A man on the bottom floor can rarely tell how high a skyscraper stands. Place him on the rooftop of a neighboring building, however, and he gets a little perspective. He can understand the height.
Many business professionals stand on the first floor when choosing a designer for their needs – they lack an understanding of the intricacies of good design and ideals like layout, white space, color and branding. Because of a lack of perspective, business owners may not be able to discern the heights that a good designer may be able to reach. The only variable they can see is price. Customers, however, many of whom with an eye for quality, will notice the discrepancy and form an opinion based on what they can see.
Creating Great First Impressions
Design, just like accounting, sales and legal work, requires years of experience to do well. Unlike the other examples, however, design is often the most noticeable aspect of your business. It’s often a prospect’s initial engagement with your brand – an almost subconscious and instinctual experience – that can create first impressions that may influence a prospect’s relationship with your business for years to come.
An experienced professional designer, one who is standing on a nearby rooftop, can properly craft that first impression. You want an individual who can weave a business’ value throughout a piece by making the right aesthetic choices and employing knowledge gained through thousands of projects. A professional designer may charge more, but that’s because such an individual has earned that income through the ability to meticulously question and obsess over the minutest of details that can have measurable results on customer engagement and ROI.
What Does a Designer Actually Do?
Great designers can do more than push pixels. They will be able to take an inquisitive approach to the unique problems of your business and apply critical-thinking to find design solutions. Designers use more than just design software. Industry and customer research, marketing fundamentals and brand differentiation should all be tools in a designer’s bag of tricks. After the research aspect is finished, a designer will start considering design initiatives – past brand elements, business recommendations and aesthetic choices – and making decisive movements to meet a company’s goals.
A designer’s job isn’t just beautifying a piece of content; it’s being decisive and thorough when making design choices in order to create a design language consistent with your business’ goals and market perception. And at the end of the day, instead of emailing a document loaded with boxes and haphazardly placed copy, a good designer understands your needs by delivering guidelines, a roadmap to fulfill your objectives and any documents you may need in the future to scale your branding and design your collateral – a complete toolbox you can use when you need it.
A professional designer will also require less review time, which will lead to less time spent by management to oversee the project. More often than not, the first draft should be close enough to the final mark to need only minor tweaks. Consider the alternative scenario when using a cheap designer – he or she may only present a basic design, use inefficient practices or run down unnecessary rabbit holes that eat up budget and time. A low-cost designer may charge less, but you may be spending twice the time necessary to finish the project — and get a weaker final result. In the end, the investment in the project may be equal, but you’ll almost always have a better end product by using designers who know what they’re doing.
Managing Design Projects for High ROI
A business owner should be able to trust the professional designer he or she hires. A homeowner can show a plumber where the problem may be but he or she wouldn’t suggest to a plumber the best way to lay pipe. In the same way, business owners without design experience may be a part of the process, but they shouldn’t dictate it. Realize that a professional designer has been hired for a very good reason – his or her experience and know-how – and trying to second guess every design element will mostly likely result in a weak design trying to compromise between many different aesthetic styles.
Business owners can do three things to push a design projects forward and save the time (and budget) necessary to get at the finished product.
- Embrace new ideas: If a designer presents something that’s a little new for your taste, feel free to give that feedback, but also try to understand where that idea is coming from. A particular design may not feel safe, but it also may connect well with your audience, which is the whole point.
- Define the decision makers: Too many hands in the kitchen can be one of the cost drivers and time wasters for your design. Early in the process, define who will be giving feedback for the design project so a million viewpoints won’t add unnecessary costs and shift the project into something that no one actually wants.
- Be honest: If you don’t like a design, a professional designer will be able to take that feedback and incorporate it into something that’s closer to your preferences. However, try to be decisive and specific with your feedback. Changes that jump back and forth can completely halt any movement and destroy ROI.
Quality Work vs. Price
In the same way copywriters prefer words as a communication tool, designer prefer symbols, layouts and pictures. And yet, while many business owners may prefer to hire an expert copywriter to craft a content piece, they may be turning to a subpar designer in order to save a few bucks on budget. A lower cost designer may seem like a deal, but that professional designer – with a higher price tag – will increase engagement with prospects, get customers interested in your business and deliver an ROI worth the cost.