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    Marketing: Better graphic design

    Working with a graphic designer can sometimes be difficult – particularly for people who don’t view themselves as ‘the creative type’. But a good relationship with your graphic designer is integral to the outcome of any graphic design project.
    Graphic design is about communicating a specific message through the use of text and graphics in a visual design. A professional graphic designer can help create a unique look and feel for your business through logos and style guides and the production of communication materials like brochures, flyers, newsletters, business cards and annual reports.
    Working with a graphic designer can be highly rewarding when the relationship is based on clear communication and mutual respect. Here are some tips for how to get the most from graphic design (and your graphic designer)!
    If you don’t already have a graphic designer, ask your colleagues or business contacts about their graphic designers. It’s great if you can be referred to a graphic designer from a happy client.
    It’s important to provide graphic designers with a written or face-to-face brief. It should cover items such as the purpose of the project, key themes, audience, format (i.e. brochure, flyer, newsletter, etc.), photography, paper stock, print run, deadlines, key milestones, budget and deliverables. It’s also a good idea to specify in the brief whether you will require copyright of the final product.
    Depending on your brief, it’s a good idea to ask for proposals from a couple of designers. This provides a good opportunity to see what’s available in the market. The proposals should include the graphic designers’ relevant credentials, experience of individual team members, a detailed quotation and referees. Don’t necessarily expect to be given artwork at the proposal stage. Many designers require to be paid before providing any artwork, however some firms may provide initial concepts.
    Ask the designers to present their proposals and portfolio, and use this meeting as an opportunity to evaluate whether you can work with this individual or team. It’s very important that you can get along with your graphic designer – there’s no time for personality clashes!
    There are numerous stages to the design process including layout – proofreading and sign off – so make sure you understand what is required of you at each stage. Along the way, have regular meetings to catch up on progress and ensure your designer is on the right track, but don’t micro-manage them. Provide constructive feedback, and if you and the designer disagree (which is bound to happen), work together to find the solution.
    It’s important to understand that once your piece of work is designed, changes take additional time. By removing or adding a couple of words to a page, the entire layout may need adjusting. To help overcome this problem, make sure your work is proof-read prior to providing it to a designer. And remember that graphic designers are not editors, so if you do make a change, always double check it. By providing changes in a concise format, you can make the correction process easier for yourself and the designer – marking up your changes within Acrobat to pdf proofs is a good example.
    Be realistic about deadlines. Discuss them with your designer make sure you are both clear and comfortable on delivery dates. Agree on the cost and schedule before formalising the appointment.
    Costs can vary but most designers quote projects on an estimate of hours. Author’s corrections or edits made by the client can significantly impact the final cost of the project. Most designers include three rounds of author’s corrections in their quotation but check to make sure this is the case. Once the client goes past the agreed amount of author’s corrections, they are usually charged at an hourly rate which can stack up quickly. Also, be aware of other unexpected costs that you may be charged for, such as couriers, burning to CD and printing of concepts.
    Finally, be flexible and open to ideas, treat your designer as professional and respect their work and contribution and you’ll be sure to find that creative edge you’re looking for.
    Renee Hancock is a marketing and communications specialist whose experience spans finance, government, education, not-for-profit, telecommunications and law. She has consulted for two of Australia’s most prestigious public relations agencies and now works in-house for a leading financial services organisation.
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