Tag Archives: design

Professional Printing Checklist – preparing a digital file for print

Professional printing checklist grpahic by Connection Group

In the age of digital apps, conscious budgeting and google images, small businesses are creating print marketing materials in-house. This isn’t always easy to do, but it can get simpler. Follow this professional printing checklist to prepare a digital file for offset or digital printing.

Professional Printing Checklist – Print File Preparation

  1. proofread it
  2. have someone else proofread it
  3. check with your printer about pricing options
  4. make sure document is created in the correct size (consider proportions)
  5. quote any original text (cite author)
  6. use only photos and graphics you have permission to use
  7. photos and images must be in cmyk format or a specified Pantone ink or black
  8. images must be 300dpi resolution at 100%
  9. Print your file on a desktop printer check color, layout, flow of information
  10. Check the fold. Are copy and images formatted in the panels as intended?
  11. Save the file as a high-resolution print quality pdf (Adobe Acrobat file)
  12. Send to print vendor

(Professional Graphic designers see note below)

Whenever possible it is helpful to receive a physical proof of the document from your print vendor. If an in-person proof is not possible a digital proof from the print vendor helps verify the file transferred as designed.

Talk to you printer if you need help preparing a document. Graphic designers and printers can make adjustments to your layout if you request these services. Layout and design services are based on an hourly service fee. After the initial proof, industry standard is time-based billing for additional editing and proof services.

If all of this sounds greek to you Connection Group and other graphic designs firms can print and design sales sheets, brochures and postcards for you. When hiring a professional design firm  expect expertise in design and print.


  • professional layout
  • font and color selection.
  • create custom graphics
  • photo art selection with licensed access to stock photography and art


  • recommendations for print cost savings
  • choosing standard paper sizes (for cost savings – unique sizes can be used also)
  • paper weight
  • follow US postal service print regulations for first class and bulk rate mail

Additional Print Preperation Step for Professional Graphic Designers

Along with the above professional printing checklist, there is a couple of extra steps of file preparation for graphic designers who are preparing files for publishing. You already know to choose quality fonts and consider graphical effects,  color theory  and the type of digital art, vector vs raster, which software is the best to use for page layout,  etc.

If you are using Adobe InDesign for preparing page layout files for professional printing projects always package the folder prior to sending the final file to the printer. Choosing package under the file menu in InDesign will create a complete folder for your final document. There will be a copy of all the files, fonts, graphics and photos used in the document nested in this folder. This helps for future retrieval when the document is re-ordered and requires changes.

The other benefit of packaging a file is that InDesign runs a test for pre-press of the entire file. This pre-press test looks for missing fonts, missing graphics and photos, use of  RGB  or other color models in graphics and photos within the document. This pre-test allows you to go in and make edits to the print file elements prior to sending it to the printer vendor. The more work you can do to create a trouble free file, the lower the printer fees, time delays and  the higher quality end product.

Remember to add crop marks, printers marks, trim marks and bleed on your final pdf before sending it off to your printer too. Good luck with your print project, call us if we can help.

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Connection Group is located in mid-Michigan. We love to work face to face with our clients in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and everywhere in Michigan in between. Our digital design and online print service ordering area serve St. Petersburg, Florida to Vancouver, Canada from south to north and New York, New York to Big Bear California east to west. National on-time service paired with genuine small business attention.

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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Do’s and Don’ts of Facebook TImeline Fan Page Photos

Facebook Business Pages will be automatically upgraded to Timeline on March 30, 2012, are you ready?
I know, another major change for Facebook. Those of us who are marketing firms managing multiple Facebook business pages need to get up to speed quick! The most obvious change is the striking Facebook Timeline cover photos. As striking as it is, there are some important rules to follow and there are other Facebook TImeline Features to work into your marketing strategy.

New Facebook Timeline Features:

  1. My favorite – you can now pin a feature story each week. Just hover over your your story and click on the pencil icon to make it a feature at the top of your Page.
  2. Profile pictures are now square at 180 x 180 pixels. This image will still be what is seen when you post and what is need in your news feed.
  3. You can rearrange the apps on the page. These are listed at the top of your Page no . Change the placement by clicking on the graphic, then tell it to switch with the app you choose to list your most important ones first, such as photos of your products, etc.
  4. Your main page or ‘wall’ will be the default landing page – default landing tabs are gone
  5. New Admin panel is much more user friendly and insights are right there.
  6. Fans can now connect with you privately..

Let’s jump into the rules for the Facebook Timeline cover photo for business fan pages before you waste time creating one that Facebook deems illegal… (like I have included below!)  The image below breaks all the rules – it attempts to take advantage of all the prime real estate the large cover photo offers. No way, says Facebook! You can not include your company marketing and contact information or calls to action.

Integrative Marketing Solutions for Small Business    Get back to the business of running your business!

BAD! No, no! Above is a rejected Facebook Fan Page cover photo.

Facebook Timeline Cover Photo’s for Fan Pages – Do’s & Don’ts


  1. Choose a striking and relevant image for your business
  2. Use an 851 pixel wide x 315 pixel tall image to make the most of the space.
  3. Use your logo as your profile picture in square format.
  4. Be consistent with your profile picture – don’t change it on a whim and ignore your brand
  5. Pay attention to the ratio of text to imagery – 70% image to 30% text is a good guideline


  1. Include website, phone number, any contact info that can be found under ‘About’ section
  2. Include prices or purchase info. (50% off or ‘download our ebook’…)
  3. Include calls to action like: ‘Call today, Get it now…’
  4. Include “Like”, “Share”, or an arrow in the photo pointing to any Facebook action, etc.
  5. Infringe on others intellectual property.
Connection Group delivers Integrative Marketing Solutions

New Facebook TImeline Fan Page Cover Photo - this one follows the rules

Does anybody else find it frustrating that a business can’t promote their contact information in the most prominent place on the page? It goes against everything I learned in graphic design school. Oh well, as I begin to explain to our customers who hold the same frustration, we dont make the rules, Facebook does.

So, have fun with it! Show off your Facebook Fan Page Timeline photos below. Share your links, we would love to take a look at the beauty  you created, and find us on Facebook.

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Loving Lansing

As a marketing and design firm specializing in branding solutions we work with customers across the United States and Canada. We are located in the Lansing, Michigan area and much of our clientele are in Lansing and Grand Rapids. In the over twelve years of launching Connection Group, I have been pleased to see the growth and improvements both of these cities have made. Since I attended Kendall College of Art and Design in the, dare I say it – 80s’, Grand Rapids skyline and downtown offerings have improved dramatically. Areas where once I was tentative to ride my bike have now become revitalized, thriving neighborhoods.  With the diverse corporations and big donor names such as VanAndel and DeVos, Grand Rapids has been blessed with a stream of  financial gifts and investments.

Lansing, on the other hand, with its deep roots in the auto industry, has seen challenges and limited financial support. Even though it is the state capital of Michigan, the challenges the State has encountered has limited  state investment  and growth for the city. Fortunately, with a new diverse group of industries moving to the city, including many large insurance corporations, biotech companies, and of course the continued growth at MSU, Cooley Law School, and the many other higher education institutions, Lansing is growing and attracting a dynamic group of young residents. Downtown Lansing has expanded its offerings for nightlife and entertainment and Oldtown has continued to be a destination for celebrating the arts with its many festivals and locally owned boutique shops.

Local online newspaper, Capital Gains has dedicated a lot of ink to share the many wonderful events, happenings and growth Lansing is experiencing. Recently they featured a couple of articles on one of our favorite clients, Lambs’ Gate Antiques. Lambs’ Gate is locally owned by Carol Lamb. The first store in Grand Ledge has enjoyed much success throughout the years and Carol boldly chose to expand this Spring and opened Lambs’ Gate Antiques in OldTown. Managed by her daughter-in-law Ashley, the new store is the epitome of what is OldTown, eclectic, unique and colorful.

To learn more about the shops please view the Capital Gains article about Lambs’ Gate and the Lambs’ Gate Web site. To read more about the young talent Lansing is attracting and get a glimpse of why Lambs’ Gate Oldtown is experiencing such a welcoming response, read the Capital Gains article on Dan and Ashley Lamb.

Be sure to friend the Lambs’ Gate Antiques facebook site and join the newsletter to receive monthly coupons!


You’re corporate brochures looks awesome! But how does it read? As a design firm we specialize in making your marketing items look good. We don’t just stop at how they look though. To maintain your professional image it is important for your text to be clean and accurate too.

We know it’s really about how cool it looks, but some people do still read! If your budget is limited and you are writing your own copy, make sure you get another set of eyes to proof it. One of the first rules to learn is you can’t proof your own work. As independent as some of us are, there are times when another person’s insight is critical. As the writer, or designer we are often too close to the work to notice what are sometimes blatant errors others see right away.

For your next project hire an editor or have a coworker proofread for you. If you are not familiar with the shorthand proofreaders use to mark up your text be sure to take a look at the graphic below developed by Dynamic Graphics Magazine. Print it out and keep it for reference when needed. Dynamic Graphics Magazine does a great job offering tips to all levels of publishers.