Monday, December 1

Designers share their Proofing Processes

A couple of weeks ago, I invited my fellow designer friends to participate in answering questions about their proofing process.

Some of the questions I asked were:
Some things to consider sharing:
- How do you present proofs? On boards or electronically via PDF or JPG?
- Do you meet with the client in person, via email or teleconference to discuss designs?
- How do you retrieve feedback from the client? (through discussion, questionnaire, rating system, etc.)
- How you respond when the client does not favor any of the designs presented?
- What is the next step after you have completed a first draft review with your client?
- Any other relevant information...Etc, Etc, Etc...

I received a lot of great replies (thank you everyone who responded ;) I hope to do more posts like this in the future.

Here are the replies below:
I usually present proofs electronically via PDF, but I will discuss the proofs via e-mail, in-person or phone call (whatever the client prefers).

If a client doesn't favor any of the designs presented, I will discuss with the client what he/she is looking for, if there is anything on the provided comps that DOES work, etc. to try to determine next steps moving forward.

I will then do some new PDFs and repeat as necessary. If I'm doing my job right, one more round should get us headed in the right direction.

José Mota
I am José Mota, a state-of-the-art freelance web designer.

I use Skitch (wonderful :D). It's electronic, yea, because my clients are far away.

Feedback is given either through email, IM or Skype discussion. You're guessing correctly when you say I talk to clients online. Even so, I kindly insist in a first personal meeting to approach a solution.

I believe it's most important to let the client know of our potencial as designers and suggest good tips on usability and accessibility like certain elements' positioning, etc.

If a client asks something too generic that allows our creativity to play full out and after that he just says "", I always say to myself they oughtta know better :P That's totally different than correcting certain aspects of a design.

One last thing: designers are selfish and egocentric by nature. They are good attributes, use 'em in your favor. However, the very last word is the client's.

Tony Chester
For OnWired, we typically submit our comps via Basecamp, so electronically is the correct answer for us. As all clients are unique, the follow up revisions may be hammered out in person, over the phone, or via Basecamp.

JPG's usually suffice for web design comps. Sometimes a GIF, PNG, or PDF for print materials.

Once the initial design is approved, we move forward with any secondary pages and so forth. By that time, most of the critical design elements are accounted for and the road becomes a bit smoother.

Bruce Colthart
My print design work is (surprisingly?) a very electronic process. Of course, some clinets like face time more than others, but via email or through my print brokers Basecamp account, most every proof is sent as a pdf. It's actually been quite a while since I showed a dummied comp in person.

Even if a printed piece will have certain folds, I'll often make an illustration of sorts by working the pdf in Photoshop. If specific spot colors or finishes are involved, then presenting samples in person is required.

I am of two minds regarding feedback. Face to face is great, and vital for my initial meetings, but when a client responds, I *love* the "paper trail." Especially when client proxies are involved, or when additional charges or last minute problems are involved!

I have a templates directory setup on my server. I usually like to hash out a few different layouts in HTML and CSS (I know, it's probably more work than it's worth).

I like doing things this way because it lets the client actually use the layout, not just look at it.

Brian Yerkes
We upload jpgs and upload them to a client folder we create on our server and send the link to the client asking them to review.

Depending on the client, we either speak with them on the phone or we discuss it over email. I am becoming extremely green minded these days, and if we don't have to meet in person (using gas, car emissions etc), then we try not to unless the client really feels they need to. While it is important to get to know a client, and allow them to get to know you and your company through face-to-face meetings..but after one meeting during the sales process, I think it is enough for most clients.

Phone call or emails

I try to figure out what aspects they don't like, what they do like etc. It can be really difficult to get this out of some clients and that is why designers sometimes struggle to hit the nail on the head for the client...the one's that are unable to communicate their thoughts clearly are often the ones that also have a specific design in mind...but don't know how to describe it until you actually get it and they see it!

If they have changes, we send an email back to them outlining all of the changes we understand they are requesting. This confirms with them that we are on the same page. Then we work on the changes, and submit to them again for review.

Once the design is done, if it is a website project, we begin the html/css, or if it is a logo design or print design project, we invoice final payment and get working on the preparing the final production files that the client will receive once final payment is received.

Hope that info helps somehow! Regarding the topic of presenting design visuals for websites, I recently discussed a new way I am doing this (with some clients) and it is working out to be a huge time saver.

Brittany Shellington
Hmmm, I think PDF proofs seem to be the way to go..moreso than jpegs definitely, where you can arrange it on whatever page size you want, in whatever order you want, they can zoom in/out or go full screen. I think it's still clean and professional and effective.

Presentation boards are awesome, but I think of that more for a presentation when you're trying to impress the client before they've committed and actually on board.

Meeting in person is huge, I think. You not only get a sense for them, their needs and direction, but they get a sense of YOU. You're able to identify (or at least try) what kind of working relationship will be most appropriate for working with them down the line. As for feedback, I think over the phone is best as compared to emails. I love printing out a hard copy, then reviewing on the phone, RED PEN in hand and taking notes, crossing things out, circling things, etc. Nothing's more frustrating than going down a list of TEENY TINY critiques, pending the project (I guess it could work sometimes for minor tweaks..)

There's been a few times when clients weren't entirely in favor of a concept, but after explaining why I did something a certain way, and what I was trying to accomplish, they've leaned more in my direction.. not always, but sometimes ;)

Mary Dolan
I normally present design proofs via PDF or JPG on a sheet of paper with my watermark and company logo/info on the bottom of the page. I also communicate with clients via email, phone or Skype, since the majority of my clients live in other states. If the client is in the same town as me, I will meet them and discuss comps and revisions face to face.

If my client doesn't like the first round of designs, then I create them a second round for no charge. I normally include 3-4 revisions within the project price.

I can normally nail down a design within 2 revisions..but there are clients out there who like to get a million revisions out of you. That's where the 3-4 revision limit is useful. Once they go over that 4th revision they have to pay per hour. Comes in handy.

Finally, once they pick a final design, I either choose the printer(online or local) and I send the final files to print. Sometimes the client will request that I just give them the files so that they can use their own printers. Depends on the client.
As a book designer, my answers might be a little "brand specific," but I believe it might add something to your discussion, so here goes ...

How do you present proofs? On boards or electronically via PDF or JPG?
I email or upload (if the client has an FTP site) PDFs of each chapter, generally, as I complete them. I usually send then at print-resolution, so the client can print them out for proofreading.

Do you meet with the client in person, via email or teleconference to discuss designs?
I haven't met in-person with a client (or interviewed in-person with a prospective client) in over 15 years. Telephone is as old-fashioned as my communications get. I don't even use snail mail anymore, except for the rare client who wants a disk of files, rather than sending them electronically, or for me to print a hard copy.

How do you retrieve feedback from the client? (through discussion, questionnaire, rating system, etc.)
Often by email, and the occasional phone call, although mostly for a whole book after it's been proofread, a marked-up print-out is usually the means for getting me any correx or edits from that first run of pages. I've been videoconference-able for over three years now. Not as long as some, perhaps, but I have still to have a client, or a potential client, who wants to conference or interview by videochat. I look forward to the opportunity, however.

How do you respond when the client does not favor any of the designs presented?
I've never had a total rejection. Genereally, however, I've never had my first interior or cover design accepted exactly as is. There's always some exchange, give-and-take, a refining of the design that we go thru until the client gives the go-ahead for production.

What is the next step after you have completed a first draft review with your client?
For me, that first draft review is the proofreading of the first run of all the interior pages of a book. I input those correx into the respective chapter files of a book and email or upload the files as I complete them.

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