Friday, March 30, 2007

Online Graphic Design Degree - Is It Right For You?

The answer to whether an online degree is right for you depends on several questions only you can answer but research has demonstrated online distance education is as effective as traditional education.

Both forms of education require the use of technology and provide ample learning opportunities for students to participate in. Each form requires the student to learn the essential body of knowledge required to graduate with a degree and be prepared to go out into the job market.

Furthermore, studies have shown there are no significant differences in final course grades between distance education and traditional education. It was found many online education methods fit perfectly with students’s preferred learning style including the ability to work on course material in their own time frame.

Advantages of an Online Graphic Design Education

The main advantage of pursuing an online education is accessibility. As an adult, you often don’t have the time or ability to go a traditional school to earn a higher degree. It may be family; it may be a full time job. Either way, an online distant education program provides the flexibility needed to further your education.

You may have a job that requires travel preventing you from attending all your classes. With online education as long as you have access to the Internet, you can “make it to class”. And your classes are available 24/7.

Study Pace – for those of us who don’t learn at the same pace as others, an online degree program allows you to learn at a pace that fits your style. It may take you a little longer to complete a course but achieve a better outcome not feeling rushed.

On the other hand, you may be a fast learner and want to push through the programs more quickly than someone else. In a traditional setting you may be held back by the rest of the class or the teachers pace.

Self Motivation – many employers will look at your online degree and appreciate your initiative and self motivation. Completing a program working at your own pace can be daunting so an employer might consider your ambition an asset to the company.

Flexibility – Web based degree programs allow you to learn when you have the time to learn not when you are told to learn. Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or have a full time job, online campuses give you the flexibility to go back to school for that degree that can help you raise the bar to your success. Self Discipline – to be successful in life and career, you have to have self-discipline. To be successful in distant education programs, you have to have self-discipline. By learning how not to procrastinate and being accountable for getting your work done properly and on time, you gain a skill that is very valuable in the marketplace.

It’s not always easy to get work done if someone isn’t there reminding you all the time. Once you learn the importance of getting tasks done on time and how to achieve your goals, you’ll have learned one of the most important concepts in your educational process.

What Should You Expect From An Online Education

Participation – you will be expected to participate via email, teleclasses, or discussion boards with your professors and classmates. This tends to work in favor of students who are extremely shy and stay out of conversations in traditional settings.

Work – just because you are not attending a physical classroom setting doesn’t mean you don’t have to work. As an online student you will be expected to do the same amount of work, if not more, than a traditional classroom situation.

You will be involved in group projects, writing papers, posting responses to the class message board while taking practice quizzes and discussing topics with fellow students.

Questions – expect to ask and to be asked questions by your professors and fellow students. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. There are other online students with more experience available to answer your questions or help with a difficult assignment.

Requirements for Online Graphic Design Degree Programs

Because you will be taking your graphic design classes online via your computer, there naturally will be some hardware and software requirements. First of all, you need a computer with hardware and software that is compatible with the schools programs. It may be required you only work on an Apple computer and use Adobe software. Another school may have different requirements. It is important you find out these requirements before you sign up.

You will also be required to have an Internet connection and the faster the better. Since you will be spending a lot of time on line, a high-speed connection will make your life a lot easier than a slow dial up account.

Peripheral Equipment - most schools are going to require you have access to a CD burner or DVD burner, printer, scanner, digital camera and digital drawing tablet. Be sure you budget these items into your costs before making a commitment to a school.


If you are interested in going back to school for a degree in graphic design but don’t have the flexibility to go to a traditional school setting, an online education is a great alternative.

As studies have shown, you will get a comparable education at your pace, in your environment. The next step is to find distant learning programs in graphic design that fit your needs.

Good luck and much success in your endeavor.

Rich Points is the administrator of Graphic Arts Schools at, a website offering resources for prospective graphic design artists.

By: Rich Points

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Are You Designing Your Own Business Brand? These Graphic Design Gaffes You Have to Avoid

When looking at a web site, business card, brochure or logo, have you ever thought; “I really like the way that looks”, but you didn’t know why you liked it? You probably said, “There’s just something about it”. Well, that, “something about it” is what separates mediocre designers from experienced talented ones – the talented ones know what that something is.

Designers…good designers know there’s a reason, a science behind why some business cards, web sites or logos look better and are more effective than others. It’s not luck; it’s research and it’s knowledge. Sure, you might like a different style than the guy down the street, by as a whole, business people respond to good design when they see it.

Most business professionals have a rough idea of what good design looks like; they just don’t know why it looks good, this might describe you as well. Going though this quick article will give you a better understanding why some marketing materials just look better than others, it will help avoid some common design gaffes that inexperienced artists or “owners turned designers” typically make. Armed with this new knowledge, you’ll have a greater understanding on how good or not so good your marketing materials are, and you can make some appropriate improvements.

No, this isn’t the one that has to do with maps. Typography is concerned with the style, arrangement, or appearance of typeset matter. Our normal language it’s referring to the way letters, words, sentences and paragraphs interrelate to each other and with the overall layout of a design. Have you ever thought, “This brochure is hard to read”, “Why are there so many odd gaps between letters?”, or “Why is there so much space between the lines?” – that’s typography. Interestingly enough, typography is rarely if ever noticed unless it’s handled badly. If you’ve hired an expert designer, you’ll never really notice the typography at all, you’ll just say, “Wow, that looks good!”

Fonts, Fonts Everywhere:
Staying along the typography theme, there are hundreds of font styles to choose from today, just as there are hundreds of types of candy, but that doesn’t mean you should jam them all into your design, or your mouth! I guess the thought is, if one font is good, than 2 should be better – you know the rest: this is dangerous logic. Including a kaleidoscope of different fonts, colors and sizes is something you want to avoid. Designers affectionately refer to layouts like this as “clown barf”. Avoid fonts being the focus of your design; fonts are typically work best in a support role rather than the main focus. A good rule of thumb is to keep the number of fonts you use to under 3 (preferably under 2).

Keep in mind that the fonts you choose should support your content and your message rather than take away from it. Lastly, make sure you test your fonts on your target audience ahead of time to make sure the font(s) you chose are easy to read.

Clip Art:
Ahhh, nothing in modern design and desktop publishing has been so helpful but so hurtful as clip art. Clip art is a lot like dynamite; it’s a good thing in the hands of an expert, if you’re not, you might consider leaving it alone. When used in usually a subordinate role in the overall design, clip art can work well. A couple of quick final thoughts on clip art: if your intended message and image are professionalism and credibility, I implore you, no, I beg you, please steer clear of hokey, cartoon clip art. Between cheesy clip art and no clip art – take no clip art. You can have an effective, interesting layout with no graphics at all. With clip art - use where appropriate, use sparingly and use with caution.

Hey, Look What This Button Does!
If you’ve got a newer computer of any kind it probably came with some desktop publishing or graphics software. Invariably, you’re going to start playing with all of the different effects (in Photoshop many are called filters) you can do to text, pictures and graphics. You know: beveling, embossing, making objects glow, adding a drop shadow, all sort of goofy things. All of these effects are great, but much like clip art, you want to use them sparingly and when appropriate. To get the most out of these effects here’s something you always want to keep in mind, effects are great for adding a little spice to your layout, just a pinch. You can give your audience a slightly different look to a picture or section by applying an effect – just something a little different. When catch yourself adding effects just because you think they look cool, stop, count to ten and slowly pull your hand away from the mouse button.

Hopefully, this article will help you avoid some easy to spot, design gaffes. You might even be able to spot them in your competition’s advertisements and promotional materials.

When it comes to your business, choosing who does your design is a big decision; whether it’s you, the guy at Kinko’s, or a professional. Remember, your reputation and your company’s image, so be careful and choose wisely. If you don’t have artwork that you’re proud to put your company’s name and reputation on, don’t put your name on it and don’t send it out. We all make a direct connection between the quality of the design/layout and the company that it’s featuring. One shouldn’t have any affect on the other, but they do, that’s just the way humans are. I do it, you do it and I promise you that your customers do it as well. So it’s critical to understand that your business card, your web site and all of your other marketing materials all make an immediately statement about how committed you are to quality to the world. What does your marketing and design say about your level of quality?

A business savvy graphic designer is often a contradiction in terms; however, Jeremy is a unique combination of sharp business marketer and creative designer. This one-two punch provides clients with targeted marketing, advertising and design projects that yield outstanding results and a terrific return on their investment; they actually work. Companies looking to feel more confident and credible with their business brand, tired of getting lost in a crowd of competitors and always feeling like they have to compete on price, need to call Jeremy at 480.391.0704.

If you are looking for more free insight and inspiration, you’ll want to get in on the “Can-Do Confidence Builder”. Emailed weekly, the Confidence Builder provides you with essential marketing and design insights that help you get the most out of your investment and help you to stay one step ahead of the competition. Email Jeremy at and asked to be added to our list or visit

By: Jeremy Tuber

Friday, March 23, 2007

UK Graphic Design and Web Design - What Does The Future Of Crowdsourcing Hold

It would be naive to think that the UK is the only country capable of fielding graphic design talent in this global economy. So what does the next few years herald for the UK in terms of graphic design jobs and the widespread outsourcing of design to foreign territories?

Design Specialism Increasingly we will will see more and more specialists focusing specifically on core businesses. Rather than design companies offering a smorgasbord of design talent it will be more profitable to concentrate on single issue design strategies such as business card designers, outsized folder designers or club flyer designers. It maybe a case in point that a larger company will fragment and offer a gamut of services seemingly by different companies. Then again this might not happen, its difficult to say really so we'll keep things generalized.

Wholesale prices will tumble Far be it from us to speculate but by all accounts we're all doomed as far as pricing is concerned in the UK. The internet has heralded a sea change as far as costs are concerned for graphic design services and website design. The market is saturated and is quite literally oozing out of the keyboard and computer screen leaving a sticky mess over your desk. Can the UK justify exhorbitant design prices when you can get a far superior design service from a Romanian or Polak working for the price of a can of baked beans?

Mergers and Accusitions among the design heavyweights Wth such a congested global design market, something has got to give. Some of design big boys such as Lunatrix design and Mindtap design may very well find themselves merging to compete with the foreign invasion, only to find themselves demerging and fragmenting again within a space of a few months. These are difficult times for design agencies. Whatever happens we will probably see much the same sort of thing happening in the next few years as we have done over the last couple of years. Unless something highly unexpectant happens... watch this space

Unprecedented quality in design and heightened design output in the domestic arena Already we are seeing a marked departure in terms of the minimalist type of design and typography so favoured by the lazy designers of the last couple of years. In the next couple of years the enphasis is going to be on the group dynamic and crowdsourcing of design ideas that are populated on personal blogs and network sites. The idea of course being that a clued up herd mentality can achieve more enlightened results than any individual. Theres nothing new in this of course. Design consultants and advertising designers have always brain stormed ideas. Now of course those designs, web styles and new media forms are going to be adapted in real time by many thousands more people. Wow it all sounds wonderful doesn't it.

Well then, can Uk graphic design and Web design in particular survive the onslaught we are heading into at a frightening rate. Its too close to call at the moment so we'll just sit on the fence smiling smugly for a bit and reserve our opinions until later if thats alright with you.

Mindtap Graphic Design Resources is your single point entry into brochure design. A unique site where you can access information on UK graphic design, cheap design, leaflet design, catalog design and web design

By: Horatio Farquaar

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Let's NOT Make a Deal – Graphic Designers Beware When An Owner Says, "I Need a Partner"

If you’re a business owner, just for fun, try making a deal with one of the check out clerks over at Office Max, “How about you let me have this equipment, and if my business does well, I’ll come back and pay you?” Or you could try approaching your CPA with this, “How about you do my company’s taxes, and if I have money left over I will pay you with it?”

They sound pretty ridiculous, don’t they?

You’re probably saying, “That would never happen”, and you’re probably right, but you’d be amazed at how many business owners pitch graphic designers such a deal. In fact, there seems to be a never-ending parade of Monte Hall “wanna-be’s” wanting to play, “Let’s Make a Deal”. From the humorous to the absurd, from the mildly insulting to just plain fraudulent - if you’ve been a freelance designer for a few years, you going to see it all.

Over the years business owners have pitched me on some outrageous deals over the most wacky products imaginable: a hangover pill, wearable buttons with Bible verses on it, a baby coupon book, dune buggy races and inspirational decals you can stick on windows. An interesting side note is that ALL, and I mean all of these business owners were thoroughly convinced they had the next great idea – and that I would be foolish not to get in on their rocket ride to fame and fortune.

There’s the Windup, and Here’s the Pitch

The business owner’s pitch is that the graphic designer provides some upfront work on a project(s), and if the owner’s idea takes off and makes money, she/he will pay the designer. If the project doesn’t take off the designer doesn’t get paid and has wasted her/his time - the owner isn’t out any time or money for the design. Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it? Not if you’re the designer.

The deal usually works something a little like this; the business owner has no money to fund the project and has no VC (venture capital) backing, yet she/he is convinced they have the next best idea since sliced bread. Her/his pitch is that the graphic artist does the entire up front design and creativity, then, if the idea takes off she/he will get a percentage of the profits or a flat rate. What designers typically hear is, “I am looking to partner with someone - I am looking for a partner”. This statement should be one of many HUGE red flags: remember that a partner is someone what not only has risk in the company, they have a stake and a say in its creation and direction. As a designer you have nothing. What the owner really means is, “I need someone to bear all of the upfront risk for me and if it takes off I may pay her/him.” Ouch.

At this point, a couple of questions have probably leap into your mind:

* Why doesn’t this business owner have any money? Isn’t having working capital in a business essential for success?

* How will I know that if the business takes off, the owner will pay? When will they pay, and how much will they pay?

* If this idea is so good, why would any sensible owner want to share in the future profits?

* Why can’t she/he find business people looking to invest in such a “great idea”? Shouldn’t venture capitalists (VC) be jumping over each other to invest in this?

Are All of These Deals Bad Ideas?

Not necessarily. I don’t want to paint a portrait of unscrupulous business owners preying on unsuspecting graphic designers like a Hollywood movie about Dracula. These aren’t bad people; at least most of them, and there are some legitimate projects and business owners out there that might be worth a look. But over my seven plus years as a designer, I’ve never been approached with one. If you’re an owner legitimately looking for someone to help you with your business, or if you’re a designer has been approached with a deal, I leave you with the following advice.

My Advice to Business Owners Looking for Help:

* You might want to look into working with a designer who is young, inexperienced or doesn’t have a lot of work coming in. They might be willing to take a chance on your project. Be willing to take a lesser degree of talent and experience when not paying.

* Make sure you’re committed to your project: a business plan, marketing strategy and competitive analysis are a must. Make sure you’ve seriously researched your market before you contact any designer.

* Be honest with yourself and the designer. If you have no intention to pay the designer upfront and you need a partner, let this be known at the beginning of your conversation. I’ve experienced owners who hold off of disclosing this until after a proposal and a face-to-face meeting. It turns out they wasted their time and mine.

* Talented designers really aren’t interested in these types of projects. She/he has clients more than willing to pay them in cash. You want to avoid wasting your time and theirs and concentrate on other options. Now you might get lucky and convince one to help you, but 99 times out of 100 you’re going to be throwing away time.

My Advice to Younger Graphic Designers:

* Use your common sense: If the idea was that good, why would the owner be foolish to share the profits with you?

* Use your common sense part 2: If the idea was that good the business owner would have no trouble finding venture capitalists jumping over each other to invest in the project. Perhaps the owner doesn’t even know how to do this – red flag here. Remember, there is ALWAYS funding for good ideas.

* Ask to see a business plan or model. See the projected financial statements and marketing strategy. Make certain that the business owner’s put a lot of work into this idea and that it makes sense to you. No business plan, no designer.

* If this will allow you to practice a new skill, broaden your portfolio or keep you busy when you don’t have a lot of work coming in you may want to VERY CAREFULLY consider the project.

* Be wary about being promised “loads and loads” of referrals after you complete the project, “I am going to tell all of my friends about you”. I hear this all the time, and if you’re a freelancer, your going to hear it to, if you believe it let me know – I’ve got beachfront property in Kansas I’d like you to look at.

* The best advice I can give you is to try to quickly identify the bad ideas and the scams. Very politely tell the owners that you’re not interested in the project and leave it at that. Watch your time with these people; you can invest valuable hours without making a dime. Ouch, that can hurt.

* Get EVERYTHING and I mean EVERYTHING in writing up front in the form of a contract.

* Accept the risk: if you do decide to take on a project and it doesn’t take off. You’ll have no recourse against the business owner.

Designers, use your common sense, if you really need the work and or experience you may on a rare occasion consider one of these, but protect yourself at all times. Ask yourself, “If this idea is so good, why can’t the owner raise any money to pay for a designer?” Remember, your time is just as valuable as the next person’s; you deserve to be paid for your time and your expertise. Make sure you protect yourself at all times.

A business savvy graphic designer is often a contradiction in terms; however, Jeremy is a unique combination of sharp business marketer and creative designer. This one-two punch provides clients with targeted marketing, advertising and design projects that yield outstanding results and a terrific return on their investment; they actually work. Companies looking to feel more confident and credible with their business brand, tired of getting lost in a crowd of competitors and always feeling like they have to compete on price, need to call Jeremy at 480.391.0704.

If you are looking for more free insight and inspiration, you’ll want to get in on the “Can-Do Confidence Builder”. Emailed weekly, the Confidence Builder provides you with essential marketing and design insights that help you get the most out of your investment and help you to stay one step ahead of the competition. Email Jeremy at and asked to be added to our list or visit

By: Jeremy Tuber

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Three-Fold Path to a Productive Graphic Design Process - From Nonprofit Communicators and Design

I recently spoke with three nonprofit communicator colleagues and four graphic designers who outlined this three-fold path to a process that'll ensure high-impact design for your nonprofit. Before you even get to the design process itself, remember to follow these five pre-design steps to effective graphic design, from finding the right designers to crafting a creative brief.

Here's what your colleagues advise:

Be clear, comprehensive and realistic

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Director of Communications Kitty McCullough swears by this maxim. She advises nonprofit communicators to "sketch out as much as you can at the beginning (back to the creative brief) and ask for preliminary sketches so your designer doesn't spend time working up something far from what you want."

Mark Dessauer, communications officer at Active Living By Design, solicits three to five design concepts from his graphic designers. "And I ask for completely distinct takes on the project, not variations on a single theme," says Mark. "This lets me expand the discussion to go beyond my pre-conceived ideas, and pushes my designers to be their most creative."

Editorial Comment: Great idea Mark, but you'll pay for it. Advice - specify how many design concepts you want in the creative brief to avoid surprises.

Jack Sherin, former agency creative exec and now freelance designer to a range of nonprofit clients, suggests that you be "entirely confident in all details of your design needs and process, before getting started." BTW, Jack presents a single design concept if it seems right on target. Practices are indeed designer- specific.

Most importantly, think through your concepts and goals before saying a word to your graphic designers. "For us, the essence of an effective partnership is understanding that the designer's job is to provide graphic interpretations of OUR thinking. We define the concepts we want to convey, how the new design links with existing design elements, etc.," comments Julia Graham Lear, director of the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools. "If we don't take time to do so, the final product will reflect the designer's 'take' on the project, not ours."

Designer Sybil Rogers swears by the creative brief, which "enables us designers to create designs that are visually relevant and strategically on target."

Here are my guidelines for creating a creative brief that works.

Build a solid, candid, ongoing relationship with your graphic designers

Nothing is more important than building and maintaining these relationships, even when no design project is pending. Build those partnerships and keep them going, so that your designers keep you, and your organization's design profile, top of mind.

Lenore Neier, VP of Marketing and Communications at the American Liver Foundation(ALF), makes sure she develops and maintains close working relationship with favorite designers. "It seems to be the only way that works," she says. "They have to get to know your organization intimately to give you the right design product."

Lenore speaks with ALF's graphic and web designers on an ongoing basis. "That way they stay current with our focus and news, and are ready to jump in when we need them," she says.

Don't forget that strong relationships are built on honesty - diplomatic honesty that is. Mark Dessauer recommends that you be "completely honest about how you feel about the work, especially if a designer is a friend (which frequently happens, even if that isn't the case at the beginning). If you aren't happy, you'll be saddled with a design product that doesn't meet your expectations or needs. The results will suffer, and your relationship will too," he advises.

Jack Sherin suggests that you take it one step further to educate your designers on your nonprofit's internal approval process, so they understand what it'll take to build consensus around design decisions.

Don't try to be the graphic designer

This is a hard one, as all of us think we have a great aesthetic sense, and want to apply it to our brochures and email templates as we do in our living rooms and gardens. Stop!

Graphic designer Barbara Wertheim, who works with nonprofit clients as diverse as the Seeing Eye and the New Jersey Hall of Fame, advises, "Make sure you hire a competent professional designer with a proven track record -- and then trust her to do her job. Make changes to the design when they're based in a sound rationale, but resist tinkering with the design -- as you risk throwing off a deliberate and delicate visual balance."

Kitty Griffith, an expert communicator who has led initiatives at organizations as diverse as Citibank and NYRAG, takes this one step further. "Don't tell the graphic artist how to do her art - she's the pro; you're not," she says. "Do convey any design modifications you have. But remember that a good designer will advise against changes that will weaken the design (for example, using green ink for type, which is notoriously hard to read). Don't force the issue - the designer knows best."

Thanks to my friends and colleagues for your great recommendations. When you follow these steps, I guarantee you'll get better design results for your nonprofit.

Nancy E. Schwartz helps nonprofits succeed through effective marketing and communications.

Subscribe to her free e-newsletter "Getting Attention," at and read her blog at for more insights, ideas and great tips on attracting the attention your organization deserves.

By: Nancy E. Schwartz

Monday, March 19, 2007

Graphic Design-Jack-Of-All-Trades

Commercial art has proven itself worthy within the business sector. Whereas traditional art or ‘The Arts’ such as fine art for example, is often considered an expensive hobby instead of a stable career path. Commercial art differs considerably. Gone are the days when teachers would encourage their pupils to only pursue a career in Mathematics or Science. There is a future in the visual communications industry too. Since the demand for creative skills are so great within the business sector, it has become very apparent that commercial art plays a huge role in the success of many lucrative industries and businesses. Nonetheless, how can graphic design enable your business to enjoy continual growth and success? What valuable skills can a graphic designer offer your business?

Perhaps it’s best to establish what Graphic design entails. Graphic design is the art of combining text and graphics to communicate an effective message using logos, graphics, brochures, newsletters, posters, signage and any other type of visual communication.

• Graphic Designers find employment within advertising agencies, design studios, the public sector, reproduction houses, video and film labs, printers, newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers. Designers can also be found working in engineering service industries or management, scientific and technical consulting firms.

• These skilled creatives are able to produce computer graphics for computer systems, design firms or motion picture production firms.

• Basic responsibilities include; developing the overall layout and production design of magazines, newspapers, journals, corporate reports and other publications • As well as producing promotional displays and marketing brochures for products and services, designing distinctive logos for products and businesses and developing signs and signage systems or environmental graphics for business and government.

• Graphic Designers are also able to develop material for web pages, computer interfaces and multimedia projects, as well as producing credits that appear before and after TV programs and movies. This proves that whatever your business or expertise, you’ll most likely require the services of a Graphic Designer at some point…

How do Graphic Designers contribute to the world of business?

To develop a new graphic design the needs of the client need to be determined. The message the design should portray and its appeal to customers or users for example. Graphic Designers consider cognitive, cultural, physical and social factors in planning and executing designs for the target audience.

Does a logo have an effect on your business?

A well designed logo also facilitates the process of professionally designed stationery, signage, web sites, television, brochures, etc. If you present a poorly designed logo or you don't even have a logo, human nature tells people that you may not be doing so well and therefore not worth doing business with. Important factors to keep in mind; Ensure that you can fax the logo to someone and still read it; practice on a dummy letterhead. Consider what the logo may be applied to, paper, clothing, signage, vehicles, etc. This can affect the way the logo is designed and whether it should be a simple block color or complicated with small type which may not transfer to t-shirts well.

What impact does package design have on a product?

Product packaging can be the most important aspect of your consumer product. Packaging design conveys to the consumer the most important features of your product and ensures that your product makes a great impression and is more visible amongst a myriad of bland counterparts. How can a professionally designed brochure add to the image of your business? Brochures are a great way to package a lot of information about yourself, your business and expertise into a format that is easily mailed or handed out at a business meeting or given to current clients to pass on to possible referrals. Using a Graphic Designer can free you from having to make all decisions about your brochure by yourself. A Graphic Designer will see the brochure from concept through to successful completion.

Various disciplines within design (To mention but a few)

Advertising Design is essential. Your advert has to be good enough to both catch your target audience’s attention immediately and ‘sell’ your product or service to them. Direct Mail Design is often thought of as the ‘spam of the post’. However, it provides a snippet of information about your company to a vast audience. Even though the return on mailers is often small, if you do a mail drop of 10 000 and get a return of 5% then that means you have a response from a potential 500 new clients. The design of your direct mail has a substantial impact on its success. If your design does not immediately capture your recipient’s interest and imagination, your direct mail will most likely be overlooked...

Packaging Design can change the perception that your target market has of your product for the better. Whatever the product, the packaging needs to work within the client’s corporate style and marketplace. If your product is vying for shelf space in the retail market, you need to ensure that your clients see your product before your competitors captures their interest. Visuals can help your target market to connect with your product or service. Visuals can speak to your audience because they make an impact. One thing’s for sure though, visuals and design has something valuable to communicate. Your business can benefit greatly from these lucrative creative skills. Perhaps, you should leave it up to the professionals.

Good Graphic designers can use their artistic skills to create a lively, moving and enticing image for your brand, company or product. Whether you want graphic designers to promote a new website or create images for print, can help you in your search. Approved Index offers a free service to help you instantly get a Graphic Design quote suited to your budget.

By: tara McGovern

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Ebook Cover Design - How To Choose The Right Ecover Graphic Designer

Choosing a virtual 3D cover and sales page designer for your new ebook or infoproduct can be a very daunting task because you may not know what to look and ask for.There are many ecover designers on the internet but the following guidelines will help you narrow down which cover designer to choose.

First impressions. They say charity begins at home. What does the virtual cover designer's own website graphics look like?If their website and graphics does not grab your eyeballs, will they really be able to design an ecover or minisite that will convert a lot of sales for you? People can make up their mind about a website in two seconds. If the graphics of the site conveys the wrong message, then the visitor won't waste time on your website. They will run and look for a website that has what they are looking for.

Portfolio. A portfolio of their cover design work is absolutely essential so w that you will have an idea what they can do. By carefully looking at their other work, you can evaluate their design style. That is,whether the color, look and feel of the web graphics is striking and memorable.If they have designed website graphics targeted at children and the predominant colours are dark and dull and not playful, then they may not have the knack for designing for a niche market by putting themselves in the shoes of the prospect or customer.

Qualifications and training. Learning ho to use a software is different from actually going through formal training and learning the principles and fundamentals of design.Graphic design is a discipline with basic and established principles on the effectiveness of any communication medium.A good design should have the ability to make your prospects sit up and take notice as well as tell them what they want to hear.Having superb software skills does not automatically mean that the designer has an ability to successfully transform your brand.

Business skills. A good virtual cover designer should have the ability to thoroughly find out all about your product or service, investigate competitors in your field and be able to come up with a design that accurately sums up what your infoproduct. The design should tell the prospect what the product is all about in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Design Format- A professional virtual 3D cover and sales page designer should be able to give you low and high resolution versions of your design so that you can use them to market your product both online and offline. The normal resolution ( degree of sharpness ) for web images is 72dpi and the one for print is normally 300dpi. If you use the web version for print, the images will be fuzzy and will not have the right impact like a crystal clearimage usually does. Fuzzy pictures in marketing materials also screams 'unprofessional'. This is why you need to ask the ecover designer upfront what graphic formats and sizes you will get the virtual covers in.

Professional conduct and service. Since the nature of the work involves you working hand in hand with the ecover graphic designer, You need a designer that you can relate with. The Cover designer should also give you at least two different drafts to choose from so that you can decide, with the designer's help, which theme to follow. The designer should also tell you upfront how long it should take them to complete your ecover or marketing graphics.

Price. This is another important aspect to think about. The price is essential but the fact that a designer charges a high or low price does not necessarily mean that they will deliver on the quality of the work. By comparing other cover designer's prices, you can roughly determine the going rates and then decide if they want to pay the price the designer is offering.

Even though most virtual cover orders are fulfilled online by email, It is not unusual for the customer toprefer to speak to the graphic designer on the phone or chat by instant messenger. Good design should easily be adapted into different mediums. If the Graphic designer cannot do the work, they will usually tell you. Make sure you ask the designer to explain any unfamiliar terms or words that come up during the design work.

Yvonne Tagbo, Information Product Designer, helps small business owners create design solutions that attract a favourable response from both existing and potential customers. A fully qualified design consultant and a true creative at heart, she designs virtual 3D covers,sales page themes, mini sites, ebook page layouts and marketing graphics at Yvonne for a free branding or design consultation HERE

By: YVonne Tagbo

Friday, March 16, 2007

Would You Like Fries with That? Is Your Graphic Designer Just an Order Taker

Business owners waste thousands of dollars every year on web sites, brochures, sales flyers, etc. that don’t work. Sadly, these are often projects that shouldn’t have been started in the first place, but no one on their team (or their outsourced graphic designer) advised them it was a bad move. As a result, business owners waste money and eventually become discouraged with taking a proactive approach to attracting new customers – “marketing”. This article focuses on helping you make wiser choices and not wasting time and money when it comes to hiring the right designer for you.

Here’s the inside scoop on hired graphic designers that aren’t experts in marketing (and most of them aren’t): they’re not involved or concerned in whether the design project makes sense for you, if it will be financially worth it, or what kind of positive results you should expect from the design project. The majority of graphic designers are order takers: you tell them what you want created, and they design it. Now your project may be a success or failure, but regrettably, the artist isn’t as much concerned with this - you paid for a design and that’s what you received.

As a business owner spending hard earned money, you can see this poses a serious problem. If you’re like 95% of business owners out there, you don’t know if the marketing design project is going to work for you or not - it’s a gamble, a crapshoot. Wouldn’t it make sense to have someone on your team that can help you select design and marketing projects that will give you the greatest return on your investment rather than an order taker?

Case Study – A Real Life Example:
A client and a good friend of mine was solicited by a “marketing expert/design firm” a few months before we met. My now client was sold a costly marketing plan package that read more like a bad book report than anything of value. Within this report the “expert” highly recommended the client invest a boat load of money on full color brochures, promotional flyers and coupons, “the brochure is marketing collateral that is essential…the brochure acts as a piece of marketing material that can be left behind to potential customers…”

As I read these “would you like fries with that” recommendations, I almost fell out of my chair, “Wait a minute! Before we start spending all of this money on design and printing, shouldn’t we first analyze how these projects will affect the client?”

Before breaking open the piggy bank I suggested that the client take a step back and look at what result these investments will really bring in. Here’s what we came up with: these marketing materials are not effective for the business the client’s in, the client is a high-end vendor so coupons will not support the high-end image, and the client gets business from personal interaction with prospects (within the 30 seconds a personal connection is made with a prospect). Bottom line here is this: the recommendations would have certainly helped out the marketing/design firm, the grateful client avoided over $5,000 in costs that would have done nothing to grow the business.

Why is this important to avoid order takers?
You don’t want to waste money, plain and simple. Unless you’re an expert in marketing, and you know what will work and won’t work, you have to find someone who can help you understand what design projects are worth investing in and which ones aren’t.

You wouldn’t hire a mechanic that knew less about cars that you, so why would you hire someone to help you get more customers that knows less than you?

Instead of guessing or hoping the project will give you a good return on your investment, wouldn’t it be great to know that BEFORE you spend money on it? You make sure your car has enough gas in the tank before you take a trip – make sure your next marketing project has enough in it’s tank to where you want to get to as well.

How can you tell if you have an order taker, and how can you protect yourself?
If you suspect you’ve hired an order taker, ask her/him these questions. If the questions are not answered to your satisfaction – run like heck, and hire an expert who can help you!

* Can you provide me with any direction or wisdom as to why my project may or may not work for you?

* What should I be aware of before I have a project like this designed?

* Can you help me understand how this project is going to be used so I get the best return out of it, and how it should fit into my marketing strategy?

* How will you evaluate your success on my project: by the results I get or if you designed something visually interesting?

* Can you provide any past examples of projects that have worked out well for other your other clients? Can you explain why you got the results they did?

* Are my business growth and financial goals for this project realistic?

* If you were me, would you invest in this project, WHY or WHY NOT?

Keep in mind, if a designer could really help business owners choose the right projects that yield the highest return on investment, do you think they’d be charging bargain prices or working at a quick copy place? No. Discount designers are always an option but you do get what you pay for – an order taker.

Business owners would probably pay someone good money who could help them invest in effective projects rather than waste money. So you have to ask yourself, if a designer is charging bargain prices, what’s the likelihood she/he will be an expert versus an order taker?

A business savvy graphic designer is often a contradiction in terms; however, Jeremy is a unique combination of sharp business marketer and creative designer. This one-two punch provides clients with targeted marketing, advertising and design projects that yield outstanding results and a terrific return on their investment; they actually work. Companies looking to feel more confident and credible with their business brand, tired of getting lost in a crowd of competitors and always feeling like they have to compete on price, need to call Jeremy at 480.391.0704.

If you are looking for more free insight and inspiration, you’ll want to get in on the “Can-Do Confidence Builder”. Emailed weekly, the Confidence Builder provides you with essential marketing and design insights that help you get the most out of your investment and help you to stay one step ahead of the competition. Email Jeremy at and asked to be added to our list or visit

By: Jeremy Tuber

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

How to Find A Reliable and Experience Graphic Designer?

If you're looking for a graphic designer that is both reliable and experienced and creates excellent graphics then keep reading this short article which will list a few key points from the above title.

The first thing when looking for a graphic designer is to decide why you are looking for one in the first place whether you need just a custom ebook cover, a header graphic, logo, blog, or even a website template. Once you have decided why you need the graphic designer you then need to search for one on Google or maybe try asking your friends if they have any recommendations for any designers they have used in the past.

When you find a graphic designers web site you then need to study the sales letter, the portfolio if they have one, if not then maybe try asking for them to show you some work and any testimonials they have, also their prices depending on your budget.

If you come across the graphic designer’s web site and you like their style of work, they have good testimonials, price is right then should you order straight away. Possibly! What I would do is search for a few more graphic designers because every graphic designer is different, you might find that you actually like maybe two or three different graphic designers so it’s always best to search out graphic designers for all of the above; portfolio, testimonials, price.

Once you're happy that you have found the right graphic designer and the price is right you then need to follow their instructions on their website to order your graphics some graphic designers make you pay first then they deliver your graphics usually a rough draft within so many hours or days. Other graphic designers create your graphics first and then after you have seen what they have dawned you then pay them, both ways have their advantages.

Also you need to find out if they offer a guarantee or a refund if you're not happy with their work, most designers will work with you until you are completely satisfied, and some even offer a 90 day money back guarantee, there are even some designers that will create your graphics, you then put them to use on your website and if you don't generate any sales within a certain period you can then get them to redo your graphics or you can ask for your money back.

So make sure before you even hire a graphic designer that you do some research.

Sean John is a fantastic graphic designer that’s just hit the market, but don’t let the fact that he’s new put you off. You really should see his work; he offers professionally designed graphics at affordable prices, book covers, header templates, & many more… not only that but Sean also offers great customer service and the fastest delivery of your graphics. You really need to see his work you will be pleasantly surprised. Visit

By: Sean John

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Starting your Career as a Freelance Illustrator or Graphic Designer

Freelancing is definitely one of the most sought after industries in the market today. More and more professionals and skilled people are getting into the bandwagon because the industry offers a lot more opportunity compared to the usual 8-hour job. Aside from giving you enough freedom from all the hectic office schedule, being a freelancer also enables you to manage your own time and choose your own path, so to speak.

Illustrating or graphic designing is one of the industries where freelancing is abundant. Because the job can be arranged in a per project basis, more and more potential clients prefer to hire freelance illustrators or graphic designers because they don’t have to pay the artists just like the regular employees.

Simply defined as "self-employed, sub-contractors who market their design by the job to several buyers," freelance illustrators or graphic designers also serve as the boss, the office manager, the secretary or secretarial pool, a member of the sales staff, the head and the staff of the marketing department, the maintenance staff and the mailman all rolled into one person.

If you are in the field of illustration or graphic designing and you would want to accept freelance jobs or projects, then you should start building, promoting and marketing yourself by now. According to most freelance illustrators and graphic designers who are into the field of freelancing, a freelance artist of graphic designer should be possess a dedicated passion for a demanding job and clients as well.

If you are a full time illustrator or graphic designer and you are planning to go freelance, here is a set of considerations you might want to contemplate on before indulging into an adventurous yet demanding job.

1. Determine and set your goals

Just like in any job, becoming a freelance illustrator or graphic designer will require you to set and determine your goals before finally jumping over a new set up. Since becoming a freelance artist will eat much of your time especially if you are just starting, you need to contemplate if you should drop your day time job and if you can handle meticulous and demanding clients at hand.

Part of determining and setting your goals is asking yourself what you are getting out of the career shift and what made you decide to do this.

2. Assess yourself

Going freelance would mean that you have to have enough experience, discipline, knowledge, and expertise in the field you are in. If you think you have, then you should also assess if you have the drive and ambition to turn your skill into a success.

Also, you have to ask yourself, if you have the willingness and the patience to start anew. It is also very important that you have the talent, drive, and motivation in order to generate more income from your potential clients.

3. Check your business acumen

Knowing different business routes and knowing how to run a business will definitely help you become a successful freelance illustrator or graphics designer.

4. Gauge your capability to decide

Decision-making is a very important aspect in going freelance. If you are really planning to go freelance, then you should have the heart and the mind to decide. Since you will be making a lot of decisions eventually, you should start learning to decide wisely as early as now.

5. Your Overall Attitude

Check your overall attitude towards shifting to a new working environment. Before finally jumping into freelancing, you should ask yourself how to handle stress, possible rejection, and competition.

Article provided by Dot Com Women - Leading Women's Website and Online Community. Visit our Work & Finance channel for more information on Freelancing.

By: Lata Tokhi

Monday, March 12, 2007

Gaming And Graphic Design Computer Monitor Solutions

CRT screens are fast moving towards obsolescence and are now almost the preserve of Graphic designers, gamers and photographic professionals. In effect their large, bulky size has resulted in them being consigned forever to the recycling bin. Even so, their abilities far outstrip even the most modestly priced LCD or flat panel display. Why? Well, the refresh rate, color saturation, even-ness of brightness and ability to multi-sync (have more than one native resolution) means that they can still meet the requirements of high end digital users. Only a LCD displays offer true multisync and these are significantly more expensive than any CRT screen, either new or refurbished. So where do LCD displays beat the traditional CRT? I've already noted than they take up less desk space, but they don't flicker either and the glare is much less. As a result of this, eye strain is reduced significantly.

Liquid crystals were discovered in 1971 and comprise a liquid chemical compound that can be aligned precisely when subjected to an electric field. By placing rows of liquid crystals in between 2 polarizing filters (the same filters used in sun glasses) no light can pass through. Upon applying a charge to the liquid crystals, they are excited which causes them to align with the polarizing filter. If a light is shone through the layers, only those crystals that have been excited will allow the photons to pass through and align then up with the second filter. This is in effect how a monochrome screen was produced (basically black and white or on and off). Backlights, that produce the light source are cold sodium cathode tubes similar to ceiling strip lights.

In a color LCD screen, three liquid crystal cells make up each pixel. Each of those three cells has in front of it either a red, green, or blue filter. Light passing through the filtered cells creates the colors you see on the LCD. Nearly all modern color LCDs use a thin-film transistor (TFT), also known as an active matrix, to activate each cell. The process of manufacturing a TFT is similar to the process used to manufacture a silicon integrated circuit or silicon chip. Extremely thin insulators, conductors and transistors must be laid into a glass substrate, which becomes the lower glass of the LCD. TFT LCDs create sharp, bright images. Previous LCD technologies were slower, less efficient, and provided lower contrast. The oldest of the matrix technologies, passive-matrix, offers sharp text but leaves ghost images on the screen. This is because the electric field was not delivered directly to the liquid crystal because the TFT layer was not present.

Because LCDs address each pixel individually, they can create sharper text than CRTs, which, when badly focused, blur the distinct pixels that make up the screen image. But the high contrast of LCDs can cause problems when you want to display graphics. CRTs soften the edges of graphics as well as text, and while this can make it hard to read text at very small resolutions, it also means CRTs can blend and convey subtleties in photographs better than LCDs. Also, LCDs have only one "native" resolution, limited by the number of pixels physically built into the display. If you buy a modern 15 inch TFT, it's native resolution will be 1024x768. Emulating 800 x 600 on this screen will cause it to produce a picture where everything displayed looks to have fuzzy edges. A further note is that Many people claim that TFTs are crisper, but at close working distances the pixel structure is visible on a TFT. This is not the case on modern CRT screens, where the dot pitch is at or below 0.25mm.

Basically, what we're saying in this article is stick to a CRT screen if you're a gamer, artist or graphic designer. LCD TFT (active matrix) monitors are still the preserve of those looking for a small desktop solution for every day work such as word processing and surfing the web.

Computer monitor for gaming and graphic design From 15 inch to 21 inch screens. We stock 17 inch and 19 inch NF and FD monitors for gaming as well.

By: Blake C. Hendrickson

Friday, March 9, 2007

Graphic Designers

Graphic designers lend color and life to any picture. Graphic designers decide on the most effective way of getting a message across in print, electronic and film media with the help of color, type, photography, animation, illustration and various print and layout techniques. They produce packaging and marketing brochures for products and services, and design logos for products and businesses. They are also into designing material for Internet web pages, interactive media, and multimedia projects.

Graphic designers develop designs according to the needs of the client by gathering relevant information from clients, doing their own research, and reading client briefs provided to them. They then prepare sketches or layouts by hand or with the help of a computer. The color, sound, animation and other visual aspects of the graphic design are selected and incorporated into the graphic design. The completed or final design is presented to the client or creative director for approval. Graphic designers use different types of graphics and layout computer software to assist in their work. This software allows ease and flexibility in exploring design alternatives, thus reducing design costs and saving on time. So the need of an up-to-date computer and communications equipment is important for any graphic designer.

Most entry-level and advanced graphic design positions need a bachelor’s degree, but some entry-level positions may only require an associate degree. Creativity, communication, problem-solving skills and post secondary training in graphic design are often crucial for becoming a graphic designer. A good graphic designer’s portfolio is often the deciding factor in getting a job. Besides being employed in a firm, graphic designers also work as freelance graphic designers during their free time.

Graphic designers employed by large publishing and advertising firms work regular hours in well-lighted and comfortable settings. However, designers in smaller consulting firms, and freelancers, work on a contract basis or project-to-project basis. They adjust their workday to suit their clients’ schedules and deadlines. Graphic designers can transact business in their own offices, studios or in client’s offices. All they need is a computer with the right software.

Graphic Designers provides detailed information on Graphic Designers, Freelance Graphic Designers, Becoming A Graphic Designer, Graphic Designer Portfolios and more. Graphic Designers is affiliated with Graphic Designers.

By: Richard Romando

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Get More Out of Your Graphic Designer and Still Pay Less - Secrets Designers Don't Disclose

I was recently told by a prospect that, “Hiring the right designer was a lot like a looking for a marriage partner than just picking someone out of a crowd at a baseball game.” Okay marriage I thought was a bit much, but clients for the most part invest a fair amount of time picking out the right designer. Have you ever wondered though, are designers doing the same thing in trying to pick out the right client?

In this very same meeting mentioned above, one of the prospects asked, “In addition to us interviewing you, I’ll bet you’re interviewing us, aren’t you?” A smile flashes across my face, and I nod. Designers might not tell you, but they are interviewing you as well, and hoping you’ll be a good client to work with. I’ve talked with designers in “closed door” meetings that clients are never told about, discussing what artists think makes for a good client, here’s what I came up with:

1. Respect for each other’s time

2. Remember it’s a relationship, and that each party needs to coordinate and cooperate

3. Respect for each other’s talents

4. Focused, regular and responsive communication. This keeps the project on task and moving forward.

5. You should expect your designer to bill you fairly and accurately. She/he should provide you sufficient records of their time spent. In turn, clients should pay designers fairly for their time. Keep in mind that a designer’s inventory is her/his time, by devoting time to your project; the designer isn’t able to work on other projects. Getting paid for investing time in a project isn’t a bonus for a designer, it’s a necessity.

6. Paying bills on time. Remember that many younger, more inexperienced artists live job to job. It can be devastating to hear that a client is not able to pay on time for any reason.

7. Enthusiasm is always a bonus. Working with clients that are pleasant and enthusiastic are gold mines. If you’re easy and fun to work with you might not be able to expect freebies and service WELL beyond what you’ve anticipated, but don’t be surprised if you get it.

As a Business Owner, Why Should You Care What a Designer Is Looking for?

I know what you’re thinking, if I am the client/customer, why should I care about what the designer wants? Most designers won’t tell you, but the inside scoop is that designers have been known to give price breaks to ideal clients and easy to work with clients often get designers to go that extra 2, 3 and 4 miles for them. Better prices, faster service, and sometimes service freebies – I kid you not. Ideal clients always seem to get more value out of their investment. Is there something more to this? Is it random chance or is there some underlying reason why some clients seem to get more out of their designer? It’s my theory that it’s not chance.

Case Study: Victorious Creations

Let me introduce you to Bryson and Victoria of Victorious Creations, this couple wanted an exceptional web site for their unique and inspired business. This husband and wife dynamic duo were extremely easy to work with, heck, they were down right fun and enjoyable to be around. Initially we contracted for: 1 face-to-face meeting, 1 limited time and output photo shoot, limited web site multimedia, and marketing consultations, collateral material as well as site promotion were outside the scope of the project.

Designing was a pleasure, and any designer would be happy to work with Bryson and Victoria. They were considerate, enthusiastic, and positive about the entire process. What did that get them? Compare this list of what the clients actually received with the list above: 5 face-to-face meetings, 3 photo shoots totally over 4 hours, an extensive multimedia web site, several hours of marketing consultations and free insight, free full color business cards printed and designed, and yes – a write up in this article. Does it pay to be an ideal client? Victorious Creations would probably say, “Yes, it does!”

Bottom Line for Sharp Business Owners:

If you’re an ideal client can you expect to receive the same perks as the Victorious Creations case study? I don’t know. What I can tell you is that from the designers I’ve known and talked to over the years, there are clear benefits to being an enjoyable, ideal client. You might not be able to expect extras and special perks if you’re an ideal client, but don’t be surprised when you receive them consistently.

A business savvy graphic designer is often a contradiction in terms; however, Jeremy is a unique combination of sharp business marketer and creative designer. This one-two punch provides clients with targeted marketing, advertising and design projects that yield outstanding results and a terrific return on their investment; they actually work. Companies looking to feel more confident and credible with their business brand, tired of getting lost in a crowd of competitors and always feeling like they have to compete on price, need to call Jeremy at 480.391.0704.

If you are looking for more free insight and inspiration, you’ll want to get in on the “Can-Do Confidence Builder”. Emailed weekly, the Confidence Builder provides you with essential marketing and design insights that help you get the most out of your investment and help you to stay one step ahead of the competition. Email Jeremy at and asked to be added to our list or visit

By: Jeremy Tuber

Monday, March 5, 2007

Competitor Analysis - A Graphic Design Perspective

You probably already know all about SWOT analysis. You might even have your oppositions target demographics, market share and sales figures on hand. But have you ever applied the same type of stringent methodology to analysing your competitors’ visual presence in the marketplace? A graphic design audit is a fantastic and relatively easy way to get a clear picture of how your competitors are perceived, what key messages they are communicating and how you look when placed alongside them. It’s also a valuable exercise that informs you about the type of communication your customers are receiving on a regular basis from your key competitors.

So how do you do it?

The first step to a graphic design audit is to compile every piece of sales and marketing collateral you can find from the competition. This includes trawling through their website and taking screen grabs of key pages, subscribing to their mailing lists, getting your hands on their brochures, purchasing their products so you can have a look at packaging etc. etc.

According to Peter L. Phillips author of "Creating the Perfect Design Brief – How to Manage Design for Strategic Advantage", one of the best, least expensive and fastest methods is to attend all industry trade shows. There is nothing illegal, unprofessional or immoral about this practice. Business is merely a game we are playing to win after all!

Mr Phillips also suggests using your sales force members to find out what the competition are up to. As they come into direct contact with customers every day, they can often pick up competitive literature from the customer. They only need to know what you need and of course why you need it.

So once you have compiled the information, what do you do with it?

The best way to start is by putting your competitors’ information up on the wall and analysing them one by one. Invite as many people as possible from your sales, marketing and business teams to give their individual opinion on what design elements are working very well for the competition, and what weaknesses they can see. By starting your analysis on your competitors first, you will build up a bit of objectivity so you can then turn the same harsh critique onto yourself.

Look for ways the design and language make a document unique. Do they have a friendly look and feel that reflects more personalized service? Do they look more professional than you? Why? Is it because the page is less cluttered, the colours are more toned down or some other reason? Is their website easier to navigate than your own? What do you think their reasons behind these choices were? Is there anything you can learn from them? Most importantly, how are these competitors using design for competitive advantage?

Now for the hard part - using the same analysis on yourself. Reassure your staff that this is not an exercise where they need to defend their work, it is merely a way of gaining useful information that could give you a competitive advantage that improves your bottom line. This aspect of the audit sometimes proves a bit tricky so you might need an independent opinion from a graphic design firm that understands the process to help you out.

It is amazing how much strategic information this process can generate. It will give you new ideas and a fresh perspective that can influence the entire way you approach your marketing for the year. And considering a lot of businesses think of graphic design as an annoying inconvenience, if you are the first to use this more strategic approach you will find it is another tool to help you stay one step ahead of the competition.

Ruth Clare is a professional copywriter with a passion for putting the customer first. She runs a graphic design business, Mono Design, with her husband in Melbourne, Australia

Friday, March 2, 2007

How To Brief A Graphic Designer So Your Project Stays On Budget

Most people understand that if they decide to change the location of a bathroom halfway through construction of a house it is going to cost them extra money. That’s why they spend so long making sure the plans are right before they begin.

But it is amazing the number of people who don’t apply this same logic to business. Say, for instance, when they use a graphic design firm. A lot of people begin working with a designer with only a vague brief, then make important decisions on the fly, or even change their minds halfway through.

When you consider that graphic design fees are usually based on the number of hours and concepts required, it's hardly surprising that this slapdash approach can end up blowing your budget by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

A stitch in time saves nine:

The following checklist can be used as a guide in preparing a brief for a graphic design project. By briefing the designer correctly you will have clarified your own thinking about the project and will in return receive an accurate estimate of costs. All suggested topics in the briefing checklist are considered relevant, although not all will be necessary depending on the type of project.

Graphic Design briefing Checklist


1. Who is the target audience?

2. What do you want people to do / feel when they receive the item? (This gives the graphic designer an idea of the overall tone you want.)

3. What key message do you want this project to deliver? e.g. “my company is friendly and funky”

4. Do you have printed samples that give the kind of impression you are after? (This is not for the graphic designer to copy, but a way to clarify language i.e. when you say the word “funky” it will conjure up a different image in your mind than it will in the designer’s mind.)

5. How does this product / service benefit the customer? (what’s in it for me?)

6. Have you done similar things in the past? Have they succeeded or failed? Why do you think that is?

7. How will you measure the success of the project?


1. What exactly are you getting designed right now? e.g. number of pages, format etc.

2. What information needs to be included in this project? (words/ logos/ images/ photographs etc) Are these things ready to go?

3. Is this item to fit within an existing style? If so, do you have samples of the existing style?

4. Do you need a new style created? If so, what other applications will the style apply to?

5. Are there any other branding requirements the graphic designer needs to consider? (colour schemes, logo usage, typefaces, paper stock etc.)

6. What are the deadlines on this project?

7. Do you need the graphic designer to co-ordinate production of artwork (illustration/ photography) or copywriting. If yes, give details.

8. How will your target market receive the designed item? e.g. in the post, from a brochure stand, via the web

9. What are the print requirements? (Number of copies, colours, size)

10. Do you need the graphic designer to co-ordinate pre-press and printing?

11. How much project management (meetings / updates etc) will the job involve?

12. Who will the designer be dealing with on a day-to-day basis?

13. How many people will be involved in final approval of the project? (These people need to be involved from the very beginning if possible so they don’t put their two bob’s worth in when the project is nearly completed.)

14. What is the budget?

If you brief your designer correctly from the beginning you will get the results you want with less hassle and at a lower cost to you.

Ruth Clare is a professional copywriter with a passion for putting the customer first. She runs a graphic design business, Mono Design, with her husband in Melbourne, Australia

By Ruth Clare

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Getting the Most from Your Graphic Designer

A well-designed document is an effective document. It gets your message across to your intended audience—whether your aim is to give information, sell a widget, or help someone grasp a concept.

I have graphic design software on my computer, and I think I have a pretty good eye. Why do I need a graphic designer? Strictly speaking, you don’t—any more than you need a hairstylist, a mechanic, or a lawyer. You could cut your own hair, fix your own car, and represent yourself in court. Most of us, though, recognize that we can’t be experts at everything, and that an amateur job will generally look…well, amateur. The music is not in the violin—and great designs aren’t guaranteed by even the most sophisticated software. Even if you have an innately good design sense, getting up to speed on everything a graphic designer needs to know takes time and effort that might be better spent on whatever it is that you do best.

Isn’t it expensive?

The total cost of a project will depend on a number of factors:

• what you want—just as it costs more to paint your whole house than to paint just the bathroom, you can expect to pay more for a book design than for a straightforward business card design

• how quickly you want it—rush charges may apply if you decide your handouts need a new look the night before the big meeting

• how well prepared you are—more on that in a moment.

Designers make it their business to know how to grab a reader’s attention, and help that reader absorb and even remember the message. So consider this: maybe you can’t afford not to have your documents professionally designed.

Aha—so it will cost me an arm and a leg!

Not necessarily. Here are several ways to save money, time, and/or sanity:

• Involve a graphic designer as early as possible in any project—even before any copy is written. The designer will often be able to suggest ways to save on printing and other costs.

• Start with a small job—say, a one-page handout rather than your whole participants’ manual. Then gradually revamp the rest of your materials as your budget allows.

• Understand that once you “sign off on” (approve) a mocked-up design and give the go-ahead for layout to begin, any further changes to the design or to the copy itself will increase the project’s costs—sometimes substantially. Even small alterations can cause ripple effects that are very time-consuming to fix. And you will be charged for that time—just as your house painter would charge to repaint a room if you decided you detested the chartreuse you originally chose and would really rather the walls were a nice shade of taupe.

So be certain that everyone who might want input into the design or wording—the conference committee, your assistant, your significant other, your cat—has seen and approved it before you sign off.

• For the same reasons, be sure you give the designer the final version of the disk file—and that it matches the hard copy you provide.

Time to act

So now, in the time you have read about how and why to get the most, make the first move by contacting a graphic designer NOW.

© 2006 BG Communications

Brian Grebow is an award-winning graphic and page designer for BG Communications, Toronto, Ontario. Canada. He can be contacted at (416) 466-2054 or toll free at 1-888-563-3324 or via He will soon be helping you save time and money and put you on the road to better communications.

By Brian Grebow