A commis chef in a top professional kitchen might be lucky enough to work with the finest equipment such as Korin Japanese knives and Mauviel copper pans, but they understand that using the best tools doesn’t instantly make them a great chef. To rise to the top of their profession will take years of learning, hard work, countless setbacks, lots of soul searching and a huge amount of dedication.
Before a plumber or heating engineer can legally and safely work with gas, he or she must be accepted onto the Gas Safe Register – a scheme designed to reassure customers. Individuals must hold evidence of competence attained through training and examination. Simply buying a toolbox full of spanners and applying vinyl graphics to the side of a van does not qualify someone as gas safe.
So why is it that someone can buy an Apple Mac, install Adobe InDesign and Photoshop software, spend a bit of time getting to grips with the basics and then pass themselves off as a graphic designer?
Okay, a poorly designed piece of work won’t give you food poisoning, or blow your house up but try and stick with me on this…
Photoshop can do some extraordinary things nowadays but regardless of technological advances, good design skills are born from natural talent that has been nurtured, usually through high school and further education to HND or degree level.
is a truly valuable asset and
shouldn’t be compromised “
Most graphic designers, even newly qualified ones, will have gained experienced working for a commercial design agency or in-house design team. During this time they will have developed their creative skills, which should be evident in their portfolio.
They will continue to develop with each project worked on and it is this experience and problem solving expertise that clients buy into.
Design buyers are an obvious and profitable target for companies selling print, packaging, large format graphics, exhibition display space, etc. In what is a highly competitive industry, it has become increasingly common for companies to either offer ‘design services’ for free, or heavily discounted as part of a package deal.
Don’t get me wrong; if you need a few thousand copies of a cost-effective flyer or some promotional pens, you’ll undoubtedly get a great deal. As a general rule though, you won’t find many senior graphic designers or creative directors working for print companies. They’re far more likely to employ teams of Mac operators in a pre-press studio who, credit where it’s due, are normally very skilled in artwork preparation.
This blog article is not meant to be a case of me having a pop at the print industry but it is a friendly, cautionary reminder that there’s no such thing as free lunch.
Some of the larger print presses are eye-wateringly expensive, costing something in the region of a high six- or even a seven-figure sum. The only way such massive investment can be profitable is to keep the presses rolling as much as possible.
With such pressure to maintain a constant flow of work, staff in the pre-press studio must be highly efficient and simply don’t have time to labour at length over design concepts and development work. They will usually be allotted a set chunk of time and that’s it.
Essentially, a free or discounted design service is pretty much a loss leader to attract more profitable print business.
Certain exhibition display companies operate on a broadly similar principle, offering a complimentary stand design service in an effort to sell lucrative exhibitions display space and stand or equipment hire.
A client of ours once booked an exhibition display stand at their industry’s premier annual international conference, taking advantage of the free stand design service offered as part of the package. The resulting design could easily have tarnished their core brands and at the eleventh hour, we were called in to rescue the situation with a final design that was very well received.
Unfortunately, our client ended up having to find additional money they hadn’t budgeted for and the whole experience proved to be really rather stressful.
So… is a free design service really too good to be true?
We’re more than happy to admit that not every design project requires input from a senior creative and that some complimentary design services can be absolutely fine, depending on the job in hand and time available.
However, your company / brand reputation is a truly valuable asset and should never be compromised for what might appear, on the surface at least, to be an unbeatable deal no matter how appealing it might be.
Take a moment to think who will benefit most from such an arrangement and is it really in your best interests? After all, would you feel safe trusting a non-qualified person to service your gas boiler just to save money?