Q: Selecting a graphic design studio is an arduous task and very subjective. What criteria should I use?
A: First ask yourself what you want to achieve. Do you need a complete marketing strategy? Do you need an extension of your own efforts? Do you need an ongoing partner or one time assistance? Make a list of your needs and research other websites. If the content and presentation interest you enough to review their online portfolio, give them a call. Talk to the creative director or owner. Find out what their process is. If you get this far, make an appointment to visit their studio.
Since graphic design does not (yet) have a formal certification process like architecture or interior design, anyone can hang that shingle. In our opinion, a formal degree is almost a necessity as graphic design requires more than decorating a page. With an exchange of ideas between the client and the design team, purposeful writing and the arrangement of visual elements must do more than just please the eye. They need to persuade a person to take action!
As ethereal as this sounds, what you are about to hire is trust. Since all of the work the studio has created belongs other businesses or organizations, you will need to determine their potential for assisting you. Call the references the studio has provided and ask about their experience(s).
Keep a few things in mind when selecting a graphic designer or studio:
1. Graphic design is not a commodity. We understand though, that you need to know how an agency charges for its services. However difficult it is to commit figures to paper like hourly rates, commissions or project fees, it is responsible to request this up front. Be careful though, when comparing the value of that service between studios. For example, a firm that employs interns or recent college graduates with barely any industry experience will probably not provide the same level of service from a firm with experienced designers.
2. Enter the agreement with a long term relationship in mind. A good studio/client relationship requires trust on both sides. Know that you have selected a professional firm and consider them a partner.
3. Communicate with your agency. As you move from stage to stage through a project’s review process, be prepared to provide feedback with respect to how your job is developing. By keeping up momentum on a project, it is less likely to lose energy and die on the vine.
Q: What is Graphic Design?
A: Graphic Design most simply is design that is READ (in words and/or pictures). Examples are ads, signs, web sites, film & TV titles, logos, posters, brochures, annual reports, books, magazines, packages, exhibits and displays, to name a few.
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Q: What is NOT Graphic Design?
A: Graphic design is not decoration, but the deliberate arrangement of two dimensional objects to convey information. Additionally, this studio’s philosophy is that graphic design is not fine art. Fine art is created for the sole purpose of personal expression. It is a bonus if someone else happens to admire it. Graphic design is created for the masses and must relay a message.
Other types of design include product design which refers to things people USE such as tools, machines, vehicles or instruments; and environmental design which refers to where people LIVE: interiors, structures, buildings, homes, gardens, parks and cities.
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Q: Why is graphic design necessary?
A: A well thought-out design saves time and money by presenting information in a clearly defined hierarchy that leads the reader. Graphic design is an instrument of organization and a medium for persuasion. It provides a means of relating objects or services to people, which assists in educating audiences about a product or service.
With sound, proven criteria for judging design effectiveness, businesses and organizations can benefit from a cohesive and credible company image.
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Q: What is a Graphic Designer and what exactly do they do? How do they differ from graphic artists, illustrators or marketing strategists?
A: Graphic designers are design generalists that always keep the “big idea” in mind. Their goal is to achieve visual solutions that are functional, appropriate, simple and economical. They try to get most of the people in a target group to respond positively to a visual message. Problems range from the simplicity of a sales flyer to the complexity of a sign system for an international airport. Some of the tools they use are:
Typography. When selecting a typeface to convey an idea, the audience must quickly be able to identify contrast, or the intensity of the message will be lost. In other words, exaggeration is very effective. Some of the type contrasts designers employ are: small to large, thick to thin, hard to soft, narrow to wide, stable to dynamic, solid to outline.
Color. Good graphic designers analyze their target audience. They pick stimulating colors; those that will evoke a response. Colors that are namable have good recognition and retention and by limiting each graphic piece to two or three colors aids in recall. For example, an obvious “orange poster” or “black and yellow package” allows viewers to refer to it easily. Another important consideration is to consider how well a piece converts to black and white. Quite often, our clients run ads in black and white. Some color combinations will turn to “mud” if not addressed properly. Remember that color is the most direct path to the emotions of an audience. Think “Coke”, “Windex” or “Pepto-Bismol”. West Packard always selects color to function; not because we “like” it!
Grids. According to professor Berryman, CSU, Chico, a grid is a network of uniformly spaced horizontal and perpendicular lines for locating points by means of coordinates. Grid lines define uniform areas in a layout; a provide a plan for designing formats. Grid systems are valuable for building “family resemblance” into a series of visual pieces. Corporations that produce hundreds of products or services must deal effectively with unified methods of cataloguing and promoting them through brochures, sales sheets and advertising. Design history tells us that Swiss, German and Japanese design has followed grid systems for years, as do most newspapers throughout the world. Grids offer a solution to organize body text as well as complex information such as lists, tables, schedules and financial material. Grids give you a place to put things and do not necessarily lead to boring visual images as the name might suggest. Remember, grids are guidlines, not boxes.
Photography. In this day and age, a piece without photography is like a life without a soul. Often, a single image can be the inspiration for an exciting and effective piece.
Whether custom or stock, the world today is programmed to respond to photographic imagery. As a society, we are used to seeing high quality images both technically and creatively. The fastest way to lose an audience is to show them low qualtiy images. Please take a moment to read our special section on photography.
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Q: What is your design process?
A: Here is a brief overview of our process:
Fact finding. We begin with a meeting, either in person or over the phone. This fact finding meeting allows you, the client, to meet and feel comfortable with us, and gives us the neccessary information to understand your needs. We will typically ask for your idea of where you feel your business should be going, what its strengths and weaknesses are, and how focused your current marketing strategy is.
After we cover the general marketing goals, we focus in on specific project(s). If a marketing plan is desired, we call upon one of our associates. Separately, and before graphic design begins the plan should be developed. If a marketing plan is not desired, we ask you for any requirements or ideas you have, which will later be used as our springboard to making effective marketing pieces. Early in this part of the process, we discuss what type of budget you have to work with. Understanding resources up front allows us to tailor marketing materials to these requirements. Printing needs are also ascertained at this time.
Project quote. This is the stage where we sift through our fact finding notes and generate a quote for all anticipated costs. These generally include the design fee, copywriting, photography, printing and any other needed services.
Design. The design phase starts with brainstorming (our secret process) and idea gathering. We take all of the parameters and ideas presented from you, the client, add it to our own research, and put down on paper every idea we can generate. We then narrow the ideas down to the best three. Depending on the project type, we will show one, two or all three of these ideas.
At the first draft stage, we ask for feedback on things like color, style, and content. We ask for a direction you think will work best. From the feedback we recieve, we refine and hone the piece, and then present a second draft. Sometimes several drafts are needed before the project is ‘just right’ and other times the first concept is the strongest.
After the final draft is approved by the client, we prepare the files for printing (or coded if it is web). Knowing about the printing process, we take charge of making sure the printer has the correct files, and that it is printed according to the way it was designed. We review a printer’s proof to ensure that no elements have changed from the approved design.
Archiving. After the job is complete, we keep an archived backup of the entire project. We also give you, the client a backup CD upon request.
Q: What exactly is a logo?
A: Quite simply, a logo is one of several types of Marks. These few basic terms effectively classify marks to form a logical working language for designers and clients:
Symbols. Marks without type used to identify a corporation, agency or institution and can be legally protected.
Pictographs. Public symbols that are used to cross language barriers for direction, safety and transportation. The combination of letters is not pronounceable.
Lettermarks. Letters form the name in type and are used to identify a company (often to shorten a long name).
Logos. Word or words in type which identify a company, brand, project or group. It is pronounceable and can be legally protected.
Combination Marks. When symbols and logos are used together with a constant space relationship. This is sometimes called a signature.
Trademarks. All of the above. It is a legal name for unique marks which may be registered, protected by law and sold, if desired.
© copyright 2007 west packard marketing design