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Nowadays potential clients have access to free creative software, countless online tutorials, tools and templates as well as pre-designed business card templates, companies that offer cheap web design and the ability to host design competitions. With so much accessibility to D.I.Y and bargain design what’s the significance of a designer? None, probably.




From sign painters to web developers the world of Graphic Design has always been a difficult area to define. ‘What it is’ is complicated to those of us who call ourselves one and explaining it to someone who is completely unfamiliar is like trying to explain the plot of Inception to a pre occupied 4 year old. Many describe Graphic Design by using something similar to ‘it is problem solving through visual communication’, which is such a hazy and

The role of a designer is constantly changing with the times. unspecific phrase that it would convince the unfamiliar that all we do is draw little shapes and charge extortionate rates for it. The most common and documented forms of Graphic Design are branding and packaging, these disciplines can be seen everywhere in modern society, every product that you buy must convey the character and ethics of the company that produces it.


Graph ic De sign The art or skill of combining text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, or books.

This publication is going to overview and scrutinize some aspects of Graphic Design from a clients perspective. From the outside Design looks simple, just sticking a weird shape next to a bit of Helvetica, without considering any process or rationale that has gone into it. As a young designer and a soon to be graduate with a small amount of experience with client based work I think that I need to prepare a solid answer for questions

clients may ask. Such as: “Will you do it for free?”, “I think it would look better with a green shadow” and “Is that all you’ve done, why could I have not done that myself?”. I will look into existing design solutions and online outlets and ultimately evaluate how, as designers, we can separate ourselves from these cheaper options and create work that is clearly better and won’t trigger a client into trying to trade some design for magic beans.






Clients are always going to be looking for the best deal so you need to know what you’re up against.

This publication is focussing on small to mid size clients, there will always be a market for the big clients that have a budget to spend on good, original design. However, with the ever growing amount of online services that offer affordable and, often, good design, more and more clients will choose to use them rather than commissioning individual designers. Knowing what services are available and what they provide is essential in knowing how you,

as a designer, can better them and offer a more valuable service. From a design perspective a lot of these designs are very aesthetically poor and uninspiring, but looking at some of the reviews from clients they are more than happy with the design. You need to explain why you and your work is better, and why they should pay for it, without panicking and resorting to design bitchyness.


Business cards for small businesses and individual professionals. offer a wide range of pre designed, template business cards in which buyers can change the type to suit their business and choose from a series of variations of the same idea. In my opinion MOO offer the best quality designs as far as templates go, although often quite generic they use contemporary and varied design that is relevant to the target field of business.

As there are visually effective and eye catching business card templates available as granted with business card purchases, as designers we should offer a card that really taps into that individual and sets them apart from their competition. The flaw with these business cards is their lack of memorability, although initially attention grabbing none really stick in your mind.




Fully customisable website templates and cheap hosting.

Websites such as GoDaddy, Dotster and offer cheap web hosting, a variety of templates to choose from etc. As an amateur web designer and coder it would be difficult to compete with the pre-designed websites on some of these sites as they all cover the basic functionality of a website and some even look pretty good. If you were a designer that claimed to be proficient in web design it would be important to know the free templates inside out so you are able to find the flaws and be in the position of being able to explain to a client why you can do it better. When custom web design costs upwards of ÂŁ300 for a 5 page website it has got to be substantially better than these templates that cost a little more than the hosting itself.


Fiverr, DesignCrowd, CrowdSpring & 99designs Things like this open up a whole new can of worms. Fiverr offers various services for $5 such as logo design, book covers etc. Whereas Design Crowd, CrowdSpring and 99designs are the big endorsees of speculative design. Speculative Design is where the competition takes in hundreds of entries and the judge either picks one of them; extends the deadline; changes the brief (because they’ve realised the first rendition was misleading); or

rejects them all. Firstly, with Fiverr you essentially get what you pay for, it is a disservice to clients more than designers, they have no idea what they need for their product and settle on whatever the designer churns out for $5 (3 examples at the bottom of the facing page). Crowd sourcing websites exploit a lot of designers, often using work they haven’t paid for, changing what they wanted and offering tiny amounts of money for the winner. On the other side many of the competing designers steal from existing work and altering small portions to make the potential of winning worth the time they’ve spent.



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The Competition Delusion

Entering competitions is a right old bag of fun, you get to exude a bit of your competitive spirit, battle better designers and showcase your work against other designers. And if you’re really lucky you’ll have the once in a lifetime chance of the company hosting the competition using your work on all of their products which will be seen by thousands of people. Wow, imagine that, thousands of people seeing your work emblazoned on every polo shirt, letterhead, coffee mug, key ring and flannel associated with the company, that alone is worth more in value than any sort of cash prize, lucky chuffing you.

On the facing page is just one example of a quote from a company hosting a speculative competition. This particular example is from a paper company, which by it’s very nature has a close relationship with designers and artists. The design community were so annoyed with the fact that a company that claims to be allies with design were trying to yank a bit of free/ dirt cheap design from many of their clients. After a barrage of complaints Domtar removed the competition and apologised for hosting it, claiming to have not have thought about the negative and exploitative implications of it.





Because of this unjust template for design competitions a movement called No!Spec has arisen. The website exists to educate the public about speculative work, informing clients why they shouldn’t be running such competitions and informing designers why they are not much use to them. The team that run the website do well in exposing big companies who are crowd sourcing their logo. One of their most recent was the Powerhouse museum which showcases science and design who ran a crowd sourced competition to get their poster, considering they are supposed to be celebrating and helping the design industry the No!Spec activists responded in an appropriate way forcing the competition to be pulled (submissions below). No!Spec’s definitive explanation for why crowd sourcing and speculative work is a disservice to designers and damaging to the industry can be seen overleaf. Despite many hosts of spec competitions being completely unaware of this reasoning and regrettably pulling their competitions there are still plenty of clients who hold this idea:


these days are a dime a dozen, be happy you get the work. " Who will be getting the value of work that they are willing to pay for, if talented designers refuse to participate in speculative design contests for a very small prize fund.


“The designer in essence works free of ch advertised, overinflated promise for futur insufficient forms of compensation. Usua appear tantalizing for creative communic encouraging examples like “good for you reality is that they often yield little extra w often must sign a contract unwittingly wai ownership of their work to the ones prom is ineffective in protecting the rights of th the client/employer will often employ oth tactics to change and/or resell the creative the practice of designers ridiculously und of “outbidding” any potential rivals, deva the graphics industry in the process. Prom clients/employers to continue preying on valued labour.” -W 22

harge and with an often falsely re employment; or is given other ally these glorified prizes or “carrots” cators just starting out, ending with ur portfolio” or “gain recognition.” The work, profit or referrals. Moreover they iving their valuable creative rights and moting this system. A verbal agreement he designer in a court of law. As a result her designers using similar unprincipled e work as their own. This also promotes dercharging themselves in the hopes aluing both their skills and those of moting this method encourages some n uninformed creatives for menially

Why is Spec work unethical? - No!Spec 23

How much should a logo cost? If it is not worthwhile entering competitions then it is important to know how much to charge for your work. This is an area that is impossible to close up in one swoop. Many aspects must be taken into consideration when pricing work, such as number of revisions, time spent, deliverables for the project etc. Some designers charge by the hour and others choose to negotiate a flat rate for the project.

“Comparing the design industry to any other is by no means exact, but the, ‘How much for a logo?’ question is kind of like asking an estate agent, ‘How much for a house?’.”

The most important thing to remember when costing a job is to not devalue your work and undersell your own services. It is important to inform the client what they are spending their money by breaking down your creative process and including them in the design and development of the project.


"If design is not profitable, then it is art."

Henrik Fiskar 25

How can designers stay on top of better value deals (in the eyes of the client) and still make money? 26

“Any designer who tries to beat ‘deals’ is wasting their time, they need to concentrate on quality of design, quality of service, professionalism etc, as a designer you are selling ‘your eye’, ‘your time’ and ‘your experience’ if the client can’t see that you offer a specific level of quality then it would be advisable to walk away. Any client who’s soul goal seems to be getting something for as little money as possible is wasting your time.” Gary Lawson, G1 Creative 28 Years Industry Experience 27



If I needed a cake making, I would look online and buy the ingredients, I wouldn’t hire a baker. Why can this argument not be applied to design? If a client asks you why hiring you is better than them

What is stopping a client getting there hands on software and doing it themselves? doing it themselves, how do you respond? What is there available for non-designers to try their hand at a bit of design? Let’s find out shall we! Come with me now into the realms of D.I.Y design....


Connect the dots to gain twenty years of design expertise


Now it’s your turn!



An app that budding D.I.Y designers can buy into is Phoster. This is a simple app that simply takes trendy poster templates and allows the user to input their own type. Updates will bring the latest stylistic trends to the hands of the Mr. Microsoft Word Art instantly making trends obsolete. Really there is no design going on here. It’s mainly just for cheesy, inspirational quotes being set in nice type and I suppose I’d rather look at guff like that in a nice typeface, rather than rainbow 3D sparkley .gif, if I have to look at it at all.


33 and blogs all emerging trends in graphic design from across the globe from zig zag lines to exposed content a quick look around the site will quickly inform anybody what is ‘in’ at the moment. It also features a generator in which users can input their own text and check buttons to add various stylistic features (examples below). Anonymous Press offers a similar function in that it randomly grabs images off the internet from a users search and then casually drops them into an exposed content style zine. There is a very post modern anarchic approach to design in all things ‘trendy’. This style will put most non-designers off straight away as they will see that it is nonsensical and crap. Yet it might be this that makes these things so trendy, because you have to be up to date and in the loop to understand why it is ‘good’ design and it puts the practitioners in a much more holy and enlightened state in comparison to the numbskulls who are still left aligning bold Helvetica.



How would you advise a client that was considering designing their own branding and identity? 36

“To be honest I would say go ahead, anyone can design a logo, just as anyone can design a house, a garden or a kettle. They might come up with something acceptable, or even quite good, but seeking good advice from an experienced professional at the start of a project is always more advisable, but again, I would never do a hard-sell on any design work, if they have no money, or don’t understand the need for a professional then they are best left alone.” Gary Lawson, G1 Creative 28 Years Industry Experience




You’re not trendy. And as soon as you start thinking you’re trendy the definition of trendy will have changed. ‘Form Follows Function’ - one of the most important and memorable motto’s that Modernism has given us. The problem with trends are that they serve no purpose, they are decoration, they add nothing to the content, they are just like 80’s shell suits and popped up Eric Cantona collars. They are cool for a short while and then look ridiculous in hindsight making people question why they were ever popular in the first place.

There are a lot of design trends going around at the moment that many people jump on the band wagon of. It is amazing how quickly these things become ‘cool’ and then ‘uncool’. Overuse is the catalyst for this change and if you didn’t start the trend then you are killing it. If you can’t explain a reason for doing something then there is no reason to do it, and this needs to be a reason that makes clear sense to a client - there’s no room for fine arty improvisation here. This is ‘Design & Communication’ not ‘Blag a confusing reason that alienates the audience and makes you out to be an especially tortured soul that is too deep to be understood by your average Pasty-muncher.’ 39




Oscar Wilde 41



Modernism doesn’t just mean using one colour and overusing Helvetica, which is the image that instantly comes to mind. It stands for much more. It fights for removal of decoration it questions why something is there rather than not there. It focuses on the purpose of the job and doesn’t consider if the colours or typeface are pretty, but if they are relevant. It is easy to follow trends when you need to pump out a quick poster or a low budget

The key to staying on the top of your game is original thinking and breaking boundaries. logo but it is things like this that can be easily emulated by non-designers and apps. Original thinking and content and audience relevant design is something that can’t as easily be copied. To ensure you aren’t creating ephemeral design that has a short shelf life you must have a little modernist inside you asking, “Why is that there? Why that colour? Why is that better than Helvetica?” If you have a strong and secure pitch then you’ve got some good design.


Client is King?


Overall it is the clients decision how they source their work, if they have a low budget and want to use a speculative competition; or want to try their hand at it themselves then that’s fine, there’s nothing to stop them. Ultimately, they will be getting out what they put in and if that means their business not doing as well as it could then they have only themselves to blame. As new designers we must be aware what is available to clients

We have a responsibility to inform clients about good design even if it doesn’t suit their tastes. and provide a service that is invaluable. We have a responsibility to be confident with our design decisions and inform clients why it will work well as a design, even if it isn’t in their favourite colour and typeface. You are being paid for your eye, design expertise and ideas not just to churn out a mediocre vision of a logo that a client had in a cheese fuelled dream.


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Bibliography IMG Source, 38. Hopperd. (17th Feb 2012). The fifty most ridiculous outfits from the New York Fashion week. Available: http:// Last accessed May 8th 2013. pg 40. Wilde, O. (). Fashion Quotes. Available: fashion_quotes.html. Last accessed May 8th 2013. Airey, D. (Dec 2008). The reality of logo design. Available: http://www.logodesignlove. com/logo-design-contests. Last accessed 8th May 2013. Dunn, Z. (Jan 16th 2009). The real problem with design contets. Available: http:// Last accessed 8th May 2013. Cass, J. (May 22nd 2008). Why professional logo design does not cost $5.00. Available: Last accessed 8th May 2013. Cass, J. (12th Aug 2008). The Pros and Cons of Spec Work. Available: http:// Last accessed 8th May 2013. Lombardi, J. (Feb 23rd 2011). I’m mad as hell.. SPEC YOU. Available: http://blog. Last accessed 8th May 2013. Lawson, G. Design Context Publication. 22 April 2013.


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