Friday, May 27, 2011

Good, Cheap, Quick

Small businesses and start-ups taking their enterprise to market usually have two things in limited supply: money and time. They need to get selling fast, but they also need to establish their credibility in the market place. They need good, relevant, creative marketing collateral quickly at the lowest possible cost.

That's all very good, but the reality is, you can have good and cheap but you can't have quick. You can have quick and good but you can't have cheap. Of course this observation is relative to the type of service you engage. If you use a freelance such as me, you'll pay a lot less than if you were using a mid-sized agency with its additional overheads.  They'll quite possibly take you to lunch. But with a freelance, you will miss out on the added services and sometimes unnecessary trimmings (that "free" lunch?) that a mid-sized agency can provide. They have not only designers, but marketing experts. People who will help you with strategy, a team of copywriters and designers who will spend time brainstorming your brief. Often they will have two or more teams working on different approaches to your brief. But the time mounts up... and to some extent (remember, it's relative), cheap and quick go out the window.

At the other end of the scale, you can log onto whichever crowdsourcing site takes your fancy and get hundreds of pitches from creative freelances around the world. You could quite possibly end up with good, cheap and quick. Or not. I have previously written about crowdsourcing and have also written about what really goes into a professional design process. Professional design with due process takes time. Time is money. Ignore the due process and you could end up with a lovely (or not) looking piece of design that does nothing for your business.

Good: How to get it.
The ingredients for a good job are many, but the basics are this:
  1. Talent. Much like owning a pen does not make you Shakespeare, owning a computer and all the necessary software does NOT give someone talent. You need to be able to see the genuine creative talent shining through.
  2. Due process. I can if I wish, knock out an acceptable brochure or flier within an hour or two; buy a couple of stock photos for a few quid, bang out some text, add a drop shadow or two and Bob's your uncle. But I don't. I have a process that ensures what I create does the job it is supposed to. Which costs money. I spend time working on a strategy, then a concept. I spend time crafting the copy. And before I even do that, I endeavour to properly understand your business and your market, because how on earth am I going to effectively communicate otherwise?
Cheap: How to get it
You want to save money, not throw it away:
  1. Prepare a decent, detailed brief. If you don't know how to do this, a good freelance will help you prepare one with all the salient points and objectives clearly expressed. Understand what you are buying: the freelance's time, so don't waste it. Have your ducks in a row.
  2. Be realisitc. You will not get the same level of service from a freelance as you will from an agency. You will not have an account manager, you will not have a team beavering away in the studio for you. Instead, you will have one hungry, experienced individual who will be in direct contact with you. Don't expect long boozy lunches, though!
  3. Pay on time. If you pay late, your next job will be likely to cost more or you'll maybe have to find another freelance, which is time consuming and wasteful of the legacy of knowledge regarding your business your designer will have built up.
Quick: How to get it
You want it fast, so smooth the way
  1. Adhere to the above points
  2. Become a favourite client. Freelances have to sometimes juggle jobs. Make sure that the guy doing your work wants to make your job a priority.

Copyright © 2009 Paul R Davey. All photographs, text and artworks in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Paul R Davey unless otherwise stated. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Process and Gestation of a Logo Design

"I need a logo for my sportswear company. It must be really classy and like Nike and adidas but not exactly the same lol. I can pay between £40 - 60. I need a top job done and if your good enough you can do my website :-)" [sic, sic, sic, sicety-sic]


The above is a fairly typical example of a new business putting the word out that they want a logo designed for their brand which will take on the world. One look at the budget and I will do one of two things: Message the client and with withering sarcasm tell him his budget is ridiculous; or, ignore the ad completely because there is no way I will attempt to compete against youngsters who live at home with mum and dad, or far eastern designers who can make a good living by undercutting us designers here in the UK.  I usually ignore these sort of ads - there's no point in engaging with someone who is that ignorant or unrealistic.

But hold on. "Ignorant". Surely that is not the guy's fault. He maybe just doesn't know what goes into a logo design and with a better understanding he will adjust his budget accordingly. I'm an optimist, so perhaps I should educate him. Education separates the once ignorant, now educated, from the terminally pig-ignorant.

Here is my reply to the above client. Lets hope he reads it and isn't dazzled by the rock-bottom prices of Mario DeCunha in the Phillipines:

Dear Andy (for that is his name)
I am very interested in quoting for the design of your sportswear brand identity, but I fear my price will be a fair distance beyond your £40-60 budget.  There is a good reason for this as the actual design process takes many hours of hard work and will use a lot of my hard-won experience to achieve a professional, well conceived design that will win the respect of your market.

Here is my process. Times include local travel time to and from meetings

1. Client interview. 2 Hours. This is a meeting where we can both get to know each other and more importantly, we can discuss exactly what you wish to achieve with your brand. I ask a lot of questions such as:
  • What sportswear do you make? Shoes? Clothes? Football strips? Golf wear?
  • What is your target market? Men? Women? Serious athletes? Casual exercisers? etc.
  • Are you intending to create a premium brand or something for the lower end of the market - if your brand were a car, what would it be? A Rolls Royce? A ferrari? A BMW 3 series? A Nissan Micra?
  • Are your designs original or are you simply overprinting ready made garments?
  • Where do you see your brand in one/two/five/ten years?
  • How do you plan to get your brand into the shops?
  • Will you be selling online?
  • Which brands do you admire - and why?
  • Which brands do you not admire - and why?
  • What colours do you want to use?
  • Have you established your brand name yet?
  • Have you registered your domain names?
  • Have you checked to see whether there are similar brand names already in the market?
  • Is there a unique selling proposition?
  • Are you confident that you are not breaching anyone's copyright or registered trade mark?
  • Is your business in a position to trade - are you properly capitalised?
  • Can you abide by my payment terms?
In this interview, I also expect a grilling from you, Andy. You need to know that I'm a professional and not a chancer - after all, I'm about to send your original budget into the scuppers.

2. Quote and Establish the brief. 1 hour. Based on the information and notes made in the interview, I write up a brief and prepare a quote.  I submit this to the client and if you're happy that we're both (forgive me) on the same page you sign it off and pay the deposit.

3. Due Diligence. 3 hours. Before I start designing a logo, I look at what's around in the market. I look at the websites, ads and whatever else I can find belonging to competitors and brands to which your business aspires. I do my own checks on domain names to see what's close to yours and to build a list of suggestions for alternatives.  I copy logos of competing brands and put them on a single sheet, so I can get a true picture of what I'm up against.

4. Sketch and doodle. 3 hours. Before I start working on my computer, I get my pen and a sketch pad and start playing about with ideas for the typography and the accompanying symbol. Several pages later, I might have three to five different ideas that I can then start drafting up on the computer.

5. Create 3-5 options. 4 hours. Based on my sketches and doodles, I create three to five different designs, often (but not always) only in black and white. Colours come later, because the first thing to get right is the basic typography and its relationship to the symbol, if any.

Five initial designs  - well, four and a half, actually, as one was derived directly from another.
  6. Present the options. 2 hours. This is best done in a meeting so that I can properly discuss each option and get the required amount of feedback from you, Andy.

7. Refine the selected option (colours). 3 hours. Assuming you have selected one of the five options (if not, we go back to stage 4) I then refine the design.  The first thing to do is look at colours, bearing in mind the information picked up in the initial meeting. This is an incredibly important stage as the  brand colours will need to work effectively in many different situations - with the logo on a photograph, with the logo on a dark background, on a light background, on the web, in print, cut out of vinyl, embroidered on garments etc. etc. I usually end up creating another two or three colourway options for you to choose from, showing them in situ on ads, garments etc.

Yet more options. The client had established which basic design he liked, and just wanted to see variants of the design.
As most of these were simple colour changes, it took about 2 hours.

8. Final refining. 2 hours. With the colours sorted, it is now time for final micro detailing. I blow up the design to fit on an A3 page and get stuck in to getting the typography perfect, kerning the individual glyphs, altering the shape of certain elements and making sure that the shape of the symbol is perfect.

9. Presentation for sign-off. 2 hours. I take my finished design, beautifully printed on photographic paper and mounted on board for your approval and sign-off. Upon sign-off, I present my invoice for the balance owing.
A final three variants. The design took a lot of back and forth between me and the client as we homed in on what he wanted.

10. Creation of master files and brand guidelines sheet. 4 hours. Upon receipt of the final balance payment I create a series of master files in various formats, as well as a brand guidelines sheet to show correct use of the design in various applications, for you to pass on to other suppliers.

So there you have it. At least 24 hours of work is required if you want a professionally designed logo that has been properly briefed, researched, conceived and designed to help your brand compete in your market.

The final design. Note that even at the last stage there was a change when the client decided to reposition as a nursery rather than a daycare centre. These things happen, but add to the cost.

Do you need to go to all this fuss?

That is a question which only you can answer, but in my experience, the most successful brands are those that are properly conceived in the beginning.  If you are serious about your business, have excellent products or services to offer a very fickle market, then don't you want to get things done absolutely right? A brand identity is not an expense. It is an investment in your business that helps to define you, that helps set you apart, that helps make you appealing to your market.

I hope this gives you a clear understanding of my process, Andy, and shows you how it would be impossible for me to do anything of substance for you for the price of your original budgeted amount.

Kind regards


Copyright © 2009 Paul R Davey. All photographs, text and artworks in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Paul R Davey unless otherwise stated. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Crowdsourcing: How to abuse a Freelance Designer

For many small businesses there has opened up a new and exciting opportunity for getting work done at a price that fits your budget. Crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing is a simple concept. You register what you want done on a website and freelances like me quote to do your work. You choose the designer who best fits your budget and he delivers your work a few days later. Brilliant.

The problem is, when you source from the crowd of designers who pitch for your work, you get to see some ridiculously low quotes - and being the small business owner that you are, you are mighty tempted to go for the unbelievably low prices on offer.

I have a word of caution: If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I regularly lose work to "designers" who quote so low that it is impossible that they are working above - or in fact anywhere near the minimum wage. The client - that might be you - then forks out a pittance to the successful designer and two days later gets his logo or whatever. Well, you get what you pay for. It can be argued that a logo design for instance, is a bit of type with a symbol. Fair enough, it is. But that's a bit like saying a cake is a bit of flour with some eggs, sugar and butter. That doesn't mean it will be a good cake or a memorable cake. It might in fact mean it will be a tremendously yukky cake.

A genuine designer - such as me - is similar to a master baker; a craftsman. A genuine designer designs logos. We know our ingredients - fonts, colours, printing processes etc. We understand markets and we know about things such as brand personality, character etc. We can make our ingredients work properly so that when, after lots of agonsing over microscopic details in letter spacing, shapes and line widths as part of our careful preparation, we pull our finished design from the oven it is not only pretty to look at but appropriate to your business and your market. Most of all though, we know bad design when we see it. And there's an awful lot of it about these days as unskilled, inexperienced owners of DTP systems brand themselves "Graphic Designers" and jump on the crowdsourcing bandwagon.

Not one of the above designs was completed in under two days. Each was subject to countless sketches, doodles and tweaks before being selected as good enough to present to my clients.

Look, you could get precisely the right thing for less than a hundred quid if you're lucky, but there's also a good chance that you will have spent a hundred quid on something you hate. Or worse still, something that gives your competitors an undeserved advantage, because in the eyes of your potential customers, your brand is unappealing or sending the wrong message.

There's an old adage about cream always rising to the top. Cream costs more than milk. And really good organic cream from a good dairy costs more still. You get the picture.

As a small business and start-up specialist, I know only too well the constraints of your budget. I know that every penny counts. A brand design or flier, brochure or website has a job of work to do. Make sure it does what it is supposed to do, because there's a good chance it could be undoing what it is supposed to do, turning people away, sending them off to your competitors.

So: Abusing a freelance designer. How to do it.

1. Set a ridiculous budget. A good, professional brand identity designer will take at least a couple of days to establish a proper brief, diligently research your competitors and your market, create design options and then refine and deliver a final, signed-off design. Three or more days is likely because a good designer has processes that he will follow. Processes that ensure you get a good result. So there is no way that a good designer is going to do you a logo design for £50. Look at £300 - £500 as about the minimum you should budget.

2. Make the designer do a free pitch. Many people think it is a sensible idea to ask a shortlist of designers to submit ideas before making a decision. I agree. But pay them for it! You don't wander from restaurant to restaurant enjoying free starters before making a decision where to have your dinner, so why do this to a freelance? We are people who have to eat, feed families, pay mortgages etc. just like you.

3. Act like Mr Big. Freelances are just like you. We are small business owners. We too are conscious of how precious our time is, so be considerate of our time. If we say something isn't going to work, don't expect us to waste time to proving we are right. Accept what we say and move on. You want a new logo, not to win a pissing contest.

4. Lie to your freelance. Every single client I have is trying to grow their business. I know this and I understand it. Telling your freelance to keep his costs down "this time" on the promise of future work is something we hear day in, day out. And we don't believe it. Pay the full whack and once you've established yourself as a loyal, lucrative client, you might be in a position to negotiate a better rate.

5. Expect credit. Forget it. At least not in the beginning. You are a stranger. Would you lend money to someone you hardly know? Many freelances go bust on the back of unpaid bills. I've been there and I know many others. Pay at least 50% up front (Some of the better crowdsourcing websites hold the money in escrow) and the balance on completion of your work (I never release any usable files until the money's in my bank). No ifs, no buts.

6. Second guess your freelance. Sure, you're the client and all that, but more often than I like I have clients showing me someone else's solution to the brief I'm working on. Again, I will use the restaurant analogy: Would you carry one of Gordon Ramsay's dishes into another (possibly better) restaurant expecting the chef there to be happy?

7. Keep your freelance in the dark. You are looking for strong results, right? Well, you need to keep your designer informed and up to date with what you are doing. You should consider your designer as part of your inner circle - after all, he's the one creating your public face. Too much "need-to-know-basis" is a bad thing. If you are unhappy with your freelance, talk to him. If you are happy, tell him too - better still, say it with work. We love work and love to be loved, just like real people.

8. Be unfaithful. If your designer is doing good work for you, be loyal. Build a relationship - an alliance. Sometimes small business owners are tempted into shopping around for every new project to save a few pennies. This is a bad idea on several fronts. You will lose the continuity of design and your messages will start getting mixed when clarity is key. Your freelance will feel more like a whore and less like a partner - and will quite likely act accordingly. Quality will be inconsistent - sure you may get some genius work from elsewhere, but the lack of consitency will drive a bulldozer through your corporate image.

9. Be impatient. Freelances are one-man-bands. As such, we are not always in a position to immediately start work on your project. From time to time you may have to wait a couple of days before your work can begin. Explain the urgency of your project and if it is indeed time-critical there's a likelihood that your freelance will shuffle his schedule to accommodate you. When this is not possible, don't just run off to the next designer you can find. Give the known quantity - your current freelance - a chance to pull in some help of his own - we're all part of networks and have trusted, quality-assured buddies who can help us out when the pressure's on and you'll find that your consistency is maintained.

10. Undervalue what has been done. It's not just a logo. It's not just a brochure. It's not just a website. These are all business-critical components that help make up the engine of your brand. Sure, some components might only have taken a couple of hours to produce, but you wanted the work done, now recognise its value.

11. Forget your manners. Freelances have to be super polite to win business, and to keep the relationship sweet. We like earning the money you pay and we are always grateful for the work., but nothing is as sweet as the moment a client calls to say thank you, well done. Us creative types are just like everyone else - sensitive little sausages who will work harder for the people who we like the most.

Copyright © 2009 Paul R Davey. All photographs, text and artworks in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Paul R Davey unless otherwise stated. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.