Business of Graphic Design Tips

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How can I best present myself during a conflict at work?

Kissing Up or Copping Out?

In the rapidly expanding and changing field of graphic design, we can`t afford to kiss up or cop out. Your work and a great attitude will charm your clients, the senior executives and your subordinates. Be a professional by meeting deadlines, rather than coming in ahead of the pack. A rush job may not be the best job.

How do I address the gender issue in marketing?

Gender Neutral

Every time you are faced with a situation where the possessive form he/she/him arises, use a gender-neutral possessive form as frequently as possible. Use your thesaurus when faced with this dilemma in newsletters, correspondence, brochures, etc. Often your client can tip you on what they use as a gender-neutral term for their industry. You can also draw on the virtue of plurals in English grammar, for example:

Every employee must take his lunch at the right time.
Use: Employees must take their lunch at the right time.

Who owns rights on artwork when it´s done by a team?

The Double Whammy

As a graphic designer, you are obligated to know your copyright laws. On one hand, you are developing this knowledge to protect your own rights. On the other hand, you are also learning what pitfalls you may encounter in developing works with second and third parties. If you work with another designer to produce a single work, you are joint authors. This means that the copyright is owned jointly, and either author can license the copyright without the permission of the other author.

How do I avoid catching negative behaviors?

Shift Perspectives

Negative attitudes are contagious - they are a disease in the workplace. As a creative individual, you can find ways to stop the infection. Be the one who is positive, constructive with criticism and instructive in your viewpoints. You might find yourself in a position to be promoted with this simple shift in perspective.

How do I work alone with so many tasks?

Team or Solo?

You don't have to work in a "team" environment. You can work from your home or office. If you're the "project manager" or someone who makes a living as a freelance graphic designer, it's unlikely that you will be able to perform all the tasks in a given job. Learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and then find others who can help you fill the spaces where you are lacking. These people may become your subcontractors.

How do I use an NDA?

Impress the New Client

One way to show your professionalism with a new client is to offer a "NonDisclosure Agreement" on the front end of your working agreement. The NDA is a basic form that indicates you will not disclose or discuss the client project or business during the life of your relationship with your client...and sometimes beyond the death of your relationship or the end of your project. A simple search online for the NDA can provide you with copy which you can modify according to your relationship with your client. Beware of legalities...a quick review of the document by your attorney will be in order.

How do I better communicate with my clients and my peers?

What about this?

Communicating effectively with clients and peers is a plus in the graphic design business. Try ending your comments with a question for the listener to participate rather than an opinionated fact that may shut the listener down. This way, you have created a discussion rather than a lecture. How about giving this a try?

How can I avoid long lines at airports?

Air Travel Woes

Your design job may have you traveling a great deal. Be a pro and avoid airline woes. When flying, always carry your airline's 800-number with you. If your flight gets canceled, make a beeline for the phone. The agent on the other end of the call will be able to re-book you on the next most convenient flight much more quickly than the agent at the counter in the airport.

How do I handle stress?

Stress Envy

Obviously, people want to appear to be stressed. The busier you are, the more successful you appear to be. Buzz entries to gain respect on the phone would include, "I know you're busy..." can win you points. But long run-on sentences without punctuation can make a book jumbled and incoherent. We need to learn to turn things off occasionally. Back off from a project and go fishing, not to a meeting or a museum. Get totally away from any frame of reference to work. This could open your mind to new ideas and possibilities. You might even decide to quit your job and open a bait shop.

How do I manage my peers and clients at work?

Visions of Sugarplums

You may dream of obtaining global fame for your design ideas and innovations. But, often it's best to remember that in this business it's not just who you know and the depth of your skills and talents - it's also how well you manage your peers and your clients. Influential people will notice you when you have a portfolio of great designs and a history of an ability to get along with others. If you focus on each project as if it's the door to fame and fortune, you will be able to do your best work and your client will spread the word.

How do I critique artwork?

Learn to Critique

Illustrators and designers can be brutal with each other's works. You can show your professional side by framing a critique in a manner that is constructive. If you see an element in the design or illustration that "doesn't work" for you, don't say a thing until you can show how you might have done it differently and why.

How do I add to my graphic design portfolio?

Publish Your Knowledge

If you know anything about your field, you may find others will be ready and willing to soak up your knowledge. Find a way to publish your knowledge through trade magazines, web sites or newsletters. Understand the business of writing for publication. Write your information in columns, editorials, news briefs and in white papers. Make sure you have clippings of all the material you publish and use this in your next job application. This is also a great way to supplement your income (or lack of income!).

How do I find out about global holidays?


We may celebrate Halloween, but not every child on earth understands this is the day for free candy. We may celebrate Thanksgiving (under some misgivings), and so does Canada (but not in Italy, no matter what Steve Martin says in "My Blue Heaven"...) - but our dates are different. Every country has its own commemorations. The more a designer understands, acknowledges and respects the differences in dates, rituals and lifestyles of another culture, the better chance that designer will have in approaching these new markets.

How do I get an automatic copyright?

Automatic Copyright

As creator of your artwork, you have automatic copyright if you follow these guidelines: Your work is your ORIGINAL creation; It must be "pictorial, graphic or sculptural"; It must be fixed in "any tangible medium now known or later developed." In other words, an idea for your work or a body of work cannot be automatically copyrighted. Although this is some protection, it's best to obtain legal copyright when and if you possibly can.

Do I need to communicate in layman´s terms?

Avoid Psychobabble

If you are employed by a corporation or working on your own, one thing to avoid in any and all correspondence to the "outside" world is designer-babble. Even though you might be tempted to show off your expertise, the client will see this as being unnecessarily elitist. You might enjoy the relationship with your client a bit more if you talk in layman's terms. Some terms are unavoidable (dpi, lpi, screening, in-line, etc.), but you can overcome this with an explanation for each term. Your client will appreciate the "free" education.

Why would I need a release for a piece of property?

Property Releases

A piece of property doesn't have rights of privacy or of publicity. But there may be times when you might want to obtain a release for the use of property belonging to others. Jewelry, clothing, interiors or pets done for use of product promotion or packaging would require use of the owner's permission. It might be nice to add a token payment for use of the property.

How do I make myself understood?

What Did You Say?

No matter where you live, there's a minimum of slang or jargon that works its way into advertising, promotions and our daily small talk among peers and clients. The importance of our daily language was perhaps brought to light during the Olympics, held in Sydney, Australia this past year. As Americans, we found ourselves with the shoe on the other foot, asking folks what a "barbie" was, and we found out what a wallaby could and couldn't do. When we present ourselves on the Web as designers - either in self-promotion or for clients - we need to take a fine-tooth comb through our copy to make sure our language is understandable at least to the world's English-speaking population.

Why do I need a model´s release?

Model's Release

This is a practice that can often be overlooked by a freelance graphic designer. Using a Model's Release Form gives you protection from lawsuits and angry responses from models. Include a statement that the model may include a "distorted representation" to cover any limitations to your design. A blue face to represent cold may be ideal, but if your model doesn't think so, you may have to start over.

If you hire a photographer, make sure they also have model's releases with the work you have assigned.

How do I stay fit if I´m at my desk all day?

Stay in Shape

Physical health affects your emotional, mental and spiritual health and attitudes. If you sit at a computer most of the day, consider using Yoga as a way to keep fit. It takes a little planning to vary your routines for different muscles. I've found that I can keep my body toned and generate more energy by utilizing the stretches all day, even at my computer (BUT - only if I remember!).

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Sheri Ann Richerson