Be remembered for the right reasons


I’ve been working in various jobs in print media for most of my adult life. Never before though have I encountered someone like the person one of our ad reps had to deal with this week. It offers up some lessons worth sharing.

The person in question is an in-house graphic designer for one of our clients. He designed an ad for a big sale they have every year. It was a fine-looking ad. The main piece of art, as well as some of the other elements, looked to be original, hand-drawn work. There was just one problem — one of the two words in the big headline was misspelled.

When he sent it to us, the designer even said he knew the word was spelled wrong. “I think I’m the only person so far who has noticed,” he wrote, but in his following sentence acknowledged he wouldn’t have noticed it if one of the area weekly papers hadn’t pointed it out to him. Contradiction much?

“Fortunately,” he continued, “a google (sic) search shows me that many other people misspell this word as well.”

The attached PDF of his ad contained the mistake.

When our ad rep asked if he could correct it, he replied that it wouldn’t be easy because the words were “converted to a graphic and are not actual text anymore.”

The ad rep asked us if we would be able to fix it. We opened it in Illustrator, but the text had been converted to outlines and was divided up on several different layers. My co-worker Chris said he would give it a try, but it was going to take a lot of work with what he had. He asked the ad rep to see if the designer would send us the original Illustrator file.

That seemed to do the trick. The designer responded “If it’s such a big deal for you guys, I’ll fix the issue myself.” And he did. Finally.

I had a friend who worked in that very job just out of college years ago — he was the only designer/marketing person, and the business isn’t one that probably has a lot of people who use proofreading skills in their jobs. So I can understand how a mistake can slip through.

But what an attitude this guy had!

So let’s look at the lessons here.

  • Always look over your work carefully, and get someone else to look over your work before the final is submitted for publication. If you work alone, this might be more difficult, but find a way to make it happen. Maybe you have a colleague you’ve worked with in the past in the same position and you could email each other proofs. If you follow any discussion boards, put up your work there for critique. If you have absolutely no one you trust to proofread or critique, build in some time in your deadline to step away from that piece for awhile and look at it with fresh eyes later on.
  • Save your work in a way that it can easily be corrected if needed. If you’re going to transform text to outlines, make a copy of the original text box and drag it off to the side, or put it on a hidden layer just before you create the outlines. That way, if you do discover a typo or misspelling later, you’re not starting completely over.
  • Don’t cop an attitude when a mistake is pointed out. I know it’s hard not to be defensive, especially if you’re just starting out and your work is very personal and important to you. But accepting criticism graciously will make you better at your work, and better to work with. That is one thing you have to continually practice throughout your career, too. It’s easy to not be gracious when you’re already having a bad day or someone else is having a bad day and treats you poorly. Stand up for yourself if you’re right, but take your lumps when you’re wrong.
  • It IS a big deal. A mistake in your work is not just a reflection of you — it is a reflection of your employer/client AND the publication or site it appears in. Readers of my newspaper, had they seen that ad with the mistake, would have thought it was our mistake. I know from experience. And also, even though this was otherwise a great ad, it’s not something the designer could put in his portfolio. Who would hire a designer if they saw that kind of sloppiness in his work? Especially if they have the attitude that “a lot of people misspell it, so it’s OK.”

You want people to remember your name and work. But you want them to remember you for the right reasons.

Finishing the challenge


OK, so I left you hanging on that design challenge. I’m sure you’ve all been on the edge of your seats for, oh, a couple of months, right?

Apologies for the delay. I’ve had some personal issues to deal with, and we’ve gotten busy and shorthanded here. So in other words, everything is normal. =)

Anyway, here’s the finished ad, as it was published. We had some revisions mainly on just the appearance, and a co-worker actually finished out the ad with the client’s message and testimonial ad. I think it turned out rather well, and I hope the client runs it again. He’s actually started a Facebook page for local events, too, so I wonder if the ad does run again if we’ll incorporate that somehow.


The final look of the ad, as published in April in my newspaper.


Here’s a closer look at the top section. The client also has refrigerator magnet clips to give away, and invites readers to come in and pick one up to keep the calendar handy. Nice marketing idea.

Design challenge — Part IV

InDesign, Tips

So the basic design of the ad is starting to take shape. I’ve set up the space for the client’s message and ad at the top, the event locations at the bottom, and the space for the calendar text in the middle. Now to setting up the style sheets for the calendar text. This will make it easier to color match the calendar text to the locations.

First, I enter some of the sample text of local events provided by the ad rep. Each entry has the day, a letter that coordinated to the location guide at the bottom, and a description of the event and the time.

Next I set up the style sheets. This time I used character style sheets because there will be more than one style per paragraph in this set of text. I started with the date, which is simply Times 8 pt bold (I know, kind of lazy to use Times, but why waste time looking through the hundreds of other fonts when I’d probably end up using something that looks exactly the same to the typical reader?)

Then I set up style sheets, based on the date style, corresponding to each of the letters in the location guide at the bottom. Each is named for the letter with the text set to the same color. I initially set the whole text box in the date style sheet, then highlighted the text to be changed and chose the appropriate style sheet (the eyedropper tool comes in handy here, actually). As we add to or change the calendar information, we can just choose the proper style for the text, rather than having to remember which color goes with what.

Here’s a look at how May and June were initially looking

At this point, the ad rep took a copy to the client to see for the first time, thus beginning the revision process. That will be in the next installment.

Design challege — Part III

InDesign, Tips

In the last post, I showed how created some of the design details for a calendar of events one of our clients wants to sponsor, and how to use a script in InDesign CS2 to create a grid. Now, I’ll get into creating the backgrounds for the calendar items and setting up style sheets for easier text handling.

First, the main part of the ad, where the text for the events will go. I divided the page into two columns (Layout menu/Margins and Columns). The gutter is only p6, but I think it will work since the text will be ragged right.

I drew a text box in the left column, then set that for 3 columns (Object/Text Frame Options) with a bit wider gutters (6 pt). I duplicated that, resized it, and duplicated that one for the two text boxes in the right page column. Each text box was then set to have three columns.

Each text box represents a different month, so each needs a header and a different color. I drew text boxes for the headers first, and created gradient fills for them (go to the swatches panel and choose “new gradient swatch” from the flyout menu). Then I typed the months, setting the left margin (Type menu, tabs) in a little bit so the letters aren’t right up against the edge. Then I copied and pasted the text, changing the month, for each header. I then drew boxes as backgrounds for each month’s text and gave them matching gradients, which I also set a transparency on to make the text easier to read.

Now that that is set up, I’m going back to the bottom section (do you get the feeling I have a short attention span?) Actually, I have a good reason. The calendar items are color coordinated with the locations. So I need to set those up, first. I type the info for the first location, setting up paragraph styles as I do so. I want to be able to have each text box set so when I start typing, it will be set in the style for the name of the organization, then switch to the style for it’s address. That’s done by using the “next style” option in the Paragraph Style general settings.

For the lower right box, the client wanted a Memorial Day greeting, so I found some appropriate artwork on Metro. Then I added a letter to each box, giving each one a different color. When we enter the text for the calendar, it will be color-coordinated to these letters. You’ll see, in the next installment.

Design challenge — Part II

Illustrator, InDesign, Tips

In my previous post, I began to outline a challenge from one of our ad reps to design a calendar of events that one of our clients wants to sponsor. I’ll continue with some info about some of the details, including using a CS2 script to make a task much less tedius.

In the sample ad the client provided, there’s a thin chevron graphic separating the sections. I’ve never really done a chevron before, but found this simple tutorial. I created it about four times as big as I needed just so it would be easier to work with, and followed the tut. I made the lines fit the color scheme I was using, put in a background and dropped it into InDesign, reducing it to 25% size and set a transparency of 50% on it.

Next, I started adding some detail to the top section by drawing lines. Then I went to work on the bottom. I added the chevron piece there, too, and drew a box filled with a color matching the chevrons and setting a 50% transparency on it, too.

The bottom section contains information on the locations around the community where events take place. I could have drawn each box individually, or drawn one and then copied and pasted, but there’s a faster way: using a script. (Note: In CS5, this became a built-in feature. Check out this tut).

Draw a box and while it is selected, go to window/automation/scripts. For this one, I needed to go to the Samples folder, then Applescripts. There’s one called MakeGrid.applescript. With the box selected, I double-clicked that script, entered the information, and voila! Separate boxes, evenly spaced.

In upcoming posts, I’ll discuss setting up the main portion of the ad, with the calendar. We’ll talk gradients and style sheets. Questions? Leave them in the comments or feel free to tweet me up @DesignsbyJunO.