Graphic Design while you wait

This is a guest entry from David Sorg, a long time member of Fashion-Incubator. He was inspired to write this after stumbling upon a great solution -namely graphic design while you wait. It’s a neat concept. You can watch the work being done from your computer where ever you are. I could go on as to its advantages but it’s better if David explains it to you. Thanks David!

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One of the thousand hats a DE or small producer has to wear is that of Graphic Designer. The need of graphic design is nearly ubiquitous, beginning with your logo and continuing with your business cards, letterhead, business forms, website and maybe for your email too. For an apparel producer, a uniform identity may be needed for communications with outside contractors in addition to care labels, hang tags, and any other packaging that the customer or end user is going to see. At least some of the opinions about you and your company will be formed by your choices in the design of your words and images.

Fortunately, most DEs already have an interest and awareness with things visual and won’t be intimidated by graphic design, but it doesn’t mean they might not feel overwhelmed with the possibilities and the intricacies of executing their ideas. In my case, I used a variety of resources that included free, where a limited amount of design work was included in the purchase price, (an example would be a size tag from a label company), an independent designer found through a self-listing service like www.GetAFreelancer.com, and using the staff designer at my local printing company.

The problem with each option was control. Or price. Or both. With the free source, you are expected to know what you want and be satisfied with a limited number of changes. With the freelancer, part of the problem was that he was in Asia on a different day and English was not his first language. Lots of emails were exchanged; friendly, but time consuming and not always effective. The worst experience I had was using the local guy at the printer. Fortunately he was located only three blocks away but often took 2 days for the smallest of changes. Small projects would take weeks, cost hundreds of dollars, and involve dozens of trips back and forth. -And he had terrible taste. I’d go by to see the latest change and it would look horrid; he had no aesthetics at all.

That’s when I decided to buy my own copy of Adobe Illustrator (which is the program that virtually everyone uses) and learn to do it myself. Buying it was easy though expensive; learning it was another matter. There are lots of books, videos, and websites for learning AI, but I became frustrated because I didn’t really have the time for this learning curve. So I figured I’d try to find a tutor to just teach me the parts I wanted or needed to know. That’s when I stumbled upon what has turned out to be the perfect answer for me, and may be for some of you with similar needs.

I typed “Adobe Illustrator tutoring” into the Denver Craigslist and found someone advertising one-on-one lessons. Perfect. Except when the woman called back, she was in Chicago. As I expressed my disappointment she quickly explained that it didn’t matter where she was, and that her method was superior to having someone sitting next to me, sharing a computer. Instead, we link computers with a remote desktop (I had used a similar program to fix my mom’s computer on occasion) while we talked with each other on speakerphone. I thought I’d give it a try.

So Robyn began teaching me on my computer using my projects. I could take control of the mouse and keyboard, or she could; it was a seamless hand-off. Much better than sitting side-by-side at my place or driving to some class somewhere. In fact, I could attend class in my bathrobe and chew gum if I wanted. There came a time that I needed a project finished quickly. She was happy to show me how, but also offered to take over the mouse and make a few of the moves in a tenth of the time that it took for me to do it. And that was when the final solution (for me) occurred. Rather than struggle to learn a complex program that I would only occasionally need to use, I just started having Robyn do everything. It was much faster that way. And easier because I could pay attention to the way things developed right before my eyes instead of how to actually achieve the result. Would it look better bigger? It only took a moment to find out. A different color or different spacing? From the largest elements to the kerning (manipulating the spacing between letters) of individual words, it was easy and instantaneous to see or compare the results.

It’s been like having my own in-house graphics person but only paying for the time that I actually need anything done. We arrange convenient times to work together, they’ve included evenings and weekends. If I knew then what I know now, I would have skipped buying my own copy of Illustrator and saved hundreds. She (obviously) already has it on her computer along with Adobe Photoshop and InDesign (the other programs used for graphics production work) and Dreamweaver (used for Web graphics and site building) so there is no real need for owning your own version unless you want to learn and use the program on your own part-time or all of the time. You can also just turn over a project to her to work on on her own time, just like any other independent contractor.

Robyn’s services (LessonsAndTutoring) have also come with a bonus at no extra charge; good taste and a second opinion if and when I want it. So although I don’t want to sound like an infomercial for Robyn- there may be other designers out there who also work via remote desktops, she has become a great solution for almost any aspect of our business that benefits from looking good.
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In his email to me, David had this to say:

In light of the most recent posts, let me say that I have no connection with Robyn or any fees. She does openly offer referral fees in the form of a free hour if referrals buy a certain number of prepaid hours from her, but I’ve told her to forget that if this post brought her any customers. She is a genuinely good person and so easy to work with that I am happy to do anything for her to promote her skills. I can’t imagine any readers being legitimately unhappy with the quality of the instruction or work.

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10 comments

  1. Thank you, David. I do what I can with photoshop and my husband makes line drawings with illustrator–we both can just get by to do what we need. I think my work needs a facelift and I often want to know just how to do one things in photoshop that I know I don’t do well or quickly. I’ve saved her name and info. for when money isn’t quite so tight. This is exactly what I’ve dreamed about, but I didn’t know such a person existed.

    Thanks again.

    Marguerite

  2. I’ve used this method when doing technical illustrations for DE’s. It works out pretty great. I can also help to suggest different types of top stitch options and technical details that often get missed when working of the original design sketch.

    Also, I’d like to suggest another freelance type option that allows you to see submits from multiple designers and then choosing and paying only for the preferred option. It’s at http://www.designcrowd.com/ and I’ve had some luck with them on logo design.

  3. Jasonda says:

    Sounds like David has found a good solution for him, and it’s certainly nice to be able to look over your contractor’s shoulder while they work!

    I am wondering if he could have skipped a lot of the hassles he went through by hiring a local design firm or independent (freelance) designer, rather than going with an overseas contractor or talking to a quasi-designer at the print shop.

    As a designer myself, I definitely prefer to meet in person to discuss my client’s projects whenever possible, it’s usually much easier on both of us, and we just use email or phone for follow up and changes.

  4. oriole says:

    I think this a great way to learn on the go. Although David, seems to have found his perfect way, I think his original idea to learn how to do this was great. I have used adobe programs, but find them very hard to master, to much keyboard work. I use CoralDraw with faster better results.

    That being said I also have a great place for those with time to take lessons. I have taken lots of classes from http://www.lvsonline.com. They cover all the programs mentioned on Robyn’s site, and have great teachers. The classes are only $30 for 6 weeks. I learned how to write my own website with only two classes.

  5. Kathy Jo says:

    Thank you David for sharing this with us, I wish I heard about her 2 years ago, but obviously late is better than never. I will look here the next time I have a need, which shouldn’t be too long. By the way I went the free route and although I did get my logo eventually I still have major issues whenever I need to send it somewhere or resize it. I also went the paid route through a local company and found this not to be very effective as I ended paying for mistakes (or redoing of work). I think this way of doing it would be very effective as I tend to know what I am looking to do but, apparently I don’t communicate this very well to others.

  6. David says:

    @Jasonda, I agree, or used to, about staying local. That’s what I was trying to do when I was looking on my local Craigslist. But this method is (for me) better than looking over someone’s shoulder as I’m sitting in my own office with my own notes or sketches, and sometimes with my wife looking over MY shoulders :)

    @Oriole, I also signed up for some online video lessons that were pretty good for learning at a very reasonable price, but you’re right, they are fairly complex programs; especially if you want to take advantage of what the programs can do, which is a bunch! A recent example that I don’t think I would have thought of: I had some black lettering “on top” of a black and white product photo where the lettering wasn’t quite as distinct against the background photo as I would have wanted. Rather than gradually “fade out” the photo, Robyn applied a “glow” effect behind the letters (as if they were backlighted) that was very subtle, but made the letters really pop against the background. We were able to A/B the intensity, opacity, and spread of the glow to get what I thought was the best result.

    @Kathy Jo, and anyone just getting into graphics, all of the work must be done in a “vectored” format, and saved that way. Vectors are without dimensions, and are infinitely scaleable with no loss of quality or detail. A logo would be the perfect example of the importance of this. You might want your logo to appear 1/2″ tall on your business card, an inch tall on your letterhead, 2″ tall on your webpage, 3″ on your packaging, and hopefully sometime at 6 FEET tall on your billboard. For most people, a .pdf file is the only vectored format that they can read on their computer without having a graphics program installed. Any future designer, printer, advertiser, embroiderer, etc. will be able to convert a vector saved file into whatever specific format they might need.

    And as far as communicating your idea(s), that’s where some method (short of doing it yourself) like this is so great. Sometimes you don’t even know exactly what you do or don’t want until you see it. For me oftentimes, I’ll start with “X” as a given; I know that I want to use this element but must see it before I can proceed to see how it will relate to “Y” and “Z”. Or Y and Z then look good but it is X that was actually the mistake. So the possibilities are endless, and of course you’re paying for someone’s time, but IMO better that than owning hundreds or thousands of items that didn’t turn out well.

  7. This is a great find. I’ve struggled with trying to learn how to use design software, working with companies who offer a limited number of revisions (often without the benefit of a conversation) for a set price based on a written design brief, and simply communicating my vision for what I need. Often, I end up doing things myself – with a less than ideal result – simply out of frustration. Thank you, David, for sharing your experience and tips for getting the technical output you’ll need from a freelancer.

  8. Peggy Gravel says:

    Graphic Designers have years of college training and a natural gift for 2-dimensional design (or at least they should). I hate to say it but most self designed logo’s are terrible because the person doing it doesn’t understand the science of good graphic design. For the price you will pay for the Adobe Creative Suite (the standard software package that all GD’s use) you could easily get some very talented graphic design student at a top art school to do something incredible for you. Part of working smarter is knowing your limitations in a given area and realizing that someone more qualified could do it far better.

  9. Betsy Cook says:

    Thanks, Peggy! My background is in graphic design (since 1994), and in recent years, website design, event planning and email marketing. I am researching how to begin making the clothing I already love to make for myself for the public. So I guess I am in the opposite situation!

    Not to sound (sigh!) practical, but I have another alternative if it’s a money issue: I don’t think it’s taboo to have a basic, clean text treatment to use in the meantime.

    I don’t want assume anyone’s budget, but I am agonizing over where to invest my money to launch my business. If I could spend $1000 on my ecommerce site, necessary equipment, or a logo design, (or buy it all now and be closer to broke), what do you think should be put off until later?

    Some of the most fabulous labels are simply names, not “logos.” Pick a clean, legible typeface and stick with it. Keep notes that your label always says “YOUR LABEL” in a certain size and maybe you want “SUBTITLE” a certain size smaller than the label name below it, and maybe a rule line or two. You can do that in Microsoft Word! Save it as a pdf and you can email to your labelmakers, tag printer, and other vendors.

    Just like fashion, it’s harder to design a smashing new look for someone on a shoestring budget. Delay a designer logo. You’ll be closer to making a profit, and you can always reinvent yourself with the help of an experienced designer when you are profitable and ready. GDs love to help successful businesses reinvent!

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