The top things you should know to work more effectively with graphic designers

14 Mar 23

Are you overwhelmed by the world of working with graphic design? Do you want to know how to work more efficiently with a designer? How to speak their language and streamline projects?

We’re here to answer some of the most frequently asked design questions we hear, so that you can feel confident embarking on a project involving an element of graphic design.

You won’t be a designer by the end of this, but you will be able to communicate more effectively with one.

We’re a marketing agency and we act as the go between for our designers and our clients all the time, we’ve learned to speak their language and we think that this is information that will greatly benefit all marketers.

So, if you’re looking for basic information like the difference between a digital file and a print file, this is the article for you.

Top tip: Designers will usually send you files as a PDF because they are much smaller but still retain all of their editing capabilities when opened in Adobe.

What are the different file types and when should each be used?

PDF, PNG, JPEGs… a world of acronyms all thrown about casually, but what do they actually mean?

  • PDF

    The most common file type you’ll likely see is a PDF, which stands for Portable Document Format, and it’s just that.

    PDFs are the universal file format used to send documents, as they not only preserve your fonts and images, they also tools which allow you to edit, sign and comment on the document.

    Although they’re an Adobe software you don’t need an Adobe subscription to view or edit them, meaning they can be viewed by everyone which is what makes them so popular.

    One of the greatest benefits of the PDF to a graphic designer is that you can save Adobe illustrator documents (with editing capabilities enabled) as a PDF and it will still maintain all its editing functions when you then reopen it in Illustrator. This makes it the perfect format for sending documents between you and your designer.

  • AI

    Now, you might be asking what is Adobe illustrator? Illustrator (also known as AI) is the industry standard software for vector-based graphics.

    Vectors are comprised of paths rather than pixels, which is the case with raster-based files like JPEGs and PNGs. This means that vectors can be resized indefinitely without losing quality, whilst raster files can lose quality and end up appearing pixelated when enlarged.

    Any graphics such as logos, social media posts and small documents will most likely be created in Illustrator.

    An Illustrator file is saved with the ‘.ai’ tag but you will need an Adobe subscription to view these, which is why designers will save Illustrator files as PDFs so anyone can view them.

Looking for help creating high-quality medical device imagery?
  • PNG or JPEG?

    Files you might be more familiar with are PNGs (Portable Network Graphic) and JPEGS (Joint Photographic Experts Group).

    These are the most common way to export images and graphics. But you might ask what is the difference?

  • PNG

    Well, firstly PNGs offer transparency whereas JPEGs don’t, this means you don’t have to have a background on them, which is what makes them perfect for graphics such as logos.

    PNG compression is also lossless which prevents loss of data in the file, so it maintains the same image quality and sharpness, unlike a JPEG which can lose quality when edited and saved multiple times.

  • JPEG

    You might be wondering why JPEGs are still around if the PNG has all these benefits, but the JPEG does have advantages of its own.

    JPEG offers a much smaller file size than PNGs which means it can be great for websites where you need the page to load quickly, or you’re sending an email and the attachment can’t be too large.

    Also, even though it doesn’t offer a lossless compression like the PNG, JPEGs can still provide a good quality image. It’s all about choosing which file is most suitable for your needs.

    Something to remember is that PNGs and JPEGs are both raster files, this means that unlike vector files they can’t be enlarged without losing quality. So, if you do choose to use PNG or JPEG you need to make sure the artwork is set to the correct size, or it may appear blurry.

  • INDD

    A common file type graphic designers use is a PSD. This is the file format for Adobe Photoshop, which is the industry standard photo-editing software.

    PSDs are raw editable layered files that a designer will create and edit from, they will then export the file as either a JPEG or PNG to send to you, since PSD files can only be viewed if you have the Adobe suite.

  • PSD

    Adobe InDesign files (.indd) can also only be used with an Adobe subscription, so your designer will export the document as a PDF when it’s ready for you to review it.

    Graphic designers use InDesign for any long-form multipage documents such as magazines and brochures. It arranges your pages ready to print, which is what makes it popular for long, text heavy documents.

    If you do have an InDesign file that you want to be able to edit, or give to other people to edit, it will need to be packaged. This means that all the documents and fonts used to build the file, are put into one folder that InDesign can access.

What you need to know about colours

  • RGB, CMYK… what does it all stand for?

    Surely a colour is the same no matter what screen you look at it? Well, actually, designers use different types of colours depending on how and where the file will be used.

  • RGB

    RGB is what’s used to display colour on a screen, it combines red, green and blue (hence the name RGB) spectrums of light to create any colour in the RGB spectrum.

    Ever wondered why when you print something off it doesn’t look like it did on the screen? Well, that might be because you were working in RGB. As you can see above, the RGB spectrum of colours is much larger than that of CMYK.

    This means when you print something off in RGB when it converts the colours to CMYK. Some of the RGB colours can’t be recreated in CMYK, so they’ll lose vibrancy.

  • CMYK

    CMYK stands for the four colour plates used in a process print, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Key is a printer’s name for black). In CMYK printing different levels of each ink is applied in small dots to create a solid colour.

    If you see a CMYK colour written as C80 M40 Y10 K0 this refers to the different percentages of ink needed on the page so 80% cyan, 40% magenta, 10% yellow, and 0% key.

    CMYK is a cost-efficient way to print as it can produce a wide array of colours to a good standard, using just four inks.

  • RGB

    RGB is what’s used to display colour on a screen, it combines red, green and blue (hence the name RGB) spectrums of light to create any colour in the RGB spectrum.

    Ever wondered why when you print something off it doesn’t look like it did on the screen? Well, that might be because you were working in RGB. As you can see above, the RGB spectrum of colours is much larger than that of CMYK.

    This means when you print something off in RGB when it converts the colours to CMYK. Some of the RGB colours can’t be recreated in CMYK, so they’ll lose vibrancy.

  • PANTONE™ spot colours

    PANTONE is different to RGB and CMYK in that it’s a series of spot colours made up by the company Pantone, Inc..

    Spot colours are created using a specific premixed ink, and PANTONE is the most common brand of spot colours.

    Every colour has its own ink, which means each needs to be printed one at a time making it more time-consuming and therefore more expensive. The upside of spot colours such as PANTONE is that they guarantee a consistent and high-quality colour.

    Spot colours are great if you have a specific brand colour, or colours such as metallics and neons which can be hard to create in CMYK.

What's the difference between a raw design file and a preview file?

Designers will usually send you a preview file, rather than the actual raw file they’re working on.

A raw design file is where the artwork is created and has all the editing capabilities. It’s where any updates or changes will be made.

On the other hand, preview files aren’t editable and usually come as flattened PDFs with all layers and functionality removed. They are sent rather than raw design files because they’re lower-resolution and therefore easier to send. Also, everyone is able to view them, whereas with files like AIs and PSDs require an adobe subscription.

It’s important to know this as the final exported file in whatever format you require it will be higher quality, so is something to keep in mind when reviewing previews.

Preparing files for print

Once approved, files to be printed will be updated by the designer to expedite the printing process.

Your designer will obviously handle this whole process, but it’s useful for you to have an understanding of how a print file differs.

  • Embedding images

    One of the first things designers will do when setting up your file for print is to embed any images. If the images are not embedded, they’ll appear pixelated and will be rejected by the printer or they’ll be printed at very low resolution.

    Some printers prefer for the images to not be embedded and to be sent as links, in which case all assets will be packaged accordingly.

  • Outlining text

    Next, the text must be outlined.

    Outlining turns your text into vector paths, meaning that it is no longer editable as text. The text has essentially become a series of lines rather than something that the software recognises as text.

    Designers do this so that printers are able to view text without needing to know the font used. If you send your file to the printer without outlining the text and they don’t have the fonts used, it will be rejected by the printer or printed with different fonts.

  • Spot colours

    If your project is to be printed in spot colours/PANTONE colours, your designer will remove all unused colours from the colour palette in Illustrator and rename your spot colours with their PANTONE name or print effect.

    This makes it clear to the printer which and where spot colours are being used.

  • Saving your print file

    Firstly, when going to print , your design will need to be in CMYK. Your designer will also add a bleed (usually 3mm). A bleed is to ensure that ink prints beyond the edge of the design so that when it is trimmed off afterwards, you’re left with a crisp, precise edge.

    Your designer will save the print file as a new file, so that the original file is still editable. Once a file is set up for print, it cannot be easily edited, hence why it’s important to keep the original design file.

    They will select the ‘High Quality print’ PDF preset and add crop/trim marks to the document (these can only be seen once doc has been exported/saved as pdf). They will also select ‘use document bleed settings’.

Graphic design from Podymos

Do you want to communicate more effectively with HCPs and patients? Do you want to be able to deliver high-quality marketing materials to support your wider multichannel strategy? You’ve come to the right place.

Podymos is a healthcare marketing agency, specialising in downstream Medical Device marketing.

We’re more expensive than non-specialised agencies and freelance teams because we only work in the Medical Device space so we have specialist knowledge and experience that other agencies may not be able to offer you.

If you want high-quality, compliant campaigns that help achieve your business goals, we’d love to hear from you. Simply leave us your contact details below and we’ll get back to you very soon for a no obligation chat.

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