June 2013

When you decide to work with a Graphic Designer, I think it is important to have an understanding of the working relationship you are entering in to.  Graphic Design is a unique business in that it is really part service, part product.  While you are paying for a final piece in the end, you are also paying for everything that got you there.

Most importantly, it is crucial to understand that you are not simply paying for the final design.  You are paying for the hours that were spent creating that design, as well as the expertise that the designer brings to the project.  

I have had people ask me if they should have to pay for a design that they didn’t care for.  The answer is – yes, you are obligated to pay the designer.  He or she has worked the hours and should be compensated as such.  

Many designers work a kill fee into their contracts, meaning that if you feel you are not happy with the design at some point during the project, you can pay this portion of the quoted design and stop the process.  This is a fair way to be compensated for the hours, while saving the client frustration and the cost of going through the whole process.

The next thing that it is important to understand and negotiate is what will be the final product.  Many designers have written into their contract that you are buying a print-ready pdf for printed materials.  This ensures that what you receive will print correctly.  Many clients do not have the proper software to open native files, and final pdfs simplify this.  It can be a liability to hand over working files or native files, as if any changes are made, it is impossible for the designer to make guarantees once it has been handled by an external source.  

That said, there are instances when native files are necessary, such as in cases of large corporate clients.  If this is your situation, make sure to make this clear to the designer up front.  This will often come at a higher cost, but very few designers will deny you the files if you negotiate from the beginning, and in the end you will have what you need.

Overall, understanding what you are paying for and how to negotiate will make your transactions go more smoothly and ensure you are a satisfied customer.

I have seen many companies who like to send their projects to many different designers.  While variety may be the spice of life, there are several reasons for building a relationship with one designer and sticking with one design firm.
By working with one design firm, you can ensure that your work is consistent across all platforms and mediums.  This design firm knows your colors, your fonts and your complementary colors – which means you save valuable time explaining why your heading should be in a different font or why you can’t use green in any designs for the second, third or thirteenth time.  
By working with the same design firm, you may get discounts for the sheer quantity of work or repeat business.  You also may be able to negotiate a discounted rate.  I use this approach to business cards.  If clients are willing to allow me to maintain the files and make changes as necessary, I offer a deeply discounted rate on creating cards with new names and information in the future.  This ensures the client gets a superior quality and consistent product at a reasonable price, without the hassle of making changes themselves.
If you use the same design firm all the time, they learn your idiosyncrasies. Maybe you love justified type, or hate the color purple.  A seasoned designer will make a note of this, and make sure that in the future, you get the project the way you want the first time.  You won’t have to waste time reexplaining yourself and making unnecessary revisions.
This may not work for all businesses, but more often than not, building strong relationships will empower your brand with stronger, more consistent messaging.  Your customers will thank you.