Whether you run a brick and mortar business, or operate completely online, you will need to have good graphic design. Here’s where and how to get it.
Simply put, graphic design is the creation of any graphic asset that is used to communicate with your target audience or clients. And, as to why you need it… well the list is quite extensive. From a professional logo to the kind of typography you use on your website, graphic design can define how your brand looks and how people perceive it; it can help you boost sales or beat your competition.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on what you need to do to get quality design for your small business.
Define your design needs
While there’s no doubt that you need graphic design, it’s not likely you will need every type of graphic design. Start by creating a list of everything you need to be designed.
It’s a good idea to split the list into projects you need to be done now and something you might require on a regular basis, or sometime in the future (e.g. rebranding).
This won’t just help you pick the right designer, but can also help you define a design strategy that fits your overall business plan. Here are some common types of design projects that many businesses require.
Logo design/brand identity
A logo for your brand is usually a lot more than just that. A logo will define your entire visual identity, and will subsequently impact every other piece of design made.
Sometimes (for example if you’re looking to redesign an existing logo), it won’t be the biggest design project to take on, and with proper guidance and a good design brief, you can even get a mid-level designer to do it right.
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But if you also need someone to create an entire brand identity, then bear in mind that this is a much longer and more complex task, that requires hiring a senior designer, several designers, or even a design agency to complete.
In the day-to-day running of any small business, this is probably the graphic asset that is needed the most. Social media posts or things like thumbnails and banners, blog covers, display ads… these are usually easier to create, which is why many business owners make the mistake of attempting to do the design themselves, with the help of software like Canva.
While it can work in some cases, there’s a reason why business owners shouldn’t do their own design work. First of all, you’re wasting money. As a CEO, you have far more important tasks to do, like get clients, or build brand awareness, or network with potential partners or investors. Every minute you spend trying to figure out if something is centered on your social media post is money wasted.
Next, no matter how good you are for a layperson, the design quality is never going to be the same. You might not notice, and perhaps even your audience might not notice…at first. But using consistent design builds trust, creates brand recognition and prevents you from making common design mistakes that many non-designers make.
If you’re a millennial, or older, then you probably remember the days where you might stumble on a website that looks anything but professional. Well, in this digital age, things are a little different.
Everyone needs an online presence these days (and the coronavirus situation has made that even more obvious), which includes a professionally designed website.
The good news is thanks to numerous website and landing page builders, even complete design beginners can now create nice-looking websites for their business. Platforms like Wix and Shopify, Elementor and Squarespace all come with a set of nifty technical features that will ensure your website is SEO friendly and responsive.
However, bear in mind that if it’s important that your website has a fully customized look and feel (which is perhaps most important in businesses that operate fully online such as SaaS), you might need to hire a UX/UI designer and developer.
Although this type of design is often incorporated into some of the previously mentioned projects, illustrators need a very specific skillset and usually experience in creating different styles of illustration.
If you want to include an illustrated element in your logo or print materials such as brochures and flyers, don’t assume any designer can do it. Ask them about their previous experience and look into their portfolio to get a taste of what they can/can’t do.
If you need something simple and not necessarily custom, there are a few places where you can grab free illustrations (with crediting the designer of course), such as Freepik or Vecteezy. Also, be sure to check out our free illustration library, where we regularly add new illustrations in 5 different styles!
Write a design brief
Good communication is one of the essential skills for any graphic designer, but remember that when it comes to the actual design process, you have to make the first move.
Creating a good design brief doesn’t necessarily require a knowledge of design terminology, but it does require work and research. For example, you can’t expect your brand designer to come up with a brand identity that perfectly captures your values and speaks to your audience if you don’t take the time to explain your work and the industry to them.
Here are a few things you may want to include in your design brief:
- Type and use for the project: for example, it’s business cards, do you need them for a certain event or conference, or do you want to use them regularly.
- Deadlines and deliverables: you’ll have to agree with the designer on this.
- Inspiration: provide similar designs you like or examples from the industry; a great designer will always follow up with more questions to understand your preference and style.
- Existing brand assets (if you already have a brand guide in place, make sure your designer knows what design elements to use (colors, typography, etc.
What does a designer do (and what they don’t)
The scope of graphic design services is truly vast, but remember that different types of designers might not be able to take on every design project. Big graphic design companies (or agencies as they’re usually called) often take care of every aspect of a design project, including things like working on your marketing plan, copywriting and web development.
If you are looking for a service that does all of this for you, then be prepared to pay the big bucks to hire a design agency. Otherwise, make sure that any service agreement outlines the responsibilities of the designer, as well as your own.
For example, if the designer isn’t expected to proofread or edit your copy, it’s not fair to ask for additional (and free) revisions, if you’ve made a typo. Even the simplest changes sometimes require the revision of the complete design, so bear that in mind before you get into a dispute over something your designer wasn’t responsible for in the first place.
Hiring vs outsourcing
Finally, to understand how to get graphic design, you need to know where to get it. There are several different options to consider, but you must start by deciding whether you want to hire someone to work in your office, or whether you want to outsource.
Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of each option.
Hiring a designer in-house means getting someone who understands your brand, and can help you create a successful business with great design. If you find a designer with the right skills, who’s also a good personal fit, this option can be a truly great investment for your business.
However, depending on where your business is located, bear in mind that regular salaries can be quite the drain on your budget; for example, the median pay for graphic designers in the US is $53,380 annually. Moreover, if you don’t require design regularly, it might not be worth having someone employed full-time.
Like we mentioned, design agencies usually take care of pretty much everything design-related, and they take on a chunk of marketing tasks as well.
Because of the heftier price that starts around a few, and goes up to a few hundred thousand dollars, design agencies are not really a viable solution for small businesses and startups. You might consider hiring one for big projects like brand design or website design, but if you want something for the long term, then some of the other outsourcing options are probably better.
There are tons of awesome freelance designers for hire (in fact, the Ibis World 2020 report suggests that around 90% of designers work freelance). So if you want a wealth of choice when it comes to experience levels, rates and skills, this is by far the option that offers the most.
Working with a freelancer means that you can usually find someone that fits your budget and needs perfectly, however, this option might prove to be time-consuming and expensive in the long run. If you need design on a regular basis and don’t want to hire someone full-time, then the best option is unlimited design service.
Unlimited design service
Unlimited graphic design services, like ManyPixels, allow you to request as many designs as you like, for the same flat rate every month.
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Essentially, they give you the flexibility of working with freelancers (different designers with different skill sets working on your requests), with the reliability of a design company (project managers oversee the work and make sure designers are delivering results). The rates of different unlimited design services vary but most commonly range from around $400 to $900.
Without any additional fees such as benefits for full-time employees, or commission charges paid on freelancing platforms, this type of service offers the most affordable design solution for the long term.
If you’d like to learn more about ManyPixels, be sure to check out our scope of service, some of our best works, or feel free to schedule a demo session for an opportunity to ask any questions and see how the service works!