Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lets talk about the money

Most people know that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

It never ceases to amaze me therefore, how little people are prepared to spend on their marketing. Sure, times are tight and start-ups need to watch their pennies, but I see more small businesses wasting their money on bad design, bad websites and marketing collateral than I see wise investment.

The problem is multi-faceted and not just the fault of the small businesses. These days, anyone who owns a computer and a bit of (often illegally copied) software can call themselves a designer (I own a pen but that doesn't necessarily make me a great writer). And some, the gifted salesmen among them, do very well out of selling their clients bad or at best, mediocre work.

The client walks away happy; he got a bargain and he likes the colours. His market may think otherwise. They, unlike the designer or his unwitting client, can tell the cheap and nasty - especially when they are shopping around. Brand A is compared to Brand B and first impressions start counting.

A good designer will first of all be visually literate. He'll create work that has balance, elegance and is appropriate to the product and its market. The design will sit well against competing brands yet will be unique. Quirks will be "right" and any experiments or abandonment of convention will be carefully considered and supported by well reasoned arguments.

Lets face it, clients come to designers because they need someone to do something they cannot do themselves. Its a tragedy that quite often the designers are no better than the clients. I see it all the time in branding, brochures and websites. I see where clients have happily shelled out money for work that would get the "designer" fired from even the most junior position in a proper agency.

And the irony is, using a decent designer probably won't cost much more anyway. As designers, bogus or otherwise, we all know what sort of rates clients are prepared to pay. We all get to quote against each other and even know that sometimes, we've lost work to someone who is genuinely going to give better bang for the clients buck. But not often. The reality is that every day, the DTP revolution empowers more and more people, save a for a tiny few, to flood the world with bargain basement mediocrity.

Am I angry about this? Well, yes and no. Yes, I lose business to the wannabes who have also driven down the price and perceived value of good design. And no, there are still some clients who appreciate the value of quality design - and those who have suddenly found the wannabes to be, err... wanting: those who have contacted me or one of my "proper" competitors to rescue their brands, their websites and marketing campaigns from obscurity.

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