Marketing: Do You Need a Professional Designer?

By Alexander Hiam

The process of working with a designer can help you in your marketing campaign. If you don’t have the talent or desire to design ads and other printed materials, know that it’s okay to delegate this work to skilled designers. When selecting a designer, review their portfolio thoroughly. Only hire someone whose body of work matches your sense of style and quality. Past work is the best predictor of future work.

First, a designer crafts several thumbnails, rough sketches used to describe layout concepts. Traditionally thumbnails were created as small, quick sketches in pen or pencil, but nowadays designers are using computer programs such as Adobe InDesign to create more impressive-looking thumbnails. Younger designers call them mockups rather than thumbnails, but both serve the same purpose.

After you sign off on a thumbnail or mockup you like, the designer traditionally develops it into a rough, a full-sized sketch or high-quality computer-generated mockup with headlines and subheads set in an appropriate font style (the appearance of the printed letters).

The rough may have sketches for the illustrations, or the designer may pull low-resolution pictures off the web to give you an idea of proposed illustrations. (To finalize the design, you’ll probably need to either purchase the right to use a high-resolution image from a stock photography provider or hire a photographer or artist to create an image.)

At this time, the designer also shows you where the body copy will go, but she won’t use actual copy unless you already have some drafted that she can drop into the rough design.

Sometimes clients of ad agencies insist on seeing designs in the rough stage, to avoid the expense of having those designs developed more fully before presentation. Always ask to see rough versions of your designs, even if your agency hesitates to show you its work in unfinished form.

After the designer realizes that you appreciate the design process and don’t criticize the roughs simply because they’re rough, you can give the agency more guidance and help during the design process.

After a rough meets your approval, the designer develops that rough into a comp (short for comprehensive layout). A comp should look pretty much like a final version of the design, whether it’s created as a full-color proof on a computer or whether it’s done by hand.

Today, most comps are neatly printed on color laser printers, unless the designer is remote, in which case you may receive a PDF file by e-mail that you’re expected to review from your end.

If you’re working on a brochure or a special insert for a magazine, ask to see a dummy, which is a form of comp that simulates the feel — as well as the look — of the final design.

By doing a dummy comp, you can assess the feel of the design while you’re evaluating its appearance and decide whether you like the paper, ink, size, and any other physical elements of the design, such as folds, die cuts, or perforations.