc. 

A quick email or phone call is all it needs for a quick change. Anything more complex needs careful specific and clear instruction. 

There are many ways to provide instructions on the changes that you want to make. Remember though, the designer may request a new budget if your instructions fall into the “Improvements” or “Author amends” category. (See above)

To avoid extra costs and save time:

  1. Provide the designer with clear instruction. Be specific where you can. Where you can’t be, then give options or state the problem you’re trying to solve, always remembering that time is money. 
  2. Print out the file and write directly on it, clearly labelling your instructions. For instance using A B C with notes separately can be very clear. 
  3. Call the designer and talk through the changes. Talking about the problem you’re trying to resolve over the phone can solve a lot of problems before they arise. 
  4. Provide only resources that you intend the designer to use. Clearly mark other resources as optional. 
  5. Provide clear instructions on the content you want to have used. 

This guide is a general guide only. Use it to start having a great working relationship with your designer. Your stress will go down, the results of your marketing and communication will improve. Money will be saved. Life will be great!

Briefing Checklist

Naturally we all want to be efficient, so keep it simple. Nevertheless, every project needs it distinctive level of detail at the planning stage, and knowing what’s needed is a matter of experience.

1. PROJECT TITLE. Give the project a name so everyone can call it the same thing. 

2. ITEMS REQUIRED. What specific items do you want? (Website Function or Feature / Flyer / Folder)

3. SIZE & SPECIFICATIONS. Are there specific sizes we need to know about, is it for print, web or TV? 

4. SINGLE POINT OF CONTACT. It’s important that we have one single point of contact for each project. When the point of contact changes, the project may need to be re-defined. 

5. OBJECTIVE / PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED. What’s the purpose of the design. In a few words. 

6. TARGET AUDIENCE. Who are you trying to reach. What are they looking for? What do you want them to do?

7. DEADLINES. If you have a final copy deadline, let the designer know. Also if there’s flexibility in this. 

8. WORDS. What text will be needed for this. Please prepare any specific details in advance. For instance – for an event, please provide the information that must appear on the item. 

9. MANDATORY ELEMENTS. Are there specific images or elements such as logos that must be used? When you send these, they should be clearly identified. For sets of material, you may need to put them in a separate compressed file or folder in Dropbox or Google Drive called something like “must use images” or similar. (NOTE: It would become an author amendment if you later request for these to be removed.)   

10. OPTIONAL ELEMENTS. When working to a project that is on a low budget “please choose a nice image” is not helpful, unless sufficient time has been allocated to surfing the web! Please provide images that can be used and make it clear that these are optional. 

11. LAYOUTS & EXAMPLES. It helps to cite examples or show visually what you’re trying to achieve, and especially with budget conscious work, you can save a lot of time by giving the designer extra instructions about the layout or format you have in mind. If you have an example of something that’s similar to what you want, or a previous design you want to copy, this is the time to give it!

Printing

The customer is responsible for reviewing and signing-off the final artwork prior to sending to the printer. 

Example checklist prior to sending to the printer for both the designer and customer:

  • Headings, content sense, and grammar
  • Images clear, sharp, cropped
  • 3mm bleed has been set
  • No glitches or discrepancies

In some cases, printers may have peculiar requirement. 

  • Aligns with the printer