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Why is graphic design so expensive??


I recently read the Weekend Collective’s post why is photography so freaking expensive? and it got me thinking. Do you know why graphic design is so expensive? I’d love to explain! 


Pricing is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I grow my business. Laikin Studio is here to serve small businesses and creatives, people out there doing good things for their communities. Because of that, I’m very aware of price, and making it actually accessible. I think good design should be accessible to good people. 

I’m also inspired by companies like Everlane that make their pricing transparent, they tell you why you’re paying for something, and then let you make a decision if that’s worth it to you, taking away the ambiguity. 

I often get asked how much a certain package is, and while I have a starter package price, it really does vary on the needs of each project. But how do I come to that price at all? 

Keep reading to see each of the things that are taken into consideration when I price up a project


Costs

As a service baed business, my prices have to take into account how much money I need to live off of each month. Here’s a break down.

Tax –  As soon as money comes in from a project, I immediately put 20% of the cost of each project away to tax. As I run my own business, taxes aren’t taking out by the government, but instead I have to pay a tax bill every year. So I’m never pocketing the full £1500 in a £1500 fee. 

Business Fees – This sounds a bit fancier than it is, but basically there are expenses I have each month that allow me to do my job. A big one is my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, which gives me access to all of my design software. I’ve also got website hosting, my email account, any hardware that breaks or needs fixing like my computer or iPad, and other physical materials I use in my process like pens, paper, ect. When you work in an office printer paper just exists there, when you run your own business, you come to realise how much those little costs add up.

Rent & Bills – The largest sum from each fee needs to go go to pay my rent and bills, so I can live, baby!  That’s pretty self explanatory, I need to eat, I need to pay for bus tickets, I need to use heating when it’s -1c outside. 


Knowledge & Skill

There is no escaping it, you are surrounded by design everyday. From physical design like bus stops to the flyer you get handed when you walk into an event, design is everywhere. On the surface, design looks like taking information and making it looks pretty. But at the heart of design is problem solving. The first question I ask a client who comes to me is ‘what do you hope to get out of this?’ ‘What problem will this solve for you?’ This question sometimes trips people up, but it’s so important.  

Whether a designer is self taught or went to design school, we spend our time studying the art of communication, and we’re constantly keeping up with the changes in our field. 

Just as you are an expert at what you do, so are we. This has to affect price. A first year designer is going to charge a different amount to a 10 year designer, because the value they are bringing to you through their knowledge and skill is immensely more. Because with each project, a designer grows their skillset, hones their craft and then they bring that to the next project.

Not to mention, to continue growing we’re paying for conference fees, workshop fees, class fees, ect. We’ve got to keep growing our skills, so we can keep serving people better.


Time
Good design takes time, always. 

Here is a designer secret, we cannot design something, without spending hours, days, months designing things that don’t work.  There is no magic wand for us designers to know what will or won’t work to solve a problem. Instead we’re masters of something called iteration. 

We are constantly making changes, and little by little, and big bit by big bit, making adjustments to get something right. It’s not a mechanical, straight forward process. Instead it’s an exploration of ideas, constantly evolving, and stepping back and seeing where we’re at. There is no way around that, it just takes time. There’s no shortcut to good design. 

Making sure we carve out enough time for the project means being aware of how much time we actually have to give and what our time is worth, which means it does affect our pricing.

I’ve put myself in some sticky situations before when I’ve agreed to work to a tighter timeline to please a client. In the end, that really serves no one, and just ends with frustration from both sides. Design takes time, if you don’t have the time for a project, I’d suggest you put that project off until you do. 


Value

When someone invests in a logo, they are investing in a symbol that is going to be used to identify and promote their business across all mediums, for years to come. That is huge, that one logo is going to go EVERYWHERE. It’s going to be a beacon, calling people in, helping them to recognise your business. That is a highly valuable thing to invest in.

There are certainly people out there offering $50-$150 for a logo that they create in a matter of days. But like all good things, you need to question why something is so cheap. It’s unlikely there is any strategy or purpose behind that logo. Not only will it not be tailored to communicate the right things to the right people, it could actually be attracting the wrong customers, or just plain putting off the people you’re trying to attract. OUCH. Sure it cost $50 to create, but what is it loosing you in money?

If you’ve ever stood inside a boots, or cvs, and picked a new face wash because the packaging spoke to you, you know just how persuasive good, purposeful design is. Can you really afford to be that bottle left on the bottom shelf and never touched because it isn’t speaking to the right people?

Good design adds huge amounts of value, and that’s worth the investment of getting right.