Design FAQs

On this page I’ve compiled a list of common design queries I’ve been asked over the years. Simply click to browse one of the three categories, if you can’t find the answer you’re looking for please send me an email.  

A set of questions and answers which are particularly useful if you are in a new marketing role or this is the first time working with a graphic designer. Please don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

A series of technical graphic design and artwork production queries answered here. Many of these have raised their heads repeatedly over the years. Hopefully they will clarify rather than confuse! 

Design is an important investment, and I find it best to be transparent and upfront regarding the financial details. Nobody likes to discover hidden charges or last minute additional costs. 

Briefing your design work

In the first instance we should schedule a Skype or Zoom call to discuss your project in greater detail – please allocate approx. one hour for this initial ‘kickoff’ meeting. Ideally you should prepare a brief in either Word document or an email to share prior to this meeting, to ensure we are all working of the same page/screen! To start the conversation visit the contact page here.

Provide details about the target market, any market research completed, desired outcomes, your competition, and provide crucial technical information. You could also provide examples of designs and colours you like or dislike. The budget, deadlines and rounds of amends included should also be agreed.

These are my absolute favourite design jobs. Whether you are thinking of a gentle evolution or a radical revolution, a branding job can sometimes feel overwhelming. I will work closely with you during all stages of the design process, from the initial concepts to the unveiling of high resolution, print-ready artwork. Even when the implementation of your new brand has been completed, I will still continue to offer support and advice as/when required.
 
In terms of briefing branding jobs I need to get under the skin of your business, to begin to understand the mindset of your clients, customers or audiences to ensure you get the branding that perfectly encapsulates your company’s personality. Click here for more information on my branding services.
According to Google, the ‘Design Process’ is an approach for breaking down a large project into manageable chunks. Every decent design agency or freelancer should follow a organised (and consistent) set of stages to bring a design brief into reality for their clients.

Following my process is as easy as making a brew, for full details visit my dedicated design process page here. Switch the kettle on and write your design brief. Then leave it in my capable hands, to follow the stages from concepts through to completion. As that famous meerkat would say, simples!
Yes of course, I am happy to provide testimonials to my work, as someone wise once said – you are only as good as your last design job. You can read client testimonials on my website here. You can also read my LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements here.

I have been working as a professional graphic designer since 1995 and I have over 20 years experience using the following Adobe Creative Suite software – InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop and Acrobat. I also have about 5 years experience using Adobe Spark (storytelling platform), Adobe Animate (vector based animation), WordPress (with Elementor Pro) and Wix (website design and development) and Sketch or Adobe XD (user interface and prototyping).

I currently work with clients based in Oxford, Southend and London, further afield I often work with organisations based in France, Holland, Germany, Turkey and New York. I am happy to travel to your business premises but in the first instance meeting up virtually via Skype or Zoom makes more sense. 
Consistency builds trust and brand loyalty – developing a consistent brand starts with creating a brand guide. This important document should be the foundation that underpins your new or evolved logo and branding. They should be produced whilst the paint is still drying on your new logo, whilst the reasoning is still fresh in your mind.

 

They can be anything between 10 and 100 pages/screens in length depending upon the size and complexity of your business. Their content tends to expand over time, as your brand evolves and further print and digital collateral are produced – these deserve to be showcased as examples of best practice.
 
Typical content might include: mission statement, values and culture, customer research, master and supporting logos, logo hierarchy, colour palettes, tone of voice, typographic styles, photo/image usage, grid layouts, a gallery of examples, website development, any technical information and your contact details.
In brief, a ‘Mission Statement’ defines what a company is currently doing, and a ‘Vision Statement’ summarises the company’s future ambitions and objectives. This 15 minute article courtesy of Hubpost explains the difference with real life examples.
In a nutshell a headline goes at the top of an advert or brochure. A strapline/tagline goes at the bottom, near the logo. And a slogan appears in a competition or on a T-shirt! This excellent article by copywriter Caroline Gibson helps to clarify the differences.

There are several reasons to outsource copywriting: If you are struggling to write engaging copy; you feel out of your comfort zone; or you feel too close to your company’s product or service and would value a fresh perspective; or simply someone to check/edit your work. I can highly recommend a couple of talented contacts if needed. 

Technical graphic design queries

This question crops up time and time again and refers in broad terms to the density of pixels or dots – the more pixels or dots in a photo, the better quality the results. Printed materials use dots of inks, referred to as ‘dots per inch’ (acronym DPI), whereas digital screens use ‘pixels per inch’ (acronym PPI). Printed materials should always be produced using high-resolution files (300dpi ideally) whereas digital files for websites, web banners, mobile publishing etc use low-resolution files (72dpi ideally) – the highest resolution that monitors can display.
 
When producing any design work it is important to start with a high-quality image. Buy and download the best quality photos your budget allows (bigger is better) and produce any logos using ‘Vector’ based software such as Adobe illustrator. Vector files don’t lose quality and are explained on another FAQ. Finally, your graphic designer can reduce image sizes for print (300dpi) to use online (72dpi) without losing any quality but they cannot add more dots or pixels to increase quality.
Image size refers to the dimensions of an image in physical size and dpi, while file size is how much space the image takes up when saved or moved onto your hard drive. This is measured in kilobytes (Kb) or megabytes (Mb). Image files like photographs with higher resolution (more dpi) will also have a bigger file size because they contain more data.
Reducing your photos before uploading them to the web (to 72dpi) will save you server space and they’ll load faster, which is especially noticeable on mobile devices. There are image compression ‘plugins’ for WordPress that automatically reduce your image sizes – one less thing to worry about!
Good question which can easily lead to a complex technical answer involving additive and subtractive colour theories! Working with cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) ‘inks’ is like painting on paper. You start with a white sheet, and any colours you add will make the paper darker until you produce black. Working with red, green and blue (RGB) ‘lights’ the more colour you add the lighter the screen will become until you produce white.
 
Black can be achieved in print simply by using 100% black ink (K standing for key plate) but to achieve a ‘rich’ deeper black we need to add percentages of cyan and magenta inks into the equation. Conversely, black on screen can be achieved by inputting R=0%, G=0%, B=0% or by using hex code #000000. White paper is devoid of any colour inks, conversely in digital by inputting the maximum values R=255, G=255, B=255 or by using hex code #ffffff. 
Another confusing subject to explore. There are two types of digital graphics files vector and raster.
 
Vector images, which are constructed in software packages like Adobe illustrator use lines and curves known as paths and shapes (rather than pixels) plus mathematical theory. When saving files you can use the following extensions SVG, EPS, PDF, and AI. The advantages are smaller file sizes because they contain less data and most importantly Vectors can be scaled up (or down) to any size required without loss of quality. Perfect for creating logos and illustrations.
 
Raster images are constructed in photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop and use pixels to display in print or on screen. Sometimes referred to as bitmap because they use ‘bitmaps’ to store information. When saving files you can use the following extensions: TIF, GIF, PNG and JPG. Resolution is the key concern here.

Environmentally-friendly printers to contact are Ashley House based in Exeter, or The Graphical Tree based in central London, who are large format specialists. 

Other tried and tested printers I can highly recommend:
Once the final visual (or draft) of your design job has been approved and signed off by all stakeholders, I will then produce and supply the ‘artwork’ files if its a print job and/or ‘web friendly’ assets if it’s a digital job. The timings involved depend upon the complexity of the job. For example, saving a print ready PDF file for a magazine advert will only take a few minutes, whereas supplying a Adobe XD prototype file for website developers to work with, will take several hours.
 
Whether its a print or digital job several checks need to be performed before any artwork files leave the design studio. With most print jobs I advise asking your printer to supply a ‘hard proof’ (physical sample) – this is vitally important because it helps prevent unforeseen problems with text, images, colours, spacing and other design elements. A ‘soft proof’ is simply a PDF file to confirm safe delivery of your artwork files.
Vertical and landscape logo treatments are useful additions to your collection of brand assets, and are sometimes referred to as brand ‘lockups’. A typical logo lockup consists of a graphical symbol (or icon) plus the wordmark (or name). Choosing the right logo often comes down to experience and/or personal preference.
 
A stacked logo, sometimes labelled as vertical or portrait is useful when working within portrait print or digital spaces. For example, a printed pop-up banner or document folder usually works best with a stacked logo. A Skyscraper website banner would also suit a stacked logo.
 
A linear logo, sometimes labelled as landscape or horizontal is useful when working within landscape print or digital spaces. For example, a wide billboard poster or compliment slip usually works best with a linear logo. A Leaderboard website banner would also suit a linear logo.
This judgement comes with experience but essentially if you are printing your logo ensure you are using either a EPS vector file or high-resolution JPG file. A high resolution logo is used for print and is usually saved as 300dpi (dots per inch), compared with a low resolution logo used for digital and will be saved at just 72dpi.

 

If you are ever unsure about your logo’s resolution open it in Photoshop or place your logo onto an InDesign page and then check the percentage size that it is being used at by clicking inside the picture box using the Direct Selection tool. If the figure is greater than 140% then your logo (or photo) will look blurry and pixelated, never a good look!

 

This doesn’t apply to Vector files because they use paths and shapes (rather than pixels) so will be pin sharp at whatever size it is printed.
You will only be able to view, open or edit EPS files using illustrator software via the Adobe Creative Cloud
This is an interesting one. Brand hierarchy sits within the overall ‘brand architecture’ of a company and its role is to clearly identify, categorise, and present the company’s individual brands to its customers. A few examples you’ll no doubt be familiar with:
 
Coca Cola Company (master brand)
Coke + Diet Coke + Coke Zero + Fanta + Sprite (sub brands in the portfolio)

Apple (master brand)
iMac + iPod + iPhone + iPad + MacBook + iTunes (sub brands)

Ford Motor Company (master brand)
Fiesta + Focus + Puma + Kuga + Mustang + Mondeo + Galaxy (sub brands)
The short answer: flexibility and scalability. If you design and save a logo with a strapline (or tagline) attached then it can often cause you problems:
 
1. Flexibility: A logo will often outlive the life cycle of a strapline (or tagline) which might go out of fashion or out of favour or simply have been written for a specific event or season.
 
2. Scalability: When you need to use your logo small (business card or web banner) then the strapline will become too small to read, and conversely if you’re using your logo on a large format print job (A-sized poster, bus side or billboard) then you strapline will tend to overpower the space.
1. An EPS vector file is your master file, which designers and printers prefer to work with because they use paths and shapes (rather than pixels) so will be pin sharp at whatever size it is printed. You will only be able to open or edit these files with Adobe illustrator.

 

2. A JPG image file is constructed in photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop and uses pixels (rather than paths and shapes) to display the logo in print or online.

 

3. An SVG file (Scalable Vector Graphics) is an open standard developed by the World Wide Web Consortium back in 1999. With transparent backgrounds and small file sizes, SVG files are perfect for use online. You will only be able to open or edit these files with illustrator.

4. A PNG file (Portable Network Graphic) supports transparent backgrounds and comes in two flavours: PNG-8 and PNG-24 both can be edited and saved with Photoshop. PNG-8 files only support 256 colours, whereas PNG-24 files support 16 million colours (the human eye can register around 10 million) but this extra information results in a larger files size.

Budget and payment queries

You should expect to spend anywhere between £750 and £2,000 for a logo project depending upon the complexity. Your logo is usually the first interactions that potential customers have with your business or organisation. A professional logo will be instantly recognisable, will inspire confidence in your product or service and in the long term it will build trust – a logo can become one of the most valuable assets in your business. Of course it’s possible to design a logo within 24 hours but ideally allow 1-2 weeks to ensure the best possible outcome. 
 
Once your logo is approved I would also supply the following digital assets to ensure flexibility of use across all your business collateral: logo in full colour, logo in black and white, a reversed out logo (white version), horizontal and stacked lockups, different file formats for use in print, website and on social media platforms (JPG, PNG, SVG, EPS etc), plus any branded stationery requirements. Time frames and deadlines are obviously important considerations but you shouldn’t rush the creative process for the sake of a single meeting or an event. 
This is often a grey area in graphic design. A misunderstanding of the number of revisions included can cause the agreed budget to increase. Best to avoid this potentially awkward situation by agreeing how many rounds of amends are included for each job. Transparency is key. Common sense dictates that different size jobs usually require different size budgets. It’s usually the case that a simple business card design would only require 2-3 rounds of client amends. By contrast annual reports, exhibition stands or website homepages will require a greater attention to detail, involvement of more stakeholders, longer timeframes and more working parts. In my experience we are then talking between 5-10 rounds of amends.
 
It is worth briefly mentioning branding projects at this point. Branding is personal. Clients generally speaking like a greater level of involvement, which can result in slower progress and sometimes a frustrating number of amends. To avoid ‘design burnout’ we should agree to limit revisions and communicate clearly throughout any project.
Once we have assessed your design requirements, I will send you an estimate via my Freshbooks cloud-based accounting system. Once an estimate is accepted new clients are required to pay a 25% deposit before any design work is undertaken. All clients are bound by standard 30 day payment terms, and late payments will incur fees of 10% of the value of the invoice after it becomes 14 days overdue. Payment reminders are automatically generated and emailed to clients a day before payment is due.
 
Any additional design work above that agreed during the briefing process will require a new estimate being supplied and approved by the client. Additional rounds of amends will also be charged at my hourly rate. There are no hidden extra costs and all estimates are provided with a full breakdown of the hours and services involved. 
Most of the time it’s unnecessary for the client to get ‘ownership’ of design files. You’re unlikely to have a subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud software, then there’s the steep learning curve involved in using the design software to edit your file and editing or saving files incorrectly could cause problems and even cost you money.
 
Who owns the design copyright? According to www.gov.uk “In the case of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, the author or creator of the work is usually the first owner of any copyright in it. An exception is where artistic work is made by an employee in the course of his employment, his employer is the first owner of any copyright in the work (subject to any agreement to the contrary).” Another exception to this rule concerns brand identity work, such as logo design (which the company will trade mark as their own) or websites, which require updating frequently.
 
Hopefully we can avoid this kind of ownership dispute – but in summary, as the client you are paying for the final artwork, not the tools that made it.

Let’s collaborate

Send me an email to discuss your new project

Working from either my London or Istanbul studio, I provide my clients with a full stack of graphic design services and support. Use the form below to request an online meeting or a WhatsApp call. Start the ball rolling today