Can investing in great graphic design really save you money?


Having known and worked with established businesses and entrepreneurs in the past, we're sympathetic to the fact that when you’re just starting out, graphic design can fall lower on your list of priorities than maybe it should. The cost of graphic design can seem extravagant when you’re simply trying to make a go of things. Often it seems like getting the bare essentials of a logo and a business card made up as quickly and frugally as possible will tide you over. In fact, it often does...in the short term. 

The problems with this start to show themselves later down the line, when you’re doing well, business is picking up and you’ve established yourself. The time comes when you will look to expand and you need your visual branding to represent your company well amongst those whom you admire. The problem our clients are often faced with is that their early design work was created in isolation, without thinking about the future and how it would fit into a broader visual identity. 

Ultimately, the sooner you can crystallise your visual identity the better as it can build trust and help you make money, but also save money in the long run.

In our time working with various clients from businesses large and small we’ve seen many common themes and issues arise, many of which have resulted in more financial outlay. Here are some examples we’ve come across in the past.

The logo was only provided in a single format.

We’re often amazed by the number of clients who don’t have their logo on file in a number of industry standard formats. The net result is often that we can’t obtain the correct file format for a specific job and have to redraw the logo. Now of course if you’re logo were a simple square with no text, it wouldn't take long to do. But that isn’t often the case and so we’re faced with two issues. The first is recreating the logo itself, this takes time. The second is finding the typeface that was used to create the text portion or wordmark. This takes time and money as we have to find the typeface and then purchase a license for it. Or again recreate it if it’s custom. This is essentially re-doing the artwork stage of your original logo design all over again! 

The original colour palette contained bright orange. 

This sounds perfectly acceptable right? We don’t have an aversion to orange by the way. The colour itself isn’t the issue. What the designer had failed to tell the client was that certain colours, including bright orange, can’t be printed without using special “spot” premixed colours. This means that in a full colour brochure for example, another ink has to be added to the job which increases costs. The cost implications are greater as you are paying for the initial setup. Many printers won’t recommend a job with spot colour unless you go for a long run of prints. So what if you just need a few invitations? This has led to a situation where the client, who now produces more printed materials in line with the size of the company, has to pay more for print. If the budget allows that then it’s okay in a sense, however the client wasn’t made aware and is now suffering the consequences.

A little more investment in a more knowledgeable design team could have raised this issue way back when the logo and colour palette were being created. The logo, while apparently saving money in the first instance, may eventually lead to continual costs beyond that of a well designed logo from a seemingly more expensive design service.

The client wasn’t assigned a font / typeface.

This often seems frivolous to new clients. However it can be one of the most important aspects of the early design stage. A typeface can set the mood for everything you say in print and on screen. It can have a strong psychological impact on an audience and influence the way they perceive what is being said.

Making this decision further down the line means that some of the more innocuous items such as letterheads and everyday communications end up having to be updated or reprinted to accommodate the necessary unification of a visual identity. Again, this reprinting is a cost that could have been avoided earlier on.

No defined visual language.

The visual look and feel of many of our client’s artwork when they first approach us is disparate and unclear. The finer points of how they want to be perceived by their audience weren’t discussed at the beginning and so they have been trying to create their own design language, based on various loose assumptions, over months or even years. The result is a visual style that lacks definition and so is hard for people to recognise and connect with. The issue arises that everything just looks slightly different every time people come in to contact with it. Each piece of design created is almost an experiment in searching for a visual style or identity. Trying to get this right every time you produce a new piece of work is going to cost and waste both time and money.

During the process of creating a visual identity, including logo, stationery and so on, time should be devoted to considering these aspects, asking targeted questions about the clients and their aims. Are you a friendly company? Do you want to seem authoritative or relaxed? Are you interested in showing your commitment to the environment? The answers to these kinds of questions can help make a great many decisions before the artwork is even started.

The logo doesn’t fit in that little box on twitter.

Online presence is vital to businesses so we find it surprising that logos seem to be designed without any consideration for where they will be applied. On printed materials a logo can be made bigger and so legible. However when shrunk down to the size of a twitter profile picture they become impossible to decipher and appear as a nondescript pixellated splodge. Investing a little more time in the process and asking questions about the intended application for your design work will ensure that you’ve got all bases covered. Again, redesigning a logo or creating a new derivative icon for your online presence will cost you more than if it was integrated into the original design process.

The logo was designed simply to go at the top of the website.

Online presence is at the forefront of many people’s business plan. Often clients will have a website made before they even think about the rest of their visual branding. A website and social media presence are parts of the overall visual identity, just as a logo or brochure is. However starting with a website then applying that visual style to the rest of your marketing can be problematic. For example it’s possible that you won’t get your logo in the formats necessary, or again the super cool bright blue colour on your website will cost a fortune in print fees.

So while it’s understandable that these things are overlooked early on, especially if your designer isn't making you aware of potential pitfalls, ideally your graphic design should be made a part of a broader business plan. It’s definitely worth considering if more investment could be made sooner rather than later.

That advertisement is for everyone, and no-one.

It’s well known that blanket direct marketing has a quite small percentage return on investment. But we have found in the past that this can be helped dramatically by targeted and thoughtful design. If we carefully think about who we’re aiming at and how to connect with them, we can get a better return on investment with fewer materials. That’s good financially and also environmentally.

Their printed materials are okay. But that's all.

It's perfectly possible to get a piece of printed material such as a brochure created for a low cost. However the design will likely come from a predetermined bank of layouts or templates, without taking the time to really consider what it's trying to achieve or who it's aimed at,  becoming generic and staid. Professional designers consider the ultimate goal of the work and the ins and outs of what it's being created for. Getting a quality bespoke design from a skilled designer may take longer and perhaps cost more initially, but the impact of that piece will be greater than something that has nothing to separate it from all the others out there and engage with audiences on another level. The emotional resonance that can be achieved by utilising a high standard of design can lead to a higher return on investment.

Conclusion

A professional design service will always consider the broad scope of your needs as a client. They’ll get to know you and the best solutions for you through carefully planned research and close interaction with you. In turn your design will exude the feeling you want it to and connect with the right people. This is where the value of good design is and though a big initial investment it will ultimately pay dividends.