Tag Archives: Design Firm

The 8 Agreements for Working With a Graphic Design Firm

computer with artistic sketches doodles. Design is... Steve Jobs quote.

There are a variety of reasons why a small business can benefit from working with a graphic design firm. Skilled graphic designers can help your company shine and organize information efficiently and in a graphically appealing manner. Once you have determined the project you are hiring the graphic design firm for the next step is to establish a clear understanding of who is responsible for each element of the project(s)

8 Agreements for Working with a Graphic Design Firm :

Explain Yourself – know what you are trying to communicate, to who (target audience), how (in print, billboards, or online, etc.). If you are not sure about the direction you need to take, you may want to schedule a marketing consultation or graphic design consultation before you begin working with a graphic design firm on a project that is defined ahead of time. Many graphic design firms offer consultations and provide marketing services to help you at this stage.

Be Prepared – Compile all text, copy, logos, photos, graphics, charts, etc. that will be included when the graphic design firm begins the project. If the graphic design firm is responsible for creating the graphics, locating photography, it is a good idea to share your ideas on style, color, size, etc.

Content – Will you be writing the copy for your project? Will a copy writer be providing copy? If you are working with a graphic design firm that also offers copywriting services request a bid for copywriting. Graphic design services do not automatically include copywriting, choosing headlines, compiling captions, etc.

Proofread – Graphic designers are paying attention to fonts, placement, scale, dimensions, color, graphics, photos and flow. Graphic designers are not editors or proofreaders. Sometimes while working through a project they may catch a typo or inconsistent use of text this is a bonus – this is an editing and proofreading task and is ultimately the client’s responsibility. Make sure you always get a proof and proofread it carefully before you go to print or post online… and then have someone else proofread it again.

Don’t Make Assumptions – You know your small business or organization best. It is important to share everything you want to include or depict. Don’t assume the graphic designer knows which are the featured services, products, mission and message you want to convey. A graphic design firm will learn about your company or organization but you know your organization best. Don’t assume it’s obvious what your company’s unique selling proposition (USP) is. Your current website and other marketing materials may not be explaining it as clearly you hope.

Share Ideas – Provide samples of designs you like. The examples can be from companies in your industry or just eye-catching designs with compelling messages that speak to you. This sharing helps designers follow your desired trajectory right away. A professional graphic designer will not copy these ideas, they will use them as inspiration, a jump off point, to build original work for your company.

When you are working with a design firm and leave it entirely up to them without any examples of what you envision you may have a rocky road ahead. If you are someone who is open to innovation and new ideas and you envision working with a graphic design firm as a refreshing exchange of creativity, give them full reign! It could be a great experience for both parties. If ideas go off track however, you will be paying for the revisions to get them back on track.

Don’t take things personally – a professional graphic designer will present new ideas you may not have considered yet. Be open to hear about the concept. Remember you hired the professionals for their expertise. If you really don’t like the new ideas a professional graphic design firm will not force them. Hopefully a compromise can be offered that merges both ideas and a winning design will result. Remember you are working with a design firm who wants to keep you as a customer, they want you to succeed and sometimes that means attempting to break you out of your comfort zone.

Always Do Your Best – Plan ahead for your graphic design and marketing projects. Whether you are looking for a brochure design, annual report design, logo design or website design, etc. allot enough time for all the project stages and mostly for design time. A full campaign will require more time than a corporate brochure. Creativity can not be turned on and off like a computer. A minimum of two weeks is requested. Although most design firms will do their best to fit in rush jobs, keep in mind you may not be getting their best work when creative time is cut short. Also remember to include the time it will take for the next steps of your projects, committee previews,board approval, printing, distribution, coding, etc.

Connection Group is a marketing and graphic design firm located in the Lansing, Michigan area. We work face to face on graphic design projects for small businesses and organizations in Grand Ledge, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Mason, DeWitt and Charlotte, Michigan. When working with companies throughout Michigan we like the initial meeting to be at your location to get a feel for your business environment.  Connection Group also provides marketing and graphic design services to companies throughout the United States. Consultations via Skype, phone and email offer opportunities to collaborate, share proofs and meet comfortably without additional travel expenses.

If you feel confident working with a graphic design firm is your next step, connect with us today.

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How to Hire a Graphic Designer 101

how to hire a graphic designer photo of tablet with foo foo coffee and graphic doodles.Maybe on the onset your secretary’s business card designs helped get the word out about your company. Now that you are past the launch stage you are curious about how to hire a graphic designer – a professional graphic designer who can present the company at a higher level. Whether your small business needs an updated logo design, sales sheets, brochures, or digital artwork created for websites and social media, knowing how to hire a graphic designer will save you time and money.

How To Hire a Graphic Designer Checklist

First, ask around, ask for referrals from trusted colleagues. Next, refer to this checklist. Clear communication up front will make for an enjoyable exchange of creativity and successful graphic design solutions for your company.

  1. Does the graphic designer have samples to review? Graphic artists (aka graphic designers) love to show off their talent. Ask them for samples of similar work to your project or view their website.
  2. Can they provide references or testimonialsEstablished firms and freelance graphic designers will have client testimonials for your review.
  3. What services does the graphic designer provide? There are specialty graphic design services such as website design, animation, and companies who offer logo design only. Make sure the graphic design firm you choose offers the services you need.
  4. Do you need to hire other professionals? Graphic designers are responsible for design. Typically they are not editors, copywriters or even photography retouchers. These are all elements that may be needed as part of your project but are not necessarily the role of all graphic designers or from every graphic design firm. Clarify upfront what you think you need and determine who  is responsible for each role.
  5. What are the steps in their creative process? How many concepts will be presented at the initial design stage? How many proofs will be provided as part of the estimate? How many and what types of changes are included in the estimate? Are proofs provided electronically or through hard copies or in person?
  6. How much time is allotted for the graphic design consultation? To build a new corporate brand image for your small business or provide elements in support of an established company brand such as a brochure or catalog it is important for the graphic designer to consult with someone in the company prior to beginning the project. How much consultation time is included in the estimate? This will usually depend on the scope of the project. Less time is allocated for a brochure and more will be needed for a complete campaign. Is additional consultation time available for a fee if needed via phone, in person or emails?
  7. What if you don’t like the design? If you have done your diligence, viewed the graphic designers work and determined their design style fits your style you’ll probably get a winning design right off the bat. If the design is not what you are looking for first ask yourself why, what’s working, what’s missing, etc. Provide the designer with this feedback. Try not to be vague – have concrete feedback to avoid wasted time and additional design fees.
  8. How much do graphic designers charge? Graphic designers charge hourly and by the project. With established clients graphic designers may also work on retainer or hold an annual contract. Fees vary from agency to freelancer. Keep in mind just because you are hiring a freelancer doesn’t mean you are paying less than a firm may charge.
  9. What is availability and turn around time? Turn around time for design projects is often based on first come first serve but exceptions can be made with rush projects. Additional rush fees may be added and you may not get lead designers on your rush graphic design project. The more time you have to create your project the better to allow for the full creative process. Keep in mind that freelancers may work full time jobs and have a limited amount of time to work on your projects. It is also important for you or your staff to be available to respond timely to proofs and keep the project moving forward without delay.
  10. How many edits/changes are included in estimate? This is an important variable when pricing your project. Proofs and changes take time and additional fees can add up quickly. Find out how many are included, what types are included and what the charge is if additional changes are needed beyond the original set amount. To reduce changes and proofs, make sure all of the copy is proofread and have received final approval before sending it to the graphic design stage.
  11. What are payment terms?  Standard industry practice is 50% of the estimated cost at the start of the project and rest upon completion. If a project is larger in scope such as an annual campaign or new branding campaign a three part payment term may be utilized or monthly fees can be determined. If printing or website hosting is required the design is usually expected to be paid in full prior to release. Cost of printing may be required to be paid up front or may have 30 day terms.
  12. What files will you receive at the end of the project? Standard graphic design industry practice is to provide final approved files in high quality print pdf for all printed pieces and jpg, png files for digital projects. Original concepts, working files, software, fonts or limited use stock photography are not released but may be negotiated outside of the original contract dependent on copyright and availability. Often if a file is needed for use in another media graphic designers and design firms will release them if applicable.
  13. Who owns the graphic design copyright? Original logo designs, publications and website designs are applicable to submit for copyright. Some graphic design and advertising firms retain full ownership where others like Connection Group maintains that once you’ve paid in full for the work, you should own it. As mentioned above software, fonts, limited use stock photos, etc. may be subject to copyright by the original creators.
  14. Is printing, writing, editing provided? This is an important question to ask in the beginning. Most design firms can offer printing also but typically do not include it in their design fees. Some firms hand you the electronic files and then have you contract the printing. Same with copy writing and editing as mentioned previously. Make sure everyone knows who is responsible for what stage.
  15. Can the files be used in other formats after the initial order? Often when a clever design solution is created a small business may decide to use it in multiple promotions or create a full ad campaign around it. If files are originally created for the web or online use a complete recreation may be order to meet print resolution requirements. SInce the creative has already been established at this point you are paying for production, not design time so you will still see a savings.  In opposite circumstances, when going from a print design to web, designs may only need to be adjusted to fit online dimensions.
  16. How are additions to the project handled? If part way through the project the customer adds new items, for instance you add a letterhead and brochure to a business design project,  you will want to get additional bids for these pieces and determine time line. Also, if you are foreseeing many edits because a design will be reviewed by a committee, etc. get an idea of expenses up front if possible. Please review caution about edits and changes.

Don’t play the field when it comes to hiring graphic designers.

Once you’ve learned how to hire a graphic designer, sit back and enjoy. A good designer, who really GETS YOU and your business is an important part of your success team. Build loyally, save money, reduce errors and present consistent branding images throughout all of your company marketing, promotions and advertising – in print and online. You’ll enjoy cost savings when you are able to keep your marketing and advertising campaigns with the same design firm. Plus, you’ll avoid costly surprises and know where to find all your files instead of spending time chasing them down each year.

As one of a handful of graphic design companies in Lansing, Michigan area we’ve served a variety of non-profit and for profit clients in the over 17 years in business. We continue to provide graphic design solutions for small businesses and organizations across the United States and Canada. As budgets get tighter, company staff must handle projects they are not trained to manage. We hope this ‘how to hire a graphic designer  checklist’ will be a helpful guide to key personnel who are not familiar with how to hire a graphic designer. Please connect with us today if you have any questions. We appreciate the opportunity to design online and print marketing solutions that connect with your customers.

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Is Responsive Website Design an Affordable Solution for Small Business?

It’s almost July, should you take a vacation or update your small business website to a responsive website design?

Based on  Compuware, 2012 statistic stating “57 percent of consumers will not recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site”you may want to put that sabbatical on hold. If your small business marketing goal this year is to increase internet marketing exposure we recommend you start with your website. For most small businesses building a stand alone small business mobile website and a standard small business website designed for desktop monitors is not very feasible. Maintaining one website design can be challenging enough for a small business – having to maintain two separate websites that essentially contain the same information is absolutely daunting – and quickly proves to be unrealistic. Enter, responsive website design.

Responsive Website Design: Small Businesses Affordable Mobile Website Solution

graphic of a desktop monitor navigation menu

Example of navigation view on a standard desktop monitor.

responsive website deisgn drop down navigation menu

Example of responsive website design navigation drop down option

Responsive website design is the solution for small businesses who want their website visitors to be able to navigate their corporate website easily on any device they choose. From a smart phone, tablet, or desktop monitor, a responsive website design will conform to fit the screen size of the device the visitor is using. Responsive website design programming automatically detects the size of the device screen the visitor is calling up your website from. The responsive website design will either reduce, collapse or expand the content depending on the size of the screen. A clear example is shown in the graphics on the right. A small business website created for a national professional speaker w that is viewed on a desktop monitor has an expanded navigation bar. When you view it on the smart phone the navigation will condense to a drop down menu. The mobile user doesn’t have to scroll all the way to left or right or up or down, all they need do is click on the drop down box arrow (indicated with the red circle) and select the section they want more details on.

Not only does the responsive website design we offer  reduce our customers need to have a separate mobile site built it also saves money because they can be built with the WordPress content management system (CMS). Small businesses can reduce internet marketing expense  by developing a responsive website design built in WordPress. A responsive website design in WordPress will have a simple back end management system that allows users without programming knowledge to easily add new content. Companies can now update their service pages, add new staff members, promote an event, announce new products and add photos and videos of the new products. A whole gamut of information can be added to your small business website without having to pay for website edits from a professional website design firm. All of this without knowing how to write code.

Having the control of your website content is more critical now than ever before.

Google has led the way with search engines to provide more accurate search results. Google search results are now based on relevant content found on each website. For example if you search for small business responsive website design firms in Lansing, MI Google will look for websites that use keywords such as ‘responsive website design for small business’ in multiple pages of their website. Google will look for common words, design, website, responsive website design, Lansing, MI to make sure the website is legitimate based on the relative content on the website. This also demonstrates how important it is for small businesses to continually add relevant, updated content to their website… but that is another blog entry or email news article.

Besides the need to have a mobile friendly small business website, when was the last time your business website received a fresh new look? We joke here at Connection Group that we can tell the approximate year a website was built based on the design. Kind of like women’s hairstyles, straight long hair is clearly 60’s flower child and teased, moussed, mile high hair and mullet’s are unabashedly big hair from the 80’s. There is often no denying the era a small business website design emerged. Don’t be that small business stuck in the 90’s! Showing a dated design to visitors and  prospects sends the message that your company is not staying current with trends and technology. Much credibility can be lost with one click of the button.

So, what are you waiting for? Give us a call today and let us provide a 15-20 minute responsive website design consultation for your small business. Depending on our schedule, we may be able to take a look at your current website while we are on the phone with you today. We can talk about some of the goals you have in mind for your small business internet marketing locally in the mid-Michigan area or find out if your company needs a more powerful national reach. Updating to a responsive website design is the most affordable website solution to get small businesses current and mobile ready as well as have an updated visually appealing website that will connect with visitors on all devices.