When to Use Adobe Creative Cloud vs. Other Programs for Graphic Design | Ballast Notes

As a graphic designer who works mainly with nonprofits and small businesses, I love to help educate my clients on best practices when it comes to design. If you're working solo or as a part of a small team that hasn't worked with many designers before, there's plenty of questions that pop up. When I'm working on custom digital designs (like social media images) or editorial/print designs (like brochures, fliers, one-pagers, and magazines), clients will ask me to create a template for them, or will ask, "Is this something I can edit?"

I totally understand this question; in all companies -- especially nonprofits and small organizations, who may need edits quicker and more often -- there's the desire to minimize your outsourcing and do as much editing in-house

It all comes down to customization. The Adobe Creative Suite programs (the key graphic design programs being Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign) allow for full customization of any sort of design file. That being said, Adobe has a steep learning curve (I've been using it for 10 years and am still finding new features) and is also quite expensive, especially for an organization on a tight budget. But there's still a ton of pros to the Creative Suite - Microsoft programs or Google Docs, there's no limit on your margins, fonts, or where you can place images. And unlike Canva or other social media share creation apps, there's no limit to filters or the fonts you use.

There is an awesome place for programs like the Microsoft Office Suite and Canva, but those are not the programs that graphic designers often use, because they don't allow for the best use of customization. If you're looking for a document you can edit in-house without the Adobe Creative Suite, it may be necessary to engage a virtual assistant, marketing professional, or someone else who may be better skilled to create a custom Microsoft or Google document. 

If you are engaging a professional graphic designer to create something for you, there's a 99.9% chance they will be designing in one of the Adobe Creative Suite programs. It's a graphic design best practice, and the steep learning curve of the Creative Suite programs are a great reason to engage a graphic designer (on a freelance, part-time or contract basis) to create your designed items. 

Other tips when you're working with a graphic designer (I'll expand more on most of these in future blog posts!):

  1. Have your content finalized before hiring a designer. Not only will the process move quicker, but the designer can create the initial design with the actual amount of text and graphics you'll be using, instead of relying on filler text that may not give the right visual. Also, there will be fewer edits for the designer to complete if all of the content is final.
  2. Specify what format you would like your design file to be created in before the designer gets started on your project. If you would like the file to be editable in a format other than Adobe, let the designer know at the very beginning -- it will allow for a quicker process if there's no backtracking. When a file is created in an Adobe Creative Cloud program, it won't be editable in any other program.
  3. Be clear on the project deliverables, and how the designed files will be used. From the graphic design side, we refer to the working files we are creating as "native files," and any finalized, user-friendly files as "deliverables." For example, an Adobe InDesign document would be a "working file," and the final PDF of a brochure that you print out is a "deliverable." Be sure that both you and your designer are clear on whether or not the native files will be delivered at the end of the process, what file type they will be in, and what deliverables are expected at the end of the process. Depending on how you'll be using the final files (ex. for printing on a standard printer, professionally printed, for digital use only, etc.), your designer may recommend specific deliverables.

Hopefully these tips will help your process next time you consider the jump into Adobe Creative Suite, or need to work with a graphic designer! What other tips would you add for someone who is considering using the Adobe Creative Suite for a project?