High-quality graphic design is an essential component of marketing. If you’ve ever hired a graphic design company or marketing agency to design for your business, you know it can also be expensive.
Design costs can be tricky to estimate, and you can easily exceed your budget if you aren’t careful. The quest for the brochure that looks just right or the tradeshow display that has the modern design you envisioned can take more hours and rounds of changes than you planned for. It’s a different kind of expense than tangible products that can be priced out to the cent.
You’ll be surprised how much money you can save on graphic design and how much faster your projects can get turned around by simply being prepared before you put in a design request. Don’t start another marketing job until you read about these tips to save money on graphic design.
Tip #1: Have a Vision
The fastest way to set yourself up for a hefty graphic design bill is to begin a project with a blank slate and no specific vision of what you want to see. That’s not to say that it’s a crime to put total trust in the designers you’re hiring. If they’re good, they’ll do quality work, and there may be situations when it’s beneficial to let them do their thing and provide you with numerous variations from which to choose. Just be prepared to pay accordingly.
However, if you’re operating on a tight budget and timeframe as most marketing professionals are, you probably won’t want to take that risk. Providing your agency with a roadmap — regardless of how crude — makes a difference.
A common way to do this is to supply a mockup or sketch of what you’re thinking. If there’s a certain design style you want to see, draw it. Write out on the sketch (or provide in an accompanying Word document) the copy you want to include. If you’ve got photos in mind that you’d like to use, provide them or make a note for where you want the design team to put placeholders.
Don’t fret if your mockup is sloppy or incomplete. Something is better than nothing. Graphic designers are creative and visual individuals, so any imagery you can provide will help them get the ball rolling and enable them to turn your project around more quickly.
Tip #2: Provide Brand Standards, Existing Look and Feel or Examples of Something You Like
Whenever you are developing a marketing piece, you want to keep your brand in mind. Consistency is key so anyone familiar with your brand will be able to quickly recognize it.
If you are working with a graphic design company or marketing agency for the first time, provide them with your brand standards and ensure they understand how to implement your branding. In addition, supplying a few examples of existing marketing pieces will give them an idea of the look and feel you want to achieve.
If your company doesn’t have established brand standards, it’s highly recommended. If you foresee working with the same graphic design team for multiple future projects, work with them do create a brand standards document.
If you don’t have established brand standards but need to proceed with a project anyway, at least provide the designers with examples of designs, colors and graphics you like that they can use for inspiration.
Remember, you’re giving them the foundational elements they need to complete projects more quickly and with fewer rounds of changes.
Tip #3: Provide Proper Files
Regardless if you’re just submitting a photo or logo to be incorporated into a design or supplying complete design files to be preflighted before going into production, it’s essential that you send proper file formats that are set up correctly.
Submitting incorrect file types or files with issues will result in project delays and added graphic design expenses. When designers need to troubleshoot file problems, it causes design time to add up — time you didn’t account for when the project began. In addition, your agency may charge you a file resubmission fee each time it becomes necessary for you to send them a new file.
If you don’t have extensive graphic design knowledge, talk to your contact at the agency for details of the files needed and how to properly provide them. Following their feedback for file setup will help you save money on graphic design.
Adventure’s Supplied File Guidelines document is a great resource on this topic. Check it out if you need help.
Tip #4: Make Change Requests Clear
Chances are, a couple rounds of changes will be necessary to get the design approved, particularly if the design is something created from scratch (as opposed to a situation where a previously approved design is picked up for minor edits). When trying to save money on graphic design, the goal, in this case, should be to minimize the number of rounds of changes needed.
Your role in ensuring design time doesn’t get out of control is making sure the changes you want made are communicated clearly to the graphic design team. How do you do that?
Our first tip is to directly reference the provided proof. More than likely, it will be a digital proof in the form of a PDF.
If this is the case, you can use the tools available in your PDF viewer. Here’s how to do it in Adobe Acrobat Reader:
1. Display the page on which you want to make notes
2. Click “Comment” on the Tool Pane
3. Click the “Add Sticky Note” button from the Comments Toolbar
4. Click to add the sticky note where the edit is needed
5. Type the note in the Comment Pane on the right side of the screen and click “Post”
6. Note all necessary changes and save the PDF
Another option is to print off the proof, write your notes on it, scan it (or take a high-quality picture of it) and email it to your agency contact. If you go this route, just make sure your handwriting is legible. If necessary, number your notes and type them out in a separate Word document that you can also send to the agency for reference.
If your changes are minor enough, you may be able to just reply to the email from which you received the proof and communicate what edits are needed.
Regardless of which method you use, don’t leave anything to chance if you have any concerns about how easy your change requests are to understand. If you have doubts, contact your agency to schedule a phone call or screen share to go over the changes and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Tip #5: Be Cognizant of Hours
It can be easy to get wrapped up in the development of the design and lose track of just how long it’s taking to be completed. By the time it’s all said and done, you could go way over your design budget.
When you hire a graphic design team, one of your responsibilities is closely monitoring design time. This is especially true when dealing with changes. Many marketers underestimate the design time required to make changes, even minor ones, and then are caught off guard by the design bill.
A good way to avoid this problem is to ask for an update of project design hours when you receive a proof. Then, if changes are needed, ask for an estimate of the amount of design time needed to make the changes.
By keeping a running total of design time, you can decide whether or not you have the flexibility to have the designers continue to tweak the design or if you need to proceed with the current version to avoid going over budget.
Tip #6: Contact Your Agency as Needed
When working with an agency, your motto should be, “When in doubt, contact the agency.” Communication is key when working on a project as a team. If there’s a breakdown in communication, mistakes can be made, projects can be delayed and graphic design expenses can add up.
Some marketers may be afraid of becoming a “helicopter client” and checking in with the agency too much. But at the end of the day, they work for you, and it’s their responsibility to accommodate your requests to the best of their ability if they want to keep you as a client.
You should never be hesitant to reach out to your agency if you have any questions, comments or concerns.