What’s the Cost of Graphic Design?

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The question that I get asked most as a graphic designer is how much does a logo, website, or poster cost? It’s something that we all experience as professional designers, and it stems from a misconception of what graphic design really is. It’s not a commodity to be checked off your list. Graphic design is an investment in the long-term health of your brand.

Recently, I had a conversation with a fellow graphic designer about a web project that he was working on. The client originally hired a contractor who agreed to design an e-commerce site for $500. In his defense, he was proposing to use a template that he would skin with the company’s identity, however this still isn’t a profitable solution for the designer. For example, let’s say that this designer’s average hourly rate is $50 per hour. Having agreed to do a site for $500, he has allowed himself 10 hours to design all of the elements, layout the pages, present, gather feedback, make edits, test and launch the site. To look at this from another angle, let’s say that this designer is working for minimum wage ( by the way NO designer should be working for this amount). The current federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour. For that $500 dollars, he only has about 69 hours, or roughly one to one and a half weeks to get the site done. Unfortunately, this example isn’t that uncommon as many graphic design business are experiencing the Walmart effect with a race to the bottom.

Think of why you are building a website or designing a logo. It is true that every company has a website and logo, but just like mom always said, “if they jumped off a bridge would you?” You do need a website, but you need a website that tells your story and engages visitors to adapt your brand, purchase your product or use your service. You do need a logo, but it has to be differentiated, flexible, memorable and timeless to function as a quick identifier for your brand. To achieve these goals takes research, expertise and time. At the heart of developing any successful graphic design solution is the relationship between the client and design team, or what I like to call trust, experience and expertise. Think about what it would cost to hire the perfect team to create the perfect solution instead of just buying a solution.

I recently conducted a survey with current and past clients, and the resounding opinion from all of them is that I am expensive. When I asked everyone to clarify that statement, they all stated that my cost was higher than most people they had talked to offering the same product. I then asked if the value they received in my service justified the cost, and the clients I worked with all said that the value greatly exceeded the cost in nearly every project. If I was just selling a logo or visual identity package then being called expensive isn’t good. The reality is that I’m selling my expertise, experience and most importantly, my ability to partner with companies to develop a strategy that leads to a graphic solution. The logo or visual identity is the prize in the Cracker Jack box of our partnership.

Approaching a project looking for the cheapest solution possible is rarely the best way to get the best ROI, after all your not buying toilet paper. Focus on your goals, and seek out a specialist to help you achieve those goals. You may have to spend more, but your ROI will increase proportionally as well. Stop asking about cost, and instead ask yourself what it’s worth.

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