The Office of Design/Production works with people across campus to prepare promotional and informational material for distribution both within and outside the University.

Our work includes magazines, recruitment brochures, advertisements, posters, booklets, catalogs, calendars and more. Services include concept development, planning, design, illustration, coordination of bidding, prepress production and production supervision. We also work with other departments within Strategic Communications to coordinate photography, writing, proofreading and editing.

If you have a new project you would like to schedule, please call the director at 8-6773. If you have other questions, please call 8-5767 and our office assistant will connect you with the staff member who can best help you.

Facts, Tips and Frequently Asked Questions

Expenses

The Office of Design/Production does not charge for our services. Clients do pay vendors directly for printing services.

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Acceptance policies

We’re here to help you communicate your department’s objectives in ways that are audience appropriate. However, our staff-demand ratio requires that we accept projects according to the priorities listed below. If we can’t accept your project when you need it because of competing priorities or a fully committed schedule, we will assist you in finding an alternative way to produce your project. The priorities are as follows:

  1. Strategic projects that promote The University of Alabama.
  2. University-wide recruitment marketing communications, such as undergraduate and graduate recruitment collateral.
  3. Established periodicals, such as Year In Review and Research magazine.
  4. Institutional advancement materials, especially those directly related to raising private funds for academic programs and services.
  5. Recruitment publications for specific colleges or schools.
  6. Recruitment publications for specific departments or programs.

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It takes time

The timeline depends on the complexity of your project. Writing, editing, design, photography, prepress production and proofing are meticulous but necessary processes.

Our colleagues in the Marketing Department can provide writing assistance, or take your rough draft and edit it into appropriate style. The Division of Strategic Communications uses The Associated Press Stylebook as a guide for all copy the office produces, which includes journalistic and marketing pieces. For cases unique to The University of Alabama and other exceptions to AP style, as well as matters not addressed by AP, the online UA Editorial Style Guide provides guidance.

Advance planning is crucial to having your publication or web graphics ready when needed. Based on our experience with most departments’ approval processes and including time at the printer, the average minimum length of time needed to produce various kinds of publications from the day we receive your approved text are listed below. In this context, "approved" means that whoever in your area or department makes the final judgment has agreed that the text is fine and will not undergo significant subsequent changes. Substantial copy changes made after production begins can add considerably to your timeline, as well as your costs if the files have already been sent to the printer.

Minimum timelines for design and production after text has been finalized:

  • Advertisements— 3-4 weeks
  • Tabloids— 7 weeks
  • Booklets or brochures— 8-12 weeks
  • Posters— 10 weeks
  • Annual reports and magazines— 16 weeks
  • Web graphics— 2-3 weeks

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How do we begin to work together?

For a new project or revision of an old one, contact Design/Production at 8-6541 to schedule a time to get together.

We may be able to give you a very rough estimate of cost during the initial meeting about your project, but the vagaries of the bid system lead us to be cautious in saying what a project will cost until we actually have the printers’ bids in our hands.

After the initial meeting, we will set a production schedule. We build into each schedule enough time for the many stages of production—delivery of text to us, editing, design, exchange of proofs, prepress work, the to-printer date and the proposed date of delivery—including those parts of the process that happen outside our office, such as the actual printing.

We can work with you at any stage of producing your project, but the earlier you involve us, the more we can help. If you know generally what you need—say, to tell prospective students the advantages of choosing your program—but don’t have any ideas on how to present the information, we can work with you from concept development until the finished product is delivered.

If your goal is to establish a new design template for an ongoing project, such as a newsletter, we will develop—during production of the first issue—a design template you can reuse. We’ll also establish for you a relationship with a printer so that for subsequent issues you will not need to work through our office. Once the design work is complete, a production house may be able to schedule shorter turnaround times for you than we could.

Work with us with an open mind. We may not know much about your particular area (until you educate us), but we are experienced professionals skilled in design and production management. We are also primarily a creative agency formed to work with you in developing and producing your projects, rather than a production house that executes projects on which the design and editorial work is already complete. If a production house is what you need, we can help you find a dependable one.

The crucial things we need to learn from you are:

  • Who is your audience?
  • How big is your audience?
  • What sets them apart from other groups?
  • What do you want to say to them?
  • What do you want them to do as a result of receiving your message?
  • How do you plan to distribute the information? Postal regulations change frequently and must be considered from the beginning of the design process.

From this information, we can work with you to devise a marketing communications piece that will accomplish your goals elegantly and cost-effectively (unless, of course, the best way to communicate your message to your audience isn’t a printed piece; but we’ll give you our best advice on that, too).

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Preparing the text

Our colleagues in the Marketing Department can provide writing assistance, working from the copy points you provide (i.e., the primary points you want to convey to your audience), or they can copyedit text you have written. In either of these situations, an edited draft approval stage—during which you review and approve the text our team has written and/or copyedited—may be appropriate. Reviewing the text at this stage of the production process allows you to make any substantial text corrections before the project goes to design. Experience has taught us that significant, last-minute text changes to a designed piece can add days, sometimes weeks, to the production process and thus delay delivery of the printed project.

If you are providing the text, we will need to receive it in a Microsoft Word document.

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What happens after the text is ready?

After the initial creative meeting and the development of approved text, you will see a "comp," or preliminary design that shows the format and design we recommend. Once you’ve approved a final design, we will contact you regarding costs and will give you the information you need to complete the printing process. If you have any questions about the status of your job as it moves through the production process, please call our Assistant Director (8-6541).

You’ll see the job at first proof and second proof stages (and more if needed), one final time just before it goes to the printer, and once again when the printer proof arrives. Careful, thorough proofing by you or someone you hire or designate is essential. Our editor will edit and proofread the piece, but the ultimate responsibility for its typographical and general correctness rests with you.

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What if I want an exact reprint next year?

If there are no text changes, or very minimal text changes, you should be able to get your project within 2-3 business days to a month, depending on how complex a printing job it is. We save each project electronically, so we can normally make changes expeditiously. When you need an exact reprint, please call our Assistant Director at 8-6541.

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Photography tips

If photography is part of your publication, we’ll work with you to schedule priority time with our photographers. If you need photos for another purpose, submit a Photo Request Form to our Photography Department.

Good photographs— photos that are well composed, well lighted, visually interesting and illustrative of the text— almost always require careful advance planning. Interior photos can call for up to two hours of lighting preparation for a single shot, so please be patient as we factor this into the scheduling of your job.

Less is more— good democracy does not always equal good photography. While you may want to put everyone in your department in the photo so no one feels left out, the result is likely to be a static group photograph with no inherent appeal for the audience of your publication. If depicting everyone is mandatory, it’s better to use several photographs of small groups doing something interesting.

Bigger is usually better. Tiny pictures have their place, but big (good) ones can grab the audience’s eye.

Act natural. Take a deep breath and relax. Think the word “smile” and your face will take on a more pleasant aspect, whether you smile or not.

Digital images must be at least 300 dpi for printed pieces. Digital images that are not at least 300 dpi will not have good enough resolution to reproduce well in printed pieces. However, digital images with 72 dpi work well for online (or web-based) projects.

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Photograph Alteration Policy

As technology has made it easier to alter photographs, the temptation grows to make more and more changes to a photograph. Although some alterations may seem harmless, they can easily cross the line of changing a photo’s content. This practice may jeopardize trust, and photo edits may create an illusion or harmful deception.

A photograph is usually perceived as an accurate recording of an event; therefore, we must be extremely careful about altering photographs. Any alterations that affect the accuracy of the persons, places or events depicted in the photo are unacceptable. Enhancing the technical quality of a photograph and other simple touch-ups are acceptable as long as the content of the photo is accurately depicted.

In short, just because a change can be made to a photograph does not mean it should be made, or will be made.

Generally unacceptable alterations include but are not limited to:

  • Significantly altering a person’s appearance, such as lightening or darkening skin to suggest a certain ethnicity; changing the length of hair/beard; making a body appear slimmer, shorter, taller or larger; removing or adding significant scars, tattoos, body piercings or other marks
  • Cropping, flipping or adding elements that change the content of the photo
  • Rearranging the elements of a photo (putting one person’s head on another person’s body, etc.)

Generally acceptable photo enhancements may include the following:

  • Cropping out unnecessary elements from the background as long as such cropping does not change the meaning of the photograph
  • Shading, toning, lightening or darkening for clarity
  • Removing "debris" such as dust or scratches
  • Making minimal changes to appearance, such as smoothing hair or removing minor flaws such as acne scars

Each instance of enhancing a photograph is to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

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Equal-opportunity statements

The University has a responsibility to clearly communicate its commitment to equal opportunity in education and employment and to making its programs and services accessible to those with disabilities. Please refer to the “equal-opportunity statements” entry of UA’s Editorial Style Guide for language and guidelines on how these statements should be incorporated into your projects.

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Graphic Standards

The Graphics Standards guide outlines proper usage and accepted standards for logos and wordmarks, typography and color, applications, editorial style and more.

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What if I'd rather do it myself?

Design/Production provides design templates, available for download, that are consistent with UA brand standards. Review our Graphic Standards for more guidance.

If you are untutored in design but have the responsibility or desire to use desktop publishing to do your publications, we encourage you to attend a seminar offered periodically through HR Learning and Development. Additionally, Adobe Creative Cloud software is available to all faculty and staff.

If you do decide to design a project yourself, know that UA Brand Approval is mandatory for all University marketing and advertising materials.

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Questions, comments, observations?

This is a brief overview of what the Office of Design/Production can do for you with your help. And we are here to work with you. If you have a project you would like to discuss, please call the director at 8-6773. Whether you have a general question about a potential project, a comment regarding some aspect of this guide or an observation about a University publication, call our office at 8-5767 and our office assistant will direct your call appropriately.

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