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Working with a graphic designer

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Lynn Hendrickson

Lynn Hendrickson

Lynn Hendrickson

Working with an in-house or freelance designer can either be a joy or a frustrating experience for all. By understanding the designer’s perspective, and studying some simple terminology, your organization can save valuable time and money.

Too much text. You can’t fit your life story on a postage stamp. Keep your message simple and to the point. Less is more. If you want to provide more information, redirect your audience to your website or phone number by using a call-to-action.

Say what? Everyone has an opinion, and input is important when making a group decision. However, your thoughts need to be organized and decisions should be made before the files are sent to the designer. Multiple edits to text or images waste time and money and delay production times.

Yesterday would be nice. Think through the process completely and anticipate. To avoid last-minute edits and expensive overnight shipping charges, start pre-planning for events months in advance. If you have a quarterly newsletter, post reminders on the calendar or create a timeline for submissions and due dates.

Terminology 101. RGB refers to Red Green Blue used in web or electronic-based applications. CMYK refers to Cyan Magenta Yellow Black that is used in all printed material. This is also referred to as four-color printing.

To bleed or not to bleed? Put away the first-aid kid, no one is injured. A bleed or full-bleed are printing terms that describe an image or color that runs or bleeds off the edge of the page. A good example is a magazine cover. If a printed piece does not have a bleed, the image or color will end slightly before the edge of the page. Full bleed may slightly increase the cost of printing but can have a huge impact.

Picture this. A picture isn’t worth a thousand words. Low-resolution (or RGB) images are great for web and electronic applications, but won’t work for printed pieces. You can’t take a picture from you cell phone’s camera to use for your company’s newsletter or to create a poster. The result would be similar to taking “Silly Putty” to the Sunday comic strips and stretching it in four different directions.

Looks easy enough. Most computers have some type of page layout or design program. Just because your software has a template for a newsletter doesn’t mean it’s going to work. Check with your printer or service provider to see what files they accept. Some software programs were only designed to be printed from your desktop computer.

Since some organizations don’t have the resources or available staff, I would suggest hiring a professional graphic designer to create a template for your company. Custom-designed templates are perfect for an organization that can’t afford a graphic department. Templates provide a consistent look for an organization’s materials and allows for some “do-it-yourself” design when needed.

Everything but the kitchen sink. As with too much text, too many images can be distracting and disrupt the message your organization is trying to convey. Keep it simple.

Surprise me. This is a mixed blessing. Giving a designer complete creative freedom can be exciting and a lot of fun. However, it is better to share your ideas and thoughts with the designer before starting a project in order to avoid wasted time or unwanted surprises.

Is anybody there? It is important to design for your audience. Color, images and text all play a vital role in getting attention and getting messages across. But know who your audience is makes it easier to create effective marketing materials. It is worth contacting a consultant or agency that specializes in helping nonprofit organizations identify target audiences and create messages. A “cool” looking brochure is only that if it is not directed at the right audience with the right message.


Lynn Hendrickson is creative services director at Shoestring Creative Group. She can be reached at creative@shoestring.com or 888.835.6236.

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