Graphic design

Successful design works on many levels, from choosing a typeface your audience can easily read, to aligning colour and images that emphasise visually the key attributes of your product.

This is the reason Cadbury invested in patenting their particular shade of purple. It has become inseparable from the brand it represents.

With the easy availability of desktop design software, many people have fallen for the temptation of doing their own designs for everything from a logo to packaging. Unless you are actually a graphic designer, this is generally not a good idea.

Graphic designers are trained not only to create a visual representation of your business but also to understand how all the individual elements of that design go together to work for you across all mediums, from websites to print advertising to packaging and labelling. What works for your business card may not work at all on a packet on the supermarket shelf – or may end up being very costly to produce.

Selecting a graphic designer

Choosing a designer is a very personal process. It is important to get good advice but it is also important to find someone you can work well with, who understands what you are about and won’t railroad you into having a particular look for your brand because that’s the current graphic trend. When you select the right designer for you, you should be confident you can work together to grow your business in the long term. A professional designer understands the whole branding concept – they should be offering you much more than a pretty logo for a business card.

Design is also two-way process when it works best, so be prepared to be able to articulate what you feel and want from your brand design. It can be helpful to bring together whatever inspires you – colour samples, images that appeal or seem to represent your customer or your products, words that exemplify what you want your brand to stand for. These resources will help you develop a clear designer brief, without which the designer will find it difficult to get the right look and cover off all the logistical issues that may arise. With the brief in hand, the designer can advise you on potential alternatives or cost savings you can make when the design is in production across your packaging, labelling and marketing.

Read the small print

It’s important to be aware of the small print in design contracts. In some cases, designers do not sign over ownership of a design as part of the contract and retain an interest in how and where the design may be used. They may even retain the right of approval for future use of your logo.

It is also essential to ensure your logo doesn’t look too much like someone else’s to avoid any legal challenges. This research should be done as part of the development of a design. It’s a good idea to include details of close competitors in your brief to your designer so they can review these in developing your design, both to make yours stand out and to avoid any issues of copyright or intellectual property infringement.

Briefing a designer

  • it’s obvious but make sure you give them the correctly spelled and punctuated version of your company name and any product names – a mistake here could turn up repeatedly in the work they do
  • explain what you do and what the product or brand is all about and where it fits in the industry
  • tell them how long you have been in business and who your target audience(s) is/are
  • share any insights you have into your audience segments – what they think of your product/brand and what you want them to think
  • tell them exactly what you need and how it will be used – if it is a logo, will you then need packaging designs, is it going on a website, will it have to be able to be reproduced in black and white or full colour, if you need multiple versions (for more on this, see branding)
  • If there are any company style rules already in place that will affect any designs, such as a company typeface always used, brand colours etc
  • tell them when you need it done and how much you want to spend
  • ask for confirmation of their conditions of contract including terms and conditions, ownership of finished designs and intellectual property

Want more information?

Sustainability in graphic design

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