I’m reading a great book right now on leadership. The author is clearly well-read on the subject, and thoughtful in his writing. I’ve gotten tremendous insight from the book, yet it’s painful to read, because he skipped the design step. The type is too small for my eyes, and in Times New Roman. The text creeps into the middle fold of the paperback, so I have to pull hard at the spine to read the inside edge of the type, and each line is so long that I struggle to figure out where to continue on as I read across the page. After a chapter or so, I set it aside and reach for something easier on my eyes.
So, if you are wondering if you should handle the layout of your next annual report, magazine, or newsletter yourself, consider this: beautiful publications rarely spring from non-designers using MS Word. Working with a publication professional (a very specific type of graphic designer) ensures that your publication is easy to read, reflects the quality of your thought leadership, and presents your organization in a favorable and professional light.
If you are wondering how much it might cost to design a publication, consider the following factors:
1. Sophistication of the design
A professional design can consist of a simple type treatment and arrangement on the front and back cover. It could be an arrangement of photos juxtaposed with a title. Or, it can be much more complex, such as a conceptual approach that represents the subject matter within. That requires a deep understanding of the subject matter, creative brainstorming, and more sophisticated design thinking by an experienced publication designer.
2. Number of design options requested
With tight budgets, publication managers typically review an initial creative brief and are presented with a single design option, followed by a round or two of refinements. As budgets expand, more cover design options are possible. Once a cover design is chosen, it is refined and finalized, and one or more inside spread designs are presented for feedback and refinement. Design time and fees both increase with each design option requested.
Will imagery be required, and if so, will it be supplied to the designer? The time spent for stock photo searches will add to the design estimate. While there is very affordable stock imagery available these days, sometimes something less common or more specific can be desired, and the cost of the royalties and extra effort in finding unique imagery should be considered. If a photo shoot is a requirement, consider the costs of the photographer, and whether or not you are requesting full rights to the photographs taken.
4. Design reviews and refinements
Consider how long it will take to get a design approved up the chain of command. If a junior team member will be reviewing and refining initial designs, and then present to his/her manager, who will review and refine again before presenting to the director, then the budget will need to accommodate many levels of review. (Tip: it’s least expensive to work directly with the final decision-maker.)
5. Cost of layout
Now that the design phase is complete, consider the following factors when estimating the cost to layout your publications:
- The number of pages in the manuscript (the text, prior to layout)
- The number of rounds of edits expected, and the scope of the edits (three or fewer is typical)
- Imagery/photos that need to be sourced, retouched, and/or managed in large numbers
- The number of charts, graphs, and tables, and the complexity of each
- The number of Infographics
- The number of Footnotes and endnotes
- The number of unique sections, section openers, and unique page layouts (especially for magazines)
- English or foreign languages necessary
- Complex formatting requirements such as calculations, pages of hyperlinks, multilevel lists, outlined text
- Timeline: Rush or regular schedule
6. Sample price estimates
Since every publication is by its nature, unique, each has its own custom requirements. Pricing is dependent on all of the factors listed above. Here are a few samples of how a publication might be priced, as a point of reference:
Annual Report for a very large nonprofit
This annual report is distributed in print to their board and major donors, as a marketing tool to get attract corporate donors and sponsors, and for the media to download from their web site. Sixty-four pages, four cover design options, three interior spread design options, twelve financial charts, eight financial tables and graphs, one infographic, a half-day conceptual photoshoot for cover art, retouch board photos, three onsite meetings, three levels of review, five rounds of edits, review photo random color proof, final file preparation, review printer proof, and attend press check. Design estimate: $28,000.
Annual Report for corporate foundation
This annual report is distributed in print to the board, employees of the corporation, stockholders, and major donors, and is available by download for the media. Forty-four pages, three cover design options, two interior spread design options, six financial charts, five financial tables, find twelve appropriate low-cost stock photos, retouched board photos, one onsite meeting, two levels of review, three rounds of edits, review of photo random color proof, final file preparation, review of printer proof, and attend press check. Design estimate: $20,000.
Annual Report for small federal agency
This annual report is posted on their web site and available to all interested parties. It is twenty-four pages, two cover design options, one interior spread design option, one level of review, four financial charts, three financial tables, six low-cost stock photos, no onsite meetings, three rounds of edits, final file preparation, and review of printer proofs. Design estimate: $6,000.