Once upon a time, designers could focus entirely on creating the look of a publication, handing over sketches with lists of fonts and dimensions. But the work that they do expanded radically when desktop publishing was introduced. Now they are frequently expected to implement computer scripts - sometimes quite complex - for flowing copy into templates. This means that designers must have multiple versions of expensive software to hand, and computers that will run these. So, apart from market considerations, designers need higher rates than, say, freelance editors - simply to survive.

Until 2004 QuarkXpress was by far the dominant program for design and page make-up. Freelance designers might have to have two (or more) versions available - the high cost of licenses means that few publications upgrade immediately. Now InDesign is making massive inroads - which means designers face the added expense of installing, updating and learning this as well. Since InDesign works moderately well on Windows computers - and this is part of its appeal to publishers who cannot find enough Mac geeks - an unlucky designer may need to maintain one of these alongside the trusty Mac.

Designers will also need to maintain Windows machines if they are asked to implement "style sheets" in (regrettably often) Microsoft Word™ and scripts to convert these into Quark or InDesign style tags.

This in turn means that designers increasingly have to acquire training skills, not least so that they can explain to the Obits editor why it's no longer good enough to mark headings in bold, and why they have to use a named style instead.

And if this training is to be as painless as possible for all, the designer needs the skills that computer analysts call "requirements analysis" - for example interviewing editors and sub-editors at the very start of the job to find out how they work and what those style tags should be called - using the user-focused Obit hed and Obit hed Lead rather than the design-focused Grot 32pt could save half a day of grief with that desk alone.

Book designers obviously have fewer people to consult - unless they're setting up a series with multiple editors. If they bid to produce ready-for-press files, they may have to consult only themselves.

All this means that it is increasingly important that in negotiating rates for any design job both sides agree on a list of precisely what is expected and what the rate will be for unexpected work. And it means that design for paper and for digital media are converging.

 
More advice and links...
* On negotiating for Design
[www.londonfreelance.org]
* Rates for the Job good, bad and ugly
* Join the NUJ to get individual advice & representation

Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. Comments to ffg@londonfreelance.org please. You may find the glossary helpful.

The National Union of Journalists must not, can not and would not wish to dictate rates or terms of engagement to members or to editors. The information presented here is for guidance and as an aid to equitable negotiation only.

Suggestions apply to contracts governed by UK law only. In any event, nothing here should be construed as legal advice.