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Victims of Sandy Hook

Stop the Slaughter of Innocents. Congress is bought and paid for by gun lunatics and gun promotion groups. If you want to live in a safe America, help buy Congress back for America. Send a donation to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, 909 Third Avenue, 15th Floor New York, NY 10022

Eight Tips for the Newbie Web Designer

This article is targeted particularly at young designers just entering the field. These suggestions shine light on some potential minefields the new designer might not think of until he or she finds herself or himself in the middle of one. Although some of these ideas smack of legalese, I'm not an expert on the law. In dealing with any contractual issues, I strongly recommend that you contact legal counsel.

1. Get the lay of the land

Ask your new client how he found you, why he selected you and what design resources he has used in the past. Your purpose is twofold:

To find out what is working in your new business outreach program and⁄or to identify who to thank for recommending you; and

to discretely find out if your new client tends to be loyal to a designer or if he jumps from one to another. If he's a jumper, that's a red flag.

2. Button down the strategy

Guiding the client to give you direction in strategic terms can be your most difficult assignment. Many clients think and express themselves in execution terminology not conceptual terms. Your job is to avoid discussing fonts and Pantone colors and focus on what is to be communicated and to whom.

Once you think you understand the design assignment's strategic direction, compose a written Communications Strategy and have the client sign off on it.

It is important that it include a concise Brand Positioning for the product or company for which you're doing design work. It should also include a Communications Hierarchy, that is, what is the most important idea or element to communicate, what's the second, and the third, etc. Client "jumpers" who are consistently unhappy with designers are typically unable to verbalize a strategy. Their common expression is "I'll know it when I see it." If your potential new client utters this phrase, throw down your Pantone fanbook and run to the nearest exit!

3. Confirm the client's interest early on

Even though all the signs may point to your new client being fully involved in your project and clearly interested in your working on the project, seek proof. Here's a relatively subtle and painless way to do it. Typically, you prepare a proposal divided into phases describing how you plan to execute the assignment. You assign an estimated timetable and cost to each phase, and you stipulate that you will invoice the client at the conclusion of each phase.

Finally, (and here's the "proof"), you stipulate that approval of the proposal will be signified by a prepayment of $___. The amount will be some portion of your estimate for the first phase. When the check is issued, you'll know the assignment is real. You'll get the client's full attention when he or she has "skin in the game."

4. Specify deliverables in each phase

Give specifics so the client has clear expectations regarding what he or she will receive. For example: 3-5 concepts, concepts of principal display panel or a full package, options to include differences in fonts, colors, images and general layout, deliverables will be PDFs and full color printouts.

5. Clarify that the client, not the designer is legally responsible

Clarify that your client is legally responsible for the final package or label. You should include this type of text in your proposal:

Design Protection and Rights: "All designs and any related development work created as part of an assignment are done so by Acme Design to serve the client and are not intended to infringe upon the rights of others. The complexity of these rights is such that Acme Design cannot warrant that its clients will be immune from claims of others. It is the responsibility of the client to consult legal counsel regarding all creative designs, package text, brand names and trademarks, and file for registration or copyrights as appropriate."

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