As a part of our Digital Marketing Tuesday series, Pete and David recently went live and discussed The Cost of Free Design. If you couldn’t tune in live on Tuesday don’t worry, here’s a rundown of everything you missed.
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“If it’s free design it means you’ll probably like it because it’s just what you thought you wanted, but it might not be what’s needed. It’s worth a little investment sometimes figuring out that message first and then designing effectively across any touchpoint.”
(DAVID) Good afternoon everybody, David from The Marketing People here, and you probably already know Pete our Digital Marketing Manager too. We’re not going to take too much of your time because it’s the run-up to Christmas and everyone’s pretty busy, so we’re just jumping on the live stream quickly to discuss the cost of free design.
(PETE) It’s a topic that can take us a day and a half full of presentations to discuss, but really, we wanted to give people food for thought, that’s why I’ve invited you [David] on today to give a deeper depth of the conversation. We talk to businesses all day every day and they’re all saying, “can you do us a free design?”. Now in my past life, I ran a leaflet distribution company, and we used to get this all the time. I wanted to invite you on today David to really talk about what is the true cost of free design?
(DAVID) Before we start, I must mention the shirt I’m wearing. Apparently, we got a lot of feedback and comments about the shirts I wear, and after you all choosing which one I should wear for the next live video, the pug one won! This is a pretty good choice, and it’s a pretty good design I hasten to add. Thank you to those that got in touch and requested and voted for the different shirts, this is the shirt that won.
But onto free design, it’s not just concerning print. Most people think free design comes with just print but over the years and more prominently now, it is actually across all touchpoints. The cost of free design? Monetary… zero. On outlay… zero. Let’s say you’re having leaflets produced, which can get distributed, handed out, put in invoice letters, or whatever you’re going to do. For the message that’s going to go on there, you’ll sit down taking your time to figure out what it is you need to say and focus on with this leaflet. You’ll think about all the important points and advertise what you’re really good at, and take all this information to the printers. The print designers will collate all your content and logo, and stick it all on the leaflet, as best they can.
Once printed, you’ll look at it and think “yes, that’s exactly what I asked for and they’ve put all the things that I wanted on there.” You may end up not getting the results you wanted from the leaflet and the time you spent giving that information to the printer and the ‘free time’ they took to put it on that paper actually could do more harm than good. The message might not be the right message, sometimes if you’re not careful you turn people off that were already working with you, because they’ll realise what you’re saying on this leaflet isn’t really what they previously thought of your business.
We’ve seen this happen before, and recently we have just worked with a UK national Association as they sent an advertisement brief to a large publication company and it came back, and it was nothing like the message or the structure they wanted to put across. They then asked us to design the advertisement and send it off to the publication using their specifications.
As Pete said, across anything, whether it’s a digital ad, a printed leaflet, an advert in a publication, or an advert online, even down to your website. The cost of free design is actually more cost-effective if you have it designed with the correct messaging.
I’m not going to sell our services, that’s not what these things are about, it’s to bring to you and highlight that thought process. People have had free design done, and then realised what you can have designed for you at a small cost have realised it’s worthwhile the small investment to get the right message, to get the right visual aspect across. Sometimes less is more as it is on digital ads, isn’t that right Pete? If you try and cram too much in what happens?
(PETE) Absolutely, you can say too much, and this is a journey. The leaflet that your potential or current customers have seen- that’s one touchpoint, that’s one of many that you can have out there and if you’re going down the free route all the time and being persuaded by free design it can be damaging for your brand messaging.
I’ve got case studies from years ago, a roofing company that we ran the leaflet drop for down in Solihull. Their leaflet was just put together on the back of a coaster by a big national company and it ended up costing them a couple of thousand pounds because they lost customers.
(DAVID) Also, you can give a mixed message, sometimes you’ll find that on some of these elements you’re trying to ask too many things in one go. Be specific when you’re doing digital ads, you need to have one specific thing that you’re targeting, not an overall because people want to know what it is that you’re offering, and they can get in touch. Then they get back to your website or give you a call depending on what the call to action is, then you can cross-sell and upsell. Targeting the right message for the right type of person, knowing who your market is, knowing what you want them to do, but of course, you’re going to make sure you get that message right and that takes some clever design. It’s got to be engaging and appealing, it’s got to attract them and engage them to do what you want and make them think it was their idea.
We’ve seen and spoken about examples where free design can give the wrong impression if the design company doesn’t understand your particular business.
(PETE) I was going to ask, David, you could go to a web design company, printing company, or signage company and they will happily design something for you, but from our perspective, how would we approach something like that?
(DAVID) Well, we approach our work from a marketing perspective, and the design has to achieve something rather than simply selling a client 5,000 leaflets. Print might not be the best method for everyone, however print does work and we use print, we try and be as eco-friendly as possible but print does work it stands out at the moment. We design for the job the advertisement has got to achieve, not for just what the MD wants (no offence MDs). You know what you’re like MD’s you’ll want to get as much across as possible and you’re really proud of your business, and that’s great! But there’s a time and place for those messages, there can be too many elements in one part, and customers might not be sure what to look at. It can be the same for leaflets, too much going on. Stripping it back, looking at what the target audience needs to know to do that next step, then you can convert them and sell them at the next step.
So, horses for courses whatever it is Pete, if it’s free design it means you’ll probably like it because it’s just what you thought you wanted but it might not be what’s needed. It’s just worth a little investment sometimes figuring out that message first and then designing effectively across any touchpoint.
(PETE) I would like to add if you get something for free there’s quite possibly a copyright issue there. The person who designed it will own the copyright, they’ll never usually give you that copyright to re-reproduce artwork or whatever you want to do with those elements. They’ll often retain or watermark the design, so just be careful of this regarding free design.
(DAVID) On that point, we have done web projects in the past and have had to ask clients “where are your images from?” and they’ve often responded, “it was in the public space, it’s fine, it’s from Google”. You should be very careful doing this, just because images are o Google does not mean they’re free to use, you can get a lot of trouble using images that aren’t owned by you. There are better ways of sourcing your own images.
Overall, if you’re looking at designing something you don’t have to come to us, it’s fine. Just sit down and think about the free design, is that person going to help you with the marketing messages? Is that person going to be able to design effectively for what it is you’re trying to achieve, or are you just getting someone to bash it together? That may sound harsh, but graphic design is three, four years at university- the same as marketing it’s a university degree. Free design designers may not have the knowledge and experience to create effective messaging. This is an investment in a message to get you more business and growth, which is worth a bit of time and investment, isn’t it?
On that note, thank you very much for inviting me on today, Pete.
(PETE) If you’ve got any comments about this topic please leave them below. Remember it can cost you a pretty penny or two in the long term and short term as well because this is free design and you may not have full control over the messaging portrayed.
We approach design from a marketing perspective and understanding exactly what marketing is, and that’s a whole other conversation!
(DAVID) We know cheapest isn’t always best and ask yourself, “is it really good value by having something designed for free?”
(PETE) Well, I can’t sign off any better than that guys, so if we don’t speak to you before next week, Merry Christmas, have a great one, have a safe one, take care.