How We Think

Working with Designers 101: Decoding Designer Requests

Jan 23, 2020

If you’ve ever worked with a graphic designer, chances are you’ve realized that we speak a different language. You may have also realized that we sometimes request things from you that leave you thinking, “I have no idea what this person is asking of me.” Fear not! We’re here to decode industry terms like “vector” and “DPI” and explain common design misconceptions to help you streamline your projects (and your relationship!) with any designer you may work with.

Sending Content for Projects

Most projects begin with a request for content – be it logo files, verbiage, photos, etc. – and we want you to know: we love when clients send us more files than we need. Let’s say that you want a brochure for your company. As the saying goes, “it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” If we have an excess of files, we have choices of what we can use in your project – in this example, your brochure. But! This doesn’t mean we will use every file you send us. We will happily accept everything you send and then strategically pare down that content based on your project, goal, and audience.


I guarantee you’re going to hear this term from a designer if you’re working with any type of photo. “High-res” means high resolution. Resolution is determined by two things: an image’s original dimensions and its DPI, or Dots Per Inch. Generally, photos that will be displayed digitally must be at 72 DPI, while photos that are printed must be at 300 DPI.

“But Designer, how do I determine what a photo’s DPI is?” That’s a great question, Client. Designers have access to software that can help us determine exactly what an image’s DPI is, but you may not. A good way to guesstimate is to check your image’s file size – that is, if the image says it is 300 KB versus 3 MB. Generally, any photo that is less than 1 MB (1024 KB or less) is probably too small for a printed design. The higher the MB, the better the chance that your photo is large enough. When in doubt, your designer can check the exact DPI for you.

“Vector” vs. Image (.eps vs. .jpg)

A vector file is a shape or series of shapes that you can enlarge without ever worrying about it becoming pixelated. Common vector file formats are .AI files or .EPS files. Logos always need to be in vector format so they can be sized from a business card to a highway billboard without ever becoming pixelated. A photograph, on the other hand, is what is referred to as a “raster image.” Raster means that it was created from a series of pixels and cannot be enlarged more than its original size without becoming pixelated. The most common image file format is a JPG file (as well as some PNG files).

“Editable PDF”

Typically, an editable PDF is a designer’s and client’s best friend. These PDFs are usually created by designers with layout and formatting saved so 1) the file can be edited later, and 2) anyone without special design software can still open and view the file. If a designer is requesting an .AI or .EPS file from you, and you do not have either type of file, we can also use editable PDFs. Not all PDFs are editable, though. A common version of a non-editable PDF is a document that has been scanned into a computer. When in doubt, ask your designer.

Taking Images from the Internet

We know it can be fun and exciting to find images on the Internet that you want to use in your project. Let’s say you’re making a poster about saving money and you find the cutest photo of a piggy bank wearing sunglasses on Google. You come to us and say, “I want to use this photo I found on the web in my design.” Unfortunately, if we don’t own that photo, we can’t use it. You know, because #thelaw. In addition, that photo is probably not high-res enough for us to use in your design. Professional or stock photos are the best way to go. Don’t have a camera or an online stock photography account? We can help you with that!

“Recreate This Design Exactly”

Let’s say you are creating a brochure for your company, and you see another company’s brochure and love how it’s designed. You come to us next with a copy of that brochure and say, “I want you to recreate this exactly, but for my company.” As easy as that sounds, we can’t copy other people’s work (because that’s stealing). We can work with you to determine what kind of design solution you’re looking for, but unfortunately, we can’t copycat what somebody else has already done.

Bells and Whistles Cost Money

We’re not going to sugarcoat this. Bells and whistles don’t come cheap. We all want the coolest, greatest thing to make our business stand out, but we also know that most people are working with a budget. For example, a standard size, two-sided business card will be less expensive than a uniquely-shaped business card with specialty paper, embossing, and gold foil. We are happy to work with you to achieve what’s possible within your budget constraints, but we won’t be able to design something over the top with a budget that doesn’t support it.

Designers Aren’t Bad People

Ultimately, designers want to ensure your project is completed efficiently and your final product is something you love. The surefire way to help us reach that goal is to be open and honest with us about what your needs, expectations, and concerns are for each project. Not sure where to start? Contact our in-house designer today to get started on your project.