4 Questions to Ask Before Getting Started on a Design Project | Ballast Notes

As a freelancer and business owner, I've learned over the years that it's important to ask the right questions. It can make the world of difference in creating the right type of work for your client, and eliminating rounds of unnecessary edits. Here's a few of my tips for questions to ask before your next graphic design project: 

  1. What format(s) will the final design be used in, and how will it be printed (if at all)?
    When starting on a project, this question will define many of the initial choices that you make. If your client would like to print and have the design as a PDF, it's smartest to make it in InDesign. If it's a digital-only one-page or one-image file, Photoshop will likely be best. For digital-only PDFs and/or designs that need to be vector, Illustrator is definitely the way to go.

    Additionally, this question facilitates another important topic: deliverables. Getting the ball rolling on the topic of how the designs will be used gives you a better idea of what the final deliverables will be, and whether or not the client needs the native file(s). Being sure that you're both on the same page when it comes to deliverables will make the project wrap-up run smoothly, and there will be no surprises at the end of your work together. 

    It's surprisingly easy to bypass this part of the information gathering process, because clients often don't realize that different types of design need to be made in different Adobe programs. And sometimes, the client hasn't even thought that far ahead yet. You know what they say about assuming -- talking about formats will ensure that every has the same assumptions about what the end result will look like. 
  2. What size is the final format?
    Similar to the question above, it's necessary to design to scale and to page length (if it's a print project). Any designer knows that resizing a project to a completely different size is basically equivalent to completely starting over on a project. And if you're creating original graphics in Photoshop or InDesign, making your graphics larger will pixelate them. 

    If you're working on a print project, also be sure to ask your client how it will be printed, and if bleeds will be necessary in your final export.
  3. Who is the target audience?
    Now we get to the good stuff: the actual content of your design. If the information isn't volunteered, be sure to ask about the target audience of the material you're designing. Since you know how it's going to be presented to its audience, make sure you're also aware of who it will be presented to. 

    The audience of a piece makes a huge difference -- children vs. adults? Prospective donors vs. existing donors? Parents vs. students? Americans vs. Europeans? This will help you make design choices that will truly impact its audience.
  4. Do you have brand guidelines and content ready to go?
    Last, but certainly not least. A company's brand guidelines set the stage for the logo, colors, fonts, and other graphics you'll be using in your design. Here's a few sub-questions to ask if they do not have a thorough brand  guide handy:
    Do you have your logo in vector format?
    - What colors would you like to be primary in this design? Secondary colors?
    - Which fonts should be used for this project? Both header and body fonts are helpful.
    - Do you have any other graphics or pattern files for use in this?

What other questions do you ask before kicking off a design project? Comment below!