Image optimisation: What you need to know to get the best out of your pictures

At a glance

The difference between Raster and Vector file types

When it comes to graphic design in any way, shape or form, the most important basic to learn is the difference between these two file types and knowing when to use them. Use Vector images to create clean work with perfect lines and precision, and raster images for photos, digital sketching or paintwork.

Lossy and Lossless Compression

Super important to know when it comes to maintaining the quality of an original image – make sure you understand which image file types use which type of compression and the impact that’ll have for storage, image quality and online experience.

The Basics of Resolution

Ever been unsure of what is actually meant by resolution and the role of pixels? Me too.

All you really need to know is that you measure your workspace in pixels and the size of your workspace is super important in terms of working with and exporting raster images.

Let me preface this article by saying, this is incredibly useful information to have as a foundation if you’re looking to work with visual content professionally.

HOWEVER, this is not a casual read and you WILL need caffeine to power through.

I attended a 4-hour course to learn all of the below and I found it so useful. Before hand, I never paid much attention to what file type I saved my photos or digital artwork under but now I realise exactly what an impact they can make.

You can honestly irreversibly ruin your artwork if you’re not careful.

For me the value of this information is in being able to demonstrate experties when working with clients, because if you produce content for them then they WILL expect you to know this stuff.

Being able to demonstrate specialist knowledge builds client confidence in you as a professional – something which is well worth a 15-minute read.

Let’s start off by explaining the three core digital image types: ‘Raster’, ‘Vector’ and ‘Metafile’ file formatsRasterRaster files store visual data as a series of pixel quantities and approximate locations.

No doubt that if you’ve spent time using any dedicated graphics software for anything from light photo-editing to digital painting, you’ll have worked with Raster image files.

In a raster file, the computer looks at the image and says ‘ok, that colour goes there and this colour goes here…’ many times over until each of those colour dots together form an image.

Because the information is stored like this, a raster image will look the most clear at the resolution that the image was originally created at.

What I mean by original resolution is the size of the original work space that the image was created on, which is measured in pixels.

So if the original workspace for the image was 1800 (pixels in length) x 1200 (pixels in height) when it was created; when you export/save that image as a Raster file, your computer knows exactly where every single pixel/colour lives in that exact space.

But then say after that you want to make that same image appear full sized on a workspace which is 3840 × 2160.

In this workspace you have a greater density of pixels to work with and using the raster file, your computer doesn’t have any other information to fill in those extra pixel spaces.

This means that the image looks a lot more washed out just because there are gaps or blank spaces in between each of the coloured pixels that are displaying colours.

This is something we’ve all seen before, but the same effect is demonstrated in the below image to make sure we’re still all on the same page.


Examples of images file types which store data as Raster information are things like;

    PNG, and

The kinds of programs you’ll be familiar with which work with Raster data are things like Paint, Photoshop and Lightroom among many, many others.Vector headerVector images are visual data files which are saved as a series of ‘intelligent’ instructions.

By instructions I mean like the lines and shapes in your image are stored by your computer as mathematically graphed equations.

For example, a circle drawn in a vector file is not thought of as a circle by your computer, but rather it’s 2πr2 saved on a set of definite co-ordinates on a x-axis and y-axis in the workspace.

You can actually see this if you open a vector file in a text program like Notepad rather than an image program. Doing so would open the file, but instead of showing a picture, you’d see a list of instructions.

This is all probably going to sound incredibly confusing if you’ve never actually worked with a vector drawing tool before (or even if you have – I had to re-read my notes like 4 times to make sure I was clear enough to be able to write this section) but don’t worry, you don’t need to understand exactly what’s going on in the background for this to be useful for you.

All this means is that because Vector images are stored as a set of instructions and not pixel information, you can make a vector image extremely large or small with no loss of quality or sharpness.

This is because no matter what the resolution or pixel density,  your computer knows exactly where it needs to fill in pixel spaces because it has a set of instructions to follow. Pretty swish.

Examples of software which use Vector imaging include Adobe Illustrator, Coral DRAW and Inkscape. Common Vector image file types are AI, CDR and EPS.

Still with me?

Metafile header

Metafiles are files of data which save multiple types of data in one file i.e. both vector and raster information in a single file.

We didn’t cover this too much in the course but some quick research suggests that this file format isn’t particularly stable and can be prone to errors.

Converting Image File Types

So those are the three main types of image files.

Another important thing to know is that data stored under one of these file formats can be transformed into another file type.

So if you get a vector file but want to save it as a raster because you want to edit that image using a certain type of software, or upload it to a website, you can do.

The only thing you have to remember is that the data you’ve changed will start functioning under the rules of the new file type.

So for example, if you convert a vector file to a raster image then you’ll no longer be able to make that image bigger without loss of image quality.

Converting images from Vector to Raster files is much easier to do with minimal loss of information, whereas converting Raster to Vector files can be slightly more difficult.

Doing so incorporates a process known as ‘Image Tracing’, I would be lying if I said I could explain this properly and in all honesty would just be paraphrasing the Wiki article on it.

Instead of doing that, I’ll just link the article here if you want to learn more about how it’s done.

Now that’s a good foundation of information to build on, but the bit that’s probably useful for you to know is the different sub-file types and how using these can impact your work.

File Compression Types

When you are working from your core image and you save to another format, there are two types of compression to bear in mind when deciding what format to save your image as;lossy and lossless.jpeg

Lossy | This format compresses a file size through dumping information which it considers unnecessary.

An example of this type of file is a JPEG – each time you save something as a JPEG, you lose more and more information. You can pretty much make an image unrecognisable by doing this repeatedly.

Lossless | This format compresses a file size without losing information (i.e. quality isn’t compromised).

An example of this type of file is ZIP.

If you ever aren’t sure, or just want to keep up with a best practice approach, you should always keep a high quality original source file at your disposal.

If you ever compromise the quality of your image by mistake, doing this means you have a backup.

Another rule of thumb is to work from the programs source file type until you have completed your work on your image, only after you’ve finished should you start saving your image through compressed mediums.

Different types of image files

JPEG headerA JPEG (or Joint Photographic Experts Group, if you were curious) is likely the most widely known image file type.

As previously mentioned, JPEG uses a lossy compression algorithm which means that it will remove data from a file in order to compress it to a more manageable size.

JPEG files achieve a smaller file size by compressing the image in a way that retains detail which matters most, while discarding details deemed to be less visually impactful.

Because of this, JPEGs are the most common file types for displaying visuals on the internet – since pictures can be compressed to a fraction of their original ‘full’ size with little obvious change made to the quality of the picture. Smaller image sizes displayed on a webpage mean that they load faster on a browser when a visitor heads to your website.

JPEG files are able to store and manage up to 7.2 million different colours making them extremely proficient at displaying visual information with great quality.

However, they are generally much better suited to displaying photographs rather than painted images.

The reason for this is because photographs more typically have smoother transitions between colours.

In painted, sketched or line images, there are more likely to be sharp contrasts in colour between adjacent pixels, and these stark variations would become subject to a more pronounced loss in quality after JPEG compression takes place.PNG HeaderThis is an updated image file type of the GIF and was created as a solution to the limited 256-only colour palette of the GIF file.

In the mid-90’s, monitors that were able to display many, many more different colours simultaneously become much more common and so a new file-type solution was required.

The most notable difference between PNG and GIF files is the inclusion of Truecolour colour palettes which make PNG files much more suitable for displaying more complex visual information.

Another significant difference is that rather than being a lossy file type, PNG is a lossless file which means that no data is lost when you save an image as a PNG file.

Comparing PNG with JEPG

JPEG format can produce a smaller file than PNG for photographic (and photo-like) images, since JPEG uses a lossy encoding method specifically designed for photographic image data (which is typically characterised by soft, low-contrast transitions).

Using PNG instead of a high-quality JPEG for such images would result in a large increase in filesize with negligible gains in quality.

In comparison, when storing images that contain text, line art, or graphics – images with sharp transitions and large areas of solid color – the PNG format can compress image data more than a JPEG can.

Additionally, PNG is lossless, while JPEG produces noticeable losses in clarity around high-contrast areas.

So where an image contains both sharp transitions and photographic parts, it can be a little tricky to decide which file type to go for.

If you’re struggling to choose, best practice would be to try saving your image to both and take a look at;

  • Image quality around areas where colour changes sharply,
  • The size of the resulting file.

Another factor to consider in this scenario should be JPEG’s lossy compression which also suffers from generation loss.

This is where repeatedly decoding and re-encoding an image to save it again means that information is lost each time, which means that the image loses quality.

Generational loss doesn’t happen with repeated viewing, copying of an image or anything like that, it’s only where the file is edited and saved over again (and again).

PNG has the benefit of being lossless, making it more suitable for saving images which might need further editing later on without compromising the quality of the image.

There is also the option that an image can be stored losslessly and converted to JPEG format later if only for distribution, so that there is no generation loss.GIF HeaderNot typically as popular today in the same way as in the past for displaying still images because of the limited colour palette of the file type – 256 colours in a single image only compared with 7.2 million colours in a JPEG file.

The reason for this is that when GIFs were first created in the 80’s, it didn’t seem relevant to include more colours since monitors which could display more than that many colours at the same time were not affordable for most people.

Image types which are better suited for GIF formatting are those with big blocks of same-type colours i.e. things like diagrams, icons on websites like share buttons or simple logos but not photographs or any other colour-heavy images.

Images which contain fuller colour palettes (i.e. more than 256 unique colours), when saved as GIF files, result in blotchier images. The reason for this is because GIF files have to compensate additional colours by adjusting them to a closest approximate colour within an image to be compatible.

The way compression works functionally with GIF files is that the lower the number of different colours used, the smaller the size of the file after compression.

The benefit of this is that simple images like a Facebook share button with like 3 colours on it can be tiny and downloaded RAPIDLY by a browser.

GIF files also utilise interlacing techniques when uploaded on to a website. What this means is that images load progressively on a webpage rather than all at once.

So basically, on a slow loading website, an image will start out as blurry and then grows sharper as more data loads rather than not appearing at all until the image is fully loaded.

The reason for this is that this was a more popular file type to upload on earlier iterations of the internet and this feature was more useful on slower browsers – but as browsers have grown more proficient and advanced, they are able to cope with larger and more complicated image sizes.TIFF HeaderListen, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I fully understand this one and honestly if anyone reads this article and fancies commenting to let me know what the deal is with TIFF files in plainer English than I’ve found online then please PLEASE do.

From what I understand, this file type has a size restriction of 4GB. It supports true colour images (i.e. it can handle information on 56M different types of images) making it brilliant for colour-rich images and is typically much, much bigger than standard JPEG images due to the amount of information which can be stored inside it.

This also means that it can contain extremely high quality images which, combined with it being lossless makes it the ideal home for ongoing design projects where you’ll need to keep editing and saving your work.

Things to bear in mind though;

  • These files can get to be 100MB+ in size fairly easily so you might need to consider storage if you have multiple images you’re working on at a time.
  • Because these are so big, you’ll need to consider how you’ll share these images if that’s your intention. Because of the size, you can’t just chuck a TIFF file on an email because it might be too big, likewise, images that get to that size can’t readily be uploaded onto a website since that would cause the page to load incredibly, in-cred-ib-ly sl-ow-ly.

As with the PNG file though, you can always have your original image saved as a TIFF file before saving a copy as a JPEG or PNG to distribute out further – options!SVG Header.jpegCredit to for their brilliant article on all of this.

A file with the SVG file extension is a Scalable Vector Graphics file and being such, an SVG file can be scaled to different sizes without losing quality. A lot of website graphics are built in the SVG format, so they can be resized to fit different designs later on, making them more sustainable.

SVG extensions also use lossless compression meaning that information isn’t lost when you save an image as an SVG. If an SVG file is compressed with GZIP compression, the new file will end with an .SVGZ file extension and can be anywhere between 50% and 80% smaller in size.

How to Open an SVG File

The easiest and quickest way to open an SVG file to view it (not to edit it) with a modern web browser like Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Internet Explorer – nearly all of them should provide some sort of rendering support for the SVG format.

This means you can open online SVG files without having to download them first.

If you do already have an SVG file on your computer, the web browser can also be used as an offline SVG viewer. Open those SVG files through the web browser’s Open option (the Ctrl+O keyboard shortcut).

SVG files can be created through Adobe Illustrator, so you can of course use that program to open the file. Other premium design software which can support SVG files are Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, InDesign, Adobe Animate, Microsoft Visio, CorelDRAW, Corel PaintShop Pro, and CADSoftTools ABViewer.

If you are looking for free software which can be used with SVG file extentions, check out Inkscape and GIMP, but you must download them in order to open the SVG file. Picozu is also free and supports the SVG format too, but you can open the file online without downloading anything.

How to Convert an SVG File

If you want to convert an SVG file into a Raster image, deciding how to go about should depend on the size of the original file.

If your SVG file is pretty small, you can convert it to a Raster file type quite easily online using websites like Zamzar (looks a bit spammy but works brilliantly). They can convert .SVG files to PNG, PDF, TIFF, GIF, JPEG and more so it’s brilliant – even better it works without you having to download any apps to your PC, it can either email converted images to your inbox or let you download them straight from the webpage.

On the other hand, if you have a larger SVG file or if you’d rather not use third party websites, most dedicated design software will let you save and convert the file straight on the interface.

So there you have it! Some fun reading for budding young graphic designers – I’ve only covered the basics and there are many, many more file types to look at if you’re hungry for more.

Although honestly, I would just be impressed if someone made it to the end of this article and is actually reading this section….h-hello..? …anyone still there..?

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The Nina case study: making the ultimate job application

One of the case studies that has most inspired me in my life is the story of Nina Mufleh – the person behind the stroke-of-genius campaign Nina4airbnb

Her campaign was the result of a single-minded determination to join Airbnb’s team after having joined their community as a host and falling in love with their ethos.

Nina applied to join their team in the traditional way you’d expect; by completing an application and submitting it alongside those of many other hopefuls. 

Unfortunately their response wasn’t what she hoped for.

Nina wasn’t deterred though, and remained dead set on joining the AirBnB team. As it turned out, their rejection inspired one of the most creative modern approaches to demonstrating value to a prospective employer that I’ve ever seen. 

Nina created an online holding page using Airbnb’s branding and on it posted a research-based infographic she’d created from scratch. 

On it she detailed; 

  • Her understanding of Airbnb and its values; 
  • Six areas where she felt she could provide value to the Airbnb team, and;
  • A gap she’d identified in the global tourism market where Airbnb didn’t have extensive presence.

The crown jewel of this report was, of course, her final point and it’s a spectacular piece of work. 

Not only did she identify that Airbnb had only a minor presence in the Middle-East, but she broke down why the market had significant potential value, how Airbnb could begin entering that market and even listed 9 potential partners that Airbnb could collaborate with to get the ball rolling

She spared no detail and created a report as if she intended to present it directly to the company CEO in their boardroom…and she kinda did!

Nina tweeted the report direct to Airbnb, as well as to Airbnb’s CEO, Brian Chesky and CMO, Jonathan Mildenhall

Needless to say that did the trick. 

Ok. You floored me with this brilliance. We’ll set something up for us to meet.
I love your smarts. Very much.

— Jonathan Mildenhall (@Mildenhall) 21 April 2015

Not only did Nina get the interview that she hoped for from some seriously impressed directors, but her campaign garnered much social media attention.

This led to Nina receiving emails of interest from the tech giants Uber, UpWork and LinkedIn.

That attitude of using creativity to stand out from your competitors in such a bold way is something that always stuck with me.

When I talked about applying for my first communications role in ‘The story behind Inkbike’, I took inspiration from Nina and decided to format my cover letter and CV in the style of our company branding. 

That was one of the best things that I could have done. 

As it turned out, by choosing to format my application in that way, I’d demonstrated that I could perform several of the main responsibilities that the position required (in this case; the ability to recreate company branding, write in the company tone of voice and a level of creativity in delivering messages). 

This meant that they had confidence in me as a candidate before I’d actually spoken to anyone in that room, despite having no significant professional experience in the field.

I feel that there’s such a good lesson to be learned from Nina’s story, and it’s one that isn’t just for creatives. 

The importance is in realising that traditional routes of securing employment aren’t always the most effective. Sometimes finding the courage to try something a little different is the best way to get results. 

When Nina originally applied for a position at Airbnb, her application clearly didn’t do the proper job of demonstrating the level of value she’d be able to add if she were employed.

That isn’t a poor reflection of Nina’s ability to write an application. When you fill one out, you never know who else you’re up against or even how much attention your application is getting from the reviewer after you’ve sent it through.

Sometimes it pays to do something a little extra to get across to an employer that you’re the right person for the job.

You can be damn sure that your competition isn’t going to think of doing anything other than fill in their application; so it just becomes a question of whether you’re willing to invest a little extra time to be certain that you’ll stand out, and whether you recognise that you have the opportunity to do so.

Besides, by giving something like that a try you have absolutely nothing to lose. At worst, you’ll have spend some time creating a report or graphic which you can use as your very own template for impressing future employers.

I also totally appreciate that the execution of Nina’s seems to inherently require extensive creative skills and this can make it seem intimidating to people without a background in design –  but the idea behind it is something that could be executed by anyone. 

What Nina did wouldn’t need to be recreated exactly in order be effective, anyone that doesn’t find the idea of creating and designing a holding page attractive can instead create an infographic for example.

Tools like Canva are free to use and make creative design accessible to anyone with an internet connection. 

Since it offers exactly one metric sh*t ton of infographic templates to help you as well as a drag-and-drop style of design (meaning you don’t need extensive training or skill to create professional quality products), it leaves the design aspect suddenly more achievable.

That way, instead of sending a link for a holding page to your company of choice, you can just send your infographic as an image instead.

The only thing left to do is research – research the business, what they do and what their competitors are doing.

Look at the marketing materials of their competitors – does it look like someone else has recognised an opportunity that the company you want to work for might have missed? 

See what you can come up with after a couple hours of research and you might be amazed with what you find.

The main takeaway that I want you to have is that, without needing to spend a single penny and just with access to the internet, you can create an opportunity to get attention from employers in a way that very few people are taking advantage of. 

Nina’s campaign provides a framework for that.

I personally took inspiration from aspects of Nina’s campaign in applications I’ve submitted, and it was one of the best things I could have done to progress my career. I truly, truly believe that it could do the same for you.

Need a little more inspiration? Great! That just gives me the perfect segue into an interview I’m incredibly excited to present in this issue. 

Bethany Thielen is a brilliant creative from San Fransisco who decided that the traditional model for seeking employment just wasn’t worth the bother – and instead created the Hire Bethany campaign to stop her having to get in touch with businesses, and make them contact her directly instead. 

Read here to learn more about her brilliant journey.


5 things I wish I knew as a creative working with my first client

Has everyone here watched 500 Days of Summer? I hope so, because the only way I can think of starting this article is by ripping off that bit where they do the expectation vs. reality type-thing. 

Expectation: When you work with your clients, you’re going to smash the job out in your first try. I mean, why wouldn’t you? The client has presumably seen your style of work and they’ve hired you; so it would make sense for them to trust you to create yet another piece of epic design that they’ll fall in love with.

Harsh, harsh reality…: Delivering creative work can be messy for a number of reasons. Revisions are a given and it’s so easy for things to get wildly complicated during the process of fine-tuning. 

I’ve recently had the pleasure of being on the other end of the client/creative relationship as my team at work commissioned an agency to develop the branding, website and printed materials for a programme.

This process taught me some pretty essential lessons that I wish I knew when I first started working with clients, and guess what! I’m passing them on because CONTENT.

1. Make a delivery Gantt chart

All of you that already know what a Gantt chart is are probably undergoing some sort of PTSD-like symptoms as you get flashbacks to some horrible project that shaved about 7 years off of your total life expectancy. 

To the blissfully uninitiated, Gantt charts are tools used primarily by project  teams (those people in your office with sunken eyes and a vaguely haunted look) to scope out how long each part of a project should take, and when project items should be delivered by.

There are loads of fancy pants software packages available that you could use to create a Gantt chart, but a plain ol’ Google Docs spreadsheet will serve just as well so there’s no need to fork out for this. In fact, they have Gantt chart templates available for you to use so you don’t have to spend time setting one up. 

Why bother?

A couple of reasons; firstly because it forces both you and the client to agree on acceptable timescales for reviewing and delivering content.

It’s important that you set deadlines for clients to submit feedback by, because realistically your client will have other deadlines in their job and so anything they feel isn’t time sensitive will of course just be pushed to the bottom of their to-do list. 

Give them a deadline to submit any feedback so that your project isn’t put on hold and you aren’t sat twiddling your hard-workin’ thumbs. 

Secondly, when you have successfully landed a couple of clients in one go, it helps you to keep track of where every project is at.

It might sound like something that’s easy to keep track of in your head, but trust me…when the project is running and you have emails flying back and forth between you and the client team you’re working with, it’s ridiculously easy to lose track. 

2. Create an amends tracker on Google Docs

If you’re like me then you probably have the idea of taking on as much responsibility for each stage of the project as you can because you want to provide the best customer experience.

Don’t make compiling feedback your job. 

Why bother?

You’re a creative because you want to make a living making things, not because you want to spend an age trolling copy and pasting points from a bunch of emails into a spreadsheet.

Google Docs lets you create a web-based spreadsheet for free that you and your client can both access at the same time. 

Save yourself a boring job; just create the spreadsheet with the proper headers and then leave your client to fill it up for you.

3. Be vigilant with subject lines

I’ve already mentioned it, but over the course of a larger creative project, there can be a lot of emails flying around. 

Most people’s first habit is to just keep hitting reply on the last email they received from someone and start typing, regardless of whether their next emails has anything to do with the last or not.

Why bother?

The scenario you’ll find yourself in as a result, is that in two weeks you’ll be looking back for a specific email that was sent and you’ll find it’s a mission to track it down.

Using the search function in your inbox is out because all the emails have the same subject line and so you’ll end up losing a whole bunch of your time scrolling back.

Your time is worth more than that, so every time it looks like the topic of discussion shifts in an email, change the subject line to something relevant before you click send. 

This also has the benefit of passively demonstrating to your client that you’re focused and on the ball which is no bad thing.

4. Send an early preview of your work

Listen, I get it…when you’re making something, you never want anyone to see it while it’s a work-in-progress.

You’re worried that the people around you will realise that for the first 95% of the time you spend working on it, your design is an awful mess; and you’re terrified that people will think your work sucks because they don’t understand that it only starts to look pretty towards the end.

The fact is that you need to get good at finding ways of demonstrating what the end product will look like before you have to spend all that time and energy finishing it.

Why bother?

Even though you deffo know better than your client what looks cool innit, the truth is that they might disagree for one reason or another (cretin!).

You need to be able to minimise the amount of wasted time spent on designs that won’t be approved, because unless you’re paid by the hour, time spent on doomed projects is time you’re not getting paid for.

Bite the bullet, find a way to get across to them what the end product will look like and get their feedback as early in the creative process as possible. Like I said before, your time is valuable, even if you don’t feel like it is in the beginning, so treat it that way. 

5. Speak on the phone

No-one on the planet likes a long email, because there are very few occasions where a long email doesn’t demand a long reply. 

If you or your client has so much to say that they can’t fit it into two reasonably small paragraphs; pick up the phone.

Why bother?

If either of you has that much to say about anything to do with the work, conveying your points will be much, much easier over the phone. 

Don’t be shy, just pick up the phone and clear things up. There wasn’t a single time that I spoke to someone at the digital agency on the phone and regretted doing so. 

There we have it, five things that I wish I knew before I started working with my first client on a bigger project. 

I know there are a lot of list articles floating around the web and it’s basically a given that 80% of the points listed in any of them are bound to be ignored. 

The thing is, even if you read through them all and didn’t think about it again until you start working, vaguely following just one of the tips listed will save you loads of time and stress; so just aim for that.

Finally, the first project is there to make mistakes on (obv don’t tell you client that, fake it to make it etc.). These tips might work for you or they might not, the important thing to remember is that landing a client in the first place is AWESOME. 

If you get to the stage where you need any of this information then you’re officially a legend in my book – keep on doing what you’re doing.

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How to structure your first client meeting

Let me paint the scene, after following all the steps outlined in the Inkbike guide to landing your first paying client, you do in fact…land your first client.

After demonstrating your value by presenting to them a quality, bespoke piece of work – you get a call saying that they have an idea for a creative project and they’d like to bring you in for the job.

Absolute result! But what happens next?

If you’re not sure, or have been through this process before but are interested in a different approach then this article was written for you.

The first thing you need to do is ask them to send you an email containing an outline of the work they require – another term for this is a ‘creative brief’.

Make sure they send you this brief in writing, and not just over the phone. We’ll get into why this is important later.

An exploratory meeting in person is super important for several reasons;It gives you the ability to build rapport and an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and enthusiasm for the project.

Remember, you are as much the product that you’re selling as the work that you create. Demonstrating expertise reassures the client that they’re in safe hands which can also give you a basis for later word-of-mouth referrals.Not every person that writes a creative brief is going to be good at it – there might be aspects of the job that they think are clear in the brief but actually require elaboration.

Things can be misinterpreted over email, and people can be distracted while on the phone – meet them in person so you can understand more than just what the client wants, understand what their goals are.

Your client might not be the best at articulating exactly what they want designed if they’re not a designer themselves. What they can articulate however, is exactly what they hope to achieve by having assets designed.

Use that information to inform your design to help ensure that you deliver a product that your client will be thrilled with.With any creative venture involving multiple people, it’s easy for different parties to end up with very different visions for what an end product should look like.

It’s even easier for these alternate visions of a perfect end product to reveal themselves until the moment that you show off your initial designs resulting in a self-confidence crushing silence from your client when you were hoping for gasps of awe.

This meeting doesn’t have to take long (not every client is going to be able to spare an hour), but it’s essential to cover certain topics…he said casually segwaying into the next section of the article…

This is where your brief comes in handy.

The easiest way to start your preparation is to figure out what you’re hoping to have agreed by the end of it, and that’s;

  • An itemised list of deliverables
    Get this signed by yourself and the client, it’s the most important document you’ll take away from this meeting because it’s there to protect you both. One the one hand it makes you accountable for the work that the client’s paying you for, but also it guarantees that you aren’t asked to create a whole bunch of additional content which is outside of the scope of what you agreed to be paid to provide;
  • An agreed price for your work
    Some designers will ask for payment to be made upfront, or for 50% of the cost to be paid upfront and 50% when the work is submitted. How you negotiate this is entirely dependant on what you feel comfortable with, regardless you just need to make sure that you agree the price upfront;
  • An agreed number of revisions
    This is mostly a safeguard to ensure that the number of times that a client asks you to make changes doesn’t get ridiculous. You don’t want to be 3 months past the deadline and still receiving emails from your client for ‘one more little tweak’ that takes up your time and doesn’t provide any income. If anything, agreeing a set number of revisions just encourages the client to be organised in providing their feedback;
  • An agreement on submission dates
    Though it seems obvious, it’s best just to clarify this to make sure that you’re both on the same page and avoid any stressy ‘where the hell is that asset’ emails in your inbox. Make sure you give yourself as much time to deliver as possible; delivering early = a pleasant surprise for the client, whereas delivering late is where things can get uncomfortable. I know which one I’d choose to aim for.

If meeting face-to-face makes you feel nervous, then it helps to have everything you’ve prepared packed into a presentation. That way you have visual cues to keep you on track, cover all your points and help convey key points to your client.

As any creative knows; design speaks volumes. Sadly, there are few things drier than a blocky PowerPoint presentation, and it can take AGES to make an attractive presentation using it. 

Thankfully, this month, I discovered a new tool for creating beautiful slideshows – Beautiful AI.

Much like Canva, Beautiful AI is an online-only tool that seeks to make expert designers out of us all by doing most of the heavy lifting. 

It’s got a series of smart templates with modern designs that make your presentations really pop. 

They seem like they’re just getting themselves up and running so at the moment their platform is completely free to use (likely to grow an initial user base). You just need to make an account and you’re good to go. 

Anyway, it sounds like I’m working on commission here but I’m really not (not that I’m not open to it Beautiful AI if you’re reading this – *finger pistols and cheesy grin*), I just think that this is too good of a free tool to not encourage people to take advantage of.

I was seriously impressed – definitely check it out.

Anyway…not sure where to start when putting all of the above into a presentation?

Don’t worry, I’ve created a template on Beautiful AI which you can follow to create your own. View it here.


Bethany Thielen: Innovating on the job-hunt

At a glance

Name of campaign: Hire Bethany

Industry: Creative

Key learning points;

Don’t state capability, demonstrate it

If you’ve been reading around Inkbike much, you’ll know that the above is one of my biggest mottos.

In the context of job hunting, it’s even more relevant than ever, because you can guarantee that all the other applicants you’re up against going to do nothing more than state their value by simply handing in a CV.

If, instead, you’re willing to invest some time, you can end up leaving that competition behind entirely, and instead make companies fight for yourattention.

Understand your strengths

Where do you find you come across to people best? If you’ve been unsuccessful on paper, then maybe it’s time to consider whether another medium might be effective for you.

Bethany understood that she tended to get further when she met people in person and so catered to that by using video (to great effect)!

Don’t be shy

Reach out to big presences on a platform and ask for their help. Bethany had one LinkedIn influencer interact with her campaign and it resulted in its engagement figures doubling.

The worst thing an influencer you contact can do is nothing, meaning that there’s absolutely no harm in asking. Remember that most influencers are constantly on the look out for inventive content to share so you might be pleasantly surprised by how willing they are to help out.

The power of a network

The true value of a professional network is in its ability to connect you with others that you would never have had any opportunity to reach before. These new connections can create new opportunities for work and take your career in brilliant directions that had never thought possible before.

Building such a network can be extremely difficult, and most of us overlook the idea that we can simply ask influencers directly for their support in raising your profile – there’s nothing to lose.

Let me frame this article with a universal truth that every single person who’s studied at any university knows: job-hunting as a recent graduate is brilliantly sh*t.

It certainly was for me and a lot of my peers, and the reason is because experience talks. Employers don’t want to spend time training someone up, they want to hire people who already have experience doing what they need them to do.

Simply having a degree, even if it’s in the same field as a position you’re applying for, is not generally worth much to a lot of recruiters.

Enter Bethany Thielen, the graduate who decided to turn this common struggle into her advantage in the most fantastic way possible — through an epic job-hunting judo move that meant she had potential employers’ scrambling for her attention instead of the other way around. 

Simply put — her approach was genius.

She decided to market herself like a product to businesses, by creating a sponsored (paid-for) campaign on LinkedIn using a video and landing page, and targeted business owners with her content. 

As part of her campaign, she used all of the skills required of the position she was hoping to fill and in doing so, demonstrated that she was a capable candidate despite not having a wealth of experience.

I interviewed Bethany about the exact steps she took to execute her campaign, and whether — ultimately — it was a success.

Her answers were completely open, honest, and I believe should be required reading for every graduate so that they can be inspired to follow her footsteps and stand out. 


Chapter 1 Header

For the readers who might not have seen your campaign, could you introduce yourself and explain the Hire Bethany campaign?

I’m Bethany Thielen and I’m a 22-year-old designer living in the Bay Area. I graduated college and set out to find a job! Little did I know, finding a job as a recent college grad was going to be tricky.

A picture of a woman sat looking over a San Fransisco skyline

I had 2 years of professional experience from internships, yet 407 applications and 0 offers later, I was no closer to a job than when I began.

That’s what led to my #hirebethany campaign. I shot a video of myself giving a 50-second elevator pitch and sponsored the video as a paid advertisement on LinkedIn for 2 weeks.

I accompanied my video with a company page called Hire Bethany and a social media campaign.

What was happening in the lead up to you deciding to launch the campaign and what was it about the conventional method for seeking employment that made you decide that it wasn’t the way to go?

Honestly, my campaign was fuelled by a lot of desperation! I had just become financially independent and moved to the 3rd most expensive city in the United States. I REALLY needed a job. I had an internship, but it was ending in just 2 months.

Basically everything about the traditional job hunt is broken. You might have incredible skills, passion, and a personality to match, but you’re only as good as you look on paper. If your resume displays 2 years of experience and the hiring manager wants someone with 5, your chances drop from 1 in 250 (the average number of resumes submitted to an opening) down to a big fat zero.

In my opinion, minimum requirements filter out perfectly capable candidates before they’re even given a chance. This is especially tough on recent grads.

You’d be surprised at how many requirements in a job req are completely arbitrary and sometimes even unreasonable. Recruiters even have a name for this: “The Purple Squirrel,” AKA the candidate that doesn’t exist.

A screenshot of the Hire Bethany campaign video

Where did the inspiration for the Hire Bethany campaign come from? Had you seen something similar done before?

I just ranted about the broken system that is the hiring process. However on the occasions that I was selected for an interview, nearly all of them had ended in offers. Hiring managers like the real me better than my resume.

So I targeted my video directly at hiring managers using LinkedIn’s advertising tools, in hopes that I could bypass the resume stage completely.

I had built similar campaigns for clients at a marketing agency I had worked at previously. They all used the exact same techniques I employed in my #hirebethany campaign.

While these campaigns focused on selling products or services, I thought, why not try selling myself, the Hire Bethany package? After all, I only needed to find 1 buyer.

What was your strategy for building the campaign and for marketing yourself? Has that strategy evolved after your campaign was launched?

My strategy was all about making connections. I built my campaign to include as many “contact me” calls to action as I could. I included them in the video, in the video’s description and even embedded a contact form on my landing page.

A picture of a woman sat working on a MacBook

My purpose for these connections was originally to find someone to hire me, or to be referred to someone could. However I realised I needed to expand my definition of success. Many of the people who reached out were offering freelance projects. I had completely overlooked the possibility of freelancing as a career path.

While I’m not giving up on my job hunt to become a freelancer, because of this campaign, I decided that I’d like to work full time while completing freelance gigs on the side.

Chapter 2 header

Was the type of branding you did for your campaign tailored to the industry you were looking to find work in or do you think that your approach could be a template for others to mirror regardless of the industry they’re looking to work in?

The most notable parts of my campaign (paid ads, a company page, a hashtag, etc.) actually belong in the digital marketing industry. I did brand myself as a designer, of course, but what people really noticed as unique was my marketing style.

I actually attracted a lot of people seeking freelance digital marketing services. However this didn’t hurt my campaign, as it simply helped me meet more people. I think anyone could use this approach, no matter their industry.

My strategy was all about making connections

If you don’t mind my asking, how much did you invest in setting up the campaign and what was that money spent on?

Not at all. Here’s my exact breakdown:

  • Ads: $430
  • Landing page subscription: $14
  • Domain name ( $13.60
  • I filmed and edited the video for free. It involved a lot of stacking Mac & Cheese boxes to get the camera at eye-level. 🙂

Day 1 of the campaign, what did you do to kick things off?

I hit “publish” on my ad sets. And then installed every analytics tracking application I could find. I used LinkedIn’s campaign manager dashboard to track my ad’s metrics.

I used LinkedIn’s chart tool on my ad sets to find out the demographics of the people that were most responsive to my ads.

A picture of a MacBook screen with analytics displayed

For example, I learned that the top 3 job titles most engaged with my ads was CEO, Founder and Co-Founder, in that order. I also used Google Analytics to track how people interacted with my landing page.

I installed LinkedIn’s Insight Tag in my landing page to track how many people from the ads submitted the form once they landed on my site.

I spent the next 2 weeks glued to my screen, answering emails, comments, and constantly optimising my ad sets based on the data from the analytics.

Chapter 3 header

What have you learned about creating a campaign like this that might inform any similar campaigns you might run in the future?

About 50% of my engagement came within 24 hours of a well-known LinkedIn influencer commenting on my video.

Considering I spent $430 to promote my ads (which had been running for a week by then), that was one valuable comment!

Next time I intend to contact influencers directly and ask them to share my post. I’ve found LinkedIn influencers to be very kind, obliging people.

I had initially set up my campaign so that anyone interested in contacting me was routed to my landing page to fill out a contact form, but people managed to track down my personal LinkedIn page and even my email!

50% of my engagement came within 24 hours of a well-known LinkedIn influencer commenting on my video

I built my landing page using Carrd, a sleek tool that enables you to make a landing page using drag-and-drop, no code required. I included examples of my work, testimonials, my skills and my bio in the website, sprinkling it with “Contact Me” calls to action.

I designed my landing page as a hybrid resume/portfolio experience, but a lot of people skipped over it entirely in favor of contacting me via LinkedIn. I eventually dropped the link to my landing page from the ads entirely, replacing it with my personal email address.

I learned that the LinkedIn community eagerly responds when people show their human side. Next time, I’ll use my personal profile instead of a company page and skip the landing page.

Do you feel like there are any significant differences in marketing when you are ‘the product’ as opposed to other marketing campaigns you’ve put together?

Yes, people are a lot more responsive to humans than to products! About 10% of the people who viewed my ads ended up clicking, commenting, or otherwise engaging. That may not sound like much, but most ads average about 3%.

I A/B tested 2 videos. One featured an animation I had created and the other was a video of my face. The video that showed my face performed 2x better than the animation! It really reinforces what I learned about LinkedIn responding when people show their human side and ask for help.

Chapter 4 header

The biggest question: in your view, has it worked and what are your thoughts on the campaign now it’s run?

I want to preface by saying I’m really glad I did the campaign. The insights and connections I gained from it were invaluable.

However if you’re asking about my initial goal of getting a job, no, it didn’t work. It has been 4 weeks since I started and campaign and I have not received a single job offer.

It’s been a very emotional journey. I’ve had people in other states offer to hire me, except they don’t offer remote positions.

I even got to the 2nd round of interviews for a position I really wanted when I was abruptly dropped and my next interview was canceled. I never found out why. I feel like I’ve come so close to getting hired, but haven’t succeeded.

I’m still glad I did it. I don’t have a job yet (if it’s still the year 2018, chances are I’m still looking. If you’re reading this and know someone hiring, email me:

But I’ve met some incredible people who have given me support and advice beyond what I could have asked for. Worth every penny.

How have companies responded to you? Has it resulted in any interviews or particularly interesting connections being made?

It’s resulted in a few informal interviews over the phone. I’ve gotten to chat with a couple CEOs and some marketing directors.

All extremely inspirational people who took time out of their insane schedules to chat with me and even tell me that they admired what I was doing. I’m really grateful to all of them.

Have there been any particular highlights in the responses you’ve received?

A girl who ran a similar campaign contacted me. Her video had actually gotten so popular it was promoted by LinkedIn and received millions of views! The first thing she said over the phone was “Hey I’ve been exactly where you are now and I just want to give you a big air hug over the phone.

I nearly started crying she said that. It meant a lot to me that a complete stranger wanted to call me just to ask how I was doing.

This entire campaign has been so entangled in every aspect of my life –  in my emotions, my goals, my dreams, and even in my relationships. I guess it all comes full circle.

It started with my humanness, my very vulnerable video asking strangers to help me find a job. And it ended not at a desk in a fancy office, not with a salary, but with real human emotions and connection.

This whole campaign has made me realise how dependent we are on one another to care about each other’s plights. And my goal moving forward is to always, no matter where I am in life, be the person who’s never too busy to help change a stranger’s life.

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