How Much To Charge For Design Work?

A common problem for graphic designers, who are just starting out, is what to charge for your work.  Too often there is no real set rule on what to charge.  Do I charge per hour or a flat rate?  Am I charging too much?  Am I charging too little?  These are just some of the questions that budding designers have and the answers really rely on the project at hand and the skill level of the designer.  If you are a young designer just starting out you might not have any over head and can afford to charge less for your services.  But, if you are a proven veteran you can charge more because you are offering your years of experience along with your actual skill level.  The truth is all of this is subjective and you always want to be fare to your clients as well as yourself.  Unfortunately, until you figure out what works for you, it is a bit of a trial and error approach.  But here is a great article to give you some direction.  Not any defined pricing structure but is a great formula for a place to start.  Your prices may vary according to location as well.  So, take into consideration your skill level, location, experience and size of the company you are working with before you put your pricing structure together.


Custom Hand Lettering Benefits

Hand crafted custom lettering by Starr Studios in Denton, TX.  Absolutely beautiful!

Hand crafted custom lettering by Starr Studios in Denton, TX. Absolutely beautiful!


Many years ago, before the digital age, finding unique and beautiful font styles was very difficult.  If you wanted to have a unique looking font you had to create unique hand lettered fonts on your own or hire a professional artist.  Now many designers create beautiful lettering and sell, or give, them in mass for the general public to use, in order to increase their exposure.  This is how some designers believe they can build a following in order to demand higher price.  The benefit of this, for the users, are a broader range of type styles to choose from when creating new designs.  However, the original use of beautiful lettering has always been to draw attention to the craftsmanship while having a unique look all it’s own.  This is sort of a contradiction when you offer these specialty font styles up for mass use.  For a client I imagine there is no greater disappointment than when you come across another companies ad that has your same letter style or stock imagery.  This makes you feel like your designer is using a “cookie cutter” design template or pre made designs in order to turn and burn your marketing materials.  Everyone wants to believe that their marketing is unique and original to their product.  That is why they spend money on hiring a professional.

The benefit of using a designer / illustrator who can produce custom hand lettering is that you always get a unique product, different from anyone else’s.  Hand crafted and original, these true works of art can produce a buzz about your product without trying.  A simple message is heard loud and clear simply because your potential customers can’t take their eyes off of it.  Complex and beautiful, most people appreciate the intricacy and pain staking attention to detail needed to create such things.  These skills take years to develop and decades to master.  But, the end product is worth the money.  As a customer you get exactly what you want with a special personalized touch that purchased or specialty font styles just can’t give.  You may find a font that is close to what you want.  Or, “gets the job done”.  But nothing compares to the traditional art flare that comes with custom hand lettering.

We live in a fast paced, mass production, world and anytime you show customers what can be achieved by slowing down and focussing.  It is a refreshing break from the norm and people generally take notice.  Everyone can appreciate what goes into hand craftsmanship.  In a digital world where computers and machines do most of the work for us, it gives people a sense of pride to see what good old human creativity can persistence can achieve.  Here is a link to a great short video on the art of traditional sign painting.  A special thank you goes out to Starr Studios and Nathaniel Day for bringing us this great homage to the great artists of long ago (50 years).

Watch this short video “Keepers of the Craft”

Finding & Keeping Good Print Vendors

Printer's ParadiseUnless you are a web designer, exclusively, it is essential for most graphic designers to establish good working relationships with various types of print vendors.  Finding good vendors that you can rely on can sometimes be a monumental undertaking.  We have been currently looking for some new print vendors and the question always comes up whether to go with a web based company or a local print shop.  There are obviously benefits to both.  While having a local printer suites your need to see the physical product and make last minute changes or adjustments, they are typically more expensive than one you might find online.  Although an online printer could serve your purposes inexpensively, some designers might feel there is a bit of disconnect because they are not dealing face to face with a person and one can’t see the product until it is delivered.  The truth is there are benefits to both options.  The trick is finding what works for you.

We find that there are some really great printers online but it usually takes time to find out which ones are up to your quality standards.  The internet is littered with options for printers so tossing the proverbial dart and hoping for the best one might not be the best way to go.  Any reputable printer will offer to send you a sample pack of all their products.  Make sure you take them up on that and keep the sample pack in place where you can find it.  We often use these different sample packs when we meet with clients.  They are extremely useful for customers who want to feel or see different paper stocks or thicknesses.  Also, if you can, try to speak with your customer service representative.  If they are not accommodating and informative about their products you might want to consider another printer.  Nothing is worse than having a problem or issue arise and having a rep who is unwilling to compromise and help you resolve it.  Representatives that don’t know their product will not be able to accurately answer any questions you might have before or during the print process.  This is never good.  We rely on our vendors to keep us informed about their products and ones that don’t know about their products are useless.  This does not only apply to online print houses.  It is also true when using a local printer.

Using a local printer has it’s pros and cons as well.  The perk of working with a local printer is obviously being able to meet face to face with an actual human being, and being able to see what they’re printing on at a moments notice.  Usually the major down side is that they are more expensive than printers you find on the internet.  They may also do much less print volume, which could be both an advantage or disadvantage for you.  Because they are exposed to less print challenges they may have a more limited knowledge of new technologies and techniques that could fix your problem.  Or, may not have a large variety of printing equipment capable of meeting your needs.  But, if you forgot what a certain paper stock feels like, or you want to double check colors, or you want to know how certain t-shirts fit before you buy them, you can talk directly to your printer and get your answer right away.  Being able to go right in and ask questions about products or iron out mistakes that might have happened during the printing process or to just pop in and talk shop, allows you to build a much stronger working relationship with your printer.  This is good because, if you have a good relationship and they feel comfortable working with you, they are more likely to let you know if they see a design/copy mistake, if they think there will be any issues completing the job on time or if they want to give you a price break for being a loyal customer.  Although you can usually find someone to print cheaper online, because the printer pool is virtually limitless, it does not always work out to your advantage.  Even if a local printer is less expensive it pays to do your due diligence and make sure they really know their products as well.

In conclusion, it is obviously not a good idea to just go out and use the print shop that is least expensive.  You usually get what you pay for.  However, that is not always the case and even expensive printers can make huge mistakes.  The important thing is to find out how your problems will be handled when they arise.  If you do business long enough you will come to realize that it is not a matter of “IF” a problem could come up but more likely “WHEN”.  You want to use companies that stand by the quality of their products and are willing to work through issues with you.  Sometimes you will have to “eat it” but it helps when someone else is there to make sure you don’t “eat it” every time.  It is good to establish strong working relationships with every type of vendor and that is why, when you find one that works for you, it’s important to make sure you hold on to them.  Finding a new one is obviously a time consuming task.  And, always remember, “time is money”.





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Raster(bitmap) vs. Vector Art Work

Very often clients have photos or images that they would like to use for various projects.  They always ask if they can use a photo they took or an image they found online.  The answer to that question is always hard to explain for some designers.  There are two different types of images either raster(also called bitmap) or vector.  The type of artwork you can use depends on the project at hand.  Vector art is artwork created in programs like Adobe Illustrator or Coreldraw or similar software, where each element in the image are created using a series of straight or curved lines and points.  Vector art is based off of mathematical calculations where one point is located in reference to another point.  Bitmap or raster images are made up of pixels.  Raster images are usually photos of objects or other artwork.  The more pixels per inch in a photo the more clear that image is.  That is referred to as a high resolution image.  Therefore, if you have a high resolution image you can enlarge it without as much “pixilation” or blurriness.  So to answer the question on what type of image you can use, vector art always works best across any platform.  That is because you can use vector images on websites, where the images can be very small, and on banners and billboards where the artwork can be displayed very large.  Chances are very good that if you pulled an image off of the internet, not only is it probably illegal to use, it is a very low resolution image.  So, it will look very bad once you enlarge it, even a little bit.  Here is a great article that further explains this concept in detail.

Read more Vector vs. Raster…

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How to get the results you want from your graphic designer.


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