Graphic design is the art of taking a concept and turning it into an aesthetically pleasing real world incarnation. This is, of course, not just restricted to web site design, but is applied to virtually everything that appears on shop shelves, in showrooms, or is presented as a service.

The role of the graphic design team is to understand the look and feel of a corporate image, or product target demographic, and turn that into an acceptable design. The end result must be functional, appealing, and affordable.

There are several stages that a project will go through:

* concept art
* prototype
* production

The input to the concept art is the design brief, or requirements document. The concept art provides part of the contract under which the work will be done. The prototype allows for any last minutes tweaks to be applied, before the entire design is put into production.

Working from Requirements

Since the requirements are the foundations of the project, it is important to ensure that the correct image of the final product is communicated. On the client side, it is important that there is agreement as to what that is before involving the design team.

Part of the design process requires being able to communicate the clients wishes to the designers ? often a third party can be brought in to provide an interface between the two parties. This helps to provide a level of objectivity, as well as giving a buffer for the design process.

Any design project will involve the designers being creative. Therefore they need to have a degree of freedom to create, to take the clients ideas and turn them into reality. Specifically for web design, this may mean providing some prose, but it is important to remember that the end result may be a little too abstract and creative for the web audience.

Graphic Design Teams

For web design, the graphic design team will usually cover several key areas:

* layout
* pictures & illustrations
* typographers
* writers

The layout team is responsible for making sure that the whole design (or theme) hangs together and produces the correct visual impact, whilst remaining functionally true to the clients wishes. This will usually include a colour scheme, and some pictures or illustrations.

It is important to note that any pictures that are used in the final product must be either correctly licensed or copyright free. This should be specified in the contract to avoid problems later on. The same goes for any fonts that the typographers use; it is their responsibility to make sure that the text is in tune with the general layout of the design theme.

Finally, the writers put the words in. There may not be a team of writers, depending on whether the final product is a template or a fully fleshed out site design. Often the client will need to provide sample prose so that the correct
tone is adopted.

Choosing and Using a Design Team

The basis for the design choice will be their portfolio. It is important to note whether the pieces that have been produced in the past are similar to the look and feel that the current project should have. Be sure to ask for the price of each item in the portfolio, as well as the time from requirements and prototype, to the final product going live.

The cost will likely be based around the various team contributions and their tasks and roles in the process. It is important to find out the level of client participation ? more creativity often pushes the price up.

Finally, with a few short-listed candidates, it is necessary to try and gauge how easy it will be to work with them. Since the contact is quite important, a personable third party could help to smooth out any potential issues, but it is always a good idea to find out how much input will be require before the concept art is produced, and what the kill fee is if the final design is not taken beyond the prototype phase.

Roles and Responsibilities

There are three areas in which specific responsibilities need to be assigned and
agreed upon before any work can start:

* copyright
* contracts
* materials

Usually, copyright and licensing of images, sounds, and other elements on the design is the responsibility of the designer. However, unless it is stated in the agreements undertaken before work begins, this is not guaranteed.

The contracts give the bounds of responsibility for both parties, and should include the approval process, sign-off requirements, milestones and deadlines in the planning and the aforementioned license terms. The contracts are best drawn
up by a disinterested third party.

Finally, it must be crystal clear as to who provides what ? designers will need materials, and some of those need to come from the client. This includes any existing portfolio photos of products that might be sole, services rendered, and so on, as well as existing documentation or brochures. It must be clear what the designers are expected to provide, under the terms of the licensing agreements and contracts.

– By Sally Lopez