Screen Printing:

‘Quick’ Graphic Design

Use these tips as a guide to taking the hassle out of designing logos or other graphics for clients.

By Clay Barbera, Contributing Writer

Briefly explain different production processes to your clients and why you charge certain fees. Keep it simple, but explain some of the big ideas, such as: converting to vector, digitizing or color separations.

November 21, 2019

Quickly designing a graphic is much different than developing a brand-defining logo for a client. When your customer asks, “Can you put this image on a tee, hat or promotional item?” you should understand the breadth of the question. The production process; image type; art source and size; and substrate and client expectations all will determine your response.

Let’s explore methods to help corral clients into understanding a bit of our industry while learning what time is worth in the art department.

Briefly explain different production processes to your clients and why you charge certain fees. Give a couple of examples of just how much time is really invested in a “quick job.” Your primary goal here is to provide enough evidence that they believe you when you say, “It’s more complicated than you think.” Keep it simple, but explain some of the big ideas, such as: converting to vector art, digitizing or color separations.

Often, our clients’ original ideas would require multiple production processes. Mixed-media apparel, signage and promotional products are cool, impressive and instrumental in showing off your capabilities, but they also come with a price tag much higher than some clients are comfortable paying. Let them know enough about the production processes so that they’ll understand the price.

Remember that clients have an abstract perception of the perfect finished product. Even if they provide good artwork, they often have an emotional relationship with the personalized products we create. Thus, their idea of the resulting product is seldom the same as its manifestation.

Because of our industry’s subjective nature, it’s important to guide clients’ thinking into objective parameters. Show examples, printed color charts, different substrates, fonts, point sizes, etc., while taking note of their preferences and decisions. Always mention that examples shown on screens don’t always accurately reflect production results.

Estimating artwork-design time may be the most difficult part of our business. Some shops charge flat fees, while others absorb all design time and cost. Accurately quoting art fees and time can only be determined by analyzing all aspects of your company, abilities and client base.

Some shops always charge a design fee regardless of the customer. They have established pricing with an underlying margin for design work. Those shops that don’t charge for design absorb the cost in markup and production fees.
Because of all these factors, explain to customers that “throwing together a quick graphic” is impossible. Steps must be followed; quality must be maintained; and expectations must be established.

Nuts & Bolts
If you spend time and money redesigning a client’s logo, you own that artwork. Keep files saved and backed up for future use, additional jobs and reference for later. I recommend long file names for easy searchability.

It’s difficult to explain to prospective customers why their graphics are poor without offending them. I have worked with countless company owners and managers who have so much pride in their logos that any critique of quality or lack of reproduction ability is immediately taken with offense.

This is another reason why explaining some of the production-process basics is so important. It helps them understand the fees and true value of personalized products. If they understand that you’re basically building a new logo for necessary processes, they’ll be more comfortable with some criticism and art fees.

Offering alternatives also can help with low-quality art. Organizing your clip art collections into searchable locations can provide suitable options. Searching online for similar starting points also can save a great deal of time. Remember to ask your client about using “very similar elements” to save you time (and money) in re-creating their art for any given production format.

It is imperative for every decorator to have the ability to work with simple designs. Whether you’re outsourcing artwork, have full-time artists or don’t want to deal with it, you still should be able to type simple text, draw basic shapes, change colors and present a few options to your customers.

Next, learn how to become efficient with vector tracing, something with which all artists in our industry struggle. Producing good vector line art from pixelated starting points is a necessity. Some basic tracing can be performed quickly, while most requires some increased design skills.

This is part of logo re-creation and may be worth outsourcing — especially parts of designs that will not need to be changed or customized later. However, you may need to retain in-house control of parts of the design for production processes. For example, you may outsource the mascot portion of a design to be redrawn or vectorized because its poor quality would require too much effort to reproduce, and the client may not allow any variation.

Also keep an eye out for parts of the original design that you easily can redraw, limiting your reliance on parts that need to be cleaned up or traced. This requires comfort with your design software’s cropping and erasing tools.

It’s important to communicate with your customer. When possible, ask questions directly to the decision maker. Build your online resources similarly, too. Five minutes in front of a customer or a three-minute phone call can clarify and ensure the results are as expected. So many mistakes arise from a lack of communication and too much space existing between the results and client expectations.

Clay Barbera has taught design and business growth to apparel decorators for more than 13 years. His new website,, engulfs proven graphic skills in company-sustaining videos, worksheets and recorded live events. His classes stretch from Calgary to Costa Rica, with online events held worldwide. Known as “Hey Clay,” every course ensures attendees will learn tried-and-proven methods to grow their businesses. For more information or to comment on this article, email Clay at