| Design Basics

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freeWhen you hire an experienced graphic designer you benefit by getting more than just design skills. You get an accumulation of knowledge that will aid your project in getting finished in a timely and professional way.

There has been much written about Crowdsourcing for design work (and other work) and sites like 99 designs continue to have lovers and haters. For the record, Visible Logic does not do work on spec and would never participate in these contests. Here’s why.

Experience fuses design skill with production know-how

As a bit of background, most design schools do not teach many of the practical applications of design. And one of the fundamental aspects of design is that the final production and execution of a project is out of the designer’s hands. By that, I mean the end result is completed by an offset printer, a web browser, a silk-screener, etc.. So knowledge of those processes goes hand in hand with how happy you’ll be with the finished result. But most junior level designers lack experience and knowledge in these areas.

Let me use an example that has received some amount of press. Earlier this year Forbes magazine decided to use Crowdspring to develop a graphic for a t-shirt. You can read a short overview on the Forbes site. Basically this was a contest to design a logo with the specific application onto a t-shirt. The winning designer would earn $200, and the others would get nil.

The Forbes’ executive did start to realize some of the issues when he says “The only problem, we thought: The subtle detailing might not render clearly on a T-shirt.”

But after looking at the final solution that was chosen, it is apparent that neither the buyer nor the designer worked within normal parameters for a t-shirt design. If the t-shirt was to be silk-screened you’d want to eliminate all gradations and screen tints as those don’t silk-screen well. Because screening is paid for by the screen, you may want to limit the colors in the design. That last point is a budget question, and the sky may be the limit, but you can imagine with the typical buyer of low-cost, crowdsourcing work, it’s probably not the case.

My point is that a qualified, experienced designer will work within some parameters that you may not even fully know about until you talk about the project with the designer.

Here are the freebies!

If you hire a professional and experienced designer, they will not be expected to work on spec. However, here are 5 things you should expect to get for free:

  1. Print production experience so your printed job looks like you expect. Whether it’s a book or a business card, make sure your designer has experience with the printed side of the job. A designer who has worked closely with high-quality, local printers will understand how to set up a job correctly so that it prints well and economically.
  2. Vendors and partners to complete your job. Printers, web hosts, programmers, etc. there are more people than just a designer needed to complete your job. Make sure your designer works with the best.
  3. The right software for the job. Professional design applications like InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop allow a designer’s ideas to be produced in a professional way. While you may think trying to design something in Word or Powerpoint is OK; it’s not a good idea. Your designer will have the full suite of tools to get the job done right.
  4. Partners. Similar to vendors, but more involved from the beginning. This may be photographers, writers, editors, or web developers.
  5. Knowledge on a vast array of subjects. One of the most fascinating parts of being a designer is how many different areas I end up involved with. I may provide a cost analysis of an e-newsletter versus a printed format. I may have to double check the correct capitalization rule for certain words in a headline. I may have to research where to find a specialized box or label. Over the years, I’ve developed the skills to quickly and efficiently research all of these additional items. I may reach to my rolodex or to Google, but working with a designer who has the research skills to get the job done can be priceless.

So remember to look at the big picture, and the true value of working with an experienced designer. He or she is likely to think about elements of the project that you don’t even know to be worrying about.

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