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7 ways to make your life easier when dealing with designers

One minute you’re clip-clopping around a farm in Birtwick Park, happy as a horse, the next you’re being sold to Seedy Sam or the knacker man.

Black Beauty wanted an easier life, and you’re no different (especially if you’re a horse with bad knees). And when it comes to working with designers and marketing agencies, there are lots of opportunities for things to get confused, lost in translation, or feel a bit harder than they ought to be.

But before you end up going blind from the poor lighting conditions in Steven the corn dealer’s stable, take a look at these seven tips that will save you time when working day to day on your marketing efforts.

1. Keep a bank of high-resolution logo files handy

Whether we worked on your branding, or somebody else did; they would have supplied you with the necessary master files for your logo.

These big boys are the files your designer will need. Not:

  • The resized one you made for Twitter
  • The one that is embedded in a Word document (more on that in a second!)
  • The one with the little Santa hat that gets wheeled out to jingle some bells

The original source files please and thank you.

2. Don’t embed images into Microsoft Word

If you have a suite of photography (whether that be staff shots or general imagery to use with your brand) it is always better to attach them to an email and send the original, full-sized images. We want .png and .jpg files for images, not .docx or anything else that isn’t an image file.

The reason for this is quite simple. If you squeeze a horse-sized thing into a teeny tiny Word document that starts boiling everything down for glue to make everything all neat and compressed, you ain’t gonna end up with the same horse when you open it back up.

Sorry.

3. Understand what vector files are

Your logo typically starts life as an Adobe Illustrator vector file. This means that the shapes and letters are mathematical formulas that establish points on a grid, rather than being lots of individual pixels (these are called raster files). A vector file can be scaled infinitely, meaning it will always be as sharp as Farmer Grey’s hoof knife, and won’t be pixelated or blurry.

Vector files will have the following file extensions (and unless you have certain software, you likely won’t be able to open them):

  • .eps
  • .ai
  • .svg

Raster files will have the following file extensions:

  • .jpg
  • .png
  • .tiff
  • .gif

4. Be at least vaguely aware of file sizes and what they mean

Keyword here: vaguely.

You don’t need to know everything, but having a rough idea of the basics will save you time when supplying your designer with branding assets and information.

It isn’t always obvious whether an image will be high enough resolution. But as a very rough rule of hoof:

  • An image that displays well on your website will be around 200 kilobytes
  • The same image when printed at A4 size will be 10 megabytes (4900% larger)

And if you need to send these high-resolution images over to a designer, file transfer services like WeTransfer and Dropbox are your friend.

5. Communicate!

Design can be an abstract concept to talk about, and everybody will have different ways to describe the same things.

a) “Make it pop”

b) “We need something modern and traditional”

c) “I’ll know what I want when I see it”

d) “The colour is perfect, but can you change it?”

Taking what is in your head and briefing a designer can be a frustrating process for a client. Why can’t they see things the way you can? Avoiding vague descriptions can help, and thinking beyond words will give you deeper ways to make your point.

Let’s take the above statements and reword them so that they are more effective:

a) “The call to action isn’t as strong as it could be in my opinion. Could we differentiate it from the body copy and increase the contrast?”

b) “We’re a company with a rich heritage and many years’ experience, but we embrace technology and adapt with the times – can we show our history while not appearing old-fashioned?”

c) “I’m finding it hard to describe, but I’ve found a few visual examples that closely match the style I want to achieve.”

d) “I’m a fan of the colour but may need to be persuaded we’ve made the right choice with a few mock-ups or examples.”

If in doubt, boil something down to its core elements to describe why you do or don’t think it works.

Do you like the fonts? Why? What part of the design is the weakest, and what is the strongest? Is it the design you have an issue with or the content? Is there too much info? Not enough?

Details, details, details.

If you can’t describe your opinion in words, find visual examples of things that you do like (it doesn’t have to be in the financial services sector). Any steps you take to avoid saying “I don’t like it but can’t put my finger on why” will ultimately save you time and will avoid you paying for unnecessary revisions that could have been solved with a few more words earlier on.

6. Engage with every step, not just the final outcome

If you’re working alongside a designer for a brand development project, it will help to know enough to be slightly dangerous.

You don’t need to know everything; after all, that’s why you’re seeking expert help. But you will be asked a whole bunch of questions about things in the discovery and development stage, which will dictate the final outcome.

The amount of engagement and focus you give these things will impact the effectiveness of the visual identity that gets created and will shape your overall experience of the process.

There are plenty of resources you can use to get a crash course in the various elements of a branding project; here are a few that I’ve written about in the past:

3 routes to take when naming your business

Building your colour palette: a murder mystery

7 reasons you should give a font about typography

10 things to consider when rustling up a brand

5 things to yell at the mirror when defining your core values

Having a loose grasp of the kind of decisions you’ll be making will mean that you squeeze more out of your time with a designer, and will result in a higher quality of work.

And don’t mistake this as an attempt to shift the responsibility entirely on to you; after all, you’ve sought out professionals to do a skilled job. But there is no exception to the rule that an engaged client is a happy client.

7. Ensure feedback is constructive

There are plenty of occasions where being critical is useful. A good one being when Joe Greene doesn’t give you a blanket after a long gallop, causing you to be struck down with inflamed lungs.

But for the most part, giving constructive feedback will get you to where you need to be much quicker.

If a piece of work isn’t to your taste, or there are things that you’d like amending – that is absolutely fine. But you and your designer are a team now; and by helping them understand what in particular is wrong, you’re keeping the quality of work high, and the costs of unnecessary amends low.

Construct feedback like you’re making a balloon animal. You need to be gentle and guide things where they need to be, but the minute you start getting all grabby, the whole thing goes all weird and bendy and pops.

“I don’t like it, but I’ll know when I see it” isn’t helpful to anybody. Give your designer a blanket after a long gallop and nobody’s lungs are gonna get inflamed.

Of course, wires get crossed now and again, and briefs can get misinterpreted, but be positive; your designer has your best interests in mind. They want to create great work that makes you happy.

Help us help you

Now that your horseshoes won’t come flying off and you won’t scrape your little horsey knees on the cobbles of Earlshall Park, you’re ready to start working productively with a designer.

Which is where we come in; get in touch with us at [email protected] or call 0115 8965 300 if you’d like to find out more.

And of course, any sugar cubes you send into the office will be gratefully and ungracefully gobbled down.

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