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Every once in awhile the universe rewards me for my devotion to both pop culture and graphic design which allows me to bring you such hits as Thank U, SpecsTM. Have you ever worked with a graphic designer or printer? Maybe you’ve run an ad in a high school basketball program or wanted to get your company’s logo on a polo? Tackled home improvement or a technical project? If you’ve encountered any or all of those scenarios then you’ve probably heard the term “specs” thrown around a couple times. Ariana sang about ’em (well, close) printers have ’em, and designers need ’em to get your project complete and out into the world.

What are Specs?

Specs is short for specifications, and is defined by Merriam Webster as “a single quantity (such as a dimension or a measure of performance) describing a product” or “a detailed precise presentation of something or of a plan or proposal for something.”

Specs are the technical details required to actually produce your project.

Letting your graphic designer know where and how you plan to display your new look is important! For example, let’s say you have a new logo (exciting!) and you want to start using it everywhere. It’s crucial that a graphic designer knows the dimensions, colors, and file types to deliver a file that your printer can actually work with. A standard tri-fold brochure is pretty straightforward. But if you’re renting billboard space, that’s going to require a high-quality, hi-res image and a file sized to the correct dimensions of the billboard. If you’re adding your new logo to your social media profiles, you’ll be fine with a smaller, lo-res JPEG.

Types of Design Project Specs

Technical Specs

A graphic designer, a web designer, a marketing team, and printer should all be able to provide and communicate the following technical specs:

  • Dimensions – pixels, inches, picas, dpi, ppi
  • Resolution – 300 dpi (high res), 72 dpi (lo-res)
  • Bleeds – do your colors, text, or images extend to or beyond the edge of the page? Pages need to be trimmed accordingly.
  • File size – 100KB, 2 MB
  • Colorspace – CMYK, Pantone, Spot, for printing, RGB  for web; these are set within the document
  • Color swatches – Hex #efefef, RGB 34-78-35
  • Material and weight – 100# text-weight paper, vellum
  • Bindery – spiral bound, saddle-stitched, perfect bound
  • Finishing – perforated, scored, folded
  • Filetypes – .doc for text only, PDF or EPS for hi-res printing, JPEG (no transparent background) or PNG (allows for transparent background) for web

Marketing Specs

Consider these marketing specs as demographics and goals for your target audience. These specs are important for understanding who a designer is communicating your information to.

  • Demographics – Who are your customers? Age, gender, income, region, motivations.
  • Goals – What goals does your customer have? What are they trying to accomplish with your organization or services? Are they trying to lose weight, learn something, spend time with friends?
  • Tasks – What series of steps can someone who sees or uses your product or service take to move forward? This could be make a phone call, email, take a photo, buy a meal, etc. This part of understanding your customer’s journey towards you.
  • Calls to Action – What functionality must be included in technical items? Maybe you need a contact form on your website or your mailed letter must have a return envelope for donations.

Examples of specs

Why are design specs important?

Design specs are important because they directly affect the production and outcome of your project. Knowing the colorspace, material, and medium for your printed piece ensures your colors are not only accurate but look great! Having thorough and accurate technical specs means that your ad is going to fit in the space you purchased or can be mailed within your budget. Understanding why these details are important and how to ask for them means saving time and money. There’s no having to redo designs or spend money reprinting materials.

via GIPHY

If you don’t know what the specs are for your project (or don’t want to deal with it) ask your printer/vendor of choice to supply theirs, which are typically in document or PDF form, to you and/or your designer. A lot of times these can be found on vendor websites as well. Connecting your designer with your vendor is a perfectly reasonable solution and part of hiring a creative professional!

Good luck singing Thank U, Next in it’s original version… From here on out, it’s Thank U, Specs. And you’re welcome.

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