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The 4 C's of Crystals:

Feb. 15, 2013

I'm sure most of you are aware of the 4 C's of diamonds, cut, color, clarity and carat. It's an easy guideline to help the consumer select a high quality diamond. But have you heard of The 4 C's of Crystals? These are similar guidelines I developed to help businesses and consumers identify crystal clear graphic design. They are: CREATIVE, CORPORATE, COMPETITIVE and CHARMING.

While I originally developed the 4 C's of Crystals to tie in closely with a play on words to my company, Kristal Clear Graphics, this is a helpful guide that can be used when looking for any graphic design company or similar creative professional.

Over the course of the next four newsletters, I'll explain each of these important qualities in depth, starting with CREATIVE. A graphic designer must be creative. They must be able to make eye-catching, professional looking, unique graphics that YOU like. But that's only half the battle. In order to be effectively creative, they also need to listen to their clients.

A great graphic designer has a strong right brained creative side paired with a more analytical left brain that helps with problem solving and completing the task at hand accurately.

While it might seem obvious, a graphic designer should be creative. This word, like many parts of graphic design and art is subjective. Approaching a new project with a creative mindset to come up with a new look is equally important as the ability to curb their creativity to coincide with client parameters.

Let's say you're in need of a new promo cover for your informational DVD you just had made. You have a set budget allotted for design time, decided it needs to have a youthful look using your company's colors, and you want it to be a single sheet, two sided. Depending on the CREATIVE thoughts of your graphic designer, you could end up with one of many scenarios.

Here are a couple possibilities to watch out for.

1. The designer creates a beautiful piece, very different and unique, but it's a multi-page folded piece instead of a single sheet because "the designer felt the larger size would be more dynamic and eye catching with their design. Maybe so, but the extra large dimensions cost you more money in design time and at the printer.

2. The designer creates three options for you to choose from. You like one a lot, but have just a few minor adjustments. All seems great until you get the bill and see the designer forgot about your budget. The two extra concepts that got thrown out took up additional time you didn't allow for in the budget. If they had delivered just one concept at first, at least there would have been a chance not all three concepts would need to be created, AND you would have been aware that asking for an extra concept would probably mean extra time and money.

Now there's nothing wrong with looking at more than one concept at once. That's sometimes very helpful for a client. Plus, from experience I know it can be part of my own brainstorming process. One concept develops into the next so it's easy to separate out and deliver multiple concepts. The problem comes in because the designer didn't communicate this presentation option to the client before hand and disregarded the budget directions.

3. While the designer did use your company's colors, the concept, in your opinion, is anything but "youthful". Well, we have to keep in mind that "youthful" in this context is pretty subjective. The designer explains his reasoning for why his design is youthful, but you still disagree and don't like it.

If the designer asks questions to pin point the problem and makes a new concept in a different direction, even if it's not exactly 100% on target yet, this is a good sign. However, If the designer continues to insist his first design was the essence of youth and subtly infers you don't know good art when you see it, this would be probably someone to steer clear of.

They're probably a magnificent artist, but lack the left brain balance to take constructive criticism that their idea just wasn't what you, the client, wanted. In the end, you are the client and what you want is what you should get.

Overall, if a graphic designer has creative talent, but doesn't stay within the parameters you give them, you'll be wasting time and money that will need to be redone later. However, on the opposite end, you need to be careful that your designer delivers your project with a professional look and creative edge that screams, "This business is serious about what they're doing!"

Kristal Young, owner and graphic designer of Kristal Clear Graphics in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, offers creative services in print, web and beyond. Now specializing in social media design for business identity, you can visit online at or like Kristal Clear Graphics on facebook at

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