Contracting a designer should be a simple process: you outlay your requirements, the designer comes back with a proposal, a price and a timeline. Easy peasy.
But if you're not a designer, how do you know what you're buying? Like most things, the devil is in the details: most cars have four wheels and an engine, but there's a world of difference between a Reliant Robin and a Rolls (the Reliant has only three wheels for a start ...).
Knowledge of the details is especially important when you're comparing more than one quote and trying to establish value for money. You need to know exactly what your money is buying in order to make the right decision and not end up with a three-wheeled website when you expected four.
Print Design & Printing
We recently heard back from a customer-in-waiting who had opted for another, cheaper quote from a different design firm to handle the design and printing of some bumper stickers. Seems the bumper stickers had faded after a mere six weeks. Our guess is that the stickers had been printed on a non-laminated, non-UV safe vinyl (or worse, paper) that simply wasn't suitable for outdoor living. Laminated, UV-safe vinyl is more expensive; hence our quote was more expensive.
Did the customer-in-waiting know she was not getting UV-safe stock? I doubt it. A print job can be manipulated in any number of ways to make the bottom line appear cheaper. In some cases it's legitimate, but in some cases there are some important aspects of a client's brief that are simply getting overlooked or ignored. In this case its intended use just wasn't considered and it was largely a waste of time and money.
Do I sound miffed? Jaded? No-o-o-o-o. Okay, maybe a little. But not with the customer — with the design firm that happily took her cash and supplied her a product that was clearly not up to scratch. Technically I suppose the customer was not misled by the design firm in question. But she was not fully informed either — and to my way of thinking that is misleading by omission.
Small businesses can't afford to be misled; in this instance, the client had spent her budget on the bumper stickers and there simply was no more money in the coffers to have them redone. End of story.
When comparing quotes, make sure the parameters of the quotes you are comparing are the same and that you know exactly what you're buying.
Here's some print parameters that you, or your designer, should specify to ensure you're getting what you want, with no surprises and no disappointments.
If ever there was an area of design easily muddied, it's web design. Because of its nature, there are many elements of a technical bent that can be used to confuse or obfuscate the potential client and convince them there's value when there is not. Or to conflate the simplest quote into something much larger that it needs to be and thus much pricier than it deserves.
There may, of course, be legitimate reasons for a more expensive quote. Like the bumper sticker anecdote above, there are aspects of web design and functionality that simply cost more money. There are, for instance, cheap web hosts and expensive web hosts; there are templated sites and custom made sites; and there is the potential for addons galore.
Nothing wrong with any of the foregoing: it comes down to what best suits you, the client. We're always on the lookout when quoting a job for aspects that the client may not have thought of or not fully thought through: do you own the relevant domain, do you have a web host organised, do you need email client accounts set up, do you need training?
Here's some web parameters that you, or your web designer, should specify to ensure you're getting what you want, with no surprises and no disappointments.
Almost all design jobs demand deliverables beyond the physical object that is being designed. For example, a client briefing a business card should not only expect the actual printed business card, they should also expect a digital archive of the files and components that make up the business card: perhaps a press-ready PDF, a jpeg of same, the layout file, and the necessary fonts (though some fonts may be restricted by licensing). Some of these items (such as the layout file) may not be usable directly by the client, but it gives the client the convenience of reprinting those business cards, should he or she want to, without necessarily dealing with the original designer.
That's a simple example. More complex jobs should include more supporting material.
Style & Usage Guide
Logo, branding and web projects require a style guide. This gives instructions and advice of a how-to nature.
For example, a style guide for a new logo should define and describe (at the very least): primary, grey scale and mono usage; clear space to be maintained around the logo; a minimum size the logo should be used at; examples of logo misuses and abuses; a breakdown of the colours used in the logo; examples of potential applications and when the primary or secondary logos should be used; and perhaps some information on file formats so that the client knows what to use and when.
Logo and branding projects in particular should deliver final files in a number of different formats as certain formats are more suited to specific jobs and outcomes. All logos should be supplied as an EPS (or vector, or Illustrator) file; if your designer cannot give you an EPS file, ask for your money back. Further, any fonts used in that EPS file should be "saved as outlines" — this means that text is essentially saved as a shape, and no font is needed to print or reprint that graphic.
Other file variations that should be included are TIFF, JPEG, PNG and PDF files; each of these may further be supplied in different sizes. You should receive clear instructions on when and why to use these different file formats.
At the completion of a given project, the designer should hand over to the client an archive of finished art and files. This might be on a DVD, thumb drive, or other removable media, or may be uploaded to the client's storage account in the cloud. Perhaps both.
The design firm may also offer or negotiate archiving on site. This may come with a charge (and hence a guarantee) or may just be added as a sweetener.
Originality. Expertise. Professionalism.
There are some basics that should really go without saying, but your designer should be able to warrant that their work is original and not copied from other sources. That they have experience in the field and should be able to point to a body of work that supports this. And that they will approach your project in a professional manner: that deadlines will be met, that the job will be delivered, that their quote won't change mid-project, that they won't transgress ethical or professional boundaries — especially not in your name.
I know, I know. These should be pretty safe assumptions, but there are some pretty shonky operators out there so they are questions worth asking — and it's worth getting the answers in writing.
Here's a quick checklist for evaluating your quotes. Not every quote will necessarily meet every criteria, but that's not the point: the heart of the matter is that you know what you're getting for your money and that, for comparison purposes, each quote identifies the same work and procedures.
Surprise! No Suprises!
If you’ve got a project in mind, we’re ready to listen. We’ll give you an honest price and a detailed breakdown of the project parameters. We take pride in seeing a given project from all angles and by indulging in some crystal ball gazing — so that your project is not just relevant today, but ready to grow with you into the future. You can rest assured that our work is always original, and will be delivered on time and on budget. That’s not just a boast: it’s a commitment.