Picture this: you’re the owner of a start-up and looking to create an engaging logo to attract consumers to your product or service. You flip through the Yellow Pages…I mean search Google and Yelp, to find a graphic designer who fits your needs. After telling the designer what you want, they come back with a project estimate that you’ve already assumed would be a low number. But when you get a look at the cost your first response is “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll do it myself in my free time.” However as a new small business owner, you know you don’t have the luxury of an abundance of free time.
Maybe you’ve been in that situation yourself, or know of someone who has. The truth is professional design work is greatly undervalued in small businesses. When financial times get tough, the creative budget is one of the first things cut. Only a few small businesses have a dedicated graphic designer on staff - after all, the owners typically run on limited assets. One way of thinking is that’s great news for design agencies and/or freelance designers, but it also highlights exactly where designers fit on a small business’ list of priorities.
While a small business owner wants a unique logo, creative website, and captivating marketing material, they’re not always willing to pay professional rates to get them. Instead, they ask an employee without sufficient training (usually a marketing person who’s a jack of all trades) to give graphic design a try. Another option is to search the web for cheaper options. Regardless, that small business owner is probably not going to be happy with the results.
The first red flag in the opening paragraph was the small business owners assumption that they could successfully do their own design work if only they had the time. This may be true in some cases, but generally it’s not. The second was their reluctance toward paying professional rates. But what that owner needs to know is that well thought out design can mean all the difference between that small business owner and their competition. So the next time you find yourself in this situation, below are a list of reasons small businesses should place greater emphasis on graphic design:
You only have one chance to make a first impression. Whether it’s a logo, website or business card, potential customers will judge a business in just a few seconds based on visual appeal alone. High quality graphic design gives businesses credibility, which is something we all strive for as small business owners. No matter how great a product or service, with poor design, it’s unlikely a potential new customer will stick around the company’s website or keep its email long enough to find out.
Design should tell a story and it’s vital that people get an idea for what a business does even if they’ve never heard of it before. Thoughtful design stirs up the right image in a customers mind. The logo design for a bakery would be entirely different from a security service provider. A good example of design telling a story would the Amazon logo. It depicts the message that they sell everything from A to Z. In addition to that, the arrow reaching from the A to the Z is emblematic of the smile customers experience by shopping on their site.
Solid graphic design provides branding consistency across every visual, customer-facing aspect of a business. In short, branding makes your company memorable! A professional graphic designer will use precise colors, typeface, imagery, and mood for every piece of creative. By doing this your customers have the same experience visiting a company’s website as they do reading its brochure, which helps the business become recognizable and memorable. In addition, consistency shows professionalism, which can be translated to your customers as being trustworthy.
As a small business owner you need tools to help differentiate you from the crowd. If there’s one thing all small businesses have in common, it’s that they all face competition. And to set themselves apart, they generally have a handful of elements that help them stand out. Those elements more than likely include pricing, quality, customer service, or something else entirely. But they also need to understand that their creative elements can help their business stand out, as well. A company’s visual communication serves many purposes, and making the business unique should absolutely be one of them.
Effective design should entice and persuade, not just look pretty. A cleverly designed brand can direct consumers to take action, like buying your product off the store shelf, visiting your site or walking into your location. A well-crafted pamphlet compels readers to keep turning pages and a fine tuned website entices a visitor to click “buy”. In short a professional graphic designer has the potential to deliver quantifiable results for a small business.
When businesses don’t take graphic design seriously, they will more than likely go through a design overhaul. In other words, quality design has longevity. That said, getting a little more up front saves time and money in the long run. The cost of great graphic design one time is no more expensive than paying for subpar design multiple times. Not to mention, redesigning a business’ image over and over wastes time and can be detrimental to its brand. When a brand constantly changes its image or look, they make it harder for consumers to find their product on shelf and easier for them to look elsewhere.
The big takeaway here is that many small business owners do in fact know the value of great design. However, many others have not been educated in its measurables. Knowing these measurable attributes will be one of the differences between a small business growing, remaining stagnant, or failing altogether. And working with the right designer - not the most expensive, just the right one - will help put them over the top.