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10 Questions to Ask BEFORE Starting a Design Project

Your supervisor just came to you with a great idea for a new collateral piece. Now what? Where do you start? Do yourself – and your designer – a favor by asking these 10 questions before embarking on any design project. It will save your company valuable time and money.
 
1. Budget
The very first thing to decide when considering any design is budget. Budget will determine everything from the size, shape and weight of your project. That annual report your boss wants mailed to customers? Consider splurging on great photography to create an online annual report rather than purchasing expensive postage for mailers.
 
2. Deadline
As a general rule, items such as brochures, mailers and posters need three to five days for design and another week for printing. However, large projects and custom pieces often need up to three weeks for design and two weeks for printing.
 
3. Audience
Take a moment to envision your target audience. Is this project for a younger or older audience? Male or female? Adjust details on the desired outcome. A brochure for a senior living community might require a large font, while a fact sheet for the zoo would include bright colors and graphics.
 
4. Brand
Design should ideally adhere to an organization’s established brand standards. Your designer will need this road map to ensure they use the right logo, fonts and colors.
 
5. Purpose
What is the desired result of your design? Clearly defining a call to action provides the designer creative freedom to artistically illustrate an emotion or idea. We often see this rule play out in political ads which use colorful graphics in red to encourage a “no” vote.
 
6. Medium
Will this design be created for print, web, email or a mobile app? Each medium has rules. Knowing the intended channel immediately gives the designer an understanding of the size of their canvas and how to format color (see #9) and fonts (see #10).
 
7. Style
Choosing the style of a design is relatively easy once audience and purpose are determined. Should the piece be formal and elegant or artsy and whimsical? Should the finished design be sleek and glossy or plain? It’s important the look and feel of the design match the overall message.
 
8. Graphics
Knowing your budget will help determine whether to hire a photographer or buy stock images. Limited budget? It’s time to get creative with use of color, shapes or readily available photos.
 
9. Colors
Color affects mood and tone, so it’s important to understand the research of color psychology. To really confuse matters, there are also Pantone colors and web-safe or HEX colors.
Side note on color for print vs. web: Designers work with color modes referred to as CMYK and RGB. Anything designed for the web (or anything with a screen) is in RGB (red, green, blue) mode. Anything dealing with printed material is in CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) mode.
 
10. Fonts
Finding the right font is challenging, but it’s often the final touch that brings the piece together. When selecting a typeface for young children or the visually impaired, sans serifs are preferable. Its simplified letterforms are easier to recognize.
Additionally, not all fonts work well for web or email. Each computer has a different operating system with certain fonts installed. There are a handful of web safe or “universal” fonts that should be on every computer – so the way it’s seen on the screen is the way your audience will view it as well.
Asking these 10 questions before every design project will ensure an efficient and cost-effective product. By thinking through the logistics (printing, paper, distribution) and desired results you can avoid costly revisions or a failed campaign. The last thing anyone wants is to spend weeks fine-tuning a beautifully designed piece and then find out you can’t afford to print it.
Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, sums it up like this, “If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.”

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