The Office of Design/Production works with people across campus to create promotional and informational material for distribution outside (and sometimes within) the University. Our staff can work with you on concept development, planning, writing, proofreading, editing, design, illustration, coordination of bidding, coordination of photography, prepress production, and production supervision.

If you have a new project you would like to schedule, please call the director at 8-8316. 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.

Frequently Asked Questions


Our design and production charges are a fraction of the cost that you will find at private agencies and firms. Most of our costs consist of material expenses: art and computer supplies, file output by service bureaus, photography, and any other expense items. Clients pay the vendors directly for printing and color separations. Contact the Office of Design and Production for additional questions regarding our billable rates.

To see a full listing of our billable rates, please view the document linked below.

Back to top

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. Projects essential to the operation of the University, including catalogs and dated materials.
  2. Established periodicals, such as the President's Report, research magazine, alumni magazine, Dialog, Capstone Engineer, and C&BA Executive.
  3. University-wide recruitment marketing communications, such as the undergraduate recruitment collateral and the Graduate School prospectus.
  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.
  7. Everything else.

Back to top

It takes time

If you're wondering how long it takes to move a project from concept to finished product, use this handy rule of thumb: It not only takes longer than you imagine, but longer than anyone can imagine. This is not a flippant remark; it is a fundamental truth. Writing, proofing, editing, proofing, designing, proofing, photographing, proofing, prepress production, proofing, checking bluelines, and proofing is a meticulous but necessary process no matter how many times you've undertaken it.

We will be glad to work with you on writing your text, or we can take your rough draft and edit it into appropriate style. We edit according to The Chicago Manual of Style: Fourteenth Edition, published by the University of Chicago Press, with a few board-of-trustees-mandated quirks, such as capitalizing "the" in the name of our institution (except when "University of Alabama" is used as an adjective, as in "the University of Alabama campus"). For more information about UA style guidelines, visit our online UA Editorial Style Guide.

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 lengths 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 cost and to the time needed for production and printing.

  • Advertisements—2 weeks
  • Tabloids—7 weeks
  • Full-color booklets or brochures—13 weeks
  • Full-color posters—10 weeks
  • Spot-color booklets or brochures—10 weeks
  • Spot-color posters—6 weeks
  • Annual reports—16 weeks
  • Web graphics—2-9 weeks

Back to top


Please think long and hard before deciding you must do a newsletter. Most people are so bombarded with unsolicited publications—many of which have eye-catching, four-color photography and high production values—that your newsletter may get thrown out with the junk mail without a second glance. An equally unsettling possibility is that the readers you're seeking may in a single day receive from the University an alumni magazine, a newsletter from each of the UA colleges in which they studied, and mailings from two or three of the University's outreach programs. (Sure, that's the worst-case overkill scenario, but it could happen.)

If publishing a newsletter is the course you want to pursue, and if an online alternative is not appropriate for your audience, we will be glad to work with you in developing a strong design and editorial strategy so your newsletter will have a fighting chance against its competition.

If appropriate for your area's needs, we'll develop—during production of the first issue—design templates 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.

Back to top

How do we begin to work together?

For a new project or revision of an old one, contact Marketing Communications at 8-6541 to schedule a time to get together. For an exact reprint, see What if I want an exact reprint next year?.

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.

During the initial meeting, we'll also 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 you know what you want to do and have a firm idea of how you want to do it, 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 writing, editing, design, production management, and photography. 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 to help solve your communication problem are as follows:

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

From this base of 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).

Back to top

Preparing the text

Our editorial staff can write your project's text using the copy points (i.e., the primary points you want to convey to the identified audience) that you provide or we can copyedit text that you have written. In either of these situations, an edited draft approval stage—during which you review and approve the text we've 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 on a disk or as an e-mail attachment, in a format compatible with the programs we use for editing and design. Text-only format usually works best, but before you input your text, please talk with the art director (8-8315) or editorial director (8-5937) about formatting procedures that will save time and reduce the chance for typographical errors.

Back to top

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 design, the designer will prepare proofs for you and the editor and will work with the production manager to bid the job. Our production manager will contact you regarding costs and will give you the information you need to complete a purchase order requisition. If you have any questions about the status of your job as it moves through the production process, please call the production manager (8-6541). The production manager follows each job as it moves through production and will be able to answer your question immediately or will know where to find the answer.

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 blueline (a proof prepared by the printer) arrives. Careful, thorough proofing by you or someone you hire or designate is essential. Our editor will edit and proofread the piece (unless you choose to handle that yourself), and we can hire outside readers if you want, but the ultimate responsibility for its typographical and general correctness rests with you.

Back to top

The importance of having a P.O. or PC number

Without an official University approval to purchase, the wheels of progress do not turn. We can't even send your project to the printer until we have a P.O. or PC number. So be sure your account is ready when you are.

Back to top

Last things last

After your job is delivered, we will bill you for our expenses via an itemized departmental transfer. You will need to add your account number, sign, and process it.

Back to top

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 24 hours 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 production manager at 8-6541.

Back to top

Photography tips

If photography is part of your publication, we'll work with you to schedule priority time with the Office of University Relations photographers. If you need photos for another purpose, call Photography directly at 8-8332.

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. If you'll be taking the photographs yourself (which we wouldn't encourage, unless you're experienced and equipped or naturally lucky) or getting them from another source, here are some tips on making good ones.

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 usually is better. Tiny pictures have their places, 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.

Back to top

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, scratches, etc.
  • making minimal changes to appearance, such as smoothing hair, removing minor flaws such as acne scars, etc.

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

Back to top

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. Use these statements [updated August 2003], as appropriate:

Major publications, such as catalogs and long recruitment pieces, collegiate bulletins, employee handbooks, and application forms—

The University of Alabama complies with applicable laws prohibiting discrimination, including Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Executive Order 11246, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Vietnam Era Veterans Adjustment Assistance Act, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or veteran status in admission or access to, or treatment of employment in, its programs and services. Inquiries and concerns may be directed to Gwendolyn Hood, University Compliance Officer, 171 Rose Administration Building, Box 870300, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0300, (205) 348-5855 (Voice/TDD).

Most other publications, including recruitment publications specific to departments and divisions—

The University of Alabama complies with applicable laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or veteran status in employment or in any program or activity offered by the University. For further information, contact the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, 171 Rose Administration Building, Box 870300, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0300, (205) 348-5855 (Voice/TDD).

For posters, advertising, and publications in which space is severely limited—

The University of Alabama is an equal-opportunity educational institution/employer.

For University, departmental, or divisional events and activities, someone in the sponsoring department or division should be made responsible for handling requests for accommodations for people with disabilities, and the access statement below should appear in registration materials, invitations, fliers, etc.—

To request disability accommodations, please contact {name, department, address, phone number, e-mail}.

Back to top

What if I want to use recycled paper?

We encourage it. Variety is going up and prices are coming down; we'll work to find the paper that's right for your use.

Back to top

What color is crimson anyway?

The University's official red—used on all University of Alabama marketing communications—is Pantone Matching System (PMS) 201.

Back to top

What color is the gray used in University wordmarks?

The University's official gray—the color combination of choice for all two-color University wordmarks—is Pantone Matching System (PMS) Warm Gray 9.

Back to top

What if I'd rather do it myself?

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 Staff Training and Development. "Design for Desktop Publishers" is free and will introduce you to principles of good design that can apply to every piece you produce.

Back to top

Questions, comments, observations?

This is a brief overview of what Marketing Communications 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 8-8316. 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.

Back to top