A growing number of print service providers have added design to their service offerings. If you haven’t ventured there yet, consider the many advantages to bringing design in house. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as placing a help wanted ad. Design is a broad area and graphic designers come in many flavors and with many specialties.
The designer you choose to hire must be the right fit for the work your company produces and match your organizational culture. An understanding of the print process and its intricacies is, of course, mandatory.
The Benefits of In-House Design
The number one reason for bringing design services in house is to make money. Design can be a profitable revenue stream. Your company can leverage design services at the right time to expand into areas that are just as lucrative, such as campaign deployment, data analytics, or mailing and fulfillment. Design services can also help secure greater spending from your customers.
A second benefit of offering design services, but just as crucial, is to meet the needs of your customers and solidify that relationship. Time-stressed and resource-challenged clients will appreciate the ease of dealing with one vendor who can offer most of what they need. If you can relieve clients of the legwork of finding, briefing, and managing a designer, you will be valued.
An in-house design capability to create logos, retouch photos, or develop company branded collateral is a positive step towards improved customer experience.
Design management can also move you a step closer to the inner working of your clients’ marketing departments, where you can be involved right from the inception of a project or campaign. Printers have endeavored to be included in marketing planning but have traditionally found it difficult. Design is one way in.
An on-staff designer can create files that are not only error free but are set up to match the technical requirements of your equipment. A skilled designer can expedite prepress and cut down on time devoted to fixing the files. Saving time is like making money.
Print-savvy designers can choose the best materials and other finishes to achieve any desired effect a customer may want. They understand how their choices could affect production downstream, which will help your shop function more effectively. They can also create precise files if you’re outputting a campaign to different technologies, such as brochures on offset but large displays on inkjet.
Design doesn’t need to be limited to print. Most designers will probably be skilled at adapting artwork for other platforms like social media, electronic communications, ecommerce sites, and client websites. Serving these customer needs with in-house resources could mean more money for you.
In short, talented designers can help your company be more efficient and profitable.
The Right People
Good designers can also be tricky to find and a little internal assessment before posting any job ad is a good idea.
Begin by assessing your needs as clearly as possible. As always, start with your clients. What services are they asking about? Branding, web design, marketing print collaterals, book design, signs, direct mail, or other services?
What type of printing do you do? Different products and technologies require different levels of ability. Packaging design, for example, must often adhere to stringent regulations and color demands. Direct mail must follow postal specifications. Sign printing has its own requirements. Designers must be familiar with these particulars.
Once you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, you can start your search. If you’re not totally sure you want to commit to a full-time in-house specialist, you can partner with a freelance artist or a design firm and test the waters.
How do you assess any potential hire? Look at expertise–particularly as it relates to print, technical skills, and interpersonal skills.
Designers tend to specialize in certain areas, like magazine design, web design, or virtual branding. It’s important that whoever you hire has some knowledge about designing for print. Look at portfolios of their work. Ask candidates questions about how they developed certain projects, their process with clients, and how much time they take to execute a project. Do they have a narrow focus, or can they ply their talents in more general applications? The more versatile they are, the better.
If they have limited print design experience, can you spare the time and resources to train them?
Also, don’t be afraid to make a subjective assessment. Do you like their work?
Designers should possess a thorough understanding of all the technologies and tools available. Printing, as we know, can be a wonderful, but technically demanding, output option.
Adobe Suite experience (inDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Acrobat) is the bare minimum skill requirement.
Other skills you may desire include photography, WordPress or other web design tools, social media experience, or video editing. More refined expertise and skills can include handling data, working knowledge of variable data file creation programs, or experience with mailing requirements.
For printing, knowledge of paper and substrate attributes is valuable, as is some preflighting knowledge or familiarity with prepress programs, specific industry software such as packaging design, and remote-proofing tools.
An understanding of the different printing technologies on your shop floor, their capabilities and limitations is great, as is knowing how to create error-free press ready files for different output devices or accommodating any embellishments, for example.
Good designers will need to understand that you run a business, which requires some business sense. Their job is to move projects along expeditiously, so you can decrease wait times and your shop functions as efficiently as possible. They need to rise to this level of professionalism while flexing their creative muscles.
Designers are one of the key gateways to your company. Designing is a client-facing role. Make sure they listen well to clients’ directions, achieve what the client wants, and behave professionally at all times. They must be on time for all tasks, including deadlines, communicate well, and keep everyone in the loop. They must be good team players.
Like every other staffing challenge, finding good designers is not always easy, but the effort can certainly be worth it.