I'm sure most of you are aware of the 4 C's of diamonds, cut, color, clarity and carat. It's an easy guideline to help the consumer select a high quality diamond. But have you heard of The 4 C's of Crystals?These are similar guidelines I developed to help businesses and consumers identify crystal clear graphic design. They are: CREATIVE, CORPORATE, COMPETITIVE and CHARMING. While I originally developed the 4 C's of Crystals to tie in closely with a play on words to my company, Kristal Clear Graphics, this is a helpful guide that can be used when looking for any graphic design company or similar creative professional.
In the last newsletter I talked about the creative element of design, and with that under our belts, let's move on to the very important guideline,CORPORATE. Whether the graphic design company is made of 1 or 1,000 employees, whether you find a well-known advertising agency occupying an entire floor of a downtown high rise or your nephew working out of his college dorm, make sure they follow these corporate guidelines. They're comprised of two main qualities, professionalism and expertise. Below are some questions that can help you discover where your designer stands in each category.
- Do they look professional and therefore practice what they preach? Is their logo and brand image clear and consistent across their marketing platform?
- Do they listen to you? If you share ideas for a project's direction, do they incorporate them into the design or claim "artist's discretion" and give you an over-the-top design they know is better. If you have project goals and a budget do they respect that or do you always feel forced into a sales pitch?
- Do they value customer service and share examples of guaranteeing their customer's complete satisfaction? It's a fact in life and business that you can't please everyone. However, it's important to earnestly try and communicate how the company will fix the problem and follow up on that promise in a timely manner.
- Are they quick? In normal communications, do they return messages in a timely manner or when they say they will? Do they meet the deadlines they promise to meet? When producing a project's proof that may have revisions do they have a fast turnaround or will you have to wait 1 week at every step because each team member needs to put their 2 cents in?
- Are they up front about the process and what you should expect?
- Does your design company use professional design programs like Adobe Creative Suite or Quark Xpress or do they insist Microsoft Publisher and/or an online photo editing program is more than sufficient? Often times it's actually companies who have their employees do in-house work with Publisher that run into problems at the printer for one reason or another.
- Do they hold a degree and/or have a good number of years experience? If they've only been working for a year or two expect lower hourly rates and the designs to reflect it. There are always times you'll be happily surprised, but generally there are more bumps in the road in the whole process.
- Do they offer you suggestions and tips of how to improve your company's image you hadn't thought of yourself?
- Do they seem well versed in the industry and how neighboring industries work, at least to a degree? For example a designer working on a brochure should understand simple things like how to prepare the file for press with high resolution and campy images or more technical things like working with master pages for a multi-page document or implementing a spot color throughout the files.
- Do they have external sources that warrant their expertise such as educational degrees, being published as "experts" in third party publications, design awards or as simple as testimonials from their clients?
If these questions were answered positively, you can be confident your company is giving you a quality graphic design service which is a great indicator of the professional company YOU are.