How can editors and graphic designers best work together?

The relationship between graphic designer and editor is critical to producing high-quality content on time. Therefore, this relationship must function smoothly.

“It sounds cliche but it really is all about communication,” said Laura Barnes, editor of PCR out of the United Kingdom. “We’re all guilty of being too busy sometimes, and it can be frustrating when someone doesn’t just get what you’re envisioning. But no one is a mind reader!”

Victoria Clark, senior editor at The O&P EDGE and Amplitude magazines in the United States agrees that professional communication is key, especially when conflicts arise. It’s also about respecting each other’s knowledge and skills and,” accepting that the ‘no’ is sometimes the best answer.”

When it comes to how graphic designers can best work with editors, Clark gives three bullet points:

• Give us options so we can see what you’re picturing to help us get on board.
• If something is out of the scope of the project or its timeframe, explain that rather than saying it’s impossible from a design perspective.
• What a designer comes up with is probably much better than most editors can picture or describe. However, a few of us will still think we can do your job too. Sorry.

“We don’t think we can design better than you, we’re just passionate about trying to get pages looking like we imagined they would,” Barnes added.

Kathy McGilvery is design director at Wealth Management magazine in the United States. Likewise to Barnes’ point, she promises designers aren’t mind readers or magicians either.

“We need to know as much as possible about the story ASAP so we can plan art accordingly,” she said. “The earlier we have information the better the art will be. It is always so much better to commission an illustration than to have to use stock art because of time constraints.”

To make her editors’ jobs easier, McGilvery tries her best to make stories fit in their allotted spaces. Even when they are too short, she fills the page with stock art, graphics and callouts to create an interesting layout.

Clark ensures things run smoothly with her graphic designer by pre-planning as much as possible. They discuss aspects such as whether the content will be delivered completed or in sections, what software and format works best, what are the deadlines and who needs to sign off on projects.

Barnes also tries to give her designer a heads up.

“I try to give my designer as much information about my ideas as possible, but always make it clear they are just that, ideas, and I welcome others into the mix,” she said. “I know the designer has a better eye than me and so would love to see options and different suggestions.”

How and when designers and editors collaborate depends on time and scope of project. Clark said her team needs less direction for smaller articles because the designer usually has more leeway and any redesign isn’t overly time consuming. But larger projects require pre-planning and ongoing conversation.

McGilvery said her team rarely meets ahead of time anymore. They just rely on frequent communication during the process, which is possible since everyone is in the same office.

While Barnes’ team always plans to discuss each issue ahead of time, realistically it doesn’t always happen.

“Fortunately the team has a good grasp of how the work will be dished out and put together each month,” she said. “The last week leading up to deadline is when we work the closest as we pass pages back and forth. It’s not always possible, but being in the same room during this process is always beneficial.”


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