A graphic designer is an integral member of any PR team.
Having one on staff and in-house gives copywriters, project managers, social media specialists, and the rest of the gang in today’s fast-paced agency environment instant access to a creative mind.
Sometimes, we are mistaken for being the people who just “make things look pretty” and while that’s (kind of) true, we possess a multitude of skills and talents beyond the ability to pretty things up.
It’s important to know how to work with a graphic designer within an agency to reap the full benefits of the creative mind you have at your fingertips. Following these five tips will help someone like me help someone like you deliver the exact product that you want—the perfect picture that isn’t just pretty, but serves a purpose, communicates a clear message, sells an idea, and reaches a target audience.
What you may think is “quick” or “easy” is not always.
It’s “easy” to use terms like “throw this together” and “simple” when referring to a specific round of edits/revisions and a turnaround for a project, but you may not be aware of all of the “behind the scenes” work that takes place for that to happen.
Finished logos, brochures, or booklets may look simple, clean, and straightforward as finished products, but they took more than just two to three hours to create. Keep in mind all of the creative brainstorming, sketching, drafts, revisions, and more that were required. Good designers are equipped with the talent and skills to work quickly and efficiently, but not lightning fast, 100 percent of the time.
Take these thoughts into consideration the next time you’re thinking of putting together a budget and timeline for a project. Most people know that it requires significant time and effort to turn nothing into something—and anything worth doing is worth doing right. The same applies to graphic design.
Think about the point you’re trying to make, to the audience you’re trying to reach.
What is your vision for your piece? You don’t have to picture it perfectly in your mind, but do have a general sense for what you like (or don’t like). Think about colors, available logos, basic layout, a page count, document size, the use of infographics, pullout info or quotes, and the messaging that you will be trying to communicate.
Remember that less is always more. No matter how great your content is written or the terrific meaning behind it all, nobody is going to endure an entire page of nothing but words. Everyone is drawn to visuals, colors, and pretty pictures—so consider the use and placement of these, as well as call-to-action items, to break up your copy. You want to engage an audience immediately and keep them there, not make them run away. Remember, white space is a good thing.
Avoid terms such as “make it pop” or “surprise me.”
During brainstorms and pre-design conversations, it’s common for a designer to hear these words, but not gain anything useful from them. Maybe you don’t know exactly what you want, but try to be somewhat specific and organized with your general thoughts and ideas.
Do you want your piece to resemble something else you’ve seen or done? A designer loves to have “creative freedom,” but he or she also needs a few limitations, or at least what the client doesn’t want. They may seem like little things, but let the designer know colors you hate, types of photos to avoid, or fonts that you don’t like. This will help the designer in a few small ways, which will result in less wasted time later.
Give the designer final copy and don’t make revisions piecemeal later.
Basic design and copy edits are a given with any design job and a couple extra rounds of revisions are normal and expected, but try to limit it to no more than two to three. Also, try to collect and send revisions in one email, or discuss during one phone call. Avoid sending John’s revisions separately from Jane’s, not to mention the other three people’s changes involved in the reviewing and approval process.
Know some basic designer lingo.
While it’s not your job to be the designer, it helps when you can communicate with basic terminology. When you speak a designer’s language (even just a little bit of it), he or she is more likely to create and deliver the end product that you want, because they will have a better idea of what you want.
Having some basic knowledge about color systems and low and high resolution photo use will also help you understand what a designer has to take into consideration, sometimes before even starting work on a project.
Familiarity with the following will make a designer happy:
• Try to avoid grabbing a logo or photo off of a company or organization’s website. Images pulled from the Web are low-resolution and do not reproduce well on printed pieces. They may be OK to use in a digital piece, like an HTML newsletter, but not in a print product.
• Know the color modes that designers work in. They’re rather simple to understand. RGB stands for (red/green/blue), and it’s used in electronic or Web formats. For example, a website would be setup in RGB mode. CMYK stands for (cyan/magenta/yellow/black) and is used in most printed materials. You might also hear a designer call this “4-color process.”
• Remember that certain colors stimulate specific types of emotion. Cooler colors such as blues and greens evoke a sense of calmness. Warmer colors such as reds and oranges will make someone feel more of a sense of energy and passion. Think about these theories when considering and choosing a color palette.
• Understand that “bleeding” is not a bad thing. When a designer asks you if you want your artwork to “bleed,” he or she is simply referring to the description of images or colors that run off the edges of a page. For example, if a big photo doesn’t bleed all the way off a spread or cover it’s laid out on and is left with space around its edges, it may have a less-powerful impact on a viewer.
Most of the time, a designer has a good reason for doing something. Maybe you never considered the effects that certain typefaces, colors, space and photos have and the way they all work together in design, but they’re the basic ingredients that a designer cooks with every day.
Put trust in the designer and give that person creative freedom—but don’t send the designer into battle unarmed and unprepared. Communicating your basic ideas, visions, and target audience, and giving him or her a few references will benefit both of you.
Understanding and respecting what a designer does, the time and effort that goes into what they do, and speaking (just a little bit of) of his or her language will result in a better quality end product, which will only make both of you happy.
Jessie Ford is the graphic designer at CMA (@CMABuildsTrust), a national public relations agency based in Kansas City, Mo. Follow her on Twitter @jessforddesign. A version of this story first appeared on the CMA blog.
(Image via Gary Nicholson)