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Plan your project

The information below is a reference for planning, starting, and developing projects. If you're new to this, then the steps below will help you make decisions, and effectively plan and manage your projects. If you're experienced, then you'll be familiar with most of the steps, but it may help to scan through them to gain more knowledge or discover other alternatives for your project.

What do you want to accomplish?

Before you start to consider anything else, it often helps to determine what you want your design piece or pieces to accomplish when they're completed and put to use. This may be as simple as increasing awareness of your business, products, or services among potential customers, or it may be more specific, like targeting a specific type of customer, offering a special, or providing a way to place an order. Being more specific usually results in a more successful campaign or promotion. Above all else, you should think of ways to entice potential customers to make a decision and take action, and make it easy for them to do so.

What do you need?

You have many options for promoting your business, service, or products. Listed below are the most common types of projects, and any one or a combination of these can be used as part of your advertising or promotional program. Also, for any printed materials, it is also important to determine what quantity you will need, as this information will be sent to printing services while gathering quote information. Most of these items can also be specified in the form on the Request a Quote page.

Print Advertisements: A design can be developed for the size and color specifications of a third-party publication.

Postcard or Handout: Black and white, spot color, or process color cards can be one or two sided, and can include an address panel for direct mail campaigns. Common sizes are 4x5, 4.5x5.5, 8.5x5.5, 5x7, and 6x11.

Flier, Insert: This may either be a handout or sales piece, or an insert for a larger piece, like a pocket folder. The most common size is 8.5x11, can be black and white, spot, or full (process) color, and may be one or two-sided.

Brochure: A brochure can be a smaller tri-panel brochure that highlights certain aspects of your business, to a multi-page booklet that can contain more content and information. There are several standard sizes to choose from to fit your needs and budget.

Pocket Folder Brochure: This can be a standard pocket folder with a cover and left page design, or can have additional pages either added with another fold, or by attaching additional pages. It’s most common use is to hold inserts that provide information about different products or services.

Web Site: Almost every business benefits from having a Web site, and it’s a reliable and valuable resource for both a company and its customers. The most basic sites provide information that highlights a company’s products or services, and provides contact information, while more elaborate sites include more extensive information, dynamic content, and features like online catalogs, order forms, or online stores.

Simple: A one to three page site with company, product, and/or service highlights, and contact information.

Standard: A five to eight page site with information about the company, its products and services, staff, basic ordering features, a contact page with a message form, and other features to aid customers. This size site usually works in tandem with other promotional materials to aid in company exposure and sales.

Advanced: This is a more elaborate site that can have 12 to 20 pages or more. It will likely include information about every aspect of a business and its products and/or services. Other features may include a Content Management System (CMS) that employees can use to frequently update information, news, and bulletins to specific areas of the site, an online catalog, library, or store, and advertising systems. Advanced sites are essentially a “virtual storefront” on the Internet where customers can come for just about any type of information or to do business with your company.

Web Advertisements or Banners: These advertisements can vary in size, and may either be static, or include animation to grab attention. Sites that sell advertising placements provide specifications on size and format, and whether animation is permitted. It is important to have this information before the design work begins.

Illustration: An advertisement, brochure, or Web site may need an illustration to generate interest or get attention, and it’s most effective if it can draw customers in and communicate a message or idea about the promotion.

Hand Rendered illustrations usually look like drawings or paintings, but can be a nice alternative to sell an idea or serve as a centerpiece for a design.

Vectored Illustrations are created by combining elements that are defined by points and curves. Generally, this format is best suited for graphics like logos, icons, diagrams, or display graphics and text. However, gradations and other effects can be added for more depth and impact. The major benefit of vectored illustrations and graphics is that they are scalable and device-dependent. This means it will be produced at the best quality that the production equipment (digital press, laser printer) can print, as long it can process the format.

3D Illustrations are versatile and can be used to create dramatic images, illustrate an idea, or graphically demonstrate a product or procedure. These illustrations are created by “building” a 3D model by placing 2D shapes, primitive 3D shapes, and more elaborate mesh 3D shapes in a 3-dimensional space. Color, bump, and other texture maps are applied to the shapes, and lighting, the background, and reflection maps are set up. Then a camera can be placed anywhere in the space to capture a “rendering” of the final image. The primary benefit of 3D illustration is that all of the elements can be repositioned to render other angles or perspectives – something you cant easily do with other illustration methods.

Professional Photography: Good photography will contribute greatly to a design, and your company’s image. A knowledgeable and experienced photographer will use the right equipment, and when necessary, light the subject properly for the best results. Photography subjects include exterior, interior, product, services, and portraits.

Logo & Image Development: Your logo will become a major part of your company’s image, and if established and used consistently, at a glance, it will be your identity and reputation. A logo can be a simple design or clean text treatment, or a graphic that clearly communicates what services or products your company provides. Overall, it must be clean, unique, and recognizable.

To ensure the logo is use consistently, a Graphics Standards manual covers the logo’s specifications, guidelines for reproducing it, and how it is to be used or applied throughout your company. This manual can either be in the form of a printed booklet, or an online section of your Web site.

Stationery Package: A consistent letterhead, envelope and business card design is the first place to establish your company’s image. Placing the logo, address, phone and other information on each piece to tie everything together, along with the paper selection, are part of developing a complete package.

Multimedia: Interactive presentations, animations, or videos are an effective way to get attention, communicate an idea, or demonstrate a product or service. These may be delivered over the Internet or on portable media, such as a CD or DVD.

What’s your time line?

Setting a time line ensures your project will be managed and produced to fit your needs or schedule. Smaller projects’ time lines may just be a delivery date, while larger projects can have an established time line with development milestones or phases.

It is important to establish if the project is needed for a specific date or event, such as a trade show, a product launch, or some other significant event that will increase your exposure. Of course most print advertising has specific art submission dates, often two weeks to a month before the publication date.

Also, understand that “as soon as possible” (ASAP) is not a valid time line nor is “I needed it yesterday” a realistic deadline. Either your project may be delayed as other project’s specific time lines and deadlines are met, or the project may incur rush charges to meet your last minute needs.

Do you have a budget?

Most large projects go directly to a proposal, its’ approval, and production. In this case, most clients already have an idea of the costs, and approve the proposal to begin the work.

However, if you have a budget or certain expectations of the costs, it is best to establish this early in the proposal or development stages of the project. You may either have a general idea with some flexibility, or a strict budget with none whatsoever. Whatever the case, providing a figure will help determine what services or features can be included in your project, or after consulting with cynaps*kreativ, you may see the need to adjust the amount or your expectations.

If a proposal is prepared for your project, additional work and services that may benefit the project will be listed separately, along with their costs. This provides options if your budget is flexible, or can serve as an aid when seeking approval to change the budget.


Larger projects begin by assessing your needs, reviewing your resource materials and ideas, and preparing a detailed proposal that outlines the project. This lists all required work and services, and provides a cost estimate and payment schedule. Some proposals may require a few days to develop, and can be revised and adjusted before the work begins. In some cases, additional features and their development costs will be listed separately so you may pick and choose, adjust your budget, or decide to add something at a later date.

A Proposal sets guidelines and provides a clear understanding of what will be included in the project. With this, you know what to expect, and what work falls inside or outside of the estimated costs. Should you request a major change in the project, or additional work that is not included in the proposal, you will be notified of the additional costs, and either a separate agreement will be provided, or the original proposal will be revised and adjusted.

All costs are based on an hourly rate applied to a time estimate. These estimates are determined by reviewing time logs for similar projects and work. A time log is maintained for all projects, whether they are paid by the hour or estimated work. This time log is often assessed during the course of the project to determine if the project is still on track, and in the case of estimated work, is still within the guidelines of the proposal. You may request a copy of your project’s time log at any time.

Hourly Work

If you have experience working with designers or agencies, have worked with cynaps*kreativ to produce other projects, have an update to a past project, or need to begin a small project, you may choose to begin the work immediately without a proposal, and pay for the work by the hour. All work will be recorded in a time log, and bi-monthly invoices (issued on the 12th and 26th of the month) will be issued for all services provided up to the date of the invoice. All invoices are due upon receipt.

New clients with projects exceeding estimated costs of $400 are required to pay a third or half before the project begins – depending on the size of the project and the total estimated costs. In this case, a proposal will be required that outlines the project and payment schedule.

Standard Terms & Agreements

New clients will be required to review and sign a Standard Terms & Agreements document before any projects begin. This document covers right of ownership, billable-hours and quoted work, conditions of program rates, scheduling and rush charges, terms of and schedules for payment, and backup and archive information.

Download a PDF of the Standard Terms & Agreements   CKStandardTerms.pdf  [152kb]

Final Production Costs

For both print and advertising projects, it is important to establish early on how they will be produced or placed—essentially “delivered” to your potential customers. This includes specifying the format, dimensions, and colors, and in the case of brochures, fliers, or other similar projects, the quantity that will be produced. Multimedia projects may require production costs if a project is to be delivered on a CD or DVD, while Web sites and online presentations only require the ongoing costs of domain name, hosting, and other related services.

All final production costs that cynaps*kreativ gathers from third-party services and prepares for you will be quoted separate of the design and development costs. Quotes can be requested from different services to compare prices, and you may choose to request quotes from your own services as long as you fully understand the requirements of the project. Also, you may manage payment directly with any third-party service. If you want them to bill you, be sure to submit a credit application and set up an account ahead of time so it won't delay the project when it’s approved for production and delivery.

Printed materials require additional costs for printing, cutting, and delivery. Also, a project’s design or format may require bindery services such as stapling or gluing. There may also be costs for direct mail services and mailing lists or other means of delivering the printed pieces directly to potential customers, such as services that distribute fliers or place door hangers.

Quantity is another important cost and production factor for printed materials. Not only will it be a factor in the printed costs, but will also determine the production method. The printing method, either digital or offset, will also determine how the project’s graphics and other files will be prepared and formatted for final production. For more information about the two methods, read about them on the Q&A page.

Three different quantities are often requested to compare price-per-unit costs, or “quantity discounts.” For offset printing it is common practice. For newer digital printing services this may not be necessary or offer no real advantage.

Offset printing does require significantly higher pre-press and set-up costs, and therefore, price-per-unit discounts can be greater at higher quantities. Most offset printing services don't publish price lists, unless they offer package or program pricing where you must design your piece to meet the program’s specifications, and select the quantities that they offer. Otherwise, requesting offset printing quotes for three quantities is usually required to evaluate price breaks.

Because digital printing requires less set up, and the overall costs are based more on the number of sheets that pass through the machine, there will be less of a discount per piece. However, many digital printing services provide price sheets that list breaks at higher quantities. Also, some services offer additional discounts for repeat or established customers.

Advertising placement costs will be paid to a print publication or Web site’s publisher. In this case, standard sizes and their rates are provided by the publisher, and they usually offer discounts for multiple placements in subsequent printed issues or extended placement on a Web site – which can be beneficial to your advertising or promotional program. Also, most publishers will offer information about their target audience, and what kind of exposure to expect for your placed advertisement.

Generally, anyone can contact a publisher about placing an advertisement, as long as it is appropriate for the publication or Web site, and the artwork or production files are compliant with their specifications. Most clients will contact publishers directly and set up a contract on their own. However, cynaps*kreativ can help you review publisher’s information and make recommendations, or can manage the account and payment for you (up-front payment is required and commission will be charged).

Paying for the work

Proposed projects exceeding $400 will have a payment schedule with half or third payments as defined in the proposal. The first payment is due at the beginning of the project, before the work begins. For payment in thirds, another payment will be due at a notable project milestone, like presentation of the design for review. Final payment will be due before or when the finished project is delivered. This payment schedule is common among design professionals and agencies.

Hourly projects will be billed bi-monthly. Invoices will be issued on the 12th and 26th of the month to accommodate most monthly accounting practices.

Who’s involved?

Whether you work for a large company, or a smaller company with a few partners, it’s important to establish who must be involved in the project, and how important their feedback and approval will be during production. You should rely on those that know about the product or service being promoted, and those that will use the finished project when it’s delivered.

This ensures that the completed project will be used effectively, and there won't be additional costs to make changes after the project is delivered (and printed in some cases). Boxes of new brochures have actually been thrown out because one person saw the final piece for the first time and discovered a problem – someone that should have been involved during the development and approval process.

Are there company Graphics Standards or guidelines?

From the beginning, it is very important to establish if your company has graphic standards or guidelines for developing promotional materials, and if you need approval to begin and produce new projects. This information must be provided to cynaps*kreativ, and applied throughout the development process to ensure it will be compliant and meet approval requirements.

Disregarding established guidelines, or assuming it will be okay to do something different could result in additional costs to “correct” the project to make it compliant, or the project may be canceled altogether. Even if a project is canceled because it isn't compliant or wasn't approved, you will still be responsible for the design and development costs.

Provide specifications or service information

Advertisements: If an advertisement is being produced to place in a newspaper or magazine, or a Web banner is being placed on a third party’s Web site, there will be specifications and guidelines that must be applied to your project. The publisher or Web site will provide this information either in a letter, fax, or a PDF attached to an email, or it will be presented on a Web page. This information, along with the selected size of the advertisement, must be provided to cynaps*kreativ before the design work can begin. Also, cynaps*kreativ can help you find this information and select the advertisement’s dimensions if needed.

Printed Materials: A printed project can be anything from a 4 x 6 postcard, to a 20-foot-wide banner. What you select, and the equipment used to produce it, will determine how your project is developed. Also, quantity can be a factor because this may also determine what type of production equipment will be used. Therefore, it is important to specify exactly what you need, and the quantity, before the design work begins.

Also, if the same design will be used on pieces of different sizes, be sure to specify all sizes to be produced, especially if much larger pieces, like posters, are to be printed. To save time and reduce costs, the artwork will be developed for the largest piece, at the optimum printing resolution, then scaled down for the smaller pieces.

The most common types of postcards, fliers, brochures, posters, and other printed materials can be selected in the form on the Request a Quote page.

Web Sites: To place a Web site on the Internet, its files will need to be “hosted” on a Web server and you must have a domain name that “points” to the site’s location on the hosting server. Essentially, these are two separate services, and they can either be provided by the same company as a package or by two different companies. It’s most common for a business to rely on third party companies for these services, while some larger companies may actually have the resources to set up and maintain their own Web server.

If you already have a hosting service and domain name account, the most important information will be the account management and access information from the hosting company. This is usually provided in an email from the company when the service is set up. To manage your account and upload files, a Host or Host Name, User or User Name, and Password must be provided to cynaps*kreativ.

The domain name account information is only important if the domain needs to be configured to “point” to your host to load and display your Web site. Accessing this account requires a specific Web page address or your hosting company’s Web site address, a User Name, and Password.

If you don't have a domain name or hosting yet, you can consult with cynaps*kreativ about services you are considering, or we can recommend services that will fit your needs and budget, and will be “compatible” with the features of your Web site. It is important to know that some services may offer more than you really need, at additional costs, and some services don't support features that may be incorporated into your site.

Also, please note that cynaps*kreativ does not provide domain name or hosting services, but, as stated above, will help you select the services, and configure them as needed.

Gather information

Any information you can provide will contribute greatly to a project’s development. This can include past brochures and other sales materials, press releases, presentations, technical or specification sheets, or anything else used to sell, or provide information about your products or services. Also, general or “common” information sources such as industry articles or third-party materials from suppliers may also be helpful.

Once you have gathered your materials, review them, mark or highlight important sections, and provide notes about how the information is important for the current project.

Gather photos and graphics

Hopefully, the easiest things to gather are your standard company graphics, like logos, icons, and common background or border elements. These will be needed early in the development process to assess their format and quality to ensure the best results when produced in the final project.

For other graphics and photos, you may have a file or library of existing items that can be used in your project. Review your collection, select primary and optional photos and graphics, and provide notes or information about how they can be used in the project. Though not all may be used, having several items available provides more options or may generate other ideas.

For production purposes, high-quality images with adequate resolution or, when appropriate, in a vectored format, will produce the best results. However, low quality images, or images lacking the minimum resolution requirements should not be used, or may require additional services to correct or re-create.

Also, you must be certain that any photos or images in your collection don't have usage restrictions or property rights belonging to a third party. Some usage restrictions even specify that images can only be used in specific pieces in a specific location, and only so many pieces can be produced that contain that image. Using images outside their restrictions or without written consent from the rights’ owners could result in a number of problems, from postponing a project while an image is replaced and the project is redesigned, to possible legal action.

Also, images copied from a Web site are usually copyrighted, and in most cases, cannot be used because they lack the resolution required for the project, especially if is to be printed.

Show and tell what you like

Some of the best sources for ideas are other printed pieces, advertisements, or Web sites. If you see something you like, even if it’s not related to your business, products, or services, keep a copy or make a note of where you saw it. This could even be a billboard, a television advertisement, or a Web site. Providing these examples and notes about why you like them could be a valuable resource when developing your own promotional materials. It communicates what you like, and aids in developing a similar look or design you'd like to see in your own project.

Written content or information

Most projects require some amount of written content. It may be a few paragraphs for an advertisement, or pages of content for a technical manual. If possible, providing complete written content that needs very little editing is ideal and further progresses the development of the project. When provided in a file such as Microsoft Word, or even a simple text file, it will be converted, imported, styled to set the font, spacing, and other attributes specific to your project, and edited to fit into your project’s design.

However, if complete written content isn't available, you can provide your ideas and information in any form – it doesn't have to be perfect. It can be a rough draft of hand-written paragraphs, or an outline. List everything that’s important about your business, and note the importance of each and your ideas for presenting that information in the piece.

If written content or ideas can't be provided, then cynaps*kreativ can meet with you, tour your facility, or review your services or products, and pull from other resource materials to write the content for you.

It is important to note how the content will be provided when requesting a proposal or starting a new project so the appropriate time estimates will be factored into your project.

Review Mockups and Drafts

During project development mockups and drafts will be sent to you for review, feedback, and revisions. Each draft will have a date and letter to identify the latest version. These can be presented to you in person in printed form, but sending images and drafts over the Internet is more efficient.

For Web page mockups, smaller designs, illustrations, or artwork, either JPG preview image files will be sent directly to you via email, or will be uploaded to a Web site address or directory. For photography, low-res copies will be generated and uploaded for browsing and selection.

Drafts of larger pieces, like brochures, will be printed to the PDF format. This format, developed by Adobe, is a “digital print” that anyone can open and print using the free Adobe Reader application. Please note that these drafts are printed at “standard” quality for your desktop printer, and are not “press-ready” PDFs that are prepared for final production. These standard-quality drafts are also smaller and are more suitable to send as an email attachment.

In most cases, printing the piece and using standard proofreading marks are preferred. You may also rewrite sections and mark on the draft what is to be replaced. However, you should never cover up any part of the original draft, such as using white out or pasting new sections of text onto the draft. The returned draft is used as a reference, and it is more difficult to identify and make the updates if content on the draft is hidden.

Managing Feedback and Reviews

If several people at your company will be involved in the review process, it is important that one person manage and consolidate all the feedback and revisions each time the project is returned. This person will be responsible for deciding what changes will be made at each phase, and returning the information to cynaps*kreativ to update the project. This procedure is more efficient, and reduces the likelihood of confusion or additional work to undo a change that wasn't necessary.

Final approval

When all revisions have been completed, the project must receive final approval for production. You must notify cynaps*kreativ that all design work is approved. At this point the project enters the final production and delivery stage.

It is very important to understand that final approval is crucial for any project reproduced and distributed in a physical format or sent out where it can't be retrieved and re-submitted (such as direct emails). If revisions are made to the design after approval, it is likely there will be additional costs, and as the final production stage progresses, these costs can increase significantly. This is especially true for printed pieces, multimedia projects on portable media such as a CD or DVD, or graphics and logos printed on promotional materials and giveaway items.

For a Web site or multimedia presentation on the Internet, “producing” the project is usually the process of uploading files. In this case, small changes after approval usually won't incur additional costs, unless the changes are so significant that they require extensive redesign. Small updates and revisions can be made weeks after a site or Internet presentation is launched. However, even errors in these projects can be detrimental, especially if they cause confusion or affect your business in a negative way.

Final Production & Delivery

After final approval, your project will go to the final production and delivery stages.

For print materials this stage involves preparing the final production or “press-ready” files, sending them to the printing service, reviewing and signing off on the service’s proofs, press checks (standard practice for offset printing), actual print production, cutting and bindery, and delivery of the finished pieces. Digital printing can take up to two or three days, while offset printing may require five to eight days, depending on the project.

For projects delivered over the Internet, such as Web sites or online multimedia presentations, the final “production process” is uploading all the necessary files and proofing or testing the files from your Web server. If your hosting services are already in place, then more simple projects can be uploaded and tested in an hour or two. More elaborate presentations or Web site features may take more time because they may have more files, the files could be larger, settings and features may need to be configured, and they require more extensive testing.

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