What do you include in your design deliverables?

Sometimes the most nerve racking thing outside of actually doing the design work for a client is handing the design off to them once it’s finished.

One of the most common questions I see asked by new designers, is what do you hand off when you’re finished up with a design project?

Granted, it depends on what the design project was. But before I get started, I want to make absolutely clear that everything that I do discuss in this show (and even if there’s anything that you plan to hand off to your client that I don’t discuss) you should be outlining this in whatever kind of agreement contract or statement of work you have with your client. I can tell you from a lot of experience that clients appreciate it when you tell them exactly what to expect, and even better when they can expect it.

So with that out of the way, the first thing that I usually aim for is some sort of flattened or finalized design file.

This is often the case for something like a logo or even doing retouching for photos. The reason that we do this is because we don’t want to give up that secret sauce. Clients typically don’t have professional design software like Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign. In the instances where they do, I’ve learned from past experience that handing these files off to a client can open up a big can of worms. You lose the opportunity for additional income if the design ever changes. Instead, you spend more time becoming a troubleshooter and effectively a tutor as they try to figure these programs out — on top of figuring out what it was that you did in the file. It’s always always a very frustrating experience for all parties involved.

The one small caveat to this is web. When I’m handing off a web file, I never hand off my actual raw PSD (or Sketch or Adobe XD) file. Instead, I clean up the file a little bit — labeling things that need to be labeled, and grouping things that seem logical to group together. The goal is to make sure the file is clear for anybody who might be taking on the next steps. One of the things that we’re all probably guilty of in Photoshop is making a giant mess of layers colors, and fonts that other people may not have. So it’s good to keep that in mind as you’re preparing your files.

If the the project calls for it, make sure to include any font files or original images that you used as well. From the development standpoint, I can’t tell you how much time this will save your developer and will get them to absolutely love you anytime you send some work over to them.

Moving on whether you’re doing a logo or a website, I always like to try and include some form of design standards or guidelines for a logo.

This is most common with logo projects. A good file includes things like the right way to use it, white space, or different lockups of the logo. It can get into nitty gritty details, like certain color swatches and fonts. Score some bonus points with stylistic ideas or pairings or things of that nature that a client will appreciate having because you won’t always be there to answer those questions or provide any kind of art direction.

Next, it’s always good to include multiple file formats.

One of the things that I briefly mentioned when I was talking about the website files was that there are a lot of different design programs that are popping up out there.

For the most part, an Adobe type file, like a PSD file or an AI file will get you pretty far. But every now and then it helps to include things like a PDF file with your vector graphic in it, or common formats like JPGs, GIFs, PNGs, and the like. Again, this is super helpful because you might not always be available to make these kind of conversions.

It’s always great to keep one step ahead and have a client know that they’ve got whatever file format they might need to pass on to someone else who might be helping them out.

And last but not least, if you want to make some extra brownie points with your clients, make sure to host these kind of files in a secure location.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go back and dig up old brand standard guidelines or things of that nature because the client misplaced them.

Your clients will appreciate having a common spot to always get their artwork files. It also saves you time should they need them — you won’t have to go digging through your files and hope you’re able to find something you did a long time ago.

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