Ready for Your Close-up?
There is a very good reason why the same designers get published over and over again. Certainly, the excellence of their work is part of it, and some employ PR firms and other promotional vehicles to broadcast their achievements. Having lots of money and an army of publicists are not required to get your work noticed, though. Most of all you should be media-ready—in other words, when the presses are ready to roll, not only do you have the goods to flaunt, but also the know-how to package and deliver your message to the public. Don't be afraid to toot your own horn either. Having just recently filed several large feature articles on designers who were novices at dealing with the press, I am compelled to offer some suggestions to get all designers ready for their close-ups. Follow this advice and you'll be prepared when the opportunity arises—and happy with the coverage you get.
Preparing in Advance
Always archive images of your work promptly and completely.
- Get final project images together for everything you do as soon as the project is done.
- Prepare one to three views/spreads/frames of each piece.
- Save images in two versions:
- high-res for print: 300 dpi at 8" x 10" (or as large as possible)
- low-res for web: 72 dpi at 3" x 5"
- When you have a three-dimensional piece, photograph it. Save photos for both web and print (see above).
Writer/editor/blogger Alissa Walker offers the following insight: “As a blogger, I need that low-res image and a link, either to the project on your website or a page that has images and more info. A place where people can buy it or see the piece 'in action'—just your website is not good enough. I want to send my readers somewhere very specific to learn more and experience it.”
Create a text document with project information.
- Write down the basic information: year done, name of piece, purpose of piece, client.
- Compile complete credits for all those who worked on the project.
- Create a mini-case study at the completion of every project
- What was the purpose/goal of this project?
- What were you asked to accomplish?
- What was your creative brief?
- Who was the client and what was the product/service/idea that you worked to support?
- Why does your work on this project look they way it does? Why did you make these particular aesthetic choices?
- Describe the structure, functionality, interaction, materials, etc., that you used. How did those help to meet the client's brief?
- Confirm the credits (names and titles/roles) for all the people who worked on this project with you—including yourself.
- Get a quote from your client that says how great you and the work are. Better still, get the client to quantify a business result or reason why your work was successful.
Make sure you have self-promotional rights.
- You need to have a clause in your project contracts that allows you to use the work for your own self-promotional purposes. This allows you to grant the media permission to reproduce the work.
- The media/publisher may ask you to sign a release form. Make sure to do it.
If your client won't allow promotional usage for a project, never send that piece to the media. Even if you're dying to because it shows how talented you are, don't. Inevitably, the publication's art director will want to run that piece, find out it's off-limits and be disappointed or angered by the waste of time.
Create a bio and get a headshot.
- Write two versions of your career biography: a one-sentence long version and a 250-word summation of who you are and what you've done
- Create a résumé and update it frequently—save it as a PDF.
- Have a headshot done. Photoshop and color correct it as needed.
- Save your portrait in two versions:
- high-res for print: 300 dpi at 8" x 10"
- low-res for web: 72 dpi at 3" x 5"
- You don't need a publicist, but don't expect the media to come and find you. Reach out to publications that you read and respect, and let them know when you've done something noteworthy. Make it personal, too—just as you would a cover letter, let your familiarity with that publication be known. (See, we all like to feel chosen.)
- Since journalists must pitch stories to their editors, you might consider pitching stories to the writers themselves. It doesn't mean you'll score a feature, but you will raise your profile with writers you like.
- When you see a call for entries, enter. Getting your work selected by design magazine reviews and competitions offers great exposure and cachet.
Responding to Interest
Be a good contributor.
When invited to be covered by the media:
- Respond immediately. Let the person know if you are either interested or not.
- Carefully read what they send you.
- Answer all questions thoroughly, plus offer additional information if you think it will help.
- Answer questions in writing, as it helps you to not get misquoted.
- Note deadlines. If you need an extension, ask for it immediately. Chances are it can't be granted, but don't wait until the very last minute to find out.
- Provide the materials (e.g., images, credit info, links, release forms) in the format requested. If the specifications are unclear, ask immediately for clarification.
- Be available for additional conversation if needed.
- Don't make the media chase you down to get the information they need. Be easy to work with, as this could result in additional or preferential coverage.
You are not the art director.
- Only submit images that you want published. Don't complain later that the publication's art director chose “old work” or “not the right work” that you yourself provided. If you don't want it to appear, do not send it.
- If you get a chance to see the layout of how your work appears beforehand, consider yourself lucky. This is a courtesy to you and it rarely happens.
- Do not art direct the publication's art director. It's bad form.
- If you have a request for a change, be extremely polite and have an iron-clad rationale for that change. It can't be simply personal preference.
You are also not the writer.
- If a writer gives you the ability to look over copy that he/she has written in advance, that is also a courtesy.
- You will find that having a telephone conversation with a reporter allows him/her to get a better feel for who you are—the plus side being a more nuanced article. On the down side, you won't know how thorough the writer is at transcribing or if you'll be quoted correctly. You may opt to submit responses in writing or politely request the ability to review the interview.
- If you are shown the writer's copy, respond immediately. Correct any factual errors. Any other kinds of changes should include a rationale and be requested politely. Take these steps immediately and in writing.
- It's bad form to “sleep” on the text and request additional revisions. Not only does it show a lack of respect for deadlines, the changes most likely won't get made.
- If you see typos, let them know.
- If you want to rearrange grammar and flow, you are probably going to insult the writer.
- Know that writers have editors and copy editors, and some things may be beyond the writer's control.
- Editors have the final say on all copy for their publication. Period.
Again, it's their publication.
- Although you obviously are cooperating because it should be great promotion for you, remember that it's their publication—not yours.
- Threatening to pull out at the last minute because you are unhappy about some detail of the coverage is beyond bad form. And it probably won't happen anyways—you've already given your consent by providing materials in the first place, so the story will run with or without your blessing.
The design media, at least, is quite small and networked together very well. We do talk to each other frequently. So don't burn any bridges. And on the flip side, if you're easy to work with and media-ready, the good word-of-mouth is sure to follow.