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Understanding the Design Industry

Every now and then, we see an article posted about the creative and graphic design industry intended to inform or educate customers about our industry, or what we wish our customers knew or understood about it. The problem with these articles is, while we might agree with them, they tend to come off as a bit snarky. In reality, don’t we all work in an industry that we wish had better understanding from our customers? Doesn’t the clerk in the fast food restaurant wish their customers understood they don’t control how hot the food is?

So in the spirit of better customer service for all, here are some tips to understanding our industry, that actually translate to just about anything:

1. Set a realistic timeline

Like any industry, quality work takes time. We wish we could deliver great creative work instantly, but it just doesn’t happen that way. Our best tool is our own brain, not the computer, just like a great photographer isn’t great because of the camera. Our work begins with creative brainstorming, then putting pencil to paper, and finally moves to the computer for refining and finishing.

2. Establish a budget

While our industry is changing (and whose isn’t?) we still have overhead, and as much as we would love to donate all of our work, alas we must charge for it in order to keep people employed, machines running, etc. We encourage our customers to ask questions about cost and get an estimate up front. Much like you would ask for an estimate to build a home, repair a car, or have braces put on your children’s teeth, it’s a good thing to think about the budget up front. Like most professionals, we take pride in our work, and hope our customers appreciate the value we bring.

3. Trust but verify

We employ experts in the field, just as most industries do and our design experts have spent years earning a degree and gaining experience. So we ask that you trust our expertise about the creative process and good design work. To question every design option presented or ask for edits, which change the integrity of the design is a waste of your time and money. But do verify. Ask to see our portfolio or ask for client references.

4. Ask about our tools

We welcome questions about our design tools, and appreciate that you have asked. Much like an auto mechanic uses specific tools for specific repairs, we too use very specific software programs that help us get the job done. To use tools not suited for design is not a good use of your dollars or our time.

5. Honor ethics, integrity and the law

Unlike many others our industry is mostly unregulated. However, there are some areas that are, most notably the area of intellectual property. For us this usually comes in the way of copyright or trademarks. While we often use art supplied to us from various sources, we must use art in which the copyright has been released. That means we cannot grab photos, illustrations or text from online resources without paying for them. Can you imagine requesting a service technician such as a plumbing or electrical contactor to use parts which have not been paid for? We can’t either.

6. How big of a house do you want?

We approach many of our projects like a homebuilder. We can’t answer the question “how much will my website cost?” until we know how big (complex, or interactive) it will be. Sometimes I hear myself asking a client, how many rooms do you want in your website? This is a great analogy for helping customers understand the wide expanse of potential costs for any design project, whether it be a website, new branding, corporate brochure, or direct mail. And lastly if you add on rooms (additional design projects) expect to pay for those as well.

Understanding our industry will serve you for many years to come, like most things in life.