Does design need to be expensive?

3rd October 2014

The scenario

Designers don’t do themselves any favours when they charge serious money for what is essentially drawing and colouring. Especially as anything they produce needs to be updated periodically anyway. Does it matter if a brochure is blue versus green? And whether you use Times New Roman or Arial font? With the free tools available today, small- and medium-sized business owners can cut costs by creating their own logos, using Photoshop to edit and update images and using online templates to produce websites and stationery.

The reality

Well. If only it was that easy. Design only looks effortless when it’s done very well. And it looks awful when it’s done badly. It’s a bit like attempting to save cash by doing your own plumbing or plastering when you’re not trained. You might be lucky and get away with the odd patch-up job but anything more comprehensive or long term will look like a complete eyesore and might even detract from what you already have in place. It’s a false economy.

Where can you cut corners?

Not many places unfortunately, as design is a holistic process, not just a squirt here or a blob there. Everything needs to flow together and look consistent. Take your logo. It might only be a simple symbol like Shell’s or Mitsubishi’s or even just a word in a specific typeface like Asda’s, but it still takes an expert designer to create it to ensure that this fundamental design element will be fit-for-purpose in the long term. This is the foundation of your visual identity and worth investing in especially if it looks minimalist. Your designer will ensure you can apply it in a wide range of business branding scenarios – letterhead, website, brochure, or billboard – without getting distorted or poorly expressed. They will also see that it represents your brand personality, is contemporary and unique to your business.

So if you invest in good design can you compromise on print production? 

Yes you can – but preferably in the quantity rather than the quality. Have you ever picked up a food menu that felt flimsy, cheap and looked garish? It’s not appetizing. It creates an instant impression. Consider carefully what will achieve your business aims. A business card is probably essential but do you also need printed brochures or can you communicate effectively with an e-brochure that can be emailed and updated easily and often? Well designed and produced materials can help to convert prospects into customers instead of turning them off. It’s better to have a few impressive tools than a wide array of tat.

So…back to the original question – does design need to be expensive?

No it doesn’t. But if you want to spend wisely and achieve a good outcome on a limited budget you are best off talking to an expert who has a broad knowledge of design and print rather than trying to DIY. You’re under no obligation to buy but it could save you £££ in the long run.