Thursday, March 6, 2014

Guest post: 4 things your graphic designer wishes you knew

Today, my friend, neighbor, designer and fellow writer Jaclyn Paul dishes on the relationship between writers and designers. She talks about those critical topics clients should keep in mind when working on projects together. You've recently heard me yell about at least one of these. Do you have any of your own to add???

If you’re a freelancer, chances are you’ve collaborated with a graphic designer at some point. When I worked as a public relations writer, I was taken aback by the amount of time required to get anything right. Most of our design contracts specified two rounds of edits, but our team always needed at least double that number.

Want to minimize frustration next time you work with a designer? Follow these four easy tips:

Use single spaces between sentences. Though many of us learned the two-space rule in typing class, it’s just plain wrong. Many writers disagree on this, but modern graphic design requires one space after the period — period. Don’t ask your designer to play copy editor by submitting anything different.

Watch your word count. Are you writing for a website, a one-pager, a tri-fold brochure, or a postcard? Get a sense for how much copy you need and prune your writing to fit. If you submit significantly more or less text than your designer is expecting, you’re both stuck at square one.

Give them the final copy (really). The designer should always receive your final copy — last-minute tweaks in place, free of typos, carefully fact-checked. This is especially true if multiple people need to sign off on your work. “We recently had a publication that had 34 ‘final’ versions,” lamented one designer I interviewed. As if that’s not annoying enough, editing a block of text in graphic design software is clunkier than in a program like Microsoft Word. Time is money — for you, the designer, and your client — and asking for several rounds of copy edits in the design phase wastes a whole lot of both.

Avoid overly directorial feedback. Have you ever found yourself reviewing a piece with a designer and saying “could we use that font over here?” or “how about we make this whole paragraph bold so it stands out?” These choices are at the heart of graphic design, and there’s plenty of theory behind them. Think of it this way: would you appreciate a client advising you on sentence length or suggesting more exclamation points to add excitement? Of course not.

Instead, give general feedback to clarify needs you may have missed in your initial consultation. For example: “this is really important; I think it’s getting lost and needs to stand out more.” Your designer can use that feedback as a springboard for further discussion or an adjustment to the design.

Remember, graphic designers are professionals in their craft, just like you. They’re trying to produce a quality product, meet their client’s needs, and avoid wasted time. Make a good impression and you might just find yourself on the receiving end of some valuable referrals.

Jaclyn Paul is a fiction writer, blogger, and freelancer based in Baltimore, Maryland. Her writing has appeared online in Offbeat Families and Mix Tapes & Scribbles and in print as arts and entertainment writer for the Keystone newspaper. Before she quit her day job, she served in various capacities as blogger, public relations writer, and technical writer for the Baltimore non-profit community. Find her online at and @jaclynleewrites.


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