Your company”s visual image is often the first impression you give your customer or client; it should therefore be a good one. Your logo, product brochures, signs, letterheads, business cards, leaflets, newsletters, newspaper advertisements – all should have impact and increase sales. But, to be effective, such visual images must be eye-catching and professional; and the best way to achieve this result is to engage a graphic designer. The following suggestions will assist you to make the right decision…

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1. Resist the temptation to do it yourself.

Graphic design is a professional activity and it cannot be done on the cheap. Despite the inroads of desktop technology, while many people in your organisation may be able to work a computer, few have the necessary design skills. Nor do local printers; while they employ in-house designers, their work is often dull and unexceptional. Remember, your visual image is something you will have to live with for many years.

2. Appreciate the value of a professional designer.

The use of a good designer is a long-term investment, and may be the best advertising investment you make. An experienced designer will bring both a lack of preconceptions and an entirely new perspective to the way you see your organisation. Indeed, a good one may force you to look at your business in a different way, encouraging you to clarify and strengthen previously unspoken attitudes, dreams, and directions.

Designers risk their reputation every time your logo, advertisement, or brochure appears in public. They have as much to lose, if their work is not first-class, as you do. But they do a better job than you; so let them do it.

3. Know how to select a good designer.

There are the large advertising agencies who normally cater for large businesses; and there are hundreds of freelance designers and graphic artists in the suburbs who keep small businesses in business. Having checked the Yellow Pages or your professional contacts, you can set about selecting a designer best suited to your company. In making your choice, consider this advice:

  • Find one you can work with. You’re entering a partnership: if the designer is not helping you make a profit, you will soon be a reluctant client. So it’s important for both of you to be on the same wavelength.
  • Ask for testimonials and the endorsements of the designer’s other customers. Discuss the designer’s successes, creativity, and solutions.
  • Have a good look at examples of the designer’s work. You can also judge a lot by visiting the designer’s office.
  • Ensure the designer is committed to meeting deadlines. Check this out with other customers or by commissioning a small project to begin with.
  • Consider cost last of all because if the other points don’t make the grade, price will not come into it. Don’t forget, you are buying creativity, individual talent, artistic flair, advertising skills, and these don’t always come cheap. Discuss the designer’s approach to budget, cost estimates, and total project charges. Some charge by the hour, some by the project, and some according to your set budget. If you’re clear about the designer’s policy on fees up-front, you’ll avoid hassles later.

4. Always prepare a design brief.

Designers work from ‘design briefs’. Your designer may want to know what you make or do, your business identity, long term plans, market strategy, your customers, your budget, and the way your mind works. The designer will need your ideas as a foundation to develop graphic concepts, an image, that will reflect your company’s values and style. Many designers provide a creative brief form; if not, prepare a written statement of your own – the more detail, the better for all involved.

5. Be consistent with your visual imagery.

Consistency is important when it comes to visual imagery, which is one reason why you should try to use the same designer for all your work. A corporate identity is not developed from a rag-bag of diverse ideas and styles, the result of using a variety of designers for different items. If you remodel your company logo several times in a decade, change your letterhead design every two years, and dazzle your customers with ten different type styles in your latest product leaflet, how can you retain client confidence? Make the changes, make them well – and stick with them.

6. Remember also:

  • Consider launching your company’s new visual identity with a splash.
  • Implement visual imagery changes quickly and thoroughly. When Coca-Cola released a new logo several years ago, every old Coke logo around the world was replaced overnight
  • Know where your old visual imagery will need to be replaced: stationery, signage, livery, publications, memorabilia, vehicles, etc.
  • While a letterhead or business cards may be your only project in the short-term, think long-term. Every visual item must eventually reflect your company’s image – a professional image. People like to deal with businesses that look familiar and professional.

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