Pro Tips for Creating an Effective Relationship with your Graphic Designer

Graphic designer and client collaborating at a computer

Your magazine designer does much more than create the look of your school’s magazine. The graphic designer is your strategic partner in communicating everything you need and want to share with your constituencies.

We asked our Kalix designers to share their pro tips for cultivating a productive relationship with a graphic designer.

Timing is everything for a graphic designer.

From Kalix Senior Designer Anne Schulte: Early agreement on a timeline with clear expectations including multiple approval stages and time built in for revisions gives the project structure. Work backwards from the proposed delivery, then printing, delivery of press-ready files, revisions, design, final approved copy, all the way to the initial project launch. The editor and designer can work together behind the scenes in small stages before sharing layouts with stakeholders. Determine, too, which sharing platform you will use.

Ask your graphic designer for a creative brief.

From Kalix Designer Jason Quick: Understanding what the client wants is half the battle. The creative brief helps the graphic designer learn more about the needs of the client. This step is critical since the designer needs to gather as much information as possible about the client and project expectations. Tell your designer:

  • What are the goals for the project?
  • Who are the customers?
  • How is your school positioned compared to competitors?
  • What should the designer deliver?
  • What is the school’s personality?
  • What are examples of things you like and dislike?

Mine the newsstand.

Anne: Respect your graphic designer’s expertise in their knowledge of magazine design trends that enhance reader engagement such as use of white space, typography used as a dominant visual, a spread with a full-bleed, 17″ x 11″ image, stylized illustrations, and unique sidebar treatments with quick soundbites. When beautifully designed, starting with a bold single-image cover, you are on your way to being rewarded with enduring loyalty from your greatest fans—your alums.

Copy that.

Jason: Get the copy as close to its final version as you can before asking your graphic designer to get started — it’s better for everyone involved. Make sure you have all of your copy, photos, logos, etc. ready before you start working with a designer. If a designer creates a design first and tries to plug in your content later it may not mesh well, which can lead to a lengthy and possibly frustrating process for both parties.

Don’t expect perfection right away.

Jason: There’s a reason it’s called a first draft – it’s the first step on the path to a finished piece. This is where your input is crucial, and a good graphic designer will appreciate your suggestions and constructive criticism. But saying, ‘I don’t like it’ isn’t very constructive. Identify what you like and don’t like about the five components of graphic design (color, font, images, layout and overall aesthetic) and tell your designer.

And avoid these mistakes when hiring a graphic designer.

Anne: Avoid hiring the “low-bid” designer, one not equipped with Photoshop skills. Many of your photos may come from a variety of smart phone sources, and the designer who doesn’t color balance/lighten/brighten/enhance all of the provided or custom photos cheapens your product. Thoroughly review the designer’s portfolio and look for high-quality design, a limited number of typefaces and decisive use of white space. The skilled designer is so much more than a decorator of copy. (In fact, some write great headlines.) Not getting designers involved early in the process thinking you are saving money can be a big mistake.

Kalix can help take your magazine to the next level. Connect with us here.

About the Kalix Design Team

Photo of Anne SchulteAnne Schulte, Senior Designer

Anne brings a sharp eye, creative vision and 30 years of expertise to brand identities, view books and multimedia. She knows the independent school landscape well through her daughter’s experiences at McDonogh School, a Baltimore-area day/boarding school. Anne has worked on such recognized accounts as Raleigh Bicycles, University of Virginia/Wellness, Presidential Airways, Baltimore Symphony Musicians and Marriott. Her numerous awards include a Clio nomination and many Washington and Baltimore ADDYs.


Photo of Jason QuickJason Quick, Graphic Designer

For over 20 years, Jason has designed everything from magazines, to marketing collateral, to identity systems for a variety of for-profit and nonprofit clients. A Getty Images contributing photographer, Jason is the former senior art director of the Baltimore-based Alter Communications (now Mid-Atlantic Media) and art director of magazines at the University of Maryland. He has won numerous CASE awards, Communicator awards and the Luminary Award given by the National Bar Association for the best magazine.


Check out Anne’s tips for working with photographers.

11 Essential Photography Tips for Independent School Marketers : Summer Marketing Series #8


President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

Read the latest post from Kalix President Jonathan Oleisky.
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