Sunday, April 11, 2010

Can't I Design It Myself?

(Part 3 in a four-part series)

In continuing this series I'll explore the most often-asked question posed to graphic designers from all walks of life. It is also, in many cases, the most rewarding question ever asked of me. What I have done in this four-part series is offered some further introspection on this riddle by analyzing the four points most often asked by clients when this question is posed: 1) easy to do; 2) saving time; 3) saving money; and 4) I'm the business owner.

Today I'll look at #3, saving money.

Who doesn't want to save money these days? There's nothing wrong with saving a few dollars, especially when it comes to the bottom line of your financial statement. A business is profitable by having more income than outgoing bills. These days a business owner has to determine how to market his or her business with as reasonable a cost as can be expected within their marketshare. The big question business owners are considering these days is, "how much is this going to cost?" Some are answering with, "Why can't I design it myself? I'll save money by not outsourcing."

Marketing a business has never been cheap. In order to get people to realize your business is up and running, that takes advertising. The mediums as well as the costs of advertising can vary from print to internet to networking, but the bottom line is you have to get the word out. When you have a newspaper ad designed and published, that's marketing to many people within a certain space for a specified cost; this cost is based on the amount of readership the newspaper holds as well as the size of the ad, and whether the ad is black and white, spot color, or a full-color ad. Take landscaping and a simple flyer as an example: when a landscaper has a flyer created and printed, he or she has the potential to have that flyer seen by at least thirty people (figure approximately two people per household and mulitply that by approximately fifteen homes within two blocks of the current customer). The potential exposure, along with the marketing budget of the customer, has to be taken into consideration when pricing graphic design.

Also, the design itself must be reflective of the cost. If you're looking for a new business card, you may not pay as much for a simple typesetting design as you might for a photo and typesetting. Obviously what a graphic designer desires for income figures in, but overhead must also be figured in: paper, ink, and electricity, for starters.

The printing itself also must be thought about and shopped based on what type of artwork vs. what the print shop's specialty is. Most graphic designers have at least one print shop they work with regularly, thus being familiar with their printing process and file requirements. The graphic designer works with the print shop to recommend different finishing touches, such as rounded corners, die cuts, or glossy on 16pt. stock rather than UV coating. Then, depending on the medium, how it will be used and potential exposure, the graphic designer can make recommendations on how the artwork should look and what type of artwork, if any, to use. Equally important is whether or not the chosen print shop will print your project in-house or have it outsourced.

Lastly, all marketing material should look consistent (not necessarily exact). This is the beginning of branding for a company. Consistency is critical because a customer can come from anyone at any time. If you use a particular piece of artwork or color on your business card, it should translate well to stationary, postcards, bookmarks, flyers, and a web site. What this means for your business and to your potential customer is brand name recognition -- being able to recognize your company's name on sight, thus distinguishing your business from your competition.

Now that you have an inside view as to what can be involved process-wise, one very important point must be recognized: YOUR TIME. As we discovered in the previous two sections, graphic design isn't as easy as it looks and can be a bit intense on time depending on the project. Your time is probably THE most important asset to your company; unwisely spent, and it could cost your company. Hiring an outside design source is good project-managing and allows the business owner to concentrate his or her time with current or potential customers and close that sale.

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