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Best Practice

Who do I need for what?

Recently, a client called asking for advice about who he should be looking for to develop proprietary icons. He knew he needed a specialist, but didn't know how to target his search. It is confusing. So lets define the types of help companies sometimes need and how to go about looking for them.

There are basically three types of presentation support resources:

  1. Designer
  2. Illustrator
  3. Presentation-development specialist.

There may very well be some skill overlap, but lets discuss them as if there is none.


A designer usually has design training/education. Designers usually develop marketing collateral and branding schemes. They can also develop the backgrounds used in PowerPoint and other presentation software templates. Designers work with development software like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, etc. Their designs are usually not editable by the client unless they have the same software and request the production files (which is a good idea). Directing a designer is important. They should receive copies of the company's logo and any other existing marketing collateral so that they can blend their designs in with existing material. It's also important to explain the tone you want set with the design work, who your audience is going to be, and any other visual messages you desire.


Illustrators work primarily with Adobe Illustrator and develop computer drawn images like proprietary icons, drawings of products, specialized clipart, sometimes custom conceptual frameworks, etc. Illustrators have their own style, so it's important to select an illustrator that develops work in a style that is similar or to or complements the other content of your marketing collateral and/or presentations. That's very important. Therefore it's important to provide them with examples of what you are looking for and the style that best suits your purposes. They'll be able to tell you if they can produce it for you. Additionally, illustrators need very exact information about the drawings they will be producing. Don't skimp on the information. It's easier to draw it right the first time than to edit or redraw, and much lest costly.

Presentation-development specialist

You should reasonably expect a presentation-development specialist to be able to produce new slides based on your hand-drawn or verbal (less desirable) ideas, rebalance slides so that they utilize the slide real estate as well as possible, interpret bullet points into visually enhanced slides using photographs and/or conceptual frameworks, and add value by addressing or surfacing consistency, continuity, grammar, spelling issues. They should also assist with helping you choreograph the development process by avoiding double masters, coordinating input to the content, etc. They work in PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.

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There are some presentation-development specialists that can also illustrate. There are some illustrators who can also design, and there are some presentation-development specialists who can design and illustrate. But they invariably have a primary skill that is stronger. Put your team together carefully and make sure they know how to work together. Your presentation-development specialist should develop presentation content that does not detract from the overall template design, etc.