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The Creative Relationship of PR and Graphic Design

Posted At: October 1, 2012 1:30 P.M.
by Nicole Hohman

The words “live design competition” caused my heart to sink as my eyes panned over the Student University Newspaper (SUN) conference schedule.

A graphic designer’s worst nightmare (at least my worst nightmare): a last-minute surprise, working under pressure for a strict deadline with someone hovering over her shoulder.

Am I prepared for this?

I recently attended the SUN conference as the creative services representative for The Crimson White, the University of Alabama student newspaper. As a PR major with a minor in graphic design, I am constantly searching for ways to encompass aspects from each field to put to use. I did not expect, though, to be put on the spot! What I did not realize at the time was how well my various PR courses had prepared me for the competition.

As my mind frantically processed the task at hand, my PR training engaged. I quickly analyzed the task, breaking it into segments.

The objective – design a lead promotional piece for next year’s SUN conference. The process — complete research about the company, plan and sketch thumbnails, and finally implement these creative ideas into a cohesive poster. The prize — your design featured on posters and as the cover of next year’s SUN pamphlet.

From completing a promotional poster to writing a communications plan, PR and graphic design have many similar components. As PR students, we are challenged to think strategically, logically and innovatively, but there isn’t always emphasis on thinking creatively. Creativity is a buzzword tossed around the PR industry lightly, with minimal reflection on the role it plays in PR (and vice versa).

When faced with the challenge, I realized how synonymous the PR and design fields are. Here are the critical components I applied while competing:

Brainstorming — An effective plan begins with free form, non-critical thinking. Whether researching a client or sketching a thumbnail, planning is crucial to organizing thoughts.

Reflecting client’s concerns — For PR practitioners, knowing your stakeholders is vital for a successful campaign. When collaborating with graphic designers to create compelling content for your client, make sure you realize who your client organization is and what it stands for — the designer’s choice of color and imagery should flesh out that organizational identity.

Two-way communication — Having constant communication with clients is key to creating lucrative relationships. This is where the graphic designers need assistance most. Designers can create a dynamic logo, interactive website or poster design that evokes the style of the company now that they know about the enterprise.

Tactics — Just as PR pros must present original approaches to impress clients, so too must graphic designers illustrate inventive elements in their designs to get their point across. Such new ideas need to be effectively communicated to the client.

By incorporating these facets of PR in the surprise design competition, I was able to create a quality product. Though the judges have yet to make a final decision, my design made it to the top two. Fingers crossed my PR training paid off!


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