If this hasn’t happened to you yet, it’s only a matter of time: You propose an idea based on years of experience, but your client isn’t convinced and wants to think about it. Later, someone else makes the same argument with a pretty infographic published by an agency 1,000 miles away. Suddenly the client is on board!
In an ideal world, every business would have at least one professional communicator to convey messages between leadership and staff employees. This person (or better yet, this team) would write, design and distribute newsletters, training manuals, benefits materials and more. All internal communications would be professional-looking, error-free, consistent and supportive of the company’s goals and brand.
But we don’t live in an ideal world, and employee communications are often left in the hands of HR managers and administrative assistants who lack the writing and design background needed to do the job effectively.
If you’re one of those “accidental communicators,” this blog is for you!
If you’ve worked in an office for more than a few months, I’m sure you’ve seen people pull images from the Web and use them in presentations, emails, etc. Most people think nothing of it, assuming there are no legal issues because the images are only being used internally.
Unfortunately, internal use qualifies as commercial use in most circumstances. So copyrighted images require permission to use internally.*
Although a growing number of communications are published electronically these days, you’ll occasionally need to have pieces printed. If you only have a few hundred employees, you may choose to print them yourself in your office. For a larger number, though, you’ll probably need to outsource to a professional printer. That process will go much more smoothly if you understand a few print-related terms.
Unless you’re a professional designer, odds are very good that your workstation doesn’t have industry-standard design software like Adobe Photoshop and InDesign installed. However, you almost certainly have some version of Microsoft Word.
I won’t pretend that Word comes close to offering the quality and flexibility that professional design tools do. There’s simply no comparison. But with a little effort, it IS possible to create attractive and professional-looking flyers, newsletters, etc.
The single biggest design mistake non-designers make is to put too much emphasis on appearance.
But design is all about appearance, right? And we want everything we design to look good, right? Well, yes. But your #1 design goal should NEVER be for it to look pretty. Your goal should be for it to be functional and useful. Attractiveness should ALWAYS be secondary to functionality.
How many times have you seen a poster or a billboard and thought, “Wow, that’s beautiful, but I have no idea what it means.” Or “Wow, that was pretty, but the type was so small I couldn’t read what it said.” Sometimes marketers do this on purpose, and since I’m not a professional marketer, I can’t say if it’s an effective strategy or not. But as a professional communicator, I can tell you that you cannot afford ambiguous communication with your employees.
I can’t count the number of times someone has said to me, “I found this photo on the Web and want to use it in my document, but I can’t get it to print clearly. How do I fix it?”
I hate that question, because no matter how much I want to help, I always have to give the same answer: “You can’t.”
Computer screens are low resolution devices. Printers are high resolution devices. If you take a file designed for a low resolution device and send it to a high resolution device, the result is going to be blurry or grainy.
To understand why, you have to understand image resolution.
Microsoft Word is a good (if overly-complicated) word processor. And as I demonstrate here, it can sometimes even substitute for a professional design tool if you know a few tricks. But it should never, EVER be used for web design.
If you want to make a web designer cry, tell him/her that you built a website using Word’s Save as HTML feature.
If you’ve worked with Powerpoint or Word much, you’ve probably discovered that adding lots of photos can result in a huge file that’s difficult to email or post online. This usually happens when large or high-resolution photos are dropped in and then scaled down. It also happens when the Crop tool is used to crop out large areas of a photo.
You can fix this problem by compressing your images.
Whenever you send something out for professional printing, you have to decide how many copies you need. Many people try to save money by figuring out EXACTLY how many they think they need and only ordering that many. That seems logical, but it often ends up costing them more money in the long run.
“The print shop is asking for an EPS version of the logo and I only have a JPG…”
“A vendor sent me this AI file and I can’t open it…”
“I need a JPG and can only find this PNG file. Will it work instead?”
Does any of that sound familiar?
There are a staggering number of file formats around these days, so I bet you occasionally come across (or are asked for) a type you’ve never heard of.
Here’s a quick introduction to some of the graphic file types you’re likely to come across: