Assignment 5: Client-led project

”Establish and undertake a small client-led project in response to another person’s graphic design needs:

  • write a brief
  • develop a range of ideas
  • finish your artwork to pre-press
  • work out roughly how much you might charge for the job
  • reflect on the process – how you found working with a client. You may want to get some feedback from your client about their experience of the process. Given the amount of time you spent on the assignment, how much might you have charged your client? How does your client feel about this price? How might you approach other client-led projects differently in the future? Summarise your reflections into a short evaluation (around 800 words) and submit this with your assignment.’

The timing of this meant two suitable projects came along for me to work on. One for the Barnstaple Samaritans and another for my friend who is a professional photographer.

Brief 1

The Barnstaple Samaritans have run a poster competition for local schools to raise awareness and celebrate 50 years of listening. Once the winning entries had been chosen, the Samaritans need certificates designed to present to the winners.

This task was obviously not a large project…As the Samaritans have a countrywide identity, it was really important to stay ‘on brand’. Consequently, there’s little scope for creativity as such, and it was very much a ‘closed brief’. This is not such a bad thing though! I like using the skills I’m learning to do something meaningful and useful…That feels good.

Designing the posters involved creating some options that were (moderately) decorative but in keeping with the Sams style. The challenge with this was to keep within the spirit of the brand but allow just a bit of embellishment that didn’t look out of place.

Here’s a screenshot of the Barnstaple section of the Sams website, and the competition poster designed/approved by head office.

Some years the Samarians use their secondary colours (the purple and the teal) other years they fade into the background. The green always remains.

I had a quick look online at certificates, along it wasn’t all that inspiring!

I had already discussed that these would be produced digitally. Calligraphy isn’t my strong point and hand rendering would be very time consuming. This was the first batch I emailed to them for approval:

The feedback was that they were unhappy with so much white space and wanted something that covered the page…

I sent a second round of ideas like so:

The feedback was positive, and they liked the ‘dotted line’ border. We stuck to the green only, as I mentioned this is the enduring colour that won’t age. At this point, we decided to switch to landscape and I produced the final set of posters. I won’t show them all, but heres a sample…

Certificates of participation



Winners (in total 3 schools won, as there were three age categories)


These were then printed off on a Samaritan’s home computer, framed and presented to the children involved.

That was ‘the starter’, here’s the main…

Brief 2 

Landscaper Photographer Rachel Burch has designed a set of Oracle Cards* inspired by Dartmoor. She would like me to design a box cover for the cards to be kept in. In addition, she would like an A4 leaflet to explain the cards, which must fit folded into the box.

Rachel’s photography can be see at

*Oracle cards, I have learnt, are similar to Tarot, but with no ‘sinister’ connotations. They are any size deck, usually with inspirational or thought-provoking comments on each card. They  are not intended to offend people of any faith. In fact I have come across both Buddhist and Christian inspired oracle cards.

Rachel’s preferred printing firm is at She has already started the project by uploading her images onto a set of cards and had one set printed by them to check quality. The typeface she has used is Fanwood.

She has emailed images of her cards, which gave me a good starting point, and her choice of Fanwood also suggests the ‘feel’. The mood is rather mysterious and is flavoured with a slight celtic/folktale aesthetic. Dartmoor, of course, has a rich history both in fact and folklore.

Some of Rachels cards. (She had lowered the opacity on the back and added her text in Fanwood – for some reason I can’t currently find this image, but you can see her work below)

Lastly, I need to bare in mind there’s quite a tight deadline as she has pre-sold sets, which need to be approved, printed and posted before Christmas.


The Box. Before I narrow my focus, I did some general research to open things up a little, in order to offer my client some packaging options. Although I’m fairly certain she would prefer card packaging, why not see what is out there?

Looking at oracle and tarot card inspiration. What packaging materials could be used?

Fabric packaging


Metal boxes

Wooden boxes

Card/mixed media boxes

Medium and heavyweight card boxes

Card styling. This part has already been completed by my client, but it’s interesting to see ideas.

I love this flamingo – the flourishes, the change in tone and the typeface.

Sourcing packaging materials

Wood – obviously you would need to think about fit. If larger than needed, whether it might be possible to add a few ‘bonus items’ or allow more room for a bigger leaflet. (NB I assume the cards would be inside a cardboard container, not loose inside the box) Postage costs need to be considered too. Here’s an example of the style of box…

The box could even be stained, painted or personalised for the customer. As this set may well sell as a gift item to be treasured, packaging and personalisation are things to consider closely. Some boxes I found were too small for the cards though.

Fabric bags – this site will print on the bag with your design or even photo on it. An image/text from the card set, or perhaps the customer’s name?

Perhaps there might be scope for a standard version (in card packaging only) and deluxe (inside a wooden box or fabric pouch) This could even be developed at a later date, as Rachel will need this done in good time for Christmas, not forgetting overseas shipping, we may need to simply get the standard version out and done first!

After speaking to Rachel, she confirmed that she would like me to use a box template from the same printing company as the cards she has already printed. This way we can be sure of quality and a good fit.

I downloaded the box template, which is a rigid box with a base and a lid.

The Leaflet. I also looked at various options for leaflet folding. Some are really elaborate, as demonstrated by Trish Witkowski at Her day job is at Foldfactory. There is an amazing array I’d never heard of – my favourite being ‘the travelling snake’.

The other brilliant thing Foldfactory offers is a free template generator. Could be useful eh!!

Rachel would like me to make a leaflet from an A4 sized document.

So back in the real world, I experimented with folding A4 paper to get a feel for what the options might be. It will need plenty of panels and to fit inside the card box.

8 panel

9 panel


The 9 panel option seems a safer fit, so I went with that.

I was confident I could find templates online, but it was much harder than I thought, as there are a lot of different folds and I wasn’t even sure what to call mine…

Here are some of the basics:

Apparently, a ‘z fold’ is specifically a 3 fold, and ‘accordian’ is 4 or more.

But when you factor in two-stage folding, I got a bit lost as to how to describe mine…

I did find this – so one of mine can be described as a “concertina fold three times, then crossed folded in half”. No template available for this particular one though! Sigh.

And this cross folded version achieves a similar result

I then decided the best way forward was to adapt Z and Concertina fold leaflet templates. I hunted around a lot to find the answer to my next question – does a z fold (ie 3 fold) leaflet have a narrow panel like a tri-fold (the last panel tucking in). The answer is….No. Or at least not in the examples I found.

I went back to and entered my requirements which resulted in a couple of templates I can modify for the extra folds. (Not before I spent ages trying to get it to generate exactly what I wanted but I just couldn’t make it fit my requirements) Hey ho, lesson learnt.

I actually feel I overcomplicated this hugely – it would have been far easier to simply set it up in Indesign without trying to find a template.

Design ideas

Rachel has provided me with a range of images to use, and the typeface was already established. I didn’t discuss alternatives fonts with Rachel as she had already spent hours setting up her cards, and I also think Fanwood is a good choice.

I printed Fanwood out at a variety of font sizes to check legibility.

I also played a little to explore its potential including a nice array of glyphs.

As I was looking at the ‘mysterious symbols’ in the glyphs panel (mysterious if you only speak English!) One thing that occurred to me is that maybe some of these shapes could be re-interpreted as design elements…For example, these remind me of birds.

Looking through Rachels photos, I tried to narrow down what I thought would work well as a cover image for the box. She has altered her images post processing to give an otherworldly, painterly effect, so I don’t want to introduce too many additional elements. As this is meant to showcase her photography, her images ought to take centre stage. At this point, I mocked up a few alternatives.

You can see I have paired Fanwood with a sans serif font. The red border obviously marks the top of the box.

I love this blue door with the gorgeous twsting symmetry of the tree above…

Then it occurred to me that the box lid doesn’t have to be restricted to portrait! This really helped me to have the option of larger text.

Next I gathered together my ideas relating to Dartmoor and the ‘bird’ shapes from the glyph panel of Fanwood. What emerged was growing shapes – birds, twisting stalks, flowers and brambles. I wanted to suggest that the flowers might turn into birds and hint at something otherworldly.

The bramble shape again repurposes the ‘bird’- (v shaped) element from the Fanwood glyphs panel.

I used these ideas to create a vector overlay to suggest Dartmoor as a slightly magical place. I then sent Rachel these options to ask for her feedback. (And also the plain ones)

A slightly different approach, where I isolated the bird in Photoshop…but I wasn’t that keen on changing her images so radically, as they wouldn’t match her card deck.

Rachel chose the above image.

The lower part of the box looks like this

I then printed off my design and assembled the box to check all was well….I realised my mistake, which was I should have printed off the plain net and assembled it prior to any design. As it was I hadn’t fully absorbed that this design needs to work in 3D (!) I didn’t fully visualise how the design and flourishes of the upper and lower box need to compliment each other, not get tangled.

I repositioned some of the vector plants and re-checked my work by printing again and assembling. This took several goes until I was fully happy.

Next I turned my attention to the leaflet. I thought I could reuse the same elements successfully, though of course in practise it took a lot of tweaking! I wanted the leaflet to have a simple design and title on the visible panel when folded, then open into a larger design.

My first attempts weren’t sitting very well…

Although the front panel looks OK, the open image is a bit clumsy.

Then I went a bit overboard with the birds…

I can see the images are interfering with the text! Especially as this is black and white.

Eventually I managed to wrench my brain into ‘less is more’ mode and simplify a little. You can see I used the sans serif in the first section to suggest a separation from ‘about Rachel’ and the subject of the cards.

She wanted a full bleed on the back in colour – like this. A good choice, as it effectively shows off her image to full effect.

Once Rachel had seen and approved both the box design, and the leaflet I produced them as printable PDF’s. The box design had to correspond with the net provided by and their print requirements. Once finished, I emailed this over to Rachel, who uploaded the pdf for printing from their website.

I originally made the leaflet as a pdf suitable for home printing, but as her customer orders increased it became cost effective to pay for professional printing. Consequently Rachel suggested using I checked the print requirements on their website and made a few tweaks to fit their pdf requests – 4mm bleed, text converted to outline etc. Here’s a screen shot of the PDF they requested, and the colour setting.

I’m happy to say everything is back from the printers and my client is happy with the result. Phew!

She kindly emailed me some images of the printed items – she has taken this on the moor!

When Rachel kindly sent me my own printed set, I was able to see the results first hand…Lucky for me, she is happy with the box as it is, but there are some tweaks I would ideally make for future editions. Firstly, I would possibly not extend the design on the bottom of the box along the side panels, as they do clash a bit with the lid. (Though its a small point, I think it shows my inexperience of working with packaging) Secondly, as the leaflet changed from being designed for home printing to professional printing, I would like to reverse it out. Obviously home printing would use too much ink, but presented on a dark, almost black colour (to match the base of the box) would be a nice touch. I discussed these suggestions with Rachel and she remains happy with the base as it is, but would be interested in the leaflet change. We are now discussing a companion set with a new pack of cards. The sets will be themed daytime (this set) and night time (the next project) and will also be available as a pair. – so I can hopefully learn from my mistakes and produce a new and improved box design next time.

It will be difficult not to repeat myself, as of course I have been making comments as I go along, but here goes…

Reflection (approx 800 words)

I really enjoyed working on some ‘real world’ projects, particularly as they both went to print. The Samaritans was a bit frustrating, as there was a big gap between how I would like to work and the information/resources I actually had. I would have liked to get the brand guidelines from head office, so I had the exact colour match, and access to their specific fonts. In reality, I had to bodge certain elements in photoshop (such as the samaritans logo) and find a similar font to the one used. It would have taken a lot of pushing to gain this information, and in fact previously the competition poster was originally intended to be designed by me, but was simply designed by the graphic designer at head office when Barnstaple branch approached them. I understand their need for quality control but it was a bit frustrating! It’s difficult to explain this sort of thing without sounding like a diva as most people are happy with similar fonts, but its part of the unseen ‘magic ingredient’ that conveys a polished look – even if people can’t put their finger on why.

I didn’t charge for this work, as it didn’t feel appropriate (there are no regional paid staff in Samaritans at all) This is something I really like about the Samaritans, that they are very frugal and it is truly a voluntary organisation. The funding for the competition came from a local community grant, not the Samaritans themselves.

I know we have to be very wary about giving away our time for free, but I volunteer for them anyway, so it was simply part of that relationship. One volunteer is a carpenter, he built shelving for free – you get the idea.

Rachel Burch’s project was far more challenging as it was my first design using a net. She is a good friend, so I was (hopefully) fairly in tune with what she was after. Also, I know Dartmoor very well and share her love of the countryside there. My main anxiety was getting my work up to a suitable standard as I knew she had purchasers waiting! I found her very easy to work with, she gave me clear instructions and quick decisions too which was very helpful. There was very little I needed to clarify, as she sent lots of information via email which was great. I didn’t suggest alternative printers, as she has already had her work professionally printed many times – it really would be a bit arrogant of me as she’s already got the experience I haven’t!

Pricing is tricky, and I think it will take me quite a long time to work it out. For my web design work I usually charge £18 per hour, and I do usually invoice friends as I feel it’s reasonable to charge for my time. Naturally, when you are learning as I am with print design, I don’t feel its fair to charge for taking longer than usual!! So I would probably do my best to estimate the time needed up front, track my hours and discount a little if I feel some of the time is down to inexperience.

In conclusion, I felt fairly confident about writing a brief and asking the relevant questions of my client, because I am some experience doing this. I’ve previously learnt that a clear brief is hugely important, so is managing expectations. What this has highlighted for me is the need to be both assertive when necessary and let go of control when appropriate. Tricky balance!




Tutorials on folding and packaging

Print Production: Folding presented by Trish Witkowski (

Print Production: Packaging by Claudia McCue (

Making 3D Presentation Materials and Mockups by
Todd Gallopo (

Folding terms and templates

Rachel’s preferred printer(s)

Information and examples of Etsy oracle cards

Packaging options



Promote yourself

‘Produce a suitable business card and PDF e-flyer or printed leaflet of promotional material to give to potential clients.

To begin with, think about what you’re offering as a designer – whether there’s a particular area of focus, interest or a general approach you can promote. Try and summarise your approach in a short statement or sentence that describes you as a designer. What examples of your work would you choose to represent this approach?

Put together a business card with your contact details and a brief outline of what you do.

Next, develop a PDF document that can be either emailed or printed and given to potential clients. This should expand on your approach as a designer and provide examples of your work. You may want to extend this project to include an online portfolio or other suitable format to showcase your work.

Outside your network of friends and family, who would you send this portfolio to? Create a mind map of potential clients. Research the kinds of design companies, organisations or sectors that support the work you’re interested in. You may want to give this a local, national or international slant’

I feel my strongest areas of design at present are web design and logos. I’d be happiest designing/updating branding for individuals or small companies that need digital, print work or both. I would be less confidant with bespoke typography compared to images as I like to draw! In the future I would like to learn more about surface design, but this will take time.

My current website name is named Strawberry Canoe. I have decided to stick with this, and its already optimised to appear on Google. It seems to be a memorable name as people always remember my email address.

The name is partly inspired by this quote

It sort of sums up my ambivalence about the creative process and creative people – I like the idea of little boats bringing goods (or treasure), it can feel like an idea just arrives from elsewhere, not from us at all. At the same time, I’m not too fond of the idea that creative people are different or special. We aren’t. Like any skill its down to practise! Most people are creative -they express it in different ways. So… I bring strawberries; lovely but not exotic. And a bit silly.

We were asked to make a pdf for our student portfolio, so I’ve produced some of my work as a pdf already. I have a really embarrassing website at the moment, and that’s where I want to focus my attention.  I’ve been promising myself it will get a major redesign. It was built before I started my degree and it shows!!  I would like to do this rather than a PDF, so Ive gone with whats most useful for me! (I hope thats OK?!)

Inspiration. I looked at various images, logos on a variety of subjects, and branding/graphic design agencies.

Beautiful line…Classy colours and elegant dynamic design

Unashamedly girly – yes!

Botanical illustration




Looking at online portfolio presentation and designers

Fable and co have a particularly stylish website. I noitced a big part of their marketing actually involved quite an in depth exploration of their own logo development. Something I could maybe bare in mind.

Toucan design. i like the monochrome with the orange accent.

I’m aiming to design the front page of my website, a new logo and some business cards. This is my brain storming session…

I didn’t know strawberries where part of the rose family.

Basic strawberry sketches

Logo ideas. I kept going til I’d scrawled about 50 little images. You can see they fall into some categories – strawberry based with a negative shape of a paddle, more ornate strawberry flourishes, strawberries twining around paddles, monogrammes…etc

I quite like more complicated logos as they are quite illustrative – but not sure this is really going to be versatile enough. Alsoits a pain if the lettering is too small on the design.

I then used Illustrator to explore possibilities…Fonts

Nope. Obviously I was just shoving letters together, but nope.

Monograms are tricky and Ive noticed some designers seem to pretty much avoid them for their potential clunky-ness and awkward negative space. But they can be graceful in more experienced hands than mine. Your eye fills in the rest of the letter, while presenting an uncluttered shape. Nice eh.

Colour ideas from colour lovers – these are sometimes a good jumping off point, but I have learnt that often they look good precisely because of the proportions they are shown in. Sometimes a promising one falls apart when you need an accent colour to become more dominant, or to use less colours.

Logo development. The leaves don’t work dropped down onto the strawberry and I tried changing from the paddle in negative space, to the canoe itself to allow a narrow finish at the bottom of the strawberry.

With and without seeds…

I wrote some copy for the home page of my website

I know very little about copywriting, but I like this website – showing what copywriting can do.

Ive also spent a lot of time aborbing marketing information via yes, and also April Bowles Olin, who specialises in Marketing for Creatives (I also have her ebook) I then wrote my blurb.

My brand values are about approachability – I want to put across a sense of fun and warmth but  maintain polish, with hopefully a good sense of design.

For now, my intro is very informal – I’m not sure if it’s too relaxed – but it’s certainly ‘my voice’ as based on the marketing advice I’ve been absorbing. I’m going to ask more people for feedback and see what their response is. I have read that you really don’t have to appeal to everyone, as this can be too generic, and therefore not engaging or memorable. But I don’t want to throw away all sense of professionalism either.

Contrast the tone of design firms ‘Fable and co’ and ‘Toucan’

Fable and co. Absolutely gorgeous, I love it – but  when it comes to the group photo, they don’t look particularly approachable to me?! You could buy this from a stock photo website. Bit fake?

Toucan. Not so gorgeous – but this is away from the front page – its a blog post with a photo of actual people in it. I can imagine being in the room with them. Talking to them. There’s a balance to be had here, maybe somewhere between the two?

Back to design. I tried a few colour combinations with the paddle-and-strawberry logo. My thoughts are that if Im going to use red, it ought to relate to strawberries. The same with my logo. I know this is a bit literal, but as the name is quirky, I think that’s enough of a curve ball. I can also imagine I will always get asked ‘but its not a strawberry’, ‘but its the wrong colour’ etc and I don’t want potential clients to be nervous that I only do logos/colour schemes that are unrelated to anything logical.

Many thanks to my mum who kindly gave me feedback at this stage. She is very artistic so instantly understands negative space, and abstract forms. Her response echoed my own reservation – that this is too reminisent of the apple logo!

So I went for something more strawberry-like…

I then uploaded some mock-ups for the homepage of my website live on the web.

These designs look OK. But I messed up and really should know better! Why? Because you can only view elements of this design, not the whole thing. As you scroll down to the main text, it lacks impact and was an off putting colour!

I almost went with this version, but it needed a bit more of something. (And too many strawberries, though of course they may not be visible all at the same time on screen)

I had been thinking about adding a feature image, especially as this gives me the option to create a slideshow showcasing my work, right ‘above the fold’ on the homepage.

I do have a suitable image from when I did a photography course as part of this degree. It might be a bit cliched, but I think it should work OK…

Here’s my purple reading glasses (original image)

Experimenting with monochrome and tinting

Then I isolated the glasses, gave them a deep blue tint (to match my chosen darkest colour), and left the background as a slightly warmer shade. I think this more engaging than the pure black and white image.

I then sneaked in a script font I had my eye on from earlier (The Braggest) – I hope it doesnt jar – I like it! Im not sure if I will be told off for over embellishing. Anyway. Here’s my finished designs

My business card mockups

NB Not my actual landline, just place holder numerals

Website homepage mockup

You can also view this as a web page mock up here (jpeg only, it is not functional) which gives you a better idea of how it looks in context.

I am planning to add images of my web design and print work to a slideshow similar to my student portfolio, but possibly just focusing on one brand. The web design could be depicted on a range of screen sizes (eg phone, tablet and laptop)  Also I gather its important to show logos in context, so I would reproduce the logo in situ (business cards, flyers, signage even mugs and vehicles to give the viewer a better picture of what their logo might encompass.

I may also attempt some ‘arty’ images of my work space on the about me page, and an actual photo of myself.

The portfolio page could show a variety of work. I’ve picked up a tip to unify the different colours and styles that occur in design projects – to use coloured overlays on photos of projects.

My market

Where do I start?? We were asked to research this, but for now I feel this is an ongoing process, not something I can summarise fully here.

Here are my thoughts:

I would prefer to attract self employed and small business owners who are somewhat established and in need of a makeover. They have out grown their initial start up website, and can see the value of upgrading. Start ups are great too, but I wouldn’t want to be trying to gentley persuade them that their clip art logo and comic sans header isn’t doing them justice, only to find that they were really not looking to invest any money beyond a free website and a £20 logo. Naturally, some people have to start businesses on a shoe string and thats very understandable – but I feel that its consequently too early for them to employ a designer, given the time and care thats needed to produce nice quality work.

My next step is to ask family and friends over the next few months to show my website (when its rebuilt) to one of their work colleagues for honest feedback. (On the principle that they won’t have met me, and will have no pressure to be nice)

There are numerous sectors but I know folk who work in a variety of jobs



NHS/Private practise such as chiropodists, OT etc


Life coaching


Fine Art, Textiles, Ceramics

Education (from infant to post grad)

Builders, electrician, joinery, plumber

The websites I have built so far have ranged from sheep dog training, to textile art, and equine assisted therapy. If you can generalise at all, my clients ranged from 30 – 60s, where passionate about their business – very sincere and hard working, and did not use I.T skills at work.

Asking for a response from a variety of people working in different industries might help me to firm up my marketing.

One fly in the ointment – for the duration of the degree, I’ll have very little scope to actually take on much paid work as the demands of the course are enough, due to health restrictions. Yep. Frustrating. Also, I would absolutely love to work for a design firm one day, but unless my health drastically improves, my only avenue is working freelance from home. Just so you know why Im not looking future employment outside my house!


For now, this is as far as I’d like to go – I’d really welcome tutor feedback, after which I will rebuild my website based on her recommendations. For the record, I confess I really like my design so far, so I hope she feels the same ; ) !


Logo Design Love by David Airey
Logo by Micheal Evamy
Logo Life by Ron van der Vlugt

Create a portfolio

‘Look back at the work you’ve produced during the course and select the pieces that you feel best show off your talents as a designer. Put your work together into a portfolio, thinking carefully about the order in which you present the work.

As you develop as a designer your current work will tend to be the strongest work. Consider redoing or amending some of your earlier work to bring it up to your current standards. Sometimes it’s good to show a project in more detail, especially the ways in which you present ideas and rough drafts and develop these into finished outcomes.

Each piece can act as a prompt to talk about your work, so think about what you would say about each one. What information is important to demonstrate the context to the brief and the key points you want a client to know? How would you describe your creative process, your strengths and interests as a designer? You might want to rehearse this conversation by showing a friend your finished portfolio. Document your portfolio by presenting it digitally as a PDF or by photographing the pages.

At the start of Part Five you were asked to think about potential clients and begin the process of establishing a brief with a client. With this in mind, reflect on the process of selecting your portfolio, your final selection, and the things you have to say about your work. What are the positives in the work that you’re showing? Are there any areas that need further development? How could you re-order your portfolio to improve it? How have you described your creative process, both through your narrative and the examples shown? Document your thoughts in your learning log.’

Looking at student portfolios for inspiration…

Interestingly, I thought this first example the presentation was a bit dull, and spoke more to fellow graphic designers (with the clever reveal) than potential clients. Wrong. If my memory is working correctly, I think he landed a pretty good job!


I personally responded to the enthusiasm of this example more – but I think that shows my personality type?!

Impactful and classy. Love this.


Pretty. Also restrained but warm colour schemes and good layout…


Daniel Spatzer’s work (above left) is really confidant and lively, I love the interaction of the typography.

I really like the geometric pattern on this one


Lovely colours and typography, Im guessing the one on the right (above) is hand bound.

Having looked at the examples, I was a bit frustrated as I wasn’t sure how to marry my selections with an overall theme. The student work I have chosen obviously includes a variety of typefaces that could easily clash with any choice of typeface I use as supporting text…and the same issue with colour.

I didn’t entirely solve this issue, I simply kept my cover very plain and my pages white, which is rather boring but hopefully effective. I played with the typography on the front cover. Hopefully it has impact, but doesn’t really reflect my personality as a designer, its just an attempt not to clash with the contents! I suspect its rather generic and not terribly imaginative.

My comments within the portfolio are not really intended for a potential client – its more a reflection on my selected work so far as a student.  I realise this is not quite what we were asked to do, but I went with my instincts, and Im assuming my portfolio will develop over time.

My Student Portfolio

As I said, I’m anticipating I will return to this portfolio in the future. I’m not that pleased with it, but its quite satisfying to remind myself of some of my ‘best bits’ and how much work Ive put into the course.



Visit a print shop

‘Talking about printing and seeing it in action are two very different things. Smelling the inks and listening to the clank and hum of the machines and presses can make the design process feel much more tangible. Understanding how the printing process works – how your designs are actually made real – is really important to your understanding of your design practice. There are lots of different decisions you can make that will have an impact on your designs, from your choice of paper – its weight, how it’s cut, folded, embossed, scored, or bound – to how different inks can be mixed, combined or overlaid to create effects not immediately apparent on screen.

Use a local business directory or search online to find a local print shop. Phone them up and organise a visit. Tell them you’re a graphic design student interested in finding out more about the print process. Most printers are keen to develop new links with local graphic designers or simply willing to give a little of their time to support you. You might have to wait a while – printers are busy people – but your patience will be rewarded.

During your visit, try and gain a broad understanding of what they offer: the kinds of print finishes they can achieve, their paper stock, and the feel of the work they’ve produced previously.

Depending on your ability to travel, your location or other circumstances, visiting a print shop might be difficult. If you’re unable to visit a printer’s workshop, try and develop your understanding of how a printer works by undertaking your own secondary research online, in journals or books.’

I had a good look at the printers available near me…

I have previously visited printers a couple of times… Once in Tavistock, when I opted to have my  level one final student project printed. It was good to actually visit a print shop, feel some of the paper options and talk to the graphic designer involved. There was a slight glitch with my document, which she corrected as I watched. It had been a bit tempromental in Indesign, so I was interested to hear her comment “Yep, that’s why we use QuarkXPress instead”. I can’t comment – I haven’t had the chance to compare them.

The second printers I went to, was in Okehampton. I got very lucky, as I simply popped in on the off chance that they were friendly. The printer was out, but the graphic designer invited me upstairs to her office and spent about half an hour with me, which was very generous. She related her working life (having learnt her craft and worked on various national magazines everything went digital and she had a very steep learning curve transitioning in a number of weeks. It must had been a hard time for designers) She also showed me what she was currently working on, which was very interesting to see.

Fast forward to this year, I phoned round a bit without much success. I was disappointed to find that although one of the printers proclaimed “Free Print Training” for customers on request, they were horrified when I actually requested it, saying they just didn’t have time. Ever.

But I did go to Topdown, on the recommendation of a friend, armed with the name of the printer she’s previously worked with. They were very friendly, but yes, the printer didn’t have time to see me (Im not sure any of them do) and Im not sure they are that impressed with student enquiries. Luckily I was able to ask them for an actual quote on behalf of the Samaritans for some posters while I was there, which made me feel slightly less of a pain.

The kind lady at reception had worked there for about 20 years, and was good enough to give me samples and answer a few print related questions I had.

My conclusion is this: I think you need to gradually get to know a printer and work up a relationship. My great frustration is that Im not sure how practical that is for me. As my health restricts my ability to physically visit very often, sadly I think using an online printer is likely to be more practical. I know some companies have an in house graphic designer you can speak to on the phone, and thats the kind of company I would aim for, not an anonymous one.




Learning front production – Claudia McCue (

Paper samples

‘Start a collection of paper stocks by gathering different types of papers and printed material you come across. Try and find a wide range of papers – with silk, gloss or matt surfaces, bleached or unbleached, recycled papers, or papers spanning a range of different weights, from thin papers to thick cards. You may want to contact your nearest paper merchant to ask for a sample book.

Consider this an ongoing task to develop a resource that you can access whenever you want to explore different paper options.’

We touched on this subject earlier in the degree course – and on the recommendation of my previous tutor, I sent for G.F Smith samples which are GORGEOUS!

Here’s my blog post about it

I feel I’m getting the hang (a little bit) of the different finishes, thickness and categories within Coated and Uncoated stock. Watching really helped too – not sure what I’d do without them! Once you understand at least the basic idea, the variations begin to be a bit less baffling.

Not all the websites I visited had free samples available (as far as I could tell)… But they looked interesting. And in this case, really upmarket!

I did have a specific look at recycled and specialist papers too

Thankfully, many of them offered online forms I could use to request samples from. Here’s what’s arrived so far…

Saxoprint sent a lovely selection of paper samples and inspired a lot of confidence. I think its likely they offer a good quality service from what Ive seen. The range went up to 400gsm. The uncoated section included a small amount of recycled paper. Coated options included gloss and silk. There was a small section for specialist paper, and lastly options for finishing – e.g. gloss/matt/uv lamination.

Their entire product range is extensive – numerous options to print on all sorts of products and surfaces. 

Moo simply sent a selection of business cards, but a nice range. The thickest was a true heavyweight at 600gsm. I liked the option of curved corners and even square format. I gather the feel of any printed material is called ‘hand’. And I can say some of it was really nice to handle. They included spot varnish, foil and soft touch finish. (They declined to help me as Im not considered trade, so I wasn’t able to obtain any from here)

Trade Digital Print sent a good range of paper samples up to 400 gsm, including some textured and metallics in their ‘luxury’ range. They also offer printing on banners and stickers.

A range of weights up to 350gsm, uncoated, silk and gloss

Arrived in a metallic blue padded envelope! The cover is die cut with a turquoise logo peeking through. A really nice range up to 400 gsm. Examples of creasing, perforation, kiss cutting (I’ve never heard of this – its light cut for a mounted sticker), die cutting. Also a variety of textures, iridescent and ‘damask’ finishes.

A range of formats rather than paper stock…business cards, postcards, bi-fold and tri-fold leaflets. Also a range of textured coating examples.

At the time of writing this I haven’t heard from them yet!

Two really gorgeous paper packs named ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Cyclus’. The quality of Cocoon is quite surprising – its very white but 100% recycled. They contain quite a lot of information about recycling and the environmental benefits of recycled paper.

Otherwise known as The exotic paper company, whats not to love about paper made with animal poo? I have previously bought pony poo wrapping paper for a friend which was really cute and fun!

Some companies tended to use the same photo across multiple examples – I found this an easier point of comparison. When a range of photography is use it looks beautiful, but gives you  less idea how to make a judgement between them.

I enjoyed looking through all these samples and I hope to make use of some of them in the future!! Especially if I have a BIG budget!!! (I can dream)


Print Production: Choosing Paper with Chris Harrold (

Print variations

‘Many designers have creatively exploited the limitations of how printing works, and in so doing revealed something of the process itself. For example, both the American designer Bradbury Thompson (1911–95) and the Italian designer Giovanni Pintori (1912–99) explored the visual colour mixing of CMYK, overlaying the four colours to reveal their mixing potential. The contemporary French designer Fanette Mellier works in a similar way, using a limited palette of translucent colours and overlaying them to build up deeper and darker colours.

The overlaying of different spot or CMYK colours in silkscreen printing, one on top of another, builds the artwork a layer at a time and creates a rich sense of depth. This can be seen in the work of printmaking studio Aesthetic Apparatus (http://aestheticapparatus. com/) and many of the silkscreen designs featured in the Gig Posters archive (http://

Find examples of work that you think make the most of a limited range of colours, explore the overlap of colours, or in some way reveal the printing process in their approach. In your learning log, reflect on what makes these examples work on an aesthetic level. What can you take from their approach for your own work?

Using your examples as inspiration, do your own experiments to see what overlaying translucent colours and exploiting the overlaps of CMYK and other colour overlays can create. You may want to use a simple photograph of an object, a portrait or something similar as a starting point. Document your experiments by saving your different files and combining them into an overall design, such as a poster.’

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to access the website http:// which I’m sure is great – it’s just offline at the moment. I did look at http://aestheticapparatus. com, and was struck by the boldness of the designs. There’s something both raw and high impact about them which I feel is very effective. It’s sort of challenging for the eye to be met with pure ‘in your face’ no apologies colour! I do also enjoy muted tones in general, but they have a very different message – much more whispered, and probably not so appropriate to this aesthetic.

I started out by simply creating some cubes of colour – cyan, magenta, yellow and black

Here, you can see I have overlapped them to better understand the colours that are produced when ink is combined. I wasn’t quite sure what to do next, but our notes mention a simple photograph of an object, which gave me an idea.

Here it is – a photo of onions I took for the photography part of my OCA course.

I cropped a section in Illustrator and then decided to hop over to photoshop instead, as I thought its better suited to this task. I really like the flow of lines across the onion, and  I was hoping it might give some good results.

Obviously, in photoshop, you can play about with masks, blending modes, and knock out or adjust different channels. Oh, and alter the hue and saturation. Plenty to work with!

I experimented with isolating channels, for example, yellow + black, magenta + black…

…cyan + black

And some combinations

This led me to layer up these images, create masks, and paint certain areas to reveal layers below. I also altered the hue and saturation to further vary the colours.

Not forgetting the subject is an onion, so I tried some text too. I quite like the absurdity of elevating a humble bit of veg. And why not, red onions are a gorgeous colour in the first place.

Here are the results…

My CMYK posters

Poster one – overlaid channels, slightly misaligned to allow pure colour to peak through

Poster 2 – the hue is altered to emphasise different colour combinations

And with semi-opaque text –  I think I prefer it knocked back a little

I loved all these colours! I think mine are rather ‘pretty’ rather than raw and edgy. I’m not completely sure if this was what we were being asked to do?! But I loved doing it.

Your pre-flight check

‘Create a leaflet for a local company and get it ready for print. If possible, pick a type of company that allows you to use the resources you have to hand. For example, if you can easily take photos of your garden you might want to create a leaflet for a garden centre. On the other hand, you might choose a tool company or food takeaway.

Create your leaflet to these specifications:

  • A4 landscape, folded in half to create A5
  • printed double-sided
  • full colour on the front
  • two spot colours on the inside
  • 3 mm bleed.
    Do a pre-flight check of your document:
  • Spell-check and proofread (use the proof marks to note any mistakes) the document.
  • Ensure your bleeds and printer’s marks are in place.
  • Convert images to CMYK and ensure they are at least 300dpi.
  • Specify your spot colours using the Pantone system.
  • Gather together the relevant image files and fonts into a digital folder.Export your document as a print-ready PDF or gather together the necessary files to send to your printer. Make a note of any information you think you need to tell the printer, for example, which Pantone colours, fonts or other instructions you need to communicate.Having gone through this rather technical process, what points do you think you need to be more aware of next time you prepare a design for print?’

At the end of the level one Graphic design course I chose to have my final assignment professionally printed – just to get a little pre-flight experience.

The printer asked for a PDF with the text converted to outlines, with a 3mm bleed, saved as Press Quality. I think this is likely to be what most printers would ask for, but it would depend on the company. Obviously, I’m not an expert at this point!

Talking of which, I haven’t used spot colours before, and I found tutorials very helpful (I feel like they should give me shares by now??) Here’s a couple of screenshots.

An ink technician at work mixing and checking a Pantone colour

Seeing the care and precision that goes into mixing and checking inks before a larger batch is made was fascinating!

I’ve learnt what these other colour options are like TOYO( Asia) and HKS (Germany). Oh and what the Pantone Colour Bridge is. And that Coated and Uncoated are the same inks, but giving you a review of the end result according to finish.

How to check the Separations Preview…

A quick experiment of my own in Illustrator using two spot colours and one CMYK.

I learnt that you can create a custom Preflight check, via ‘Define Profiles’

And I refreshed my memory about the ‘Package option’ in Illustrator.

I decided that I’d like to produce a leaflet for florists. Just because I’m really quite girly, and we get to choose the topic! As you can see I thought about categories of occasions, and what sort of info they might want to display. I think I will use fake latin text fill for some of it though.

Collecting images from Pixabay. Thank you Pixabay!

Next I roughed out some ideas with a sheet of A4 paper to brainstorm the layout. (Naturally I didn’t stick to this at all!!)

I set up my document as requested A4 landscape, 3mm bleed. I chose an image of tulips for the front page, and edited it to the correct format in photoshop. Hmm. What should I call my shop? ‘Heavy petal’ says my partner. So I have a play with that.

I love cute brush fonts – this is chocolate heart free. But I have a strong feeling these are going to date quite quickly so I went for another option. And shortened it to Petal.

I show you the result in a mo. Once I’d finished my design, I carried out the necessary checks

Check Indesign is actually set to UK English and use spell check.

Check bleed is set to 3mm

Check pre-flight. I can see there’s an error – overset text

Its actually just placeholder text, but I tidied up anyway

Checking my image is 300dpi and CMYK via Links…I think this is OK though it’s telling me ‘effective PPI is 155’. Why is it less? I don’t know.

I tidied away unused colours in the swatches panel and checked with separations preview.

I can check my colours are OK by toggling on and off the spot colours. Yep. They are in the right place…

…and I’ve placed them in their own separate layer in the layers panel marked “Spot colours”.           I really am trying to be tidy(!)

As I click on Package I see there are more fonts than there should be. Yikes

With a bit of digging about I find an empty text frame, set to a font I previously used. It doesn’t show, but I deleted it anyway. I also had forgotten to change all instances of Raleway to Avenir (double yikes) Using find and replace I was able to quickly tidy.

That’s better

Image OK. Inks all present and correct

Do people actually add notes for the printer? I don’t know.

The Packaged files on my desktop

My Preflight Checked Leaflet

CMYK front and back

Two spot colours

I found it tricky matching the CMYK colours from the text and photo with similar Pantone ones (to give a sense of unity – additional hues would have been easier!). The spot colours are the pink background colour, and the purple type.  I am really pushing my luck with white text (I know). It felt a bit complicated making sure a design had two Pantone colours only on the inside, not as a theme throughout. I took this literally and didn’t include any images!!

I really appreciated systematically using all the available methods Indesign has to check and re-check my document. I think I would probably use Package as an additional way of checking in future, even if I was actually planning to export as a PDF.



Production for Graphic Designers by Alan Pipes

Learning Print Production with Claudia McCue (

Print Production: Spot colours and varnish with Claudia McCue (

Print Production: Pre-press & Press Checks with  Claudia McCue (