The Number 1 Thing Designers Hate

Welcome back! We’ve covered a lot in this series, and we’re almost finished! We’ve come a long way together, and now it’s time to reveal the number 1 thing designers hate. Drumroll please…

1) You say, “Give me something….Different/Unique/Special!”

Image courtesy of www.warcom.com.au
Image courtesy of http://www.warcom.com.au

“I want it to be different, but I’m not sure how.”

“I love what you’re doing, but could it be more…artsy?”

“I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it when I see it.”

Here you have it: a designer’s worst nightmare. It can be difficult to satisfy a client who speaks in vague concepts, but has little idea about what kind of visual they’re looking for. A request like, “give me something unique,” can be fun for a designer, because it gives a lot of opportunity for creativity! But it can be frustrating, too, because it puts a lot of pressure on a designer to guess what you will love.

Buzzwords that evoke feelings like “family,” “futuristic,” and “fun,” are common in marketing, but they’re also not very specific. Graphic designers are more visually oriented, and they’re looking for more visual descriptions like “use shades of blue,” or “line drawing,” or “photographs of puppies.”

Here you go! This is a photo of a puppy with shades of blue and line drawing! What could be better?
Here you go! This is a photo of a puppy with shades of blue and line drawing! What could be better?

Often clients do have something in mind—they just don’t know how to describe it. That’s when they may default to vague descriptors (like “unique”) and then be disappointed with what we come up with. If you know what you want but have a difficult time describing it, it’s great to bring examples of what you like to share with your designer (but try to avoid #9). Just be ready to say what you like and don’t like about each example.

For instance, a client for a new website might send a list of links to the designer and say, “I like the layout in this one, but I want less text,” and “I like the color scheme here, but mine should be brighter and the pages on this site are too cluttered.” From that, a designer can start to glean the aesthetic you’re looking for, and what kinds of things won’t work for you.

If you really have no idea what you want, that’s ok, too! Trust your designer to create something unique for you—they’ll be thrilled to do it. Then you can tweak it together, until you have exactly the right design for your company!

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Top 10 Things Designers Hate Number 2, or: The Great File Caper

We hope you’re as excited as we are to be getting to the top 2 on this list! We’ve covered rate cards, too much text, and all kinds of great stuff about fonts. We’re now approaching the two most difficult problems that designers encounter with clients—but never fear! We’ve got the scoop on how to avoid these snafus and keep your process running smoothly. The number 2 thing designers hate is when a client says…

2) “My last designer was terrible! She wouldn’t give me the design files!”

Uh-oh! When we hear those words we know there’s trouble a-brewing—because we won’t give you those files, either. Image courtesy of www.amandavyne.com.
Uh-oh! When we hear those words we know there’s trouble a-brewing—because we won’t give you those files, either. Image courtesy of http://www.amandavyne.com.

Occasionally, a client may believe that he is buying not just a logo or ad, but also all the ad’s component parts and the right to make changes at will. The client may ask the designer to create the artwork in Microsoft Word, or simply to share the InDesign or Quark files so it is easier for the client to make adjustments himself.

This is generally not something a designer will do. In most design contracts, clients own the final artwork, but not the “working files” or drafts. While a designer will be happy to collaborate with a client on making changes until the final design is satisfactory to both parties, the majority of designers will not allow a client the right to make changes to a completed design.

There are many reasons for this! First is professional pride: designers want to prevent their painstakingly crafted artwork from being altered. A client is not likely to know as much about composition, fonts, or graphics as a trained graphic designer, and that can lead to oddly stretched or pixelated images and strangely composed ads. We have our reputations to think about, after all!

Maintaining ownership of working files is also good business sense: if a client believes that he or she can simply re-adjust the same ad over and over, then why go back to the designer for a fresh new ad campaign? (of course, wouldn’t you rather have a shiny new design?!) In addition, there are some potential licensing issues. Most images are copyrighted.  If a client gives a designer a photo for their ad, then the photo continues to belong to the client. But if a designer acquires fonts or images elsewhere, then they have the right to sell the final product, but they may not have the legal right to sell you the individual parts.

Understanding what you are (and are not) buying from a designer is an important part of maintaining a positive working relationship. Many conflicts between designer and client can be avoided if ownership and the process are discussed beforehand! Then everyone knows what to expect, and you’re all happy…just like this puppy in a bucket!

Image courtesy of justcuteanimals.com.
Image courtesy of justcuteanimals.com.

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Top 10 Things Designers Hate: Number 3

A simple but important part of any working relationship is respecting each other’s time. We think most people totally get that! But this particular issue still comes up every now and then, so this week, let’s talk about how much designers hate….

3) Last-Minute Changes

Image courtesy of http://www.zerouno.org.
Image courtesy of http://www.zerouno.org.

Every designer has had a client wait until at or after the deadline to request a color change, a text-rewrite, or even a complete overhaul of an ad. These last-minute changes are often accompanied by, “oh, it’s just a little change, it shouldn’t take you very long,” or the dreaded: “I need it by today.”

Of course, clients often don’t realize how long a given change is going to take. Something that seems simple, like replacing the copy, can actually be time-consuming because it requires the text to be sized and formatted to fit in the same space as the old copy. A change like, “could you just add a photograph?” isn’t a matter of just sticking something into the ad. A designer needs to find the right image, get the client’s approval, and make sure it’s the right size and resolution to look good with the rest of the ad. stop-the-press 2

Sometimes, as with ads printed in magazines or newspapers, there is a hard deadline for getting the ad to print. That can mean the designer has to work overtime to get the ad in on time. If you’re printing a brochure or a magazine and want to make a change when it’s already at press, you can end up wasting paper (oh no! the environment!) and you may be charged by the printer for the time they’re not able to use the press because of you! Nobody wants that!

All these last-minute changes can be avoided if you build your schedule with a little buffer-time—and stick to it! Then you’re happy, the designer’s happy, and look: this puppy is happy, too!

Image courtesy of idressmypets.com
Image courtesy of idressmypets.com

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Top 10 Things Designers Hate: Number 4

So far in this series, we’ve covered too much text, reading the rate card, and talked extensively about fonts. The latest designer pet peeve ties in to a similar issue to the one we ran into in post number 5—just because it looks good on your computer screen does not mean that it will look good printed. The number 4 thing designers hate is:

4) Low-Resolution Images

Artfully pixelated image courtesy of stackoverflow.com
Artfully pixelated image courtesy of stackoverflow.com

Resolution in digital images is measured in something called “dpi” or “dots per inch.” The standard dpi for something you want printed relatively large is 300 dpi or more. That means there are, quite literally, 300 little dots of color in each inch of the image. On your computer screen, these dots are called “pixels.”

Often, clients will send us an image that they pulled from Google or Facebook, without paying much attention to the image’s size. Then, they’ll ask us to “blow it up” or “make it bigger.” The problem is, while we can stretch something to be much larger on a computer screen, this does not increase the number of pixels in the image—it simply makes the pixels (or dots) larger. This stretched image may look fine on the computer screen, but when it gets printed there’s a good chance that a smallish image will come out grainy and unclear. And no one wants that!

If you’re using stock photography in your ad, it’s often better to let your designer source the images for you. We’ll know what to look for to make sure the image will come out nice and clear in printing. Then you also avoid issues of “borrowed” images that we covered in Things Designers Hate Number 9.

If you are searching for images for yourself, keep an eye on the number of pixels in the image. Google image search shows the size of images in number of total pixels. If an image is 300×300 pixels, then that image will be 1×1” at 300 dpi when printed. If you enlarge that image to greater than 1×1” when printing it, it will come out blurry.

This sad puppy is 1600x900 pixels. That means the image can be printed as large as 5.3x3 inches without any degradation of the image quality. He’s sad because you tried to print him 10x6. Image courtesy of Google.com.
As you can see circled in red on the right, this sad puppy is 1600×900 pixels. That means the image can be printed as large as 5.3×3 inches without any degradation of the image quality. He’s sad because you tried to print him 10×6. Image courtesy of Google.com.

You can use this information as a rule of thumb when searching for images online. Say you want to use an image that will eventually be printed in a magazine on a standard 8.5×11” page. You would need the image to be at least 2550×3300 pixels to get a resolution of 300dpi.

Finally, clients will sometimes copy all of the images they want to use, paste them into a Word document, and send that document to us. Please, for the love of that adorable puppy up there, do not do this! Pasting images into a Word document can lead to re-sizing in order to fit the image on the page, and can cause compatibility issues between computers with different generations of Microsoft Office, or between Macs and PCs. Always save your images separately and attach them directly to the email. They can be saved as a JPEG, PDF, TIF, or PNG file, but they must be saved at high resolution, at the size you want it printed or larger. That way it will arrive in your designer’s inbox the same way you sent it: nice and big!

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Top 10 Things Designers Hate: Color Edition

rainbow-colorsLately we’ve been talking a lot about color! In keeping with that, number 5 in the Things Designers Hate series is a common question:

5) “Why don’t the colors print like they look on my computer screen?”

The question itself isn’t exactly the problem. Rather, the issue is that many clients don’t ask it until the job is nearly complete. A client may assume that an image she sees on her computer will look precisely the same printed out. When this turns out to not be the case, aggravation and frustration invariably ensue. The client is disappointed that she didn’t get what she was expecting, and we’re frustrated because we want the client to be happy—and we don’t want to have to go back to the drawing board at late stages in the design process.

This can be easily avoided! You simply need to know the difference between viewing images on a computer and viewing a printed image, so that you can factor that in when communicating with your designer.

It all comes down to two simple, but important, abbreviations: CMYK and RGB. 

RGB refers to the primary colors of light: Red, Green, and Blue. These are the colors used by your computer monitor (and any other light-operated system, like the lighting rig at concerts or theatre performances, for example) to create all the colors in the spectrum. When it comes to light, white is made up of all the colors, and black is no light at all.

CMYK is the term used to quickly refer to the process by which images are printed in color. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and blacK. With pigment, the process is the opposite of light: white space is achieved by using no color, and black is a combination of all the colors. Black is also added to a given pigment to darken it.

color mixing in light (left) vs. pigment (right) works differently. In this image you can see that the primary colors of light (Green, red, and blue) mix to create white, while the primary colors of pigment (Magenta, Yellow,  and Cyan) mix to create black. This is the fundamental difference between how we see color on our screens and how we see it printed! Image courtesy of sciencelearn.org.nz.
Color mixing in light (left) vs. pigment (right). In this image you can see that the primary colors of light (Green, red, and blue) mix to create white, while the primary colors of pigment (Magenta, Yellow, and Cyan) mix to create black. This is the fundamental difference between how we see color on our screens and how we see it printed! Image courtesy of sciencelearn.org.nz.

Since the images viewed on your screen are created with light, turning the screen brightness up or down, or altering the “contrast” setting, will change how those images appear. It is unlikely that your designer’s computer is set to the exact same settings as your computer, so a design sent to you online will not look exactly the same on your screen as it looked on your designer’s screen. When the image is printed, it will again be subject to color variation.

The Pantone color book. You can see that the colors on the left of the page are “RGB” and the colors on the right are “CMYK.”  The book depicts roughly the difference you can expect between computer images and printed images.
The Pantone color Guide. You can see that the colors on the left of the page are “RGB” and the colors on the right are “CMYK.” The book depicts roughly the difference you can expect between computer images and printed images.

You can avoid surprises when it comes to color by using a Pantone color guide. Pantone colors are standardized using numbers, so when your designer says they’re using Pantone blue #285PC, you can refer to the book to see how it will look when printed. Printers also use the Pantone guide, so their colors should be exactly the same as the colors shown in the book. By referring to the Pantone guide, you can get a good idea of what to expect from the colors in your printed ad, even if you’re looking at it on a computer screen. You can also always request a printed sample before finalizing the design, just to make sure it looks how you expect it to.

By keeping in mind that colors will differ from screen to page, and using the Pantone book as a resource, you can avoid unnecessary confusion and keep things running smoothly with your designer!

 

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Make Your June “Berrylicious”

The wall above is painted "Berrylicious." A few additional "jewel" tones, plus a pop of turquoise emphasize the  depth and richness of June's featured color. Image courtesy of CMG.
The wall above is painted “Berrylicious.” Additional “jewel” tones, plus a pop of turquoise emphasize the depth and richness of June’s featured color. Image courtesy of CMG.

Color is a huge part of marketing! This is something we touch on over and over again, because while color always remains one of the most important parts of an ad, which colors you use should change from season to season!

Berrylicious, paired with some complementary shades of lighter pink, in wool. Image courtesy of CMG.
Berrylicious, in wool, with complementary shades of pink. Image courtesy of CMG.

Color Marketing Group (CMG) is an organization for color design professions whose mission is to generate “color forecasts.” This means that what CMG does is predict what colors will be on trend, months, and sometimes years ahead of time. Taking a cue from CMG’s color forecasts can be a great way to keep your marketing materials seeming fresh and modern! These guys are the pros when it comes to color, and this month they’re ushering in summer with this deep berry color, called “Berrylicious.”

According to CMG, Berrylicious is:

“rich in color… playful and tempting in a way that makes you smile… it is a color that can stand alone, as well as offer a springboard from which other hues can contrast. It is [a] fresh way to enliven grey, becomes shocking with coral and can be calming when layered with other berry-inspired hues. Fresh from the produce aisle, “Berrylicious” brings luscious to glorious life.”

In addition to making you want pie with their description, CMG also suggests a few exciting ways to use this color for different effects. Incorporating a little Berrylicious into a June ad, program, or new web page might be just the thing to keep your look relevant, modern, and fun!

 

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Top 10 Things Designers Hate, Number 6: Speaking of Fonts…

Welcome back to our Blog series, “Top 10 Things Designers Hate!” We’ve covered ads with too much text, “Borrowed” images, reading the rate card and, most recently, the impact of fonts on your advertisement. It’s hard to over-emphasize how much fonts affect your ads. So, speaking of fonts, our number six thing designers hate is…

6) When You Don’t Embed Your Fonts

Imagine this familiar scenario: You have a font you want to use. You type up your copy in Microsoft Word, save it as a .docx document, and send it to your designer. Unfortunately, your designer doesn’t have that font on file, which means that when the document is opened on your designer’s computer, it defaults to some other font…like maybe Wingdings 3.

Wingdings: Cute on dogs. Not on your ad. Image courtesy of cafepress.com.
Wingdings: Cute on dogs. Not on your ad. Image courtesy of cafepress.com.

The formatting you worked so hard on is ruined, and your designer has no idea what you were trying to send. Time to start over.

All this trouble can be avoided by the simple process of embedding your fonts. What does that mean?

“Embedding” fonts means including the font you want to use as part of the document when you send it to your designer. This can be done quite simply: often, when saving ad document as a PDF you will be prompted to embed the fonts. That’s about as easy as it gets!

If this doesn’t happen (like if you’re using an older version of Word or Adobe Acrobat) you can follow these simple instructions here or here.

And voila! This simple process avoids confusion and keeps communicating with your designer clear and efficient. Everybody wins!

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Top 10 Things Designers Hate: Number 7

Welcome back to our blog series, “Top 10 Things Designers Hate!” If you haven’t already, definitely go check out our previous posts in this series, about “borrowed” images, rate cards, and ads with too much text! Today’s post will cover another topic that is near and dear to the hearts of many designers: Fonts.

Specifically,

7) You say, “Let’s use something fun, like Comic Sans!”

One of the most important things to know about design is that Comic Sans is not your friend. Nor are Papyrus, Times New Roman, or any other over-used fonts that can be found in Microsoft Word.

This is a good example of a poor font choice. The font is cutesy and fun, but the Harley-Davidson Riding Club should seem cool and tough! Image courtesy of  bonfx.com.
This is a good example of a poor font choice. The font is cutesy and fun, but the Harley-Davidson Riding Club should seem cool and tough! Image courtesy of bonfx.com.

Designers see fonts like this as a “lazy” design choice. Since they are so frequently used, they are perceived as all-purpose fonts. That means they are not going to provide that specific, individualized tone that you’re hoping to achieve with your ad. There are even websites devoted to pointing out bad uses of popular fonts.

Not that we don't love the funny papers! Image courtesy of listpod.net.
Image courtesy of listpod.net.

Your designer likely has a stockpile of hundreds of fonts that aren’t immediately recognizable by the average person. They will certainly have something with the feel you’re looking for, but with the added advantage that clients will not recognize it. That means that they’ll think of the font as unique, and associate it with your business—instead of with the Sunday funny-papers.

A great font can help send the message that you want to send, and tell your story, visually. Instead of asking for a specific font you already know about, try focusing on a general look and tone that you want for your ad! It may help to bring in examples of ads you like, and explain what about them works for you. With that information, your designer will be able to generate a design (with a font) that is perfect for you and your business.

This Kodak ad makes great use of typography! By using a font that evokes an old typewriter, they emphasize the comparison they’re making between pictures and words. Image courtesy of 1stwebdesigner.com.
This Kodak ad makes great use of typography! By using a font that evokes an old typewriter, they emphasize the comparison they’re making between pictures and words. Image courtesy of 1stwebdesigner.com.

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Top 10 Things Designers Hate: Number 8

Welcome back! To recap: last week, we talked about “borrowed” images, and before that we covered ads with too much text! Today we’re covering number eight on our list:

“Please, Read the Rate Card!”

Ah, do you hear that? Off in the distance? you can just make out the troubled cry of many a frustrated designer.

What’s a “Rate Card,” you ask? And why should I read it?

A Rate Card is a document provided to you by the publication in which you will be placing an ad. The Rate Card contains all the information that you need about placing your ad in a publication: prices, deadlines, size requirements, and in what format your ad should be sent to us (i.e., .pdf, .cps, or .tif). Often, the Rate Card will look something like this:

This is the rate card we gave to clients who were placing ads in the 2014 Quilts Buyers’ Guide. As you can see, the card shows ad sizes, costs, for both black and white and color ads, and deadlines.
This is the rate card we gave to clients who were placing ads in the 2014 Quilts Buyers Guide. As you can see, the card shows ad sizes, costs, for both black and white and color ads, and deadlines.

The publication where you’ll be placing your ad will always give you one of these—please read it! While working on a publication like the Quilts Buyers Guide, which contains many ads placed by different companies, designers can spend a surprisingly large amount of time fielding emails and phone calls with information about sizes, deadlines, and prices—in other words, information that can be easily found on the Rate Card.

Your designer will be happy to help you out if you have questions or difficulties with your ad! But if you check the Rate Card first, you will help ensure that the conversations with your designer are focused on more important and difficult questions than “when is this due?” For example: you want a flying squirrel in the ad? Sure, why not!

Thanks for reading your Rate Card!

 

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Top 10 Things Designers Hate #9: “Borrowed” Images

Welcome back to the top 10 Things Designers Hate-and how to avoid them! Last time, we looked at ads with too much text! Today we’re looking at:

9) “Borrowed” Images

You found this picture online that would be perfect for your ad! We agree that it is really nice! The only problem is, it doesn’t belong to you. Most images online are created, and therefore owned, by someone else. There are exceptions to this rule, but it can be tricky!

Look, a handy flow chart! Image courtesy of thevisualcommunicationguy.com
Look, a handy flow chart! Image courtesy of thevisualcommunicationguy.com

In most cases it is best to assume that taking an image straight from the web and using it in your ad will infringe on copyright, and is therefore illegal. When you can, try to use images that you own, like photographs of your business or the products you sell. You can also work with your designer to generate a graphic or find a (public domain) image for you!

If there’s something you found online that you just can’t live without, it is sometimes possible to reach out to the owner and try to pay for its use. But if you want something that really stands out and says “you” to your clients, it’s generally better to use something unique.

This issue sometimes leads to the instruction, “I want it to look just like this other ad, but don’t copy it! The same; but not too much!” We want you to have what you want—but designers are artists, and they won’t be happy to copy other artists’ work. Plus, copying another business’s ad concept can get you into hot water with websites like this one, which pokes fun at “copycat” ads.

Instead, figure out what it is that you like about the image you want copied—is it the colors? The use of certain techniques like line-drawing? Talk to your designer about how to incorporate these elements into a brand-new design that will be specific to your business!

This Jeep ad is a great example of a unique, creative ad that uses images belonging to the company! It also sticks with our #10 rule: minimize text! Image courtesy of www.hongkiat.com.
This Land Rover ad is a great example of a unique, creative ad that uses images belonging to the company! It also sticks with our #10 rule: minimize text! Image courtesy of http://www.hongkiat.com.

Elsewhere on the Web: