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Stop bothering me with those pesky job specs!

Stop bothering me with those pesky job specs!

Recently we did some logo work for a guy who had worked with a number of other graphics designers in the past. When he first hired me he said “can you handle my graphic design needs because I’ve asked for quotes from a couple of other designers who are being vague about what they’re going to do, and that bothers me.”

So when I started doing a job for him I sent him an email & asked him the same thing I ask every client, “What are the specs for this job?”…(that doesn’t seem like an unusual question to me but  I guess it seemed like a big pain in the butt to him because the client didn’t answer the email.)  So I asked him again…..”David, can you give me an idea of how you’re going to use this logo artwork so I can be sure to set it up correctly?”   He sent me back an email that said “can’t you just do it the regular way?”.

I tried to explain that while graphics design may not be brain surgery, it’s still a technical skill that works with and outputs technical data.  The artwork we create as graphics designers is the technical information that a printer would need to be able to print a job correctly.  OR if it’s a digital job, the artwork would be the information that your computer needs to be able to display your website correctly, for example.

To do ANY job, we have to know what it’s for and how it’s going to be used.  Is it a printing job that’s going to a “CMYK” or four-color printer?

Is it a spot job such as a two color business card or a silk screened or embroidered t-shirt?  Is it a piece of letterhead that you are printing on your inkjet or laser printer?  Is it a website that you need to load quickly so your customers don’t lose interest?  All of those different types of jobs require us to set up a job with different settings or specs and those settings ensure that the job will print or appear correctly.  And no sir, there’s no such thing as “the regular setting” in advertising.

The problem with this client is that neither of the previous graphics designers had bothered to ask him what he needed the artwork for and as a result the client thought I was a big pain in the butt.  I gently explained that the ONLY reason his graphics designers hadn’t asked him for job specs in the past is because they either didn’t care about his job at all OR they weren’t experienced or trained enough to know any better.  I tend to think it was the former.  And the only reason his jobs hadn’t come out incorrectly is either because the printer fixed the specs without telling him or alternatively, he could have experienced a miracle.

What are “Job Specs”?

CMYK Inks

CMYK Inks

Color Printing – when you’re flipping through a magazine looking at the pretty pictures you’re looking at a CMYK or four color offset print job. A CMYK job prints with the standard, four ink colors that offset printers use: cyan, magenta, yellow & black (thus abbreviated to CMYK).  The artwork for this job tells the printing press how many of each of those four inks to use when they are mixed to make any one color.  If the photos are not set up as CMYK, but as “RGB” (or Red, Green, Blue) for example, the job isn’t going to be able to print at all without being fixed.  So if my client gave us job to his last printer this way they would have had to fix the artwork.

Spot Printing – This type of printing was very popular in the old days because it saved money by using less press time, less set up & clean up time and less than the standard 4 inks.  Instead of mixing the four CMYK inks as with Offset Printing, Spot printing allows us to pick a premixed ink color that the printer essentially grabs off a shelf and uses “as is” to ensure that the desired color is reached.  However with the rise of “discount printing” (which is really just “gang” printing i.e., printing multiple jobs on the press at one time) there are not as many reasons to print spot color.  Spot color printing is still used however.  Sometimes when a client is particularly concerned about their logo colors, for example, we might print a job with 2  or 3 spot colors OR we might print a CMYK job and ADD one or two spot inks (for what’s called a 5 or 6 color job).   Needless to say if we don’t put that information into the artwork, then the printer won’t know what color to use and the printing presses will be confused as hell. There are a number of different types of spot colors used, but the most famous one is made by “Pantone” and you can get a “Pantone swatch book” that let’s you pick the spot colors for your job.

Pantone Swatch Book

Pantone Swatch Book

By the way, you cannot pick your colors by looking at a job on the computer monitor…..what looks orange to me could look pink to you.  The correct and ONLY way to do this is to look at a physical Pantone book and pick the colors that way.  Anything less than that and you’d be guessing.

Digital Printing – there are digital presses now and you would prepare your artwork to print on a digital press the same way you would if you were sending a job to be printed at an offset printer.  however there is some variation in this so for that reason…..you need to ask your printer for his printing specs and give those to your artist.

Digital Jobs – not all jobs are going to print, and thus not all artwork has to be prepared for that purpose.  A website design is not for printing (unless of course you want people to be able to print the website on an inkjet printer, and that has to be considered before the job is half done).  There are not printing specs for a job like this but there is still information that has to be integrated into the file that is critical to ensuring that your job looks good and loads correctly.  For example, images that go into a website don’t have to be as high resolution as the images in printing jobs.  Here’s the rule:  You’ll need 72 dpi images for digital/web work, 150 dpi images if you’re printing a job on your inkjet or laser printer and 300-600 dpi images if you’re printing Offset/CMYK.

A note about resolution – if you give your artist a photo that’s the size of a postage stamp then they cannot increase the physical size of that job to be an 8″ x 10″ job, for example.  So always give your artist the biggest, highest resolution images you have and then depending on that, your artist should be able to tell you how big he or she can make that image.  don’t skimp on images…there’s not much worse than trying to use crappy images on a nicely laid out job (well, it also sucks to have typo ridden text, but that’s another article).

While there is a whole lot more that can be said here, I think this is a good introduction for you whether you’re a client with a print job or a young graphic designer who slept during this class in college.  If you have any questions about this please just shoot me an email….at emily@thebrandxagency.com


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Your Website Checklist

You’ve just hired someone to design and program your new website and they’re asking you Checklistto give them all the things they will need to create the site. The problem is you don’t know the first thing about it, so what do you do?  You can start with this list of  things that most if not all website designers and programmers will need in order to create a new website:

 1)      Unformatted digital text – be prepared to give your development team all of the text for your website in one UNFORMATTED, Microsoft Word or Word Pad document (or other digital word processing file).  Be sure to label each section of text with the page names that the text goes on (so put “About Us” at the top of the text for the About Us page and so on). Make sure that the headers for each page in this section match the names of each page.  These page names should correspond to and match the primary navigation tabs on the home page and any sub tabs or links that may be included with your site. Don’t forget to include all the headlines, sub headlines, and other text that you want used through the site (you may want “pull quotes” to be used on side bars, for example or quotes or captions to be used on photos; also include all the contact information, copyright dates, email addresses, names of employees.)  To ensure you don’t forget anything use your initial “site outline” that you should have created when you asked for the quote for the job, as a guide for the text you need to write and prepare.

2)      Website Instructions – First let me say that there’s nothing more dangerous and confusing than receiving 35 emails each with a snippet of text or a photo with a name like “25944GP.jpg” or other files that are not properly named and prepared to be handled by the development team.   Be sure to include any and all instructions for the website in the above “Digital Text” document (these instructions can be before or after the text for the site). Be sure to make a clear differentiation between the web text and your instructions, perhaps by writing the instructions in colored text or a different font.

3)      Correctly prepared and formatted Images – The exact size of photos that your team will need won’t be clear until AFTER the design phase of the web development is File format imagesdone.  For that reason it’s just better if you give your team the biggest, highest resolution images you have. If you have those images on your computer, do not try to email them to the team by embedding them into a word document or an email.  You CAN send them as an attachment to an email OR better yet use a service like “drop box” or see if your team has an “FTP” server that will make it easier for your to transfer files that are very large.  If you try to email these images they may clog up your email software’s outbox and even if they go out of your own email system, you won’t have any way of knowing if the client can accept files that are that big.  For that reason it’s just better to upload them to an FTP server or use a system similar to Drop Box.(to use an FTP site, someone from your development team will have to send you the instructions and log-in information separately).  Be aware that not all images are “ready to go”…and your design crew may have to do some photo retouching, cropping, resizing and other word that may or may not be included in your initial website quote.  If you have a choice to send your images in a variety of different file formats, most designers would prefer .jpg images (pronounced J-peg).

4)      Image and file Naming – Be careful how you name the files and  images that you give to your development team because it’s REALLY hard and very confusing when they get files or images that are named “qap239r809.jpg”.  If you could name the photo or file WHAT it is……that is very helpful and avoids unnecessary delays.  If the image you are sending is a photo of “Mary Smith” then you could just name it Mary Smith.  It would be even better if you could add the name of the page where you’d like that photo, for example marysmith_pricing.jpg  (don’t forget you can’t ADD a period in the text name…. you CAN add an underscore OR a dash, without a problem – no other characters can be inserted into a file name and the .jpg part is added automatically so you don’t need to worry about that part…just name the first part of the file name (before the period) as I’ve explained here.

5)      Captions – if you would like a caption on or above any of the images, please provide the information to your team by creating a list using the Image file name (see above instruction about naming your files) plus the text that goes with that image next to the name. You can include this list with the text for the website (with the instructions, before or after). If your website is going to have a series of photos with captions, you’ll want to consider how those photos will look next to each other and try to keep any text or captions that go with the photos in a similar style and length.  It’s better not to have one photo with a big, long sentence under it while another photo has two words.  Also remember that if your site is going to have any moving images or text, which are usually programmed with FLASH instead of HTML, for example, you will want to have those captions of similar length and style as well.

6)      Forms – if you plan to have a form on your website, be sure to include the text for the form (or the field names, in other words) with the unformatted digital text that you’ll be providing to your development team.  Also you’ll need to include the email address where you want the form information to be sent to (so for example if you have a form on your “contact us” page, then whenever someone fills out that form, your team will need to know what email address you’ll want that information to be sent to).

7)      Logos – you development team will also need any and all logo artwork that you use for your company and possibly the name of the font that goes with your logo and business package (some companies have a typeface or “font” that they use for all of their outgoingfavicon 1 materials and some organizations even have instructions or rules that go with those fonts & logos, that a marketing team would have to have in order to use those items correctly).  Be sure to send your logo in the highest resolution possible and if possible send the version that’s color and the one that has a clear background or no background.  If you are not sure which logo to send, then I’d suggest that you send  them all the logos you have (you can include these files with the images you will be emailing or posting to the FTP site or putting into “Dropbox”).

8)      Social Media Links – if you want social media links on your website please send 20-social-media-iconsthe links or web addresses to each of your social media webpages.  Try to avoid telling your programmers “can you link my website up to my Facebook page?” because this opens up a whole new can of worms and a number of opportunities for the programmer to connect your website up to the wrong Facebook page.  If you want your site to be developed quickly and correctly, make it as easy and clear as possible for your team so that you minimize confusion and maximize the chances of things being done right the first time.

9)      Contact info – Don’t forget to include any and all current contact information with the content for the website including all the email addresses you want listed on the website (and where you’d like those items to be listed or located).

I often hear horror stories of companies who have hired someone to work on their website, only to have that person drop off the planet or stop working on the project abruptly with no explanation.  I’d wager to say that these people get frustrated asking for materials, waiting for them, asking for the next thing, then waiting for that item and so on….only to lose time and money and ultimately any and all profitability on the project.  This isn’t inevitable however and you’ll greatly reduce the likelihood of having any major issues if you will take the appropriate amount of time on the onset of the project in order to prepare the materials that your team is going to need.

Finally, don’t forget that your development team is most likely made up of a number of people – you may have a marketing person who is helping you plan and outline the site, a copywriter who will help you to write the text, a designer who will develop the design of the website, a programmer who will program the basic site (an HTML programmer or WordPress Programmer, for example) and possibly other programmers who will do specialty programming such as FLASH, database or E commerce programming.  Finally you may have someone to help you after all that’s done to market your website and get it listed on the quality management teamssearch engines.  You may not need to send all the above information to each person who is working on the site, but it will be helpful to you and certainly the initial people working with you to be able to see all the information in one place – well-organized and clearly thought out – before they start on your web development project.


Stop bothering me with those pesky job specs!

Recently we did some logo work for a guy who had worked with a number of other graphics...
article post

Your Website Checklist

You’ve just hired someone to design and program your new website and they’re...
article post