design process

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!


Design Decoded: Why Do I Need a Vector Logo?

A vector format logo in all of our brand services at Anchored Creative Studio, and it's something that is purposefully listed first in all of our services. To me, it's the first thing any business should look for when evaluating the branding work a graphic designer is planning to do for them. 

So, what's so important about a vector logo?

There are two types of graphics: vector and raster. I wrote more about the difference between the two in a blog post earlier this year, but the basics are that raster graphics are composed of pixels and are a set size, whereas vector graphics are composed of vectors (intuitive, yes?) and can be scaled up or down to be as large or small as you would like. 

Because raster logos are composed of pixels, they become pixelated and blurry when scaled up or down. Pixels are tiny boxes of color that take up a tiny box (which is called a pixel).

Sounds great, but what does that mean for my business?

A pixelated and blurry version of my company logo

A pixelated and blurry version of my company logo

You know what I was saying about graphics becoming pixelated when you try to size them up or down? When you do this to a logo that's saved as a raster graphic, it gets very blurry, very quickly. Having a pixelated logo can make your organization look unprofessional or amateur. 

Always having a vector format of your logo on hand is important so you can hand it off to any organization that's using your logo for events, or in the case you need to make a change to your logo in the future. If you don't have that vector file, it's difficult to make changes to your logo while still maintaining its original integrity. With a file logo, your logo can be blown up as large as a billboard or as small as a matchbox and still look crisp and clear. 

How can I tell if a file is saved as a vector?

Vector files will have the file extension of .ai, .eps, .svg or .pdf. And that's it! If you have a logo saved in .pdf format, I would recommend verifying with a graphic designer that this .pdf is a native file, since a .pdf can also be a raster file. A "native file" is the original file the designer created the graphic in, as opposed to a copy of the file in a different format. All vector files can't be viewed on your computer unless you have vector software, like Adobe Illustrator. 

So, should I ever use a raster version of my logo?

Yes! There's a huge value to raster versions of your logo. Vector files are important for long term usages, but raster files are the versions you'll be using on an everyday basis. Raster files include .png, .jpg and .gif files, which you are likely familiar with. These files can be opened on all computers and smartphones, and you don't need any special programs to look at them. 

Any other tips your average person should know about vector files? 

When starting a new brand, have as many logo files as possible! You only need one vector file per each type of logo, but it's helpful to have large, small, and social media-sized logos for each color and variation of your logo. Most of Anchored Creative Studio's branding packages include up to 16 logo files at the end of the branding process, so the client is armed and ready to go with everything they need.

Questions? Shoot me an email! I'm always happy to chat about design questions!


Design Decoded: Vectors

I'm starting a new blog series called Design Decoded. Like many other graphic designers, I'm guilty of talking shop and throwing around confusing design terms with clients. One of the downsides of freelancing and working alone most of the day is totally forgetting that the clients you work with aren't designers as well. Multiple times after sending emails or chatting on the phone with a client, I've had them kindly ask me to backtrack and explain what the heck that RBG color space was I was talking about and why it was important. 

So, for anyone who has worked with a designer who has thrown out confusing terms or acronyms, or just wants to learn more about design, this is for you!

What is a vector?

Anyone who has gone through a business branding process has definitely heard the term "vector" thrown around in regard to their logo. And if you haven't heard of the term, you probably should have. So, why is it so important? 

There are two types of graphics: vector and raster. The everyday person is much more familiar with raster graphics - any JPG or PNG image you have saved on your computer is raster, and any photo you take with your phone is raster as well. Raster graphics are very common and do their job very well - the downside is that raster graphics have a set size. They are created using a set number of pixels, and can never be made larger than that number of pixels they were originally created with. Whenever someone says an image or graphic looks "pixelated," it's because someone has made that image or graphic larger than it was originally created for.

So, how do we avoid this? You might have guessed it: with vector graphics! Vector graphics are especially important in logo design so your company's logo can be scaled as large or small as you need it to be while still maintaining its detail. Vector graphics are made with vectors (I know, as if this couldn't get more confusing) instead of the pixels used in raster graphics. Vectors are different shapes and lines combined to make the graphic, as opposed to pixels, which uses small squares of different colors. 

It's super important to have your graphic designer deliver your logo in vector format, in addition to JPG, PNG, and any other format they may give you. You don't know if you'll need your logo to be placed on large signage or scaled down for a sponsor deck in the future, so it's best to be armed with all your resources in the beginning. Even though vector graphics can be made into raster graphics, it can't be done the other way around without losing certain details in the graphic. All vector graphics will come in an AI, EPS or SVG file (the first two being the most common used by designers), and are almost always created in Adobe Illustrator. 

Make sense? Confusing? Awesome? What would you like to hear about in the next Design Decoded? Leave a comment and let me know!