Know the lingo for better outcomes on marketing projects.
Designers, writers, social media managers, search specialists and attorneys must all come together to make a marketing project successful. As with any group of idiosyncratic individuals, maintaining a productive, cohesive unit requires proper communication. If you want to squeeze the full potential from the creative professionals working with your firm, everyone must be speaking the same language. This is a two-way street; your marketing team must also do appropriate research on your firm, competitors and practice areas and should understand important legal concepts. Agencies that provide boilerplate solutions to all of their clients do not really care about the success of your marketing plan.
Designers will need to ask questions and may request files in order to keep a project moving forward. Here are some common items you may need to discuss:
File types. Graphics come in two forms: raster and vector. Raster graphics are made up of information that is translated into pixels. Each pixel is a single point of color, millions of which come together to create a full picture. Since raster graphics are made up of a finite number of pixels, they cannot be upscaled – this causes the picture to be pixelated, or blurry. It is also more difficult to separate elements within an image from their backgrounds in raster graphics. Each item must be outlined by hand, which is time consuming and can cause some loss of quality. Raster file formats include .jpg, .png, .gif, .tiff and .bmp.
Vector files are built with individual objects that are defined mathematically. Because vector files are made up of mathematical equations instead of pixels, they can be scaled to any size. Vector graphics can also easily be separated into different pieces. This is important for items like a logo. If your logo has been used on a blue background in an ad, but you need it on a white background for your website, a vector fill will allow the designer to easily pull the logo, alter the color and delete the background without any compromise in quality. This process will take minutes with a vector, but could take hours with a raster graphic. Vector file formats include .ai, .eps and .svg.
Color modes. Designers work in two color modes: RGB for web and CMYK, or 4-color process, for print. All colors you see on screen are created from combinations of red, green and blue (RGB) and all printed colors from a combination of cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). You cannot get a color to look exactly the same in RGB as it does in CMYK, and it is your designer's job to come as close as possible. For banding purposes, your firm should choose colors from each color space and record their values so that any agency or printer can reproduce them accurately. You may also want to choose a Pantone (PMS or spot) color for print purposes. Spot colors will always look exactly the same no matter who prints them. This will look something like the following: The bright red in YouTube's logo has the values R205 G51 B45 (RGB/web), C0 M96 Y90 K2 (CMYK/process) and 1795C (PMS/spot).
Picture resolution. Your designer's computer does not possess the magic of television, wherein the bad guys always get caught after the CSI team enlarges and enhances a fuzzy picture to show a crystal-clear shot of the perp. If a picture is not the right size, it simply cannot be used. Do not pull screen shots or pictures off of Google image for use in your marketing. They are likely to be too low resolution, and in many cases will infringe on copyright. If your designer asks for a “large” or “high-resolution” file and you are not sure what that entails, ask them to be more specific.
Project guidelines. It is by no means your job to be a designer. But it does help if you put real effort into defining the parameters of what you expect and need from a project. Think about your ideal client and give your team as much detail about how you want to appeal to that client as possible. At the very least, come up with a list of things you absolutely do not want to see. Designers want creative freedom, but cringe when they hear the phrase, “Surprise me!” Also, understand that what may seem like an easy fix to you could in reality take hours of work. To avoid teeth-gnashing over last minute changes, give as much detail as you can from the beginning. Suggestions that start out with, “I have one quick thing...” can be anything but.
Whether you are working with an in-house designer or an agency, understanding the basics of their trade helps projects run more smoothly. If you know even just a tiny bit of designer lingo, you will be better able to convey what you are looking for and help your team deliver the results you want.