Trendy fonts and cheesy clip art make me grumpy. Thumb through your local paper and note the epidemic usage of the "comic sans" font and those annoying little jumping stick figures. With no design experience or sense, well-meaning capitalists are creating frightful ads willy-nilly.

Why do otherwise judicious business people entrust their profits to a desktop publishing program? The same folks who gamely pay an attorney, a mechanic or a landscaper for expertise decide to cut corners with their company's image. Yeah, yeah, it's cheaper. Right up until you notice that your client roster is a tad anemic as the result of an amateurish campaign.

(Author's note: I, too, have sinned against aesthetics by creating my own truly heinous ads. As a reformed design do-it-yourselfer, I dread the resurfacing of those ads like Kevin Costner dreads an HBO presentation of his Waterworld/Postman oeuvre.)

Starting a relationship with a freelance designer or advertising agency is the first step towards creating marketing collateral pieces that present the proper image. I asked Whitney Campbell, art director and owner of Whitney Campbell Advertising and Design in Yarmouth, Maine, for a primer on working with a designer. Her firm, which helps clients meet their communications objectives, brings together professionals including copywriters, photographers and illustrators to form personalized creative teams.

Kimberly McCall: Why should a small business owner work with a designer instead of using a desktop program?

Whitney Campbell: A professional graphic designer has the experience and training to create a provocative image, based on your strategic input, and add design elements like typestyling, art direction, photography, and production supervision. The value of a professionally-produced piece versus desktop publishing is intrinsic, but very real. It's your image. How do you want to be viewed?

KM: OK, A business owner is interested in creating her first brochure with a designer. What's next?

WC: I ask my clients to do their homework! Know your business and your market thoroughly, so you can give the creative team all the information they need to create a strategic, eye-catching piece. At the very least, know what you want the brochure to accomplish. A good designer will often hire an experienced copywriter to help you flesh out the important points.

KM: How does a businessperson know what kind of agency or freelancer is right for his project?

WC: Look for a designer or team that is genuinely interested in what you do. You will find the process of creating your marketing materials to be easier and much more productive when the person you work with is actively involved and interested. Ask colleagues if they've worked with designers, and whom they would recommend. If you've seen work that you've admired, find out who created it. Then meet with the top candidates. You'll know when the fit is right.

KM: What can a business owner do to prepare for the initial concept meeting with her designer?

WC: Gather all the relevant information and have copies for the designer to take away. The more information the better. Be prepared to talk about the competitive arena and your customers' perceptions of your product or service within your market. This information can be turned into a strategy, which will serve as a springboard for future advertising and collateral pieces. Don't be afraid to tell the designer/art director what you like-your style. I work hard to incorporate a client's style into my conceptual and physical work. It gives them an end product that not only represents them, but also makes them proud to distribute and call it theirs!

Copyright © 2001 Kimberly L. McCall