Business Relations: Working With The Graphics Department

    June 12, 2003

The days of bland business documents are over. Well, at least as far as design. Graphics departments – also known as presentation resources – are common in businesses across America. This merging of business and creativity isn’t always smooth. As a part-time graphics specialist, I often witness bad client to personnel relations.

Some clients don’t take in-house graphics departments seriously. They insinuate that the job is fluff, and that the personnel are just having fun. Or worse, they have unrealistic expectations about what can be done, and how quickly. This results in frustration, anger, and hostility on the part of the graphics personnel. Mistakes are common under these conditions. The client then becomes frustrated, angry, and hostile. It’s a negative cycle that doesn’t belong in the workplace.

To eliminate this cycle, or prevent its start, follow the suggestions below. They mainly apply to webcasts, pitch books, newsletters, and slide shows. These jobs cause the most problems, and have the tightest deadlines. The next time you’re working with your company’s graphics department, remember these suggestions:

Submit your job at least one day in advance, sooner if possible. Don’t assume your job will be high priority. Graphics departments are often swamped with work. Provide time for the graphics operator to do their best work, and for the proofreader to review it. Rushed people are less likely to provide quality work.

Be flexible with your deadline. Don’t rely on your own assessment of the job. Just because something looks simple, doesn’t mean it is simple. For example, inserting a chart into PowerPoint sounds simple enough. But what if the chart is a picture, without live data? The graphics operator will have to “ungroup” the chart into pieces. They will then have to format the chart – piece by piece – until the style is correct. This process can take 30-40 minutes. If the chart is too complicated, it will be left “as is” – but then it will not be styled correctly.

Provide live data for charts and graphs. This will make your job easier – and quicker – to format.

Write legibly. When submitting handwritten edits, be sure to write neatly. You’d be surprised at the time wasted trying to understand bad handwriting. If possible, type your edits and include them with the job.

For slide show and webcast presentations, keep information to a minimum. These formats require large type – usually 16 points or larger. Anything smaller will be illegible on screen. Crowded pages require smaller type. Consider splitting large chunks of information into separate slides.

Don’t edit your job before it’s done. Clients often add, move, and delete pages while the job is in progress. This often results in confusion. Finish the first round of edits before submitting additional changes.

When working in a group, make communication a top priority. It can be a mess when everyone is submitting their own edits. Then there is confusion about which information belongs in the project. Team members accuse the graphics department of error, when what happened is that someone else submitted changes – without informing the team. If possible, designate one person to approve and submit all changes.

These steps will assure you a pleasant graphics experience.

Michelle Strait is an editorial consultant based in New York. Visit her site: to read essays, book reviews, and to learn about her services.