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The Process Book

: The Santoro Design Blog

Is Design an Investment or a Commodity?


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If you’re a designer, I’m sure you’ve heard the question, “How much for (insert item of design here)?” If you’re not a designer, I’m sure you’ve heard or even asked this question yourself. The troubling thing is that there are so many “designers” on the internet who end up selling both design and themselves short. by putting prices up on individual items. There are also so many crowd-sourcing sites like 99Designs, Crowdspring, and Fiver that make an item out of a designer’s time and expertise, most of the time with prices that would make the Christmas Tree Shop look like Barney’s New York. Quite frankly, any designer whose calling card is “I’ll give you a (insert item of design here) for $5)” will likely produce a terrible product.  This has proven to be damaging towards the intentions and overall notion of what good design is capable of in general, as people are now driven by price and not by what it can do for them.

With that being said, is design a commodity? If you’re devoted to your brand and the future success of your company, the answer is “no”.

Design drives everything around us. From traffic signs, billboards, menus and products, these were all designed with the intention of functioning in our every day lives. Good design doesn’t just look the part, it also works. Great designers realize this and always strive to meet compelling visuals with functionality, whether it be a logo or a website. Each customer will have a unique problem that they need solved by design, and for that reason, it doesn’t come with a simple price. A good designer will help you identify the design “problem(s)” and work with you to solve them. This collectively will take a certain amount of hours “worked” at a rate that is unique to your project needs. These need to be proposed, negotiated, and signed off on before things get started.

This brings me to my point: good design is far from a commodity, it is a service. Designers are trained (formally) to serve their clients with various solutions and concepts that will reflect their brands and help them take their next step. In certain ways, they are the stewards to the brands they serve. These solutions come with hours of research, sketches (wireframes for you web designers out there) and comps, which make your project far more efficient than “a logo for $50.” Designers will guide their clients through these processes, thereby turning the working relationship into more of a collaboration.

Heed my advice: design is a necessary investment that should be properly undertaken by a designer or design team. You, as a business owner and entrepreneur, owe it to yourself to get the best design work possible for your brand, as it will propel business growth and brand awareness. Next time you’re looking for design work online and you see an ad for a $50 website, ask yourself if that’s really in your best interests. 

Christopher SantoroComment