10 Tips for Working With a Presentation Designer

Business folk gathered around a table pointing at things and secretly wondering how long they can handle working for the man. Can they really last for 30, maybe 50 years punching the clock every day? Can they really wake up at six in the morning, Monday through Friday, for that long? Or will it ultimately drive them into suicidal depression?

Collaborate effectively. Save time and money.

Save yourself some cash, time and anxiety by doing these things BEFORE you hire a designer or design team to help you with your next presentation. If you frequently use designers, these tips will help you establish a healthy working relationship. You can ensure that he or she becomes a valuable part of your team by knowing what to do in order to get the best results.

  1. Understand that design is a process. It can be broken into three main stages: 1) Art Direction (often referred to as the "look and feel"). At KO/AD we usually take 3 to 5 slides that have varying content and use them to do a first pass on art direction. In this step we determine colors, fonts, image treatments, layouts, etc. These slides may go through a few rounds of revisions (think of it like first draft, second draft, etc.), but once we have the green light we can start on the second step: 2) Production. This is where we design the rest of the deck using the approved art direction as a guide. Some individual slides may need client approvals, but most of the deck can be fleshed out without further input from the client. After this, the full deck is handed off to the client for approval on design. Then we go into: 3) Finalization. In this step we deal with final revisions, animation and image purchasing. Revisions and structure changes can go back and forth for a bit, but it's not long before the entire design process is completed.
  2. Deal with the technicals: There are many technical aspects to a presentation that should be understood prior to design. Here are some of the most important issues that your designer needs to know going into the project: platform (PC or Mac), software (PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, etc.), file format(s) of final deliverable if other than the native software format, venue (room size, lighting), projection or display, size of screen, system fonts or custom fonts (see #9 below for detailed information on this).
  3. Send any brand guidelines, branded samples and brand assets that your designer must use or adhere to. Send high resolution logos, links to image libraries, etc.
  4. Visual research. In order to convey what you like, make a PDF of screengrabs (often called a mood-board) to show your designer other presentations, websites, publications, and marketing materials that you think would work well for your deck. These don’t have to be whole pieces. Like a particular headline you saw on the web? Just grab that. Same goes for images and other graphic treatments. If you are not feeling very “in-the-know” with design styles, you can have your designer do the visual research for you. The main goal of this exercise is to have an understanding of possible design aesthetics prior to the designer actually starting the work. If you are stuck with your company’s presentation template, this step may be unnecessary.
  5. Send your text in digital form. This can be a Word document, text file or even just an email. It makes the process much easier when all the text is ready to go and can easily be pasted into the deck. That’s not to say designers won’t type in your text from handwriting or a printed document, but it’s not a good use of their time and you can probably hire someone else for much cheaper to do that.
  6. Write clear instructions. This is for both client and designer. It will help you get clarity on exactly what you want. The good thing, especially for presentations, is that your instructional notes can be written on your slides. No need to create an additional document. Once you’ve done this, send it to your designer and go over it on the phone. Not using a written document can leave things open and ambiguous, especially if your designer is frantically writing down notes as you talk on the phone.
  7. Be able to tell your designer how you want to deal with imagery. Do you have a budget for stock or custom images? Make sure to send samples of any branded image treatments.
  8. Figure out fonts. The big question here is whether you will be handing an editable version of your presentation to coworkers or clients that do not have your fonts installed. If so, you should use system fonts. (This is especially true for Mac users. PC users can embed fonts in later versions of Powerpoint.) Otherwise, when someone who does not have your fonts installed opens your presentation, all of the type will default to a standard system font that you did not choose. Layouts can break because of this. You can use custom fonts if you send the file to people who have your fonts or are willing to install them. You can also use custom fonts if your final deck will be delivered as a PDF.
  9. Tell your designer about deadlines. Set clear milestones and check-ins. Or if your timeline is flexible, have your designer set the deadlines. Whatever you do, make sure the timing is not ambiguous.
  10. Be available. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it's very important especially if you are under a deadline. You can lose time if there is some bottleneck or other holdup that your designer needs to ask you about. I usually like to have a client's personal phone number for calls and texting incase they are out of the office or hard to reach via email.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it should help to get your thoughts in order before approaching your designer team on your next project. Good luck!

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