An aid to client understanding of the graphic design profession.
The following information has been produced to help support our clients understanding of the graphic design process. The aim is that from this explanation our clients should gain the knowledge to manage their design projects better and gain the most from the graphic design process.
Just as we benefit enormously from a solid understanding of our client’s business and marketing activities, so too can they benefit from an understanding of the designer’s activities. A good graphic design process is structured around ensuring that our clients get the highest quality solution and service appropriate to their business, marketing or communication project.
If our clients want to ensure that the investment they are making, not only in design but also in reproduction, is maximized, the focus should be on making sure that the input, design and artwork is right. Quite often there is a temptation to shorten the time allowed for the whole process. Clients who face this temptation should remember that processes such as printing and electronic publishing are ‘what you put in, is what you get out’. If time constraints are tight, it is recommended that you discuss with us how these constraints may be dealt with in a manner that does not irretrievably compromise the commercial value of the entire project.
An overview of the steps involved in a typical design project.
Initial Discussion between Client & Design Firm
- Client and design firm discuss the project objectives, timing and budget in broad outline.
- Design firm reviews their own background material and/or previous projects in preparation for briefing meeting.
This research helps the design firm to focus on key issues in the context of the proposed work.
- Client and design firm meet to discuss the creative brief in detail and clarify any technical issues (budget, timetable, corporate identity guidelines etc.)
Written Proposal & Estimates
- Design firm prepares a written proposal detailing:
- what is required (in communication/design/production objectives)
- design and production fees, treatment of author’s corrections and material expenses
- timetable from approval of proposal to delivery to client
- terms and conditions of engagement, including copyright assignment
This stage may include procuring strategic partner quotes, ie. photography, illustration, copywriting etc.
Client Approval of Proposal & Estimate
- Client checks proposal and compares it to the brief to confirm the design firm’s understanding of the project’s purpose and strategic directions, as well as any technical considerations.
- If the design firm’s understanding of the project cannot be confirmed, client reviews written proposal with the design firm and a new proposal is prepared.
- Client accepts proposal/estimates and forwards signed copy or purchase order for design firm to proceed.
- Designer reviews the creative brief and background material to ensure that the project context is understood and corporate requirements are met.
- Designer carries out research/brainstorming and develops creative concepts and design layouts.
- Designs are reviewed and critiqued to select the most appropriate for further development or presentation.
Concept Design Presentation
- Designer prepares visuals (as printouts or PDF files) and a design rationale for client presentation.
- Client evaluates the presentation, if the initial creative brief is adequately prepared it is rare for a presentation to be totally off the mark. Personal taste should not be used as the primary criteria for a design’s acceptance or rejection.
- Comments should be as specific as possible, as they are important for the next stage of development.
- Comments/recommendations from the concept design presentation are addressed by the designer.
- A 2nd design presentation may be held using the same evaluation process, including the list of comments.
- Client accepts design in terms of visual appearance and content.
- Client provides final signed-off text if it has not already been provided during the design phase.
- Designer commissions possible remaining photography/ illustration.
- Designer prepares all final artwork for print.
Final Artwork Approval
- PDF proof supplied to client for checking.
- If client-requested changes (also known as ‘author’s corrections’) are necessary they are finalized at this stage. (the usual project allows for 2 sets of minor ‘author’s corrections’)
- Designer carries out required amends and sends PDF for final approval.
- Client approves artwork and relating material (with a signature where required).
This stage may also include legal department approval of any statutory requirements.
Artwork to Print
- Final artwork files, proofs and relating material are sent to the prepress department with specifications and an order form specifying quantity, delivery date and delivery instructions.
Approval of Printer Proofs
- Designer and/ or client checks colour proofs prepared in prepress to verify the accuracy and colour of the expected printed result. Since this quality control step focuses on technical accuracy, it is generally the designer who reviews the proofs first.
Supervision of Printing
- Once the printer proofs are approved, printing commences. The designer (and occasionally the client) checks the printed results at the commencement of printing – this is known as ‘press checking’. The printed colours are compared to the original colour specifications and printer’s proofs. Print registration is also checked. Any discrepancies between the desired result and actual printing are corrected before the print run continues.
Delivery to Client
- Printer or designer organizes delivery of the printed items as per client’s instructions.
- Approximately 10 copies of the printed item are kept by the design firm for their records.
- Final digital files and records are archived for safe storage at the design studio and off site.