One of my clients says I speak a language different than the normal person. This guy, in fact, says it to quite a few people, many of whom I hope will also be my clients.
Should I be concerned? Not really.
This guy is Jeff Davis, of Cornerstone Stewardship Ministy, and he provides spiritual stewardship solutions for churches and schools, a process that often involves extensive visual communication. When speaking of my unusual language, he’s referring to the idiosyncrasies common to the design industry. Foreign as they may seem, these procedures, technicalities and details all make a difference in creating a successful publication.
As a customer, you can enhance the work your graphic designer does for you. Whether or not you speak the language, there are things you can do to bring your publication from mediocre to great and from expensive to cost-effective.
The Creative Brief: Know Thyself
Who, where, what, when, how and why. These six elements of journalism are also fundamental to the creative brief, an outline that provides strategic direction for your project. To formulate a brief, good designers will ask lots of questions. Who are you? What are you trying to communicate? Which audience are you trying to attract? How do you plan to use the publication? And so on.
Such questions require self-examination. Know your organization, its mission and what you plan to achieve with this design project.
Brainstorming: Talk, talk, talk
“I’ll know it when I see it.” Designers often hear this from customers, particularly when creating logos. Designers hate this phrase. Such guidance is absolutely worthless and wastes valuable time, which in the end is your money.
Be able to communicate what you like and dislike. Talk off the top of your head, think broad and express ideas. Show samples of work you admire, styles you like and why you like them. Discuss your time frame and budget. Tell all right away, not some now and some later. In order to give you an accurate quote and produce a quality product, your designer should have no less than 50-100 descriptive words after you’ve discussed your project.
Decision-by-committee: A designer’s dread
Committees are the foundation of an organization, but sometimes they also are its ruin. The larger the committee, the more difficult the decision-making process becomes and the longer the project takes. If you are a committee, limit yourselves to 2-3 people at most. Appoint one person to be the communicator and allow only that person to pass information on to the designer.
Project management: Do your part
Producing a publication is a joint effort. As a client, accept that you have responsibilities and deadlines, just as the designer does. How you do your part affects how the designer can do his.
If providing text copy, make sure it’s complete and final before giving it to the designer. Even small changes, such as a word here or a sentence there, can affect the layout of the whole piece and add hours to the project. Submit your copy in digital format, with a minimum of formating. In most cases, the designer must undo all word processing formats because they don’t apply in design programs.
If providing photography, make sure it’s of good quality and properly labeled. Imagine trying to hunt for one specific image out of 20-30+ unlabeled photos (the camera-assigned numbers are not labels, by the way). When it comes to editing, yes, a good designer can improve a photo. But she’s not a miracle-worker. In the end, your publication will only be as good as the photos you provide.
A skilled trade: Trust your designer
Graphic designers are professionals with extensive formal training in their field. They are well-versed in art, advertising, marketing and communication. They must continuously study new trends and technology. They do this day in and day out, and they know their stuff.
Realize that graphic design is not fine art and does not convey personal expression. Rather it is a means of communication and conveys a message to a public audience. You hired your graphic designer to communicate this message. Listen to her advice. Consider his reasoning. Trust your designer.