First Impressions

All businesses need an identity. I’m talking logos, web sites, packaging, catalogs etc…These things are very important because they often make the first impression about your business. This is especially true in today’s business environment, where it is not unusual to sign up a new account without ever speaking to them – much less meeting them face-to-face.

If you are not a graphic designer, developing all this creative stuff can really add up (dollars). Most small businesses don’t have the budget to hire to a full service marketing agency that offers a complete package. Instead it is more likely a small business will end up hiring a graphic designer on a job-by-job basis. This can be a fine solution, but it can be a challenging experience.

If you go down this road, quickly you’ll find a new vocabulary and a set of rules that take pretty pictures to whole new level. While I’m not a designer, I’ve worked around them for most of my career. I thought I would share a few tips from my experience:

Finding a designer: Ask around for referrals. If you see a catalog or logo that appeals to you, ask the company who did it.

Interview the designer: When you interview designers ask about strengths and work style. Look at their portfolios with a close eye and ask questions.

Have the money discussion upfront: Don’t assume a project price – get it writing (or e-mail)and make sure the project scope is clearly spelled out. Quibbling over money will get in the way of the creative process.

Request design elements along with the final product: At the end of a job, ask for a CD of all design elements in an editable form. These elements will save you money in the future – they can be re-used on other projects.

Most designers don’t do words: Designers are not writers. In most cases, you will be expected to provide copy. If you are not comfortable writing, budget hiring a writer.

Set early deadlines: The creative process often has unexpected delays. Set a deadline at least 2 weeks before you really need the materials. Don’t forget to factor in time for printing and shipping.

Pay close attention to final details: Final proofing is your job and if something is not right, you will have to live with it. Don’t be afraid to mark up a proof and work until it is correct. In addition to reading the words for typos, the layout also needs to be proofed for things like how elements line up, font sizes, and consistency.

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