December 4, 2015

How much should design cost?

Question: How much should design cost?

Designer versus Client
In an ideal world most clients would like to have lots of choice, be involved at every stage of the creative process and have an unlimited number of revisions to ensure they get the perfect design. They want the best possible design money can buy without sending their budget sky high. Ultimately designers want the same as their clients – to spend adequate time on the project, to thoroughly research, explore, refine and deliver great design, all for a realistic price. In order to achieve this there has to be an appropriate amount of time invested into the project. And it should be seen as an investment, as good design should pay dividends.

One size doesn’t fit all
I have worked on projects ranging from a few hundred pounds to tens of thousands. Each project successfully delivered to the clients satisfaction. So why do some clients pay thousands when others get away with paying a few hundred pounds, I hear you cry? Well, the answer is quite simple…

Budgets should be relative to the size of the project, the client and most importantly their expectations. For example, a small local business turning over £50k a year is going to have a very different budget to that of a national business with a multi-million pound turnover. The challenges faced by each of these, whilst similar, are on very different scales, therefore different amounts of time need to be invested in order to fully understand a project and deliver an appropriate logo, visual identity or brand.

Sometimes a client knows their product or business, target audience and market inside out and can present a concise project brief. Other clients may not be particularly design or marketing savvy and need a helping hand. Either way, it’s the designers job to challenge any preconceived ideas and involve the client throughout the creative process. Before a designer can give an accurate range of costs he or she will need to talk at some length to their client. This helps both parties understand the objectives, the scale of the project and agree the deliverables.

There are no price tags
Each client and project is different – there are no fixed price tags for ‘great’ design. Design is after all an investment of time. The more you invest the more you get in return – it’s a simple equation that needs to be understood by clients and designers alike. Yes, designers wish every project had a budget running into the tens of thousands of pounds allowing them to spend weeks and months on end designing, refining and whittling away until perfection is achieved, but not all clients have those kind of budgets. Clients on the other hand often ask for ‘the moon on a stick’ for the most modest of budgets. Again, this is an unrealistic expectation, so a compromise needs to be agreed before the creative process can begin.

As a designer with some fifteen years experience I often guide clients when it comes to the ‘how much will it cost’ question based on similar sized projects and clients but I avoid blindly sending out estimates as this can often be a complete waste of time. Until I have a thorough understanding of a clients objectives, expectations and the scale of the project I can’t possibly give an accurate indication of costs. Go in too high or too low and I run the risk of losing a potential client before we’ve even begun.

Isn’t it just hot air
Yes, talking to potential clients at length before budgets have been agreed takes time and doesn’t always pay off. But in my experience a willingness to spend time understanding your clients objectives puts you in a much stronger position. For example, your potential client has probably asked three or more other designers to quote on the work. Without a comprehensive understanding of the project your competitors will be shooting in the dark. By talking to your client you may discover that they’ve asked you to quote on a particular type of project when in fact their objectives could better be achieved by delivering something else.

Once you have spent time talking and getting to know your potential client you will be in a much stronger position when it comes to discussing costs and budgets. Drop in a few ‘free’ gems of advice along the way and there is a much better chance the potential client will turn into a paying client.

Advice for designers
Plan your time wisely. Know your clients budget, agree the deliverables and manage the clients expectations at every step of the project. Produce the best possible design time and money allows.

Advice for clients
Invest what you can. Agree a realistic budget with your designer and understand what you will get for your money.

Designers don’t always get to spend as much time as they would like on a project and clients often wish they had larger budgets. It’s all about finding a middle-ground in order to achieve a successful conclusion.

Paying too much or too little can be damaging to both the client and the designer. As a designer I want every project to be a success and for every client to prosper. The more successful my clients are, the more projects they will bring my way, the more I prosper – it’s a beautiful thing!