Once you have decided to buy in your creativity, the next step is picking somebody to do it. The options vary from lone freelance designers, through one-stop shops such as Prontaprint, to design agencies.
The whole process will be made easier with an understanding of the essential stages of the design and print processes:
Stage 1: Initial Concepts
Concepts were traditionally presented as hand-drawn designs, in black or white or colour. Increasingly nowadays, particularly in the case of corporate identity, the freehand stage is skipped altogether in favour of a computer-generated design.
Stage 2: Final Designs
The final choice of design is selected from the initial concepts produced.
Stage 3: Artwork
Final designs are then converted to artwork, which requires specific skill, so that the final printed materials closely resemble the chosen design. Artwork may look very similar to the final designs but comprises exact dimensions, colour matches, cutter guides and so on.
Stage 4: Printed Proofs
Artwork is submitted to the printer, who then produces a set of proofs for approval, principally to check colours. It is important that artwork is thoroughly checked, as amends are costly, once the proof stage is reached.
Stage 5: Full Production
The proofs are approved and the print job completed, collated, packed and distributed.
Unless you are particularly familiar with artwork and print buying, it is usually worth choosing a company that can take the designs from concepts through to final artwork and on to print production.
Although using a freelance designer may appear cheaper, conceptual designs will then need to be converted to artwork, which is unlikely to be included in the design cost. However, many artworkers may have a design background, as well as specialist Mac training, so it is worth keeping an eye out for artwork studios that offer design facilities.
Similarly, such studios often have close ties with local printers.
However, for complete peace of mind, a design agency will oversee the entire process competently.
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