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AIGA Professional Practices in Graphic Design

AIGA Professional Practices in Graphic Design

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AIGA Professional Practices in Graphic Design

547 pages
5 hours
Feb 23, 2010


"Provides definitive guidelines on all aspects of the graphic design business."FYI. * Newly revised and expanded version of an industry classic--5,000 sold! * Up-to-the-minute! Includes web, interactive, and green design, new legislation * Each chapter written by an authority on the subject. Here’s the definitive guide to professional business practices in graphic design, now fully revised and updated for the digital age. Up-to-the-minute coverage of web, interactive, and motion graphics; green design; potential repercussions of legislation on Orphan Works; protection of fonts and software; managing creative people; using professional help such as lawyers; and much more. Each in-depth chapter, covering such topics as professional relationships, fees, contracts, managing large projects, copyright and trademark issues, electronic uses, and more, has been written by an authority in the field. The newly revised AIGA Standard Form for Design Services is included for the convenience of readers, along with a complete resources section. No designer should do business without this comprehensive, authoritative book.

Allworth Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, publishes a broad range of books on the visual and performing arts, with emphasis on the business of art. Our titles cover subjects such as graphic design, theater, branding, fine art, photography, interior design, writing, acting, film, how to start careers, business and legal forms, business practices, and more. While we don't aspire to publish a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are deeply committed to quality books that help creative professionals succeed and thrive. We often publish in areas overlooked by other publishers and welcome the author whose expertise can help our audience of readers.
Feb 23, 2010

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AIGA Professional Practices in Graphic Design - Allworth



Executive Director, AIGA,

The Professional Association For Design

AIGA, the professional association for design, is dedicated to advancing designing as a professional craft, strategic tool, and vital cultural force. It is committed to leadership in the exchange of ideas and information, the encouragement of critical analysis and research, and the advancement of education and ethical practice.

This book is a comprehensive guide on professional practices for designers at all stages of their careers. The contents were developed in response to questions raised regularly by our members—working professionals. The authors, in turn, have each worked regularly with practicing designers, so that their solutions to the challenges they address are based on both principle and pragmatism.

As a young profession, both in terms of the age of many practitioners and the history of the profession, it is important that designers begin to address challenges in their relationships with clients that develop a set of norms for professional practice. Only as designers reflect a consistent, responsive, and businesslike tenor in relations with their clients will an expected set of norms define an established ethos for the profession.

The practices described in this guide will help designers in managing their practices—whether in a studio, agency, or corporate design department. They will also help to develop respect and trust for the designer in the business environment. Designers play an increasingly important role in creating value in a post-industrial society and information economy. AIGA and the advice contained here will help in assuring designers’ success as professionals, leaders, and a creative force.


So many legends, so little time. Ric Grefé has asked me to speak briefly on the value of continuity in our profession. Of course one could take that charge to mean the short history of design, perhaps beginning with Peter Behrens, who is credited with the invention of identity programs and coordinating graphic and industrial design activities. Or one might consider our history as beginning with the first cave paintings at the dawn of history.

I prefer the longer view that relates our activity to the fundamental needs of the human species—a species whose most distinctive characteristic is making things for a purpose, which turns out to be the actual description of what we do.

Any grandiosity or self-importance that this cosmic description of our activity creates in us will be quickly erased by the discovery that in a typical design class, only 30 percent of the students will have any idea who Paul Rand is and will not be able to identify Eric Nitsche or Lester Beall, let alone Joseph Hoffman, Edward Penfield, or Gustav Jensen. Incidentally, Jensen was a mentor to Paul Rand and, Cassandre aside, perhaps the designer he most admired, but I would not be at all surprised if most of us have never heard of him—so much for understanding our own history.

I have always believed that there is a psychological and ethical difference between those who make things and those who control things. If form making is intrinsic to human beings and has a social benefit, then we can think of the good in good design having more than a stylistic meaning. Linking beauty and purpose can create a sense of communal agreement that helps diminish the sense of disorder and incoherence that life creates.

The part of design that is involved in fashion and marketing has the least need to examine and understand our history. Examining what has happened over twenty years seems to provide enough information to meet professional requirements, but, if our field aspires to be significant and worthy of respect, it must stand for something beyond salesmanship. Being a legend is an accomplishment that is hard won and sadly ephemeral, but being part of humankind’s desire to make useful and beautiful things links us to a glorious history.

Two weeks ago I developed a sudden, painful wrist condition. I went to a fancy hand doctor who told me I probably had a gouty incident. That’s not Gaudi the Barcelonian designer and architect. It’s gout, as in those eighteenth century engravings of rich, fat men with inflamed big toes. My wrist is fine, but while I was in the doctor’s office I noticed a document on his wall called What a Surgeon Ought to Be written in the fourteenth century. I’ve changed a word or two but it seems like good advice for our profession.


What a Designer Ought to Be

Let the designer be bold in all sure things, and fearful in dangerous things; let him avoid all faulty treatments and practices. He ought to be gracious to the client, considerate to his associates, cautious in his prognostication. Let him be modest, dignified, gentle, pitiful, and merciful; not covetous nor an extortionist of money; but rather let his reward be according to his work, to the means of the client, to the quality of the issue, and to his own dignity.



A PROFESSIONAL DESIGNER adheres to principles of integrity that demonstrate respect for the profession, for colleagues, for clients, for audiences or consumers, and for society as a whole.

These standards define the expectations of a professional designer and represent the distinction of an AIGA member in the practice of design.


1.1    A professional designer shall acquaint himself or herself with a client’s business and design standards, and shall act in the client’s best interest within the limits of professional responsibility.

1.2    A professional designer shall not work simultaneously on assignments that create a conflict of interest without agreement of the clients or employers concerned, except in specific cases where it is the convention of a particular trade for a designer to work at the same time for various competitors.

1.3    A professional designer shall treat all work in progress prior to the completion of a project and all knowledge of a client’s intentions, production methods, and business organization as confidential and shall not divulge such information in any manner whatsoever without the consent of the client. It is the designer’s responsibility to ensure that all staff members act accordingly.

1.4    If a professional designer accepts instructions from a client or employer that involve violation of the designer’s ethical standards, these violations should be corrected by the designer, or the designer should refuse the assignment.


2.1    Designers in pursuit of business opportunities should support fair and open competition.

2.2    A professional designer shall not knowingly accept any professional assignment on which another designer has been or is working without notifying the other designer or until he or she is satisfied that any previous appointments have been properly terminated and that all materials relevant to the continuation of the project are the clear property of the client.

2.3    A professional designer must not attempt, directly or indirectly, to supplant or compete with another designer by means of unethical inducements.

2.4    A professional designer shall be objective and balanced in criticizing another designer’s work and shall not denigrate the work or reputation of a fellow designer.

2.5    A professional designer shall not accept instructions from a client that involve infringement of another person’s property rights without permission, or consciously act in any manner involving any such infringement.

2.6    A professional designer working in a country other than his or her own shall observe the relevant Code of Conduct of the national society concerned.


3.1    A professional designer shall work only for a fee, a royalty, salary, or other agreed-upon form of compensation. A professional designer shall not retain any kickbacks, hidden discounts, commission, allowances, or payment in kind from contractors or suppliers. Clients should be made aware of markups.

3.2    A reasonable handling and administration charge may be added, with the knowledge and understanding of the client, as a percentage to all reimbursable items, billable to a client, that pass through the designer’s account.

3.3    A professional designer who has a financial interest in any suppliers who may benefit from a recommendation made by the designer in the course of a project will inform the client or employer of this fact in advance of the recommendation.

3.4    A professional designer who is asked to advise on the selection of designers or the consultants shall not base such advice in the receipt of payment from the designer or consultants recommended.


4.1    Any self-promotion, advertising, or publicity must not contain deliberate misstatements of competence, experience, or professional capabilities. It must be fair both to clients and other designers.

4.2    A professional designer may allow a client to use his or her name for the promotion of work designed or services provided in a manner that is rightful and appropriate.


5.1    A professional designer shall not claim sole credit for a design on which other designers have collaborated.

5.2    When not the sole author of a design, it is incumbent upon a professional designer to clearly identify his or her specific responsibilities or involvement with the design. Examples of such work may not be used for publicity, display, or portfolio samples without clear identification of precise areas of authorship.


6.1    A professional designer shall avoid projects that will result in harm to the public.

6.2    A professional designer shall communicate the truth in all situations and at all times; his or her work shall not make false claims nor knowingly misinform. A professional designer shall represent messages in a clear manner in all forms of communication design and avoid false, misleading, and deceptive promotion.

6.3    A professional designer shall respect the dignity of all audiences and shall value individual differences, always avoiding the depiction or stereotyping of people or groups of people in a negative or dehumanizing way. A professional designer shall strive to be sensitive to cultural values and beliefs, and engage in fair and balanced communication design that fosters and encourages mutual understanding.


7.1    A professional designer, while engaged in the practice or instruction of design, shall not knowingly do or fail to do anything that constitutes a deliberate or reckless disregard for the health and safety of the communities in which he or she lives and practices or the privacy of the individuals and businesses therein. A professional designer shall take a responsible role in the visual portrayal of people, the consumption of natural resources, and the protection of animals and the environment.

7.2    A professional designer shall not knowingly accept instructions from a client or employer that involve infringement of another person’s or group’s human rights or property rights without permission of such other person or group, or consciously act in any manner involving any such infringement.

7.3    A professional designer shall not knowingly make use of goods or services offered by manufacturers, suppliers, or contractors that are accompanied by an obligation that is substantively detrimental to the best interests of his or her client, society, or the environment.

7.4    A professional designer shall refuse to engage in or countenance discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability.

7.5    A professional designer shall strive to understand and support the principles of free speech, freedom of assembly, and access to an open marketplace of ideas, and shall act accordingly.


DEPENDING ON WHICH survey you read, the average client relationship in this field lasts twenty-three or twenty-nine months. That’s a number that probably strikes you as low, though truth be told you’ve never actually measured the average length of a client relationship at your firm. Your instincts are more weighted toward clients who have stayed, writing off those that left early on, figuring that they weren’t a good fit anyway. They slide from your consciousness and don’t inform the average.

The reason clients leave, however, is more important than how long they stay. As we’ll explore later in the article, there are definite advantages to cycling your client base (provided that you lose them in the right way). Regardless of what happens, you should seek to be in control. In other words, clients should stay because you’ve screened them well in the first place, treated them as they’d like, and checked in frequently.

Keeping clients long-term will enable you to do more effective work for them. It will also contribute to increased profitability, as well as reduce the acquisition costs of new clients.


Treating clients well includes four elements—it’s not as simple as merely good customer service. For example, no amount of great customer service will save a client relationship that wasn’t well-suited for your firm in the first place. It involves screening them carefully in the marketing process, formalizing the relationship carefully, treating the client well, and then closing the feedback loop by asking the client for advice.

#1:   Marketing. Clients come to you for specific reasons. The safest reasons are your focus, specialization, or category experience. But if you’ve been trying to attract clients with your cost effectiveness or responsiveness or other unproven, unsustainable gibberish, you’ll attract clients for the wrong reasons and will face an uphill battle pleasing them. Better to attract them for the right reasons (you know what you are doing), and then keep them for other reasons (you know how to treat them).

#2:   Formalizing. Once clients come to you, consider defining the relationship carefully to cause service issues to surface early. The very definition process itself is more important than any document that might be formulated as a result of the process. That process will surface issues before they arise. In fact, think of any written agreement as a discussion outline to help both parties address their perspectives on key points.

#3:   Servicing. This article is mostly about this component of relationship management, and the information found here is based on hundreds of conversations with principals, account people, and their clients.

#4:   Listening. A good starting place is noting that it’s critical to know what your clients think about you and, even more important, what they say about you, since this will inevitably spread to prospects and other clients. The American Marketing Association says that only 4 percent of customers who are dissatisfied enough to switch to a competitor take the time to complain. And a complaint, as the management book says, can be a gift. To encourage these gifts, a company should undertake a consistent, systematic program of gathering feedback from clients.


Treating clients well does not mean treating them identically. The better your customer service program, the more distinctly clients will be treated.

This usually depends on a customer information file (CIF for short), a repository of information on how a specific client defines a good relationship. It might include information on the best means of contacting that client (phone, fax, email, etc.); how frequently he wants an update on projects (usually weekly); when budgets are decided; and anything else that would allow exceptional customer service. It also includes purchasing patterns to begin to unearth trends in the relationship.

The data collecting for this CIF begins during the marketing phase, where little hints are put to paper for later use. Your sales person might ask who the potential client has been using, followed with a query about what he liked and didn’t like in that relationship. The data collection continues when the account person interviews the client and discusses typical procedures.

While maintaining a CIF in a consumer setting can be difficult because of the number of customers and the variables that are created, the well-managed firm has eight to twelve clients and the data is manageable, particularly if it is stored in a digital, database driven environment.


The following suggestions are compiled from working with hundreds of firms, conducting scores of end-client interviews, poring through client surveys, and devouring patterns in client relationships. Some are suggestions to implement, and others are things you might want to avoid.

Communication Elements

   Create an orientation kit that includes contact information, sample forms, places to store project updates, and typical procedures.

   Provide the client with proactive updates (as in unprompted). Preferably these will occur weekly, in writing, and will emerge from management software.

   Watch for information in the news that would interest your client and send an occasional fax or email to demonstrate that you are thinking on his behalf.

   Be sure that the client has ready access to someone who knows the status of his projects. If that person is not available, indicate when she will be and provide a backup contact if the client can’t wait.

   Conduct organized, agenda driven meetings that indicate a sensitivity to the client’s busy schedule.

   Confirm the results of those meetings in writing. This will preserve organization and communicate that the details are being handled.

   Manage deadlines and budgets. That doesn’t necessarily mean meeting them, but rather anticipating which ones will be met, and then arriving at a plan suitable to the client for those that will not be met.

   If you use an auto attendant for your phone system, make sure that calling for the operator (pressing zero) always results in someone answering the phone. The caller may not be able to talk to her first choice, but she should always get a real person if she wants to.

   Keep the client’s work confidential.

Leadership Elements

   Know the client’s field. If somehow you slipped into the relationship because he didn’t ask too many questions, do your homework and catch up with the rest of the class.

   Do zero-based work. In other words, don’t just build on the status quo. Instead, start from scratch without making too many assumptions. Pretend it’s a new client every year.

   Have an opinion. Express your point of view. Don’t just take orders.

   On the other hand, be collaborative. Let the client win whenever he should.

   Surprise clients by doing more than you promise. Then let them discover what you have done rather than trumpeting it.

   Do your own homework instead of expecting the client to do it for you.

   Take advantage of your role in providing more brand continuity than the company itself, particularly if your contact point keeps rotating.

   Do effective work. It is not required all the time, but eventually not doing so will catch up with you.

Personal Elements

   Treat the account as important. This means that you’ll talk about it and proudly show what you are doing. It also means rotating the spotlight for public relations announcements so that every client has a turn.

   If great results do ensue, share the credit with the client. Invite him to an awards ceremony, write an article together, speak together, etc.

   Support client causes, even if only to a limited extent.

   Ask the client how you are doing. Your performance is not as important as your interest in getting the client’s perspective.

   Be human, but not too human. Be vulnerable with personal stories, dress comfortably, and use first names. But don’t share more than clients need to know, and don’t pursue client friendships.

   Be likable. No client will tolerate an unusually difficult person unless there is no other choice. Even beyond this, clients should feel that you enjoy the relationship.

   Stay sober at any function where there is alcohol present. A client will quickly lose confidence when control is absent. It’s not cute.

   Don’t hire employees from the client side except in rare circumstances, particularly if the potential employee is high on the food chain. In many cases no ramifications ensue, but it’s difficult to predict the downside.

   Don’t get involved in client politics. Listen, seek the truth, be fair, and communicate in turn as if your client’s enemy is listening. If you choose sides, you forsake the independence that makes your firm so valuable.

   Don’t keep switching the client’s contact point at your firm. And if you do, give the client some input as to whom he will be working with.

   Be passionate about the client brand, contributing enthusiastically for great collaborative results (thus the importance of choosing the brand carefully).

   Don’t neglect out of town clients, assuming that in person visits are not expected.

   Pay your bills so that word of your financial difficulty doesn’t work its way back to the client. There are no good explanations in the client’s eyes.


Since the 1980s, very specific studies of service quality have been undertaken (see Terry G. Vavra’s Aftermarketing). Over that period of time, consumers have changed their definition of what constitutes quality in a product, but their beliefs about the quality of a service have not changed substantially. There are consistently five aspects of quality service that appear in unprompted discussions, and these five aspects have retained their relative importance over the years.

#1:   Reliability. On average reliability is deemed most important by respondents. This describes your firm’s ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately. It means doing what you say you’ll do, fixing things right the first time, minimizing errors on invoices, not forgetting meetings, etc.

#2:   Responsiveness. On average responsiveness is deemed the second most important component of quality service. This would include your willingness to help customers, the level of promptness clients can expect, the degree to which phone calls and e-mails are answered within a reasonable period of time, and the overall helpfulness they sense.

#3:   Assurance. On average assurance is deemed the third most important component of quality service. Within this category, four phrases surface repeatedly.

The first is competence, or your possession of the required skills and knowledge to perform the service. In other words, do you know what you are doing.

The second is courtesy, or your politeness, respectful treatment, consideration, and overall friendliness.

The third is credibility, or your trustworthiness, believability, and honesty as a service provider. Put simply, how good is your reputation.

The fourth is security, or the confidence that your exchanges will remain confidential.

#4:   Empathy. On average empathy is deemed the fourth most important component of quality service. Within this category, three phrases surface repeatedly.

The first is access, which would include the ease of contacting you and then how easily clients can hold your attention once contact has been made.

The second is communication, which includes both listening to the client and keeping the client informed in language he can understand.

The third is understanding the customer, which relates to knowing the customer and his needs.

#5:   Tangibles. On average tangibles are deemed the fifth most important component of quality service. These tangibles include the general appearance of your facilities, equipment, personnel, and communication materials.


If your prospect screening and customer service skills were perfect, and if nothing changed at the client level, client cycling wouldn’t happen. While most of our customer service efforts are designed to prevent this cycling, there are times when client cycling is good. There is a therapeutic side effect of firing clients, but it should be a business driven exercise.

Cycling your client base is especially useful when you are growing quickly, adding capabilities quicker than the typical client perception can keep pace. With new clients you’ll be able to inform their perceptions from the outset, which is always easier than changing them.

If you are restructuring your role as the principal too, new clients will not have the same expectation of principal involvement that your current clients do. And growing—if you are managing the transition with dignity—absolutely will mean less direct client involvement on your part.

If the average firm replaces one-third of its clients every year, you might want to aim for less turnover. But when turnover occurs, use it to your advantage. Start fresh and align new client expectations more closely with what you can actually deliver. Re-educating clients is only slightly more enjoyable than doing your own dental work at home. It takes the fight right out of you.

Losing Clients Well

In working with hundreds of firms, I have never heard a principal express regret for making a courageous client decision. But in spite of the underlying frustration that might be prompting your decision, don’t make it a personal quest. Keep the focus on business reasons, either for them or for you. It is a small world, and you might have to walk back through it.

First, indicate that this is not personal. And, if it’s true, tell the client that on a personal level you would like to continue the relationship, but that there are business reasons for severing it. These might include a change of direction on your firm’s part, the discovery that only a relationship of certain depth will allow you to be profitable and effective, or that the situation has not allowed you to really use your strengths well.

Second, give clients an option. Don’t present the decision as final. Instead, present your perspective and then see if they see any other options that work for both of you. From your perspective this might mean access to a more strategic, planning role; a minimum monthly fee; or better, more timely information.

Third, consider referring them to a provider more suited to their needs once the decision has been made, even if that means feathering a competitor’s nest. The goal is for them to find great solutions within their budget. There is boundless opportunity, and your competitor doesn’t have to lose for you to win. (Besides, they might lie awake at night wondering why you did it!)

This will be an especially difficult process if the client has been with you since the firm’s early days. The natural growth process makes early clients suspicious anyway, as the time you spend with them declines as a percentage of the whole. They (rightly) feel partly responsible for your success, and having less access to you doesn’t seem like a fair return to them.

Whenever possible, try to conduct an exit interview. If you don’t want to keep the relationship, you’ll still glean valuable insights into how to keep your remaining clients. If you do want to keep the relationship, it may be possible to save it. Either way, expect 35 to 50 percent of exiting clients to be willing to sit down for a candid discussion. The longer they have been clients, the more willing they’ll be to sit with you. And this is not the time to be defensive. Just listen and be kind.


Marketing has a role in customer service, not just client acquisition. Studies show that the most attentive audience for your marketing is a recent buyer, not a potential one. Recent buyers want to reinforce internally the decision they have just made. And aftermarketing can prepare them for the onslaught of questions that detractors might pose about any given decision to use you.

As it relates to keeping clients happy, keep new ones content by (1) marketing to them in order to reduce the cognitive dissonance that any buyer struggles with (popularly known as buyer’s remorse) and (2) rewarding their decision with a simple show of gratitude. When you reward specific behavior (like a decision to accept your proposal), that exact behavior is likely to be repeated. (If this were not such an upstanding topic, we’d talk about dog tricks and little treats.)

Assuming, then, that you will intentionally and unintentionally lose clients, keep marketing in mind. It will make it easier to find new ones to replace the losses, and it will aid in keeping the ones you have. (This is one of the very few reasons you might do your own newsletter, which will have a much greater impact on existing clients than prospective ones.)


Keeping your clients happy depends on an orchestrated approach with several components. These include:

   Specialization, without which it is difficult to be competent. Focus ensures sufficient experience to do great work.

   Honesty about your abilities, eliminating bad surprises for the client.

   A good customer fit, which will prime clients to let you be a great partner.

   Defined relationships, which will surface the issues that should be discussed in advance.

   Frequent monitoring, which will provide an early warning for fixable tensions.

   Avoiding the hot buttons, of which there are many.

   Hiring the right people, who will think like owners and create a customer centered environment.

   Setting standards for that customer service, so that employees have measurable goals.

   Empowering employees to reach those goals, trusting in their ability to manage client relationships.

   Structuring roles carefully, eliminating employee turf wars that might catch clients in the cross fire.

   Training employees regularly, adding to their knowledge as they delve deeper into client relationships.

   Rewarding employees who contribute to the right environment.

If your clients get these things from you, they’ll let you fail once in a large way, but probably only that one time.


DESIGN FIRMS—LIKE ANY business—need to create a marketing plan and target a market; they need techniques and tips for getting the work they want. This will involve both personal and non-personal promotion. Personal promotion involves identifying the prospective clients for sales calls. Non-personal promotion supports selling and includes Web sites, publicity, and networking. Together, these techniques increase sales success and decrease sales rejection. Clients get to know designers through their Web sites, publicity, and networking. Then, direct sales contact is warm calling as opposed to cold calling.


Sales Strategy

A computer database is required for the maximum effectiveness and efficiency in the search for new business. Selecting the best program is not as easy as finding out what is on sale this week at the local software warehouse. Many designers use the database in their existing project management programs, such as FileMaker Pro, for managing client data. Some word processing programs come with their own database programs. There are two basic directions one can go with database software, and understanding the difference will help designers decide what to buy.

One choice is to buy a program that has a preexisting client profile form and fields of information. This works great if it is the first database the designer has used, as it is simple to input client profile information from index cards into existing fields. (A field of information is anything a designer will want to retrieve later, such as addresses, phone numbers, or dates of client contacts.) This type of database is quick to set up, but generally not flexible in terms of setting up data fields.

The other choice is to buy a program that requires designing client profile form fields, also called records, and laying out the form. This type takes more time to set up, but it will be exactly what the designer needs, especially if he or she changes to a different database program. Designing the form for this client profile is critically important for sales follow-up. Selling design services can be as simple as managing the information on what clients and prospective clients need and when they need it!

For example, designers can imagine the following situations using database information. First, they can call prospective clients, sorted by zip code, so that when they make appointments they’re not driving from one end of town to the other. Second, they can sort clients by date of contact, in order to call all current clients they talked to in March who said to call back in June. Third, they can mail new promo pieces to all prospective clients to whom they presented a food packaging portfolio in the previous month. Fourth, they can mail a different promo piece to magazines and manufacturers. Information management is the key to successful selling.

Researching New Clients

The more designers know about prospective clients, the better presentation they can make. The better the presentation, the more likely they will get work! Because they research their target market, designers know what kind of client they are looking for. There are six areas of research to find new clients.

1.   The daily newspaper business section always has information on new products, services, expansions, and personnel changes that provide opportunities to get in the door. For example, a news item that is headlined, XYZ Food Company Launches Six New Products can be translated into a lead for food packaging design!

2.   The office or industrial park where the studio is located will give the names and types of tenants. These may make a great bread-and-butter client base to launch a sales strategy.

3.   Magazines designers want to work with have editorial calendars that list the theme for each issue. This information is valuable when approaching the publication for appointments. Instead of being just another designer who wants to show a portfolio, the designer can discuss how he or she can meet the magazine’s needs on a specific topic in an upcoming issue.

4.   Trade shows are still one of the best sources for new business. Not every company exhibits in its own industry trade show. The ones that do are always going to need more promotion, design, production, and printing services than the ones that stay home!

5.   Awards annuals are good for clients that have a strong sense of style and are willing to take creative risks. These best of the best annual awards programs recognize clients that take chances. If a client used highly creative and stylish design once, he or she would probably do it again.

6.   The bulk of the database of prospective clients will probably come from your own Web site searches. Though these are also printed directories available in the local library reference section, you will find using the Internet a faster (and more comfortable!) research tool. As much as clients are looking for designers via the Internet, the same tools are available to you! Many of these online databases are now available on CD and make the entire process of setting up a file much easier—no keyboard work required.

Turning Information into Prospects

Once designers have the basic information on the prospective client they want to work with, the next step is to identify the true client, the individual with the responsibility and authority to hire designers. The best way to approach this step is to write a script for the phone call, almost as a preproduction step. Scripts are simply preparation for any interaction with a client or potential client where there is a specific objective. The interaction must be accomplished with confidence and efficiency, and the objective is to get the name of the individual that purchases design services. A typical script might read, Hello, this is (name) from (firm) and I’m updating the information we have on your company. Who is the person in charge of (name a specific type of design or service)?

Getting the Portfolio Appointment

If the clients do not contact you first from an online search for

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