Is hiring a design professional worth it?
Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes. However, not all designers are created equal. One thing I hear consistently from suppliers I work with is that many designers today do not really understand the printing processes and proper file preparation. Make sure they went to school for design and that they are using printer approved programs to create your artwork. This does not include any Microsoft Word, Powerpoint or Publisher.
And you've got to have a connection with your designer. They need to get you, your brand, and what you are trying to achieve.
I once had a boss who drilled into us young designers, "You can design the best looking piece in the world, but if it can't be executed, it's worthless."This has stuck with me over the years, because it's so very true. As a designer, you have to fully understand the printing process you will be using and the limitations in order to get great results. You need to have a good relationship with the print supplier—and you need good communication skills.
Not everything is (or should be) printed digitally. Young inexperienced designers sometimes think that because they can design it on their computer, and print it on a desktop printer, that it's no problem. I hear stories from printers about how their art department had to completely rebuild artwork in order to print it because of this.
Now, I'm really dating myself here, but when I went to art school computers weren't on the scene until my last year—and even then they weren't being used for graphics. We learned everything old school. Rapidograph pens, rubylith, letraset, t-squares, pica rulers and wax machines for paste-up were our tools of the trade. We learned how to break down a design and how to get it produced so the outcome was what we wanted.
It wasn't until about three years out of college before we had our first macintosh desktop in the Chicago studio where I worked.
Even though I use a computer for just about all of my design work today, I still fall back on those basics that I learned in school and utilized daily during my first three years out of college. I create my digital art files as if they were traditional paste-up in many ways. I use the layers palette like I used to use rubylith, at times. I create a final layer that I call print info and put all the information (yes, complete with callouts) that I would have put on the tissue layer of a traditional paste up piece. This, is why print suppliers love getting my files.
Sometimes I still run up against a problem in production. Sometimes I push my suppliers beyond their comfort zone. However, we are always able to work together to come up with a solution—in large part because I really understand the printing process. An understanding I owe in large part to my college professors and years in the industry doing press proofings and working with mentors in the industry.
So,you can hire a designer who isn't that experienced and end up potentially spending more and not being happy with the end product, or you can hire a designer who knows the ropes, who has been trained, and who will give you a piece that (hopefully) you love.