Is there a graphic design specification system?

Is there a commonly used design specification system to present a graphic design to a customer before we start the implementation? My challenge is specifically on mailings (PDF A4, HTML sent per mail), but I am happy to hear any insight from other domains (web design, advertising, …)

My goal is to present a document, that the customer could sign-off, and representing the actual design. Once the document is signed-off, we can start the implementation; and have very little risk that the customer is unhappy with the actual product; or request many changes afterwards.

Especially, I’m trying to avoid multiple round trips after implementation where the customer asks: “Can you move this box a bit to the left?”, “Hum, can you move it a bit to the bottom?”, “Can this image be a bit more blue?”, “Hum, can this field be a bit larger?”, “This works fine in GMail, but I’m not happy with Lotus Notes!”

I understand that iterative approaches, either billed as Time&Material, or with a capped effort, are probably better fit for that. (and if you use them, as a professional designer, please let me know too). Yet, in some projects, the customer needs a waterfall approach for some reasons. I’d like to know how to handle those cases best.


You can’t do Agile with print. There is no iteration. Once it’s on press, it’s on press.

However, the design process up to that point can be as iterative as you’d like. Be sure you are billing accordingly, of course.

Typically mock-ups are created (for print design, it may be as simple as color laser prints). At a certain point, you want the ‘final’ mock-ups signed off on.

Then it goes to pre-press, where there should be a ‘proof’ created that is essentially the mock-up, but actual size and actual color. This then needs to be checked by both the designer and the client. If that’s OK, then that’s your final document. Start the presses!

If we’re talking digital design (email, web)…

Then my answer is quite a bit different. For web work, there is no such thing as a ‘proof’ as it’s not a physical set-in-stone medium. As such, I strongly encourage to move AWAY from sign-off documents and instead adopt an Agile methodology. This can be a challenge given that so many clients and organizations are still familiar with the old water-fall models where sign-offs happened at very specific places along the way.

Investigate ‘Lean UX’ for some inspiration on how to work design into the agile model.

Source : Link , Question Author : Gerard Yin , Answer Author : DA01

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