As with anything of value, great creative and quality design takes both time and money to achieve. Investing money into your brand and design is not cheap, but it also shouldn’t break the bank. So, how do you balance quality design work with your marketing dollars? Budgets and Marketing Objectives.
Allocate a portion of your project budget to the creative work and share that information with the designer. It doesn’t need to be an exact number, a ballpark figure range works wonderfully. Knowing how much money you realistically have to invest into bringing your brand to life is very important. It gives you a perspective on the funds you have to work with. It also allows the creative team to strategize on the best way to approach the design work. Believe me, when presented with an estimate, it is frustrating to the client and designer if the project cost is too expensive (aka outside of the budget). Knowing budgets upfront sets cost expectations for a more efficient and stress-free experience.
So how much money do you set aside? The adage of it “varies by industry and size” does hold true. The US Small Business Association recommends small businesses with less than $5 million in revenue allocate 7-8% for marketing. Out of that the money should be split between brand development (website, blogs, sales collateral) and cost of promoting the business (campaigns, advertising, events, etc.).
When setting up the budget, it is important to think about the kind of design work required. A website is going to cost more money than a brochure, so plan accordingly. Review your campaign objective from the creative brief to determine your needs in finding the right design partner for your project. Also, allocate reasonable funds for the project. Reasonable meaning an appropriate cost for services rendered specific to your industry and target audience.
The quality and design style desired is going to impact cost. Review successful companies and their look and feel. Look at your successful competitors for visual clues of how design is positively influencing their brand. Is the design clean? Does it catch your eye? Make you go, “Wow” or “Cool”? Does it make you aspire to be like them? Good, quality, tasteful design takes time, experience, talent and money to develop.
When it comes to design, do you have champagne taste on a beer budget? My analogy for this is simple. If you’re throwing a celebration party for 20 people and really want to serve Dom Pérignon, but only have $75 to spend on it, then there might be a small (big) problem. Instead of champagne, beer will clearly have to do. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a matter of realigning expectations. If you really want and need the champagne, then you’ll allocate more funds to get it. If not, then you’ll take the beer, make the best of it and move on.
The same holds true for design work, with one exception. If your budget is “reasonable for the kind of project required”, there are talented designers who can work within your budget. But as with anything, the old adage can unfortunately be true, “you get what you pay for”. Protect yourself by researching the designer's work getting referrals and setting up a creative brief to avoid unpleasant surprises. For expectations of what a designer's responsibility is to a client, view the AIGA standards of professional practice.