Ask the Vanguard Direct Creative Experts

Vanguard Direct takes responsibility for every aspect of your marketing communications. Our creative, account, and production teams combine their expertise to manage your project efficiently from start to finish. Everything we do addresses your objectives and strategies.

Vanguard’s Creative Services group follows a disciplined and coordinated approach to developing your communication programs and achieving your marketing goals. Our systematic approach helps us discover key components that differentiate your product or service in a crowded marketplace. Our award-winning design team works directly with you to develop attention-getting visual solutions that help connect with your audience and communicate your message with maximum impact and excitement. Whatever your design needs––brand identity, collateral design, promotional displays––our talented staff offers years of experience across multimedia applications including print, promotional, and interactive.

We asked our creative experts some key questions about how to successfully start and complete a creative project:

> How do you keep creative project costs in scope?

“This is one of the more difficult parts of the job—keeping edits down to a minimum. I think this depends on the client and how well you know them (and how they work). With some, you know that many rounds of edits can be expected and an estimate should reflect those extra rounds; some may appreciate the budget updates.”
– Susan Hallinan (Designer)

“The easiest way is to plan the budget and keep track of the progress of design time. For a large project, check costs every week; for small projects, check every day.”  – Kevin Green (Director of Creative Services)

“Preparation and communication––do your best to convey as much information at the beginning of the project as possible so that your design team really understands what you’re looking for. And insist on a creative brief––a written summary from your design team of what they understand the scope to be––so that everyone begins the project on the same page.”  
– Kara Damato
(Senior Designer)

“Write up a creative brief with as much detail as possible. This way, the client will not have any surprises after the project is almost done. When they approve the brief and the estimate, you can begin.”   – Vittoria Semproni (Designer)

“Vanguard Direct utilizes a web-based project cost–tracking software program. It enables our Creative Directors and Project Managers to monitor each project’s cost from inception through to the end product. Once a new creative project is opened in the system, an estimate is created based upon the client’s project parameters. Each project estimate has Task Categories ranging from Concept Development to Pre-Press, including many subcategories. The Creative Director estimating the project assigns hours and a dollar rate to each Task. Once the project begins, the employee enters his or her time daily into the specific Task, such as Concept Development: 4.0 hours, and so on. With that said, the Creative Director or Project Manager can look up any project in the system, at any time, and see exactly where that project’s cost status is daily. System-generated budget alerts via email serve as backup to keep the project budget on track. This is just one of the tools that Vanguard Direct uses to keep the project’s creative and production costs on track and within scope.” – Mark Dion (Creative Director)


> What type of content should I supply?

“If you’re providing copy, I recommend a Word document that has been edited and proofread, so it is as final as possible. If you’re providing images, the largest, highest resolution images you can get. This ensures the best-quality images in your printed piece. We generally use 300dpi images at actual size. If you can provide larger images, that gives us the flexibility to enlarge and crop if that works better for the design.” – Kara Damato (Senior Designer)

“Content that belongs to you or that you have the right to use.”
– Vittoria Semproni (Designer)

“Content is critical for a smooth project with reduced AA charges. If a PDF is supplied, the fonts should be embedded, there should be crop marks and bleed where applicable. The file should also be in the correct color space––no RGB.”
– Kevin Green (Director of Creative Services)

“Content depends on the audience and the way the information will be viewed. Web and mobile information would be written differently from a printed piece––web has a tendency to be short with many links, while printed pieces should be more of a linear read.”
– Susan Hallinan (Designer)


> How do you initiate a design?

“In terms of starting a design, I try to analyze all the information I have at hand: the creative brief, the client history, and the business objective. From there, I do research on my topic. For example, if the campaign is to sell used cars, I look up the definition of “used car” and what trends are happening in used car sales. I look up competitors’ advertising. Most of all, I do a lot of research, ranging from watching TV ads to looking at print ads in magazines and newspapers. I really immerse myself in my topic and the objective of the design.”
– Gia Lam (Senior Designer)

“A creative brief helps. Usually the information in a creative brief dictates design. A theme or message will give me the necessary parameters in which to construct a design based on what is written. If there is no creative brief, I rely on the text supplied by the client, as that sometimes gives me ideas for visuals.”
– Will Lovell (Graphic Production Artist)

“Either fill out a design order form or supply a creative strategic brief. This should be followed up with either a strategy meeting if we are doing a proposal or a start-up meeting if the job came in with a purchase order.”
– Kevin Green (Director of Creative Services)

“If you haven’t worked with the client before, you need to get a feeling for your client and their project. First ask them to provide you with designs they have seen out there, either competitors’ or just pieces they like. Usually clients will have pieces around that they like for one reason or another. The best way to begin a design is with information copy and photos if included in the job. You need to have a sense of their competition and who their target audience is.”
– Vittoria Semproni (Designer)


> What questions should I ask to ensure my design is what I want?

“I would ensure I have an agreed-to brief or even a simplified brief. I’d also ask to see 2–3 treatments of the proposed design before it is agreed to start.”
– Kevin Green (Director of Creative Services)

“Who is your audience? What is your budget? Do you have any materials we can use, e.g., photos, illustrations, etc.? What is your timeframe for the completion of this piece? Is this piece part of a series, or is it a stand-alone piece? Do you have a brand? Are there colors you use to identify your brand or typefaces? What other material have you done, and what does it look like? Do you have samples? Do you have a logo?”
– Vittoria Semproni (Designer)


Do you have any questions to ask our creative experts? Comment below, and we will feature your question in a future post!

Author: Stephanie Huston


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