Buy it cheap, buy it twice

This wise old adage may seem redundant in today’s throwaway society but we think it still offers some valuable lessons in the design and marketing world.

As marketing budgets continue to shrink, the temptation to scour the market for a cheap solution is inevitable, but we believe that when it comes to design, working closely with good designers and careful planning, are better ways to maximise your budget…

Know where you’re going
You need to have the internal focus right before you can brief an external supplier. All branding and marketing should be steering an organisation towards its long-term vision rather than just meeting short-term needs. This helps to give branding and marketing communications a longer shelf life and make them more effective. Quick fix solutions are tempting but are rarely the best way to communicate the bigger picture.

Learn from past mistakes
Plan carefully to ensure that communications tell the right message, to the right people, at the right time. Regularly audit marketing materials and all manifestations of the brand to assess the effectiveness and value for money. What works and what doesn’t? Don’t just produce things out of habit. Sometimes one communication can replace three. If you really need three, can they be printed up together to save on print costs. A few well thought out, engaging, relevant and well designed pieces will be more effective than lots of unfocussed, poorly produced ones that end up in the recycling bin.

Get your designers problem solving
Develop a dialogue with your designers. Tell them what you want to achieve and invite their input on format and content, as well as on layout and design. Ask them to suggest smart solutions to save money in production and distribution. Don’t be over prescriptive or limit their creativity at the outset. Tell them what information you need to communicate, and who to, and let them propose solutions. Consider different technologies and distribution methods? Does it really need an envelope for mailing or can it be designed to negate that? Sometimes a powerful single colour piece can have more impact than a  full colour one? Be open to new ideas.

Pick our brains 
Draw on your designer’s industry knowledge. As designers we really understand print and production – from presses to paper sizes and how jobs are planned up. We can help plan jobs economically to minimise waste. Some papers bulk up more than others so they appear thicker but are lighter in weight – useful to know when considering mailing costs without compromising on quality. A few millimetres trimmed off an edge could save a lot on distribution costs.

And finally, the ultimate false economy…
Free-pitching may seem a good idea – after all, who doesn’t like something for nothing? Putting a job out to many companies as a free pitch may at first appear to yield lots of exciting glossy options, but will they really reflect your organisation and future vision? Did they spend hours of unpaid time researching your organisation, your marketplace and your target audiences – probably not. The fact is that a free job will always be at the bottom of the pile behind the fee paying jobs in any design studio, so even if you get something you think is OK just imagine how good it could have been if you’d paid them to give it real time and effort. Find a designer or design group you respect and trust enough to pay them for their time and you’ll get the right design solution without the wasted time – after all, time is money.

Five tips for writing a design brief

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It goes without saying that the first step to getting the right design solution is getting the brief right. Your designers can help you to write a design brief but the basic information that you need to provide is outlined in the five steps below.

  1. Outline your objectives clearly.
    Why are you commissioning this project? As with any marketing exercise you need to set clear goals outlining what you want to achieve. Typical examples might be to raise awareness, increase sales, reach a new audience, etc.
  2. Give as much background and supporting information as you can.
    No one understands your business as well as you do so make sure you tell your designers about it. Good designers will engage with your business and share your enthusiasm. Tell them about the culture and personality of the organisation as well as a factual overview. Share what’s good and bad, what is and isn’t working. Be honest. Recognising issues and addressing them is key to business success and design can help reflect changes and alter perceptions. Tell them about your competitors, industry and audience.
  3. Clearly state any specific requirements.
    What are the deliverables? Try to give a guide budget and timescales. If you have brand guidelines ensure that you supply them. If this needs to work alongside other marketing materials ensure that you show them.
  4. Don’t be overly prescriptive.
    Try to involve your designers as early as possible in the process before too many decisions have been made. They can recommend formats, distribution methods and production options that you may not have considered. Try not to influence the design solution too strongly with your own ideas at this stage. You’re paying designers for their creativity so don’t stifle them at the start of a project even if you have to rein ideas in at a later stage. This leads to more exciting and innovative design solutions.
  5. Supply any examples of designs that you like or think are effective.
    While you don’t want to copy what others are doing it’s a good starting point to see examples and get an indication of what you do and don’t like. If you have any examples of materials that you have produced previously it is important to show these – even if it’s to show what you want to change or feel isn’t working.

These are all discussion points to develop a dialogue between you and your designer and help them gain a deeper understanding of your organisation and create something that is unique and relevant to you and specific to your brief. The more information you can give the better the outcome.