Design Domination Podcast Episode #39: 18 Things to Check Before Preparing Design Proofs

As a designer, you have to pay attention to the details. Clients don’t want to babysit, and you don’t want to feel like they are looking over your shoulder. Find out 18 things to check before preparing design proofs to keep your work sharp and have you looking like an expert.

I just had to do an episode about this because it is a sad reality that most designers do not check their work. Clients don’t want to babysit designers, and by “babysit,” I mean point out issues that the designer didn’t notice as a result of not checking their work before sending a proof to the client.

That’s certainly embarrassing, and I’m sure you don’t want to feel like anyone is looking over your shoulder either. I mean, if you’re trying to come across as an expert, should someone have to tell you that you missed a spot in some Photoshop work or that you left out a chunk of text in the layout?

If you’re trying to come across as an expert, you’ve got to pay attention to the details. Clients shouldn’t have to tell you to do that, and they might choose not to work with you if they have to. They need an expert, not someone else to manage.

So let’s fix that! Here are 18 things to check before preparing design proofs.


The first set of checks relates to the design. Look for:

  1. Proper color mixes, especially if you’re working with an existing brand color palette.
  2. No extraneous fonts that you meant to replace from their Word document or your having tried out some fonts in the process and you’re not still using any fonts that you meant to replace.
  3. Photos are the proper resolution. You definitely don’t wait until the last minute to check this, only to ask the client right before printing if they have a higher-resolution image.
  4. Photos have been adjusted for color and brightness. If you have a whole bunch of muddy or dark photos in the layout, you want to make sure that you fix them up a little bit. Of course, if this is a first draft and you don’t even know if you’ll be using those photos, so either make a note to explain that or take care of it if it makes sense to go ahead and do that.
  5. Photoshop work is clean. Again, if it’s a rough draft, and you’re just putting something together to get the design approved, and you’re going to touch it up later, just make a note, tell them that.


The second set of checks relates to the content. Compare the content in your file against the original. Check:

  1. Hierarchy of headings. Does the hierarchy of headings in your layout match what’s in their Word document? In other words, is this level of subhead the same as this one? If there’s another subhead below that one, does that match what it should in your document? Of course, sometimes, they get these all messed up because they don’t use styles in Word. So it can be difficult to determine which heading level they do want to have. They sometimes end up all looking the same.
  2. Formatted text such as bold, italics, superscript, subscript, etc.
  3. Bulleted or numbered lists.
  4. Proper typographic marks. If you missed it, please check out episode 31 all about typographic marks. What I’m talking about is using proper en or em dashes instead of hyphens where they should be, and using an ellipsis instead of three dots.
  5. Images that should have been included were not left out.
  6. Sidebars or pull quotes are included in the layout if they should be.
  7. Hyperlinks are visually styled if it’s a digital-only document, not a print file. When you create a PDF that is going to be shared via e-mail or downloaded from a website, that’s an interactive PDF. So you want to make sure that those hyperlinks are clickable.
  8. Hyperlinks are actually functional and have been checked in InDesign’s Hyperlinks panel to make sure none are broken. The Hyperlinks panel will show you with a green or red light if the light is valid or broken, respectively.
  9. Footnotes and endnotes are included.
  10. Greek or mathematical symbols show up properly. I work on a lot of publications that have these kinds of symbols and they’re medical or scientific in nature. I always go back through the Word document and make sure that wherever those symbols show up, they’re the same in my layout file. Sometimes what happens is that clients use the wrong character in Word, and they’re using a font instead of the actual Unicode character, so it doesn’t come across properly in your layout file.


These checks relate to the layout.

  1. Widows and orphans. Check each page for widows and orphans. Go through your document and check that no single word appears on a line by itself and no single line of a paragraph sits at the top of a page by itself).
  2. Table of contents. If you’ve got a table of contents, make sure you update it so that it’s accurate.
  3. Spelling (via live check or running a spell check).

I want to hear from you. What do you think of my list? Is there anything else you check for? Let me know by e-mail, posting under the episode at or on YouTube, or in the Design Domination Facebook group. The YouTube channel is new, so please hop on over there and subscribe.

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