Are artwork fees good value?
If you don't normally like spending money on professional artwork services then you really ought to read this page...
Be prepared - we tell it like it is with blunt, honest straight-talk, so if you are a "have-a-go" designer then please be warned that you may find this article slightly uncomfortable reading.
With the ever-increasing availability of cheap design packages and page design "wizards", it is becoming more and more tempting for people to tackle artwork themselves. Because of this, the value of good artwork is often overlooked and an attitude has developed whereby people don't like to pay for artwork because they feel they can do it themselves.
Design and artworking isn't about simply getting text, images, and colours onto a page. It's about understanding the purpose of the design, provoking a response or a reaction, understanding marketing, and, essentially, making a sale. Graphic design should be left to professionals who have a grasp of these things and unless you are a designer with some training then you really should not tackle the design job yourself, at least not for business purposes.
Bad design can be a real turn-off for your potential clients. Believe us, we have seen it happen so many times.
You should be prepared to invest a proportion of your budget on artwork and design, to ensure that the message and the image that you are paying to have reproduced is as effective as it can be. It baffles us why there are still so many business people willing to spend good money on quality printing and signage but so little on the design work.
Whether you like it or not, people are fickle and superficial when it comes to judging a company from its design choices. It really does pay to have good design work!
A lot of our industry's production processes are driven on good quality hardware, which demands a high quality source material. But the best quality printing in the world cannot make bad artwork look good. Bad artwork always looks bad, no matter how lovely the inks, papers, or banner fabrics are.
Artwork Fees vs "Free" Artwork
It's plain to see that we are suggesting that artwork fees are indeed good value (provided they are not overpriced of course). We'll make no bones about it - you get what you pay for in life as well as in business and anyone offering "free artwork" will in fact be offering a second-rate artworking service which very often isn't worth being billed for in the first place. Professionals who are good at what they do value their work and they understand that this work has tremendous value to you. If you pay nothing, quite often you get nothing. We know of many clients who are actually very dubious of "free artwork" and always opt for top quality paid-for design to be created. It is often the smartest business people who understad the real value of investing in professional artwork. Try to see "free artwork" for what it really is - it's of no real value to you if you are serious about projecting a good outward image for your business.
Few people want the hassle of printing their own leaflets or business cards which is why they go to a reputable printer. Yet when it comes to artworking and designing, many people are lured by the temptation to be creative. The act of being creative is very pleasant for most people as it is a highly desirable, rewarding activity.
However, unless you are genuinely good at it, this is one temptation that should always be avoided with your business material. Your idea of a "great design" may have been fun and enjoyable to create and it may even look nice, but without the expert eye and sense of judgement of a professional designer it could project a disastrous image for your business.
Bad planning, design "crimes", poor composition, or misjudging the core values of your material can render the final product worthless and a total waste of time and money.
Common Problems with DIY Artwork
Graphic designers, printers, sign makers and web developers all have one thing in common - the frustration that is caused by an artwork file which has been supplied by a "have-a-go" designer. If you are that "have-a-go" designer then you may have caused one or more of these problems youself:
Composition and layout isn't as easy as you might think. There are rules to follow, techniques to employ, and tricks of the trade. Without sound knowledge of these things, layout and composition is almost always ropey in home-made design pieces.
Improper use of fonts / bad fonts
So many "have-a-go" designers simply don't know how best to use fonts. For some, the trick is to use as many fonts as possible in order to spice up the design with a bit of variety and for others it's a case of using the most fancy, curly decorative fonts they can find. Both of these techniques are extremely amateurish and make for a poor design. For some strange reason that we simply cannot fathom, many people love to use Comic Sans for everything! As a result, Comic Sans has become a hated font among many professional designers which was never considered a great font to begin with by many in the trade.
Aside from having little or no knowledge of designer's colour theory, resulting in poor use of colour, hard-to-read colour clash, or some similar disaster, few (if any) amateur designers understand how to manage colour properly. Very often colours are originated in RGB making the print job difficult, even unpredictable. We've seen some home-grown design work which was so ugly in its colour choices that it caused real physical headaches!
This refers to the practice of trying to cram as much info as possible into a design. The number of designs we've seen which have been over-stuffed with pictures and text is amazing - they always look unprofessional and poorly considered, resembling a random scrapbook page rather than a piece of business literature.
This one is the ultimate classic problem that the industry faces daily - poor quality images. It's quite alarming how often a customer brings in a small JPEG that they found on Google Image Search expecting it to be blown up to the size of a car bonnet with no loss of quality. In almost every case, the customer has to be sent away disappointed. Professionals know where to get hold of high quality images that will reproduce beautifully and avoid copyright issues.
Wrong file types
There are many design packages around but the professional industry sticks to a very few good ones such as Adobe Photoshop / Illustrator and the like. We often get "artwork" designed in Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, or even Frontpage, from which the customer expects us to be able to produce goods. It simply doesn't happen. Like the poor images issue, this is a symptom of the indivual's lack of technical experience in the field of graphic design or the technicalities of the processes involved in production.
If you value your business image, pay for your business artwork!