5 Habits Of A Good Graphic Designer

  1. Create and use your resources

If you are a designer working solo you may not have access to instant feedback as you would if you were working for a company or on a team.  There are several great resources online for designers and thanks to social media, a lot of groups you can join online as well.  

When I get to something I can not just google, I contact a small group of designers I have come to know and respect over the years.  In time, your resource group will grow organically.  One way to make it happen more quickly would be to join art and design groups on facebook or meetup.com.

Through local art groups, I have found a lot of talented designers that have become my friends and are always inspiring me.

Another option is to simply ask friends and family.  I used to work as Art Director for a popular radio station creating all kinds of promotional art.  I would create a document with about 5 different versions of the artwork for a promotion, place it on the reception desk and ask anyone passing by to check-mark their favorite design as well as write down any feedback.  Just because people do not have a background in design, doesn’t mean they don’t know when something looks good.  Plus, it brings a new energy to the work, it’s more inclusive and it’s fun.  Asking for feedback is a 90% guarantee that you are going to come out with something better than you originally started with.

There are several websites that provide great design support as well.  A few of my favorites are http://www.w3schools.com/css & youtube.com for online tutorials.

  1. Set a proof/review deadline well before your client’s final deadline.  

Proof, proof and then have the client proof again.  Nothing is more painful then sending the printer a file with a crucial error on it.  

Make sure that if you are working in illustrator or photoshop that other layers are locked so that nothing else gets affected when you are editing the file.

After every change, no matter how “little”, have the client review it again and confirm it is what they want.  The last pair of eyes to confirm a project should ALWAYS be the clients.  Ideally you will want to proof it off a printed copy and not off the computer.  It also doesn’t hurt to “sleep on it” and send out the final version the following day.

You may have seen the joke going around about how a designer saves his files…


The reason for this file naming is to be sure that you do not end up sending the wrong file to a client or god forbid the printer.  And believe me it happens the best of us.  

Clients always need their project done yesterday but don’t contact you until tomorrow.

Give yourself 12 long hours into a project, a million “little changes” and see what happens.  Even if you get the client’s changes correct, you could possibly screw something else up in the file just by editing it at all.  Every time you tweak a file, there is a chance of screwing something else up.  This is why we save files as…, “Final1.jpg”… “Final2.jpg”…etc (like in the picture).

You could also try creating a new folder altogether and calling it “Final 4 Printer” or something to that effect.  Then save your final documents into that new folder.  Although you may end up with a lot of “final” folders.  “FinalFolder1”… “FinalFolder2”… etc.  🙂

Another option is to save a file with the current date in the name, “FinalCopy12-4-15.jpg”.  However that won’t work if you are making changes hourly.

  1. Know how to provide the files…

If you know the end results for your clients artwork, you can provide them with exactly what they need.  Typically logo design or any graphics used for print should really either be a hi-res jpegs or in an eps/vector based format.  

In the case where a client does not have the software to be able to proof an eps, you can always save the file as a pdf or a jpg. Just remember, when you start getting into saving alternate formats for proofing it can get messy.

Best way to send most files to a client for proofing is a pdf because you can send that same exact file, (usually) to a printer who can convert it to whatever they need.  However, I have run into a situation where someone was using a printer overseas and that printer did not know what to do with a pdf.  So live and learn.

I have completed artwork for highway billboards as well as for business cards.  I like using vector based images because it provides one solid image.  In other words it’s not breaking up into pixels like a jpg file.  This is good when you want the end result to be versatile, easily used for small or very large print jobs without losing quality.  The programs also run faster when you are working with vector art which is also a nice added bonus.

A lot of the time client’s do not understand this lingo and if you can get them to put you in direct contact with their printer you’ll both be better off in the long run.  Find out directly from the printer how they would like the files provided.  Often, the printer will even have templates for you to use for various print jobs.  

  1. Use design references & brush up on your skills

Picasso once said “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” That can be a very taboo topic in design.  However, when you want to create something genius for a client, it is helpful to look at the work of the geniuses that have come before you.

I use lots of different references depending on what I am looking to achieve.  

One reference I use a lot is art magazines and they are free to look at at the bookstore. My favorite magazine to look at for layout or advertising is “Wired Magazine”.  They have always had the best designs.  I also keep several logo design books around for reference.  You can probably check these out at a local library as well.  I use Design DNA “Logos”, which is great because they actually dissect the logo.  for instance, a cursive font may display femininity while the color brown adds a more masculine feel.  You can buy this book in paperback on Amazon for around $4.  

Another option to improve on your design skills is a weekend crash course.  I have done several and it doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing design for 15 years or just one.  Everyone has something to learn.  I was using Photoshop and Illustrator for probably 10 years before I went and took a weekend Adobe Illustrator course at the Art Institute of Atlanta.  My work and time improved immensely.  

There are countless online tutorials for brushing up on this or that, or how to achieve a specific effect, etc.  Be sure to do shoutouts for the designers after you have used their tutorials.  It’s the least you can do when someone just taught how to create inverted text along a circle path.  You can also subscribe and share on social media to help them out.

  1. Put the mouse down and back away from the computer…

Most designers are artists at heart.  When you start putting all of your passion into your client’s needs it can be creatively draining.  It’s important to get away from the computer and get back to what you love.  And it doesn’t mean you are not still working on your client’s artwork.  

You may need to draw a dragonfly or a frog for someone’s branding.  It can be a lot more fun and rewarding doing this offline in a sketchbook in a park or sitting in a cafe with a hot mocha latte’.  It rejuvenates you, it shakes things up.  Staring at a bright screen all day can be a creative killer.  Get up, get out and get back to what you love so you can give your client something that they love.

© Jessica Warren

5 Common Mistakes Made When Hiring a Web Designer

I work for a lead service introducing clients to designers every day.  I have been doing design for 15+ years.  I see common mistakes made by both the designer and the client.  Hopefully if you are looking for a designer, this article will help you avoid making some of these common mistakes.  

  1. Do not depend on a lead service company to guarantee designers.

Often clients ask me what requirements we place on a designer signing up to use our lead service.  While we can remove designers from our website if they have been reported to the BBB or we received several verified complaints, we do not offer any guarantees in regards to the designers that use our service.

Just like if you had done a search through google, you will want to thoroughly investigate each company you are looking into.  Different lead services have their own way of operating.  Be sure to read each lead services policies.

  1.  Don’t judge a book by its cover.  

I see a lot of “professional” looking developer websites out there.  Just because a website looks professional to you, does not guarantee the company is qualified to handle your project.  A lot of times companies offer impressive looking, yet very vague or generic information on their website.  

Look specifically for pages like “Testimonials” & “Meet The Team”.   Take notice if the person you are talking to on the phone is the same person that is on the website.  Look for examples of projects that have been successfully completed, read the details in their “Case Studies” and ask to speak to referrals.  Find out how long they have been in business and check them out with the Better Business Bureau website.

  1. Don’t rush through project planning.

Once you have done your research and you are competent that you have found the right designer  for your project, you are ready to move forward.

Create a basic written description of your project to the best of your ability.  So often client’s want to describe their project over the phone.  Important requests get overlooked or forgotten and then you have a case of “your word against theirs”.  Put everything in writing.  It should be easy to do this with email.  Make sure you have everything you want included in the one email and not spread out over 3 or 4 emails. 

For example your project description may sound like this:

I am looking for a website designer to develop my new site.  I need help with hosting.  I would like to be able to edit the copy on the website myself.  I will need custom graphics created for my website.  My site will have 4 main pages.  About Us, Order, Contact Us & Gallery.  I will need to set up a shop to sell products on my site as well.  I need help with social media like linking my site to facebook, twitter and instagram.

Once you have communicated to the designer what you are looking to accomplish expect receive something close to the following:

1. A detailed outline of the project broken down into phases and/or tasks.

2. A time estimate based on the project outline.

3. A ballpark figure based on the information provided.

  1. Never pay for all of it up front!

You may be confident in your developer, maybe it’s your daughter’s husband developing it for you and you trust him with your life.  Still do not pay for all of the work up front.  

Let’s say your total comes to $3000.00.  Just like you break the project up into phases, you should also break up your payments.  Below is an example.  You may choose to break it up more or less depending on your specific needs.

Here is a rough idea of how your proposal/contract will look with a deadline of January 1, 2016

Proposal Example:


PHASE I (5hrs) Completion Date 11-1-15

  • Consultation & Research (Via email and/or phone)
  • Hosting Setup
  • WordPress Theme Installation
  • Plugin Installations
  • Login & Basic Setup

PHASE II (20hrs) Completion Date 11-15-15

  • Consultation & Research Part 2(Via email and/or phone)
  • Implementing Design
  • Custom Graphics
  • CMS Setup
  • Site Menu Setup
  • Header & Artwork Setup
  • Subpage Template
  • Review/Notes
  • 1 set (completed list) of revisions.

PHASE III (20hrs) Completion Date 11-30-15 

  • Consultation & Research Part 3(Via email and/or phone)
  • Social Media Integration
  • Photo Gallery
  • WordPress Overview
  • Assist in overseeing insertion of site copy & graphics.
  • Assist in any copy formatting issues.
  • 1 set (completed list) of revisions.

PHASE IV (20hrs) Completion Date 12-15-15 

  • Online Shop
  • Beta Testing
  • Testing Cross Platforms, Mobile, Windows, Mac, ie, Chrome, etc

Payment: 50% Down 50% Upon Completion Per Phase

Phase I: 5hrs  $50hr =$250  

$125. Due 10-28-15 (upon receipt)  /  $125.00 Due 11-1-15 (or upon completion)

Phase II: 20hrs  $50 =$1000
$500. Due 11-1-15 (upon receipt)  /  $500.00 Due 11-15-15 (or upon completion)

Phase III: 20hrs  $50 =$1000
$500. Due 11-15-15 (upon receipt)  /  $500.00 Due 11-30-15 (or upon completion)

Phase IV 20hrs  $50 =$1000

$500. Due 12-01-15 (upon receipt)  /  $500.00 Due 12-15-15 (or upon completion)

  1. Understand that technology changes, code can be finicky and estimates are usually at best guesstimates based on the information at hand.

Make sure that your website completion deadline is at least 15 days before your “real” deadline.  So if you are looking to launch January 1st, make your deadline December 15th.

It is impossible for even the most experienced designer to foresee every possible (aka probable) technical difficulty that is bound to arise.  So not only should you be prepared for this, keep in mind that all cost estimates and time estimates are given with the best of intentions, based on the information that is currently available.  Rarely do things run without a hitch, especially in web design.

Look at it like how you estimate a work commute.  You can see that on a map, your destination takes 20 miles.  However, you have to take into consideration that there will be traffic, possibly accidents, road blocks and other unforeseen obstacles along your way to the finish line.  Your commute is more like 2 hours.  Keeping these items in mind before you enter into a relationship with a designer will help things run more smoothly for everyone.  Best of luck with your project and happy designer hunting!

© Jessica Warren 2015