I recently had someone ask me to redesign a PowerPoint project for them. Once I started talking with the potential client though, it became clear that a PowerPoint presentation didn’t make sense for how she was planning to use the piece (printed, in a meeting, without actually displaying the slides on a screen at all!). Here are 6 questions to ask yourself (and talk about with your designer) before determining what type of project you should be creating.

1. Who’s it for?

Who is your audience? Children? Parents? Senior citizens? Business professionals? Is your audience likely to respond to an online medium, such as email marketing or banner advertising? Would your message be captured best in a direct mail piece such as a postcard or self-mailer brochure? Is your target market on Facebook every day? Sitting at bus stops? In bar bathrooms? There are tons of places to place your message to reach all kinds of people! Do your research; you don’t want to waste money on something that will never make its way to your intended audience.

2. What are your goals?

What is the purpose of the piece? Do you want to build brand awareness? Do you have a specific sales goal in mind? Do you want to expand a certain type of business, for instance, to increase referrals? Do you want to strengthen your website or build an email list? Reach a certain number of Facebook fans? Once you know what the project is supposed to do, it’ll be much easier to figure out a way to go about doing it.

3. Where will it be used?

Will the project be used in a meeting in front of a large group? Will you be there to present the piece or will the person be perusing it on his own (perhaps as a leave-behind piece after a meeting, or if you mail it)? Does it need to be a certain size to fit in someone’s pocket/purse/briefcase? (Not business-related, but it is a huge petpeeve of mine that wedding programs are often 8.5×5.5 inches when in their finished, folded size. Whose black-tie purse can accommodate that?) Are there mailing guidelines or restrictions regarding size or weight? You don’t want to find out in the eleventh hour that postage is going to cost you twice as much because you went with the sleek, square-shaped design.

4. To print or not to print?

Does the piece need to be printed? If so, how many are needed? A small number of copies (less than 100) or a more substantial amount? Should it be printed digitally or offset? Will changes be made often? Does it make sense to print a small quantity first? Maybe you’re better off with an electronic document, perhaps a PDF? Maybe you need both a printed version, and a PDF. In that case, the format/specs may change a little bit; i.e. a brochure that is designed to print and fold will need to be cut into separate panels for the e-version. And if you will be emailing the PDF to clients, be sure the size of the final PDF file is small enough to be delivered to people’s inboxes.

5. Will it change?

Is this project static, or do you expect it to be updated frequently? Does it need to be in a format that you, the client, can edit? Or are you prepared to pay a designer to make changes as needed? If this is something that doesn’t require professional printing, maybe you just need a designer to format a Microsoft Word document (choosing text treatment and a color palette, and designing the header/footer) or template that you can use and modifty often.

6. How much can you spend?

What is your budget? Whether you’re working with a few bucks or a large marketing allowance, there is almost always a project that will fit within those restraints. But it’s best to know about those limits before you start, rather than when you’re about to approve a design for a billboard that can only be seen by the people who drive by your house, because you can’t afford to have it placed on the highway.