Whether you're a sole proprietor or a large company, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your graphic designer and your project.





Know your budget range for the total job.

Image is really important to a product or service. When deciding on a budget, it’s a good idea to consider how much of a return you can get with investment in a well designed project.

If you haven’t a clue as to what to budget for your project, talk with a printer to get an idea of cost. Get an estimate from a designer or check in the Graphic Artists Guild'’s Pricing and Ethical Guidelines (PEG) for an idea on design fees and standard practices.

Know what you want to accomplish with the project.

Are you trying to sell a new and different widget, or use the newest one to re-promote the whole line? Perhaps you just want to interest people in logging on to your website to see the new line.

Marketing and market research is a huge field, but even if you don’t have a degree, there are government and research resources available to even the newest widget company.

If you’ve been in business for years you probably know the demographics of your basic customer, but if you want to expand your market do some research on your own, or consider consulting a professional in market research and analysis. Check the yellow pages or search online for these services.



Communicate the budget range, the demographic and what you hope to accomplish with the piece.

So you’ve decided to print a brochure on your new widget line, but after considering postage, your budget only allows for a black and white 8 page folded piece with no art in an envelope.

Maybe you are right, but maybe, if you keep an open mind and give the designer all the information, the designer can help you rethink the project and instead design a black and white self-mailer with a CD-ROM that shows a better picture of your widget and links the customer to your website, while still keeping within your budget.

Even when planning an annual report, bringing the designer in early to brainstorm can result in a report that has an interesting engaging theme that relates to the growth of your widget line.

Make sure you’ve given the designer all the information.

If you must have a particular logo on a piece make sure you tell the designer and give them any additional company specs or restrictions. If your company is incorporated or a limited liability corporation and you want inc. or llc on you stationary or in your logo, make sure you tell the designer at the onset of the project.

This goes for any charts, photos or any kind of art that must be used. The sooner you inform the designer, the better; some things may effect your estimate.


Ask for an estimate and sign an agreement.

It'’s always best to have an written agreement so that both you and the designer know what’s included in the job and what’s not. Smaller designers may not have the resources to pay for everything up front and wait reimbursement. But you may wind up with lower costs in the long run by taking care of some costs on your own. Many designers add a premium to expenses that they're obligated to expend in advance.

This agreement should include many of the following:

— What they will be designing; approximate size, number of pages and colors

— How many comps (mockups) will be presented

— Approximate schedule

— Estimate of cost for art, photography, illustrations (this includes charts and backgrounds)

— Estimated production costs and hourly fees including file preparation, pdfs, scanning, photo retouching. And any possible royalties or rights arrangements on any of them

— Estimated number of black and white and color laser and/or ink jet prints, and per piece cost of print outs if not included

— What services will be included, such as communicating with the printer, getting print estimates, being present when the job goes to press, or negotiating with illustrators and stock houses

—For website design, how much will it cost to have the site information updated or altered. How will you be charged for changes and/or corrections after the site is uploaded.

— Who is responsible for mailing costs and how they will be handled (e.g. you will give the designer a FedEx™ number and project codes for all mailing.)

— A fee schedule, with a kill fee built in in case you decide to stop at some point before going to press or having the website uploaded.

Give the designer time to incubate.

The saying goes you can have up to two but never all three on a project, 1) good 2) fast 3) cheap. Its up to you decide which are most important.

The time it takes to reach the "eureka" point in the creative process can vary. A designer may come up with their best idea for you in the shower, sitting in traffic, or working on another project rather than in front of the computer.



Give the designer any text in a digital file as soon as possible.

Most designers will present you with 2 or 3 comps (mockups) to choose from. They may have had dozens of ideas however and depending on your relationship they’ll sometimes bounce things off you before narrowing down the choices.

If you have text completed for the project and know what sections, chart info, and financial information you want to use, then give this information to the designer as soon as possible. The sooner they can start incorporating this into the design, the more representative and accurate the comps they present will be. Otherwise, any greeked copy they use will have to be replaced later at an hourly production rate.

Coordinate production procedures.

Once you’ve chosen the final design and discussed printing costs, ask your designer to communicate with the printer on procedure: deadlines, scanning of art, color separations and other production considerations, so that everything can flow smoothly and errors can be caught well before going to film separations.

Proof and mark pages on the black and white print outs, pdfs or faxes the designer sends you. Use proofreaders marks, they are often printed in the back of dictionaries. If your designer is unfamiliar, make sure they have a copy so you’re both speaking in the same language. Send any large blocks of copy that change in digital form, cross out the deleted text and label the new text insert A, B, etc. In most instances this will save the production artist time from flowing and formatting text all over again.

Make changes and final proofs in black and white before the printer gets the file.

Its always best to have proofs finalized before they go to the printer. You can rack up your costs catching errors after the printer makes film separations. Blueline proofs are meant to catch errors before going to press but it’s still more cost effective to get them at an earlier stage.

If you can afford it, color lasers, rainbow or other color proofs are always a good idea. If you just can’t fit it in the budget, make sure you see pdf files in color and in the case of less than four (process) color jobs, have the designer print black and white separations for you to proof with the pdf color files. Copies of these should go with the digital files to the printer.


Hey, it is important, but it’s not brain surgery.

If you find errors after the piece goes to the printer, it’s important to weigh the cost of fixing it with the impact it will have on the intent of the final piece. The reason for signing approved comps and proofs is to protect everyone from their own human error.

Even if it seems a little annoying at times, it’s better to have someone ask you, or to ask, "Are you sure it's supposed to be this way?" rather than have a costly error down the line.

I don't mean to sound flippant about this, but it's not really life or death. If you've done the footwork the job will most likely go smoothly and any mishaps, computer crashes, floods, illness, etc. can be handled as they come up. If you've done your proofing any errors by the printer, or designer are their’s to repair.

Keep the focus on the intent of the piece and enjoy the journey.


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“Come to the edge”, he said.
They said,, "We are afraid".
“Come to the edge”, he said
They came,
He pushed.
He pushed them…
And the flew.

Gullaume Apollinaire


















An idea can turm to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it.

Bill Bernbach



The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.












An idea can turm to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it.

Bill Bernbach








When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.

John F. Kennedy







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