Balancing creative impact with media exposure has been a battle in every shop since the dawn of modern advertising. In our industry, we’ve even picked teams – suits versus creatives. It’s no secret that high-end graphic design adds professionalism and polish to any marketing piece. Work of that caliber takes time. And when time equals money, avoiding wasted hours is paramount.

Below are five ways clients can save themselves from burned hours and the frustration that comes with them.

1. Plan Ahead

Abraham Lincoln once said if you gave him six hours to chop down a tree, he’d spend four sharpening the axe. Preparation can not be stressed enough. Before you pick up the phone to talk to your designers, make sure you have a clear idea of what you want your piece to achieve or ask your agency to develop a strategy for you. Make sure you know what your piece should say, who it should speak to, where it will be seen and how it will be distributed. A  project without direction from the get go will leave your entire team guessing; to be unsure is to be unproductive.

A myriad of things can set back a campaign or a marketing deliverable, but  try to see that your project gets completed in a reasonable time frame. Designers lose steam when constantly starting and stopping projects over a long stretch of time and it’s amazing how much time can be wasted just from opening and saving large design files.

2. Be Direct on Creative Liberties

A designer loves to put his or her spin on a project. It’s part of the creative process and why you hire a graphic designer in the first place. That said, if you have a very specific vision or want something more conservative and generic, be blunt up front. Nothing is more deflating than to hear ,”that’s what I was looking for, but you guys do whatever you think is best. You’re the experts.” in the initial meeting only to have the third, fourth or fifth revision of the project be the client’s original idea. It’s better to be clear on creative freedom upfront than to ask for something you may not want.

3. Get Your Files in Order

Photos and file formats cause more headaches than nearly anything else for designers which can cause a lot of wasted design time. Not everyone is a designer or has worked with digital files before, so here are a few really quick tips on files:

• Don’t pull photos off of a website to be used in print.
• Generally speaking, any jpeg photo under 250K will not print well.
• Make sure you have your logo and any other brand elements in an .eps file. If you don’t, contact the person who developed your logo and get it.
• If you don’t have photos of your own business, consider investing in a professional photoshoot that lets you own the rights to the photos.
• If you want to use stock photography, browse for some on your own and send them to the designer. This will save the designers time and let them know what you are looking for.
• Microsoft Publisher is the bane of most designers. Mock-ups are great. But if you use Publisher to do them, send your designers pdfs.

4.  Guide Your Writer

As a writer, I’ll admit I’m biased and think you should always use a copywriter. If you are willing to invest in professional graphic design, it’s only logical to invest in professional copywriting. The best way to be efficient with design and writing is to guide your writer with thorough copy points. Copy points look like an outline with headings and supporting bullets. Try as we might, neither a writer nor a designer will ever know everything about your field. We need to know disclaimers, industry jargon or any taboos in terminology.  You don’t need to be fancy or witty. The copywriter will add the sizzle. Just make sure you get your goals on paper with some facts or statements to back them up. A message that misses its mark is more than wasted time, its ineffective.

5. Choose the Right Media

An overly thin website deters users while a jam-packed brochure often wards off readers who don’t want a daunting marketing piece to read. The world of print is dizzying. Countless paper stocks, printing process, coatings, sizes and folds provide endless possibilities for marketing pieces. They also cause headaches and indigestion. Throw in any other media into a campaign such as Web, broadcast or an event and decision making becomes overwhelming. But, if you’ve planned ahead and have your copy points in order, you can begin to see how much real estate you need to execute a piece. A good designer can help advise you on what print media options will work best for the piece by taking white space, photos and typography into consideration.

Graphic design, and creative in general, are just a part of the marketing agenda. They are the first impression and most likely what will be remembered about your brand. To deliver high-end shine within a fixed budget takes a little extra effort, but what you save gets spent in delivery to your audience. Presentation counts. Representation in the media counts. The battle over budget allocation will rage on, but with a little savvy, your businesses can get the best of both.