If you were an engineer designing a bridge, or a contractor building a custom home you would likely consider the end use before you started making decisions about materials, finishes, and deadlines. You would consider factors like the who, what, and how for your project before finalizing any plans or decisions, and the same care should be taken with any graphic design project you undertake.
Before starting a graphic design project, you should have a clear vision in mind of how it’s going to be used, who your project will serve, how it will be delivered to your audience, and what you expect them to do with it once they get it!
So, where should you start? At the end of course! Before you jump head-first into design ideas and proofing, you might want to consider these points:
- Who is your audience?
- How you are reaching them (social media, a blog, a website, a video, via the mail, at a presentation or conference? Etc)
- What is your message?
- What is your call to action? What do you want them to do after they see your designs?
GRAPHIC DESIGN FOR DIGITAL
The number of ways to deliver digital messages seems to be growing every day, so, if you are working with a designer (or are flexing your own graphic design muscles) here are some things to consider for designs that will be delivered digitally (Download our Digital Design Checklist):
- Check your copyrights and licensing, never use images or graphics without permission
- Check your image size and optimize for web use
- Invest in good photography that aligns with your brand aesthetic
- Use contrasting colors, especially if you are overlaying text to make things crisp and legible
- Refrain from using too much text in digital. Keep things clean and concise and don’t make the fonts too small (see more on this in formatting)
- Use san serif for short messages and digital designs and use serif fonts for long-form print things like books, brochures, etc.
- Give prominence to the most important elements and make the information and design easy to follow. The reader should be able to see a clear hierarchy of information in your design.
- Optimize the sizing of your designs per platform this is my favorite social media image size cheat sheet.
- For social ads and boosted, make sure to review any guidelines, per platform
- Preview designs on a variety of devices to make sure fonts are legible and the design translates well across devices
- If are designing an e-book or digital guide, consider that it might be printed. If you design for that ahead of time you can help ensure that the user has a great experience, whether they view your piece in print OR digital format!
GRAPHIC DESIGN FOR PRINT
Designing for print can be a little more involved. Here are some of my top things to consider as you begin any project (Download our Print Design Checklist)
- Again, check your copyrights and licensing. Some licensing options are restricted based on the number of print runs, so make sure that you will not be printing more copies than is allowed per your image licensing.
- For any print piece, you want to use high resolution images (300 dpi) at the actual print size. This ensures your images are crisp and clean in the final print.
- Investing in good photography is also key here. A professional photographer will shoot images and deliver high resolution, print quality images.
- Know your print specs
Before starting your design, talk with the printer you are using to make sure you design to their specifications and if they have templates for specific items that you get those ahead of time. Nothing is more painful than having to reformat your entire project just before it goes to print because your templates were off!
- Don’t forget your bleeds!
If you are designing something that prints all the way off the edge of your pages, make sure to design your item with a bleed, the standard for most printers is 1/8”, so you would carry your design elements 1/8” over the edge of the page.
- Designing a booklet? Double check your page quantity
If you’re designing multi-page booklets, most printers will ask you to design in signatures (aka page sets of 4) so a booklet would be 4, 8, 12, 16 pages and so on.
- Mind your fonts.
While it’s easy to get distracted by the beauty of white space, it’s not recommended to use fonts smaller than about 8pt. if you can help it!
Also, specifically for print, it’s not recommended to over exaggerate line and letter spacing (leading and kerning) as this can impact the readability of your piece.
- Avoid large solid blocks of color
Some print processes have issues maintaining consistency across solid color areas like a completely black background and you might see streaks or splotches on your pages, likely NOT the look you were going for.
- If coloring is important to you, consider investing in printed proofs from your printer to ensure that items look and feel the way you want them to prior to your final run of your project. This might be an additional cost up-front, but it’s better than needing a full reprint later.
- Even if you don’t want to get a hard-copy proof from a printer, at least print a version of your project at home so you can get a better feel of how things are spaced off screen.
- Remember, that all monitors and printers are different so something might look one way on screen and a different way when you print it, and different again when your printer prints it.
ADDED COSTS TO CONSIDER
There are a variety of factors that can add to the final cost of a printed piece including:
- Pre-press costs
many printers charge a fee to setup files to be “print-ready” for print on their larger presses
- Paper Options
Upgraded thick stocks and varnishes (adding a texture or sheen to the paper after printing) can add to the cost, make sure to define these parameters upfront if your budget is tight
- Finishing Requirements
Finishing includes a variety of added services like trimming your pieces down, folding, binding, die-cutting, sorting, and more. These items require extra time and can add up quickly if your custom project becomes overly involved.
If you’re planning to deliver your final piece by mail, make sure to design a piece that fits in a standard envelope and consider the postage cost based on the weight and size. For example, did you know it costs more to mail items that are square?
Whether you are working with a designer to complete your projects or you keeping the design aspect in-house, it’s important to talk through the project from concept to final delivery to ensure that you design for the best possible end-use experience for your audience.
Defining clear and specific project needs and parameters upfront will allow you to establish and stick to a budget with less surprises throughout the process.
Have a design project that you need help driving to the finish line? We’d love to chat with you, help you pin down the specifics and get your project in front of your audience. Contact us today and let’s get started!