To get the best result from a graphic design project – whether it’s an annual report, website, newsletter, company profile or set of business cards – both graphic designers and their clients will have their own expectations. A client will have specific aims on what it wants to achieve. A graphic designer expects to receive a clear client brief and the right tools to work with. Here are six tips to meeting these shared expectations:
1- Stick to brand guidelines
Many clients will have a set of brand guidelines which define fonts, brand colours, or how the logo should be sized and used. A graphic designer should ask his/her client if they have any specific guidelines they would like you to work to.
2- Make sure expectations are clear
Clients should be clear is expressing the outcomes they want to achieve. Graphic designers should make their own expectations clear about the tools or information they will need, in what format they will deliver the final design, how many drafts they have factored into the cost, their payment terms and other conditions.
3- Produce a sample design
It may be that the client has specific design ideas in mind, or is looking to their graphic designer to produce his/her own ideas – or a combination of both. Whichever the case, the graphic designer should provide a design concept to discuss and finalise before proceeding with the full project. The design concept will be an overall look-and-feel style guide, showing where and how images, infographics, box-outs and other design elements will be placed.
At the same time, the client should be clear on their requirements. Do they prefer a mainly text or design-driven layout for example? If they don’t have a set of brand guidelines, are there any particular colours or fonts they prefer and are there others they would like to avoid?
Producing a sample design takes time however, so clients should understand that a graphic designer will only provide the concept once costs have been agreed and any advance payments settled. Before selecting a graphic designer, a client can get familiar with his/her skills and style(s) by asking for a portfolio of previous work. As a rule of thumb, a 50% advance payment is standard.
4- Set the rules for images
It is important to establish a proposal stage who will provide images, as this may affect both cost and time. If it is down to the client, the graphic designer should advise on the resolution quality needed. This will depend on the print or digital application. Print generally needs higher resolution quality, whereas smaller file sizes are often better for digital.
If image provision is down to the graphic designer, does the client need bespoke photography or will stock images suffice? It is also important to be clear on the agreed look-and-feel image style.
5- Work with the copywriter
For any copywriting elements, the graphic designer will ideally liaise with the copywriter to decide how key facts or figures can be shown as box-outs, pull quotes or infographics for example. A good copywriter will be able to generate ideas in this respect.
This next point is important. The client should fully review and sign off all copywriting elements before they are laid out in the design. Otherwise, the graphic designer will likely need to duplicate his/her work should the client then ask for more copy revisions.
6- Keep it simple and consistent
As a general rule, the best designs are uncluttered. They are designed to draw the reader’s attention through simplicity, clarity – and above all functionality. The finished product should, first and foremost, convey information in the clearest and most accessible way.
Limit the number of fonts (a single font is often good). Stick to two or three colours maximum. Ensure there is plenty of ‘white’ space to let the page breath. Clear design will engage the reader. Crammed, the confusing design will do the opposite.
Simple also means consistent. This is both in fonts and colours across one designed document, and on further graphic design projects for the same client. Both designers and clients should keep a sharp eye out for symmetry in margins, between headings and body text, or spacings around images and logos. There is nothing more off-putting to the reader than careless inconsistencies.