Richard Toland

Helping Businesses Reach Graphic Nirvana

Living in Lousiville, Kentucky, I am seasoned Senior Graphic Designer of fifteen years who has had the pleasure of working with large corporations such as Educational Testing Services, Tri-Lyn, Vision Travel Solutions and Abbott as well as a multitude of small mom and pop businesses and startups creating and designing marketing collateral, branding guides, multi-page brochures, catalogs, infographics and social media content. As a practicing UX Designer and Web Developer, I have worked on projects for Ellery Homestyles, SDA Lighting, Hodara Real Estate Group, and The Wallace Foundation.

I’ve had too many clients reaching out to me after having a negative experience with several other designers/creative agencies, which resulted in their time being wasted, resources used up, budgets blown, deadlines being missed, and above all else ending up with less than quality work. It’s a problem I see all too often and It does not have to be this way. That being said, here are the biggest problems I see everyday and how you, the client, can avoid them.

And YES, I do have a solution for you for all of these!

The Issues

"Barnes & Noble Cowboys"

Yes, this is a very real thing and far more prevalent than anyone in the graphics industry is willing to admit. What is a “Barnes-N-Noble Cowboy”? Well in a nut shell, it’s the self-taught designers that went out to Barnes-N-Noble on Friday afternoon, bought a few books, spent the weekend reading them, and then declared themselves a graphic designer on Monday morning. Every time I hear someone is “self-taught”, I literally get nauseous.

Look at this this way, let’s say your car breaks down. You take your car to a mechanic. Which would you rather have?

A. The guy that read a few books, fixed his cousin’s car once, and now tells you he can fix your car without even asking any questions or opening up the hood in the first place.


B. An honest mechanic that is certified, will run the proper tests to determine the problem, and then…only after they have identified the problem… give you options to address the problem.

It is NOT enough to just look at a designer’s portfolio. You need to look at their resume. Ask about their education and experience. Do they have a degree specifically in the graphic design arena? Have they spent any time in a real production department such as a corporate graphic department or an ad/marketing agency? Do they have references they can provide?

Holds a Bachelor's Degree in Visual and Graphic Design and spent over 8 years in a Corporate Production Department at Educational Testing Services (ETS).

Using the Correct Software

There are no two ways about it… You need to use the proper software to achieve the proper results. Period.

All to often I hear clients say they would like a clean, professional and effective brochure for their business. However, the previous version was done in Word..

Microsoft Word is a word processor, hence the name. It is not, and has never been, intended to be used to create professional marketing collateral. It is NOT design software! You need to use software, such as InDesign or Quark, that is specifically created to produce such materials.

Certified expert in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

File Ownership

The laws regarding Intellectual property are complex and change all the time. To further complicate things, they are almost never written in plain English. However, both state and federal laws have always been very clear regarding file ownership itself. ANY file (photoshop, Illustrator, PDF, Word document, etc.) created by a designer by default is owned by that designer unless one of two things occur. Either A, there was a written agreement up front detailing ownership between both parties or B, a client pays for the work to be done.

In the later case, the designer is legally required to turn over all of the original files associated with the creation of that piece, not just a copy of the final piece. These files are commonly referred to as the Production files. Turning over jpegs, PDFs, png files, etc. is not enough and all to often freelancers do not include them... forcing the client to return to them for any future edits or work.

Always include the original files as part of the deliverables for every project.

Never reuses any part of a project for anyone else's project, including the overall design!


Procrastination is prevalent in the freelancing world because some freelancers have the entire day to themselves. They tend to procrastinate and drag a project out beyond its timeline. When they finally do work (after the client has started to lose his temper), quality suffers and they are unable to produce something that can make them proud or more importantly, make the client happy.

Deadlines are hard set and should never be missed. Yet I see other freelancers treat deadlines more like general suggestions than anything else. Missed deadlines cost you time and money.

Proud to say in 17 years as a professional designer, never missed a deadline.

Ignoring Guidelines

This is probably the worst mistake freelancers make. Ignoring a client’s guidelines means the freelancer is either too careless or too proud to look at the guidelines. If the freelancer is a thorough professional, they would read every line carefully and make sure that the client’s demands are fulfilled. But because freelancers are always in a hurry mode, they do not always read the requirements and just set about working mindlessly. The end result is sometimes far from what the client wants it to be. The client then demands revisions and the freelancer will have to spend more time on their project, causing other projects to suffer

Always asks if there are guidelines, styleguides, or any other branding and actually reads them before starting the work.

Quality Samples, Not Quality Work! - Outsourcing

A high percentage of freelance clients will cite this problem: “The freelancer sent me a great sample, but when I got my hands on the actual work, it was far from the quality seen in the samples.” The samples freelancers send are often of high quality to persuade the client into hiring that freelancer. However, some freelancers will outsource projects. Problems arise when the outsourced work falls absolutely short of the client’s expectations. This makes the client feel cheated and the freelancer won’t get any repeat business from that client.

Never outsources projects. When necessary, I do have one trusted partner that I have worked with for years to insure the work gets done on time and correctly.


As the name itself indicates, freelancers are autonomous – not only in the sense of being self-employed, but also in the sense of working when and where they want. They are free to make their own schedules. Also, they can work on several projects for different companies if they choose. What does that mean for you, as a business owner? Well, a freelancer is free to work on your project when they feel inspired to work on it, not when you need them to. Thus, you won’t always receive prompt updates about their work progress.

Clients know exactly when I will be working on their project and I alays keep them in the loop.

Bachelor’s Degree — Digital and Graphic Design

Eight and half years in a Corporate Production Department

Nine years as a Professional Freelance Designer

$30 an hour, Billed weekly by Electronic Invoice

Stop wasting your Time, Money, and Effort!

Hire a Professional!