Last Wednesday, ASAE held a Lunch and Learn session titled “Design on a Dime.” We asked Richard Belle, President of Belle Communications to share his take-aways from the event.
What a joy to be guest blogging for Jacki today! Recently I was able to take part in a marvelous discussion that explored some of the challenges currently facing associations and their designers.
This past Wednesday, ASAE’s Communication Section Council presented “Design on a Dime,” looking at the best ways to get the most out of a tight budget or limited time restraints, whether working with an in-house design team or an outside firm. Speakers included Wendy Bogart, Director of Graphic Design, Council for Advancement and Support of Education; Amy Miedema, Senior Director of Communications, American Academy of Audiology; and Rita Zimmerman, Communications Coordinator, American Inns of Court. As a communications professional who is NOT a designer, I was struck by how much of the discussion was really about good management and effective planning, even if couched in the vocabulary of design. Put simply, no design, no matter how compelling or aesthetically innovative, can afford to be disconnected from strategy and budget.
The panel provided straightforward tips that should help you control time and money while still promoting effective design. These should help you whether you are the communications director trying to control your design costs or the designer trying to win and maintain business.
Developing a Cohesive and Proactive Strategy
- Consider all potential uses for a brand or logo. When you create pieces, constantly think of multiple and reinforcing applications. A riveting design is great; flexibility with that design is even better.
- Make sure that your annual budget is realistic in estimating costs. This means that you must consider artwork, design, printing, mailing, and postage for all the elements you hope to develop.
- Develop a design request form that each department must complete, including project name, budget, business objectives, target audience, schedule and deadlines, design medium, quantity, etc.
- Discuss and enforce timelines. By educating non-designers on how long they should plan for design, printing, blue-line, or other activities, you can manage their expectations up front.
Creating Great Artwork with a Shrinking Budget
- Collaborate with other organizations in your industry. You might be able to create photos that more than one organization can use, albeit in different contexts.
- Use typography as a design element.
- Develop cost-effective ways to photograph subjects for use in your publications and web site. With skillful planning, you may use a single event to develop materials that you will use in many different publications.
- Consider using a subscription service or micro stock. Used creatively, these photos or graphics do not have to look like stock elements. Don’t confuse stock with cliché.
- Create your own art.
- Set a budget for each publication and stick to it.
Managing Your Workflow
- Only go to a designer when you have planned out all contingencies and considered all potential applications of the artwork.
- Define what you mean by final copy. You must define in advance how many reviews and corrections may occur. Otherwise, multiple reviews and proofs will destroy your budget.
- Make sure your “final” decision-makers review and sign-off on design at the earliest possible time. If you wait until the final proof to get buy-in, you may end up re-doing the design and paying for it twice (or more!).
Most of these suggestions are basic and reflect common-sense management practices. Unfortunately, too often we are beguiled by sexy design and forget management 101.
Richard Belle is President of Belle Communications, LLC, a communications consulting firm in Bethesda, MD. Services include communication audits, proposal coaching, technical writing, technical editing, and awards preparation. Please visit the web site at www.bellecomm.net or contact Richard at