Graphic designer based in Liverpool, UK

The cost of design

I’ve always found it interesting the way that many people – even small business owners – cannot quite quantify the cost of things that aren’t tangible. For example, if it’s a TV on sale, the price is final and you either buy it or don’t. If it’s a car, you may be able to haggle a little, but still understand you’ll be paying a similar sum to that shown. However, when it comes to design, those rules never quite seem to apply. This post seeks to discover why that is and garner a few responses in the comments from fellow designers but perhaps more importantly, from those who aren’t designers. I’d value your opinions.

As someone who always tries to be professional but down to earth and approachable in my work, it does still surprise me when people are taken back by the cost of design, whether that’s a logo, website or maybe just a flyer. Perhaps the most ironic thing is that my rates are lower than many other designers that offer a lower quality service at a higher cost. With that in mind, the question must be asked: Do clients always go with the cheapest option without regard for quality and service? If yes, are they satisfied with what they get for their money and if they are, is it simply because they didn’t see what they could have gotten by spending a little more with someone else?

The clients that I’ve worked with have all understood that the cost of design is recouped in the extra profit gained through good communication with their customers. Unfortunately, many small businesses see the cost as something that will never be reclaimed and is merely an unnecessary expense and so either choose to go with someone who will do anything they’ve asked for for a very low cost and therefore low quality or, in many situations just simply not bother and continue communicating to their customers through the use of bad design if any design at all.

I believe that a lot of small businesses don’t associate the cost of design with the amount of hours put into it but rather, associate the cost with the final item. Many businesses don’t see the amount of time that goes into emailing, sketching, mocking up, variations and finessing, but rather, just see that one, final logo or flyer that may well have taken you 20 minutes to design, but 20 hours to get to that stage. That’s where most of the cost of design comes into play – the time spent working on your project, not the time spent on the final deliverable.

It is perhaps a little saddening that many small businesses feel this way about improving their image with its customers because there are many out there who could use that improvement and would see a return on their investment in a designer through bigger profits. And that’s exactly what working with a designer is – an investment. An investment does not give immediate returns, but rather, grows over the course of weeks or months, recouping your initial payment plus profit. If more businesses saw working with designers like this, I believe that some fantastic things could happen.

As I said in my opening, I would value the opinions of anyone who owns a small business and has always been afraid of working with a designer. Is it the cost that puts you off? Do you feel as if you don’t have enough of an understanding of what it is you want? Or perhaps you have worked with a designer and it hasn’t been a pleasant experience. Whatever it is, I would love to hear your thoughts.