The ABCs of Working with a Graphic Designer (for the first time) / (blog post)


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Challenge: How do you quickly educate non-graphic designers on the basics of working with a graphic designer for the first time?
Solution: Interview a world-class graphic designer on what clients should expect when working with graphic designers. This is one of my most popular Content Marketing Institute blog posts.

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The ABCs of Working with a Graphic Designer (for the first time) / (blog post)

  1. 1. AboutLATEST ARTICLES RESEARCH FREE WEBINARS WHITE PAPERS/EBOOKS CONTENT JOBS By THOMAS CLIFFORD published JULY 13, 2011 The ABCs of Working with a Graphic Designer (for the First Time) Like 53 0 Tweet 0 If you’ve never worked with a graphic designer before, you might Share 39 wonder where to start. Let’s say you’re repurposing your existing articles into an e-book. And let’s also say you’re thinking of having a custom graphic design. Some obvious questions pop up: Will a graphic designer guide you through the unfamiliar world of design? At what point in the content development process should you talk to the designer?
  2. 2. How can you tell if you and your designer are a good match before you work together?To answer these questions andmore, I sat down with graphicdesigner Eduardo Barrios of BarriosAdvertising.Our conversation explored severalareas that will increase yourawareness about how to work with agraphic designer for the first time. Join me in this enlighteningconversation.Create a framework for us, Eduardo: What is the first thingwriters and content marketers need to know aboutgraphic designers?Well, first of all, we’re both creative partners. There’s not really aseparation—we just do different things. In other words, whenyou’re communicating with content, you have a huge palette fromwhich to draw, but it’s the copywriter’s main objective to be asefficient as possible with the language to get the idea across. Well,it’s the same thing with a graphic designer.A graphic designer would want to know from their copy partner: What is the main objective that you’re trying to get across? What is the main point of the article or the content piece, and how do you—the copywriter—envision the kinds of graphics you’d like to see?So it’s a working relationship. It’s about starting out with concepts,and then it’s a matter of getting to a point where thecommunication is delivered efficiently and effectively.
  3. 3. When does the emotional “feel” or “flavor” of the contentcome into play?First, look at the message. What kind of flavor does it have? Does ithave a humorous touch to it? Is it more introspective and serious?There are those kinds of sub-levels of concept and execution thatyou can discuss with a designer. You could even get down into thenitty-gritty of color and typography because each color has its ownmood. And the typography—there’s so many different fonts outthere. A designer will help you limit your universe because thereare some classic font faces and some font faces now that can beused on digital format that are easier to read. So there are somepracticalities in this also.When is the best time to talk to a graphic designer?Well, if you have your content firmed up or you’ve been working ona committee, it’s not likely you’re going to change the concepts.There are certain mandates you’re working with, so it’s best to waitto bring in a designer until those decisions are settled and youhave a clear direction. If you think that the designer may solve theinternal problem by guessing what you want, that probably won’twork too well.However, if you have a clear direction—your team is in agreementon what the copy or content should say and do—then it’s probablythe right time to bring in a designer. Start by summarizing whatyour content is about and laying down your expectations. A largepart of what the designer will want to know is who the audience is.That will inform the type of design that the designer presents toyou, and there could be a couple of different options that thedesigner might explore depending on what tone you discuss.But if you’re a sole proprietor or writer, you may want to bringthem in for a brainstorming session prior to creating the content ifyou’re having trouble getting your fix on what you should be
  4. 4. talking about.What are two common myths many people have aboutgraphic designers?1) A big myth is that graphic designers don’t read; they just designpretty pictures, which is not the case. Graphic designers are veryinterested in content. It’s not just pretty pictures or fine art for itsown sake. This is commercial art, and so it’s about selling ideasand making money.2) The second myth is that graphic designers are not interested inbusiness. In other words, graphic design is not about winningawards—it’s about helping you sell your product. So designerswant to know about your product, your content, and what you’reselling. They’ll probably ask questions about what other contentyou have published, what your brand is, and what your readers arelooking for. The answers will enable graphic designers to produceeffective, branded, and relevant designs for you.What if someone doesn’t have a clue what the designshould look like?Trust your designer. Hang out with him and just say, “I don’t knowanything about color.” The good graphic designers will stay withyou and help educate you.For example, there’s a great color resource— ThePantone system is a color-matching system used worldwide. Youcan go on this website and find all kinds of interesting informationabout color and the science of color. I’ll often direct my clients tothe Pantone color website and invite them to ask questions. But Iwill generally teach them about the warmth of a color, thecoolness of a color, and how that translates into communicationfor their readers, and how it connects with the concept that they’retrying to get across to readers. It’s the same for typography or even
  5. 5. design principles, for that matter.Sometimes, I’ll just get out a pad of paper and my trusty numbertwo pencil and will just sketch and say, “See, here’s a compositionthat’s balanced, and here’s one that isn’t.”And then there are things like white space. Generally, I thinkpeople are tempted to say and show more than is necessary. Whathappens is the message becomes muddy and difficult tocomprehend; there’s so much to take in at one time. So we justeducate in a gentle way about what can be done and whatshouldn’t be done for a design to be efficient and clear.How can someone start learning the basics of design ontheir own?If you don’t know what the design should look like, start byobserving the things you see around you that you like. You couldfind inspiration to show a designer; but, just like copywriters,designers won’t plagiarize.And inspiration comes in all forms. You could find something onthe Internet, you could read a book or see a book jacket cover, aprinted piece, go to Barnes and Noble, or you could be at abaseball game, and the way a little kid swings the bat creates animage in your mind. Just write it down and be aware thatinspiration is everywhere.You can bring these ideas to your designer who will immediatelyunderstand what you’re sayingand showing. He’ll see patterns andunderstand the tone you’re trying to set. You also want to discussdesigns you don’t like; sometimes it’s helpful to discuss this first.Why would someone spend money on a custom-designede-book cover, for instance, when there are so manyinexpensive ways to create a cover?
  6. 6. It’s a great question. Your content isn’t generic, and it would be adisservice to your project to get something free online instead ofreally customizing your graphic design to match your content. Youwant it to be packaged in a unique and customized way.At the end of the day, you’ll feel good about knowing that thegraphic design is completely yours. You won’t be seeing the designused by some other content provider who downloaded a stockdesign from the Internet.Let’s say a project is already finished. Is it too late to workwith a graphic designer?It’s never too late to call in a designer, but here’s my caution. Somepeople will wrap up their writing and have strong feelings aboutwhat they want for design, but they may not communicate thatspecifically or explicitly. So a designer may go off developing ideasthat don’t track with your vision, which will create undue stressand misunderstanding. Designers are good, but they are not mindreaders.So if you’ve written something and you have a very clear vision ofwhat you want, let the designer know that this is what you wouldlike. If you don’t know, express that too. After all, too much designdevelopment time may yield design charges that neither you northe designer expected. Be very clear about how you initiate theproject with a designer.Thank you, Eduardo, for sharing your time and insightsabout the world of graphic design. Your insights willdefinitely help people who have never worked with agraphic designer before.Summary Graphic designers are creative partners in your
  7. 7. communications process. If you don’t know much about design, your designer will help educate you about your choices. Content is just as important as design. Graphic designers understand business; they want to help you sell your product or service. Customizing the graphic design to match your content ensures your brand will be unique and stand out.Over to YouWhat other tips can you share with those who have never workedwith a graphic designer?What questions do you have about working with graphic designersfor the first time? (Hopefully our readers can pitch in with theiranswers!) 7 NEW Things to Do After You’ve Written a New Blog Post 3 Content Marketing Strategies to Get Serious About for 2013 10 Must-Have Templates for Content Marketers 4 Reasons Why Content Marketing is Scaring the Pants Off Media Companies Recommended by Like 53 0 Tweet 0 Share 39 Author: Thomas Clifford Thomas Clifford is a B2B content marketing writer and certified copywriter. He helps companies Follow generate and nurture high quality leads through eNewsletters, blog articles and free special download reports. Tom has 25 years under his belt as an award-winning B2B filmmaker. Hes
  8. 8. produced hundreds of marketing-branding films and brings his street-level interviewing experience to every project. Tom is featured in the book “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business." He has also written dozens of articles as an “Expert Blogger” for You can follow Tom on Twitter at @ThomasClifford. His blog, "Humanizing Business Communications," is packed with new media business communication tips and writing strategies. His eBook "5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways to Write Faster, Better, Easier" is free to new subscribers. Other posts by Thomas Clifford Enter your email address... SEND ME UPDATES26 comments ★ 5 Leave a message... Discussion Share # disputblog • 2 years ago Hi, guys, a great interview and I second thats been said here. I have built a strong and close relationship with graphic designers Ive been working with and it has paid out in terms of great finished products, such as invitations, custom