We realize that anything we design, create or write will in some way influence the perception that others have regarding your company. Our work may help support an already established brand, or may help to more clearly define a weak brand, or our design may completely define or redefine a company’s brand. Whatever role we have in influencing public perception through the work we do, we take very seriously. We realize that while every piece is an important and identifying piece of a perception puzzle, the complete picture is what we must work toward. All creative materials must support that central branding focus whether it is through the development of a website or the design of marketing material.
Whenever a project enters our shop, our number one goal is to get to know the client and gather a complete understanding of their issues and expectations so that we can develop an appropriate strategy for maximizing that organization’s brand recognition. We immerse ourselves in learning your industry so we can effectively produce a communications piece that will give our client the perception, identity and overall creative personality that they desire and need. We listen, research, create, develop, implement and follow through.
The number one question we always get asked... how much does it cost? When dealing with diverse projects this can be a tough question to answer. Not all projects are the same and neither is the final product. For example, a website has several different variables that effect cost; is it custom built, template driven, need a shopping cart, who is hosting it, who will maintain it, what's the page count, would you like to perform a SEO, the list goes on and on? We understand this so we like to offer several different options.
Our hourly price structure is for those that would like to work on a tight budget, or maybe for someone that requests a time sheet based on their company policy. With each client we have a very competitive hourly rate we start with and, if need be, adjust from there depending on the projects demands. We will never begin a project without an approved hourly rate by you the client. Since time is always a factor with hourly rate plans we will always manage our time that benefits you and create a successful message for your company and/or product.
Working within a budget is a popular choice for many of our clients. We receive calls all the time requesting our services but many don't know what a logo, brand development, advertising or a website should cost. With our budget plan, you dictate how much you want to spend. Based off your set budget and needs, we will build a custom strategy to build a successful message for your business. With a budget plan there will be no surprises, and we will never go over your budget. You pay what you want... it's that simple.
When we first started offering our retainer plan we weren't sure if our clients would prefer this option to the others... we were wrong! This has quickly become the go to choice for most of our clients. With our retainer we handle ALL your advertising, branding, website/digital needs for an agreed upon monthly fee. All of our services are at your disposal. Each retainer is custom built to provide the services you need. It can be as simple as maintaining a website for a small fee, or handling your entire marketing and advertising for the next year. All of our retainers start at 6 months and go up to 12 months or more. Choose the length that best fits your time and budget. With our retainer many of our clients have saved thousands of dollars by saving on one easy flat monthly fee, no overtime charges, 24/7 creative assistance and being free of sales tax.
Also, If you are a company with existing in-house design capabilities, our retainer will be able to replace this and it’s costly benefits, such as sick leave, bonuses and paid vacations, saving you in unnecessary extra expenses. The biggest benefit our clients have found with our retainer is that they don't gain just one designer, but a company with over 40 years of experience.
Design VS Brand
When you are in the process of determining the theme for your next project, never let the concept override the importance of maintaining the established brand of your company. Too often a design is created that does not support the company’s brand. Maintain color and over all image when determining a design format. A cleaver design may win an award but does little to maintain the consistent image that is important for long-term growth and a consist message which builds a successful brand.
When photography or illustration is purchased for the use on a project, be sure the rights are purchased for usage on the web as well. When a project is completed it is normally posted to the company’s website as a PDF. The rights you may have purchased either from a photographer/illustrator or stock photo/illustration company may not include web usage. Posting a PDF is considered web usage. Also, the photos/illustrations you purchased cannot be used for any other purpose unless it has been negotiated in the beginning. Copyright laws are being aggressively enforced today, so be sure this is primary in your purchasing decisions. Don’t assume that the rights have been properly negotiated to fit your future needs. Licensing generally is for one year and must be renewed if the photo/illustration is to be used after that one year. We recommend that this process be handled within the company and not by an outside firm. That way the notice of renewal is sent to the company and not to the design firm that you may not be presently using.
Design for economics
There are many ways to cut the cost of producing a project without sacrificing the look and feel that is desired. One of the major costs in a project is the printing. One way to cut cost is to specify the house sheet that the printer uses for most of its day to day printing. This is usually less expensive than a custom sheet that has to be ordered and sent from the mill. Many times a PMS or additional color is spec to help in design appearance as well as a varnish which adds gloss or a dull look to the finished product. Both of these can be eliminated with the use of screened process colors using one of the colors as a 100%. As an example, 100% yellow and 30% blue will create a green color. The 100% color helps the printer to register when printing and avoids a dotted look. Most printers offer an overall coating to the sheet rather than a varnish. The coating allows for faster drying time. When a schedule is tight, you don’t want your job to be waiting for the varnish to dry before putting it back through the press. Secondly, you need to be conscious of the page count. I have seen many projects with 14 pages or 18 pages. A press prints in 4 page forms. So any total that is divided by 4 is the most cost effective way to print.
When it comes to purchasing photography or hiring a photographer have a budget established that allows for a problem, especially if you are going outside the country. A photographer cannot control the weather and a two-day shoot may need to be three because of it or other factors. Another way to save money on photography is to find a photographer that is going to be in that area of the country for another client and split the travel and miscellaneous cost. Lastly, if budgets do not allow for travel and photography, consider buying stock photography. We do not recommend buying any rights managed photos. They are more expensive and have conditions connected to them that are quickly forgotten. Always purchase “royalty free” photos and illustrations. They normally give you extended rights that “rights managed” photos and illustrations do not. Be sure that in any agreement that you make with the photographer/illustrator or stock houses is specifically written to your long-term needs and usage.
Should you write your next project, or should an outside firm do it?
We recommend both. Having someone else describe another person's child is impossible. Only they know them in that special way. A company should do the same. Even if you are not a good writer, put down your feelings about the place you spend more waking hours than your own home. Once you have done this, turn it over to the professional who can take your feelings and emotions and present it in the proper format of the project. Going through an interviewing process with an outside writer is time consuming and costly. And we have found for the most part that after a first draft, the company changes all of it anyway. Remember, no one knows your company like you do. A good copywriter can express your information in the tone you desire. So make it a team effort and let each group do what they are best at doing.
Consider a turnkey price for your next project?
Many design firms offer what is called a turnkey cost. Since we don’t know how others interpret this. We can only give you how we have done it. First, we established a fee for all the work that will need to be done. This will include all cost for meetings, coordination with printer, photographers and any other firms that may be involved. The fee is generally based on a comprehensive knowledge of the project.
So when is extra cost justified? Again, we can only tell you how we do it. Anytime the project changes after a design/concept has been approved, we will determine if the change requires additional fees. We may not charge any additional fees if it is something that can be easier added or changed. Normally, turnkey does not include other vendors cost such as photography/illustration, writers, programmers, etc. unless these costs have been determined before concepts have been presented.
What is the value of a turnkey price? You will not have any surprises at the end of the project. A project is only successful if it is done within the budget. Plus, knowing that you are not being charged for every time you ask a question or call a meeting allows for a trust to grow between you and the design firm, which is essential for a successful communications.
How important is it to have a schedule?
Every project should have a schedule. The question is how detailed and when should it begin? A concept should be the first thing decided on in the schedule. The concept decides the visuals/message and how the visuals/message are presented.
Most schedules have to work around your company’s schedule. Never create a design that does not allow for flexibility. Design should never dictate the information that needs to be communicated. When developing a schedule, the fewer the dates to be met, the better. You will fine that a lengthy schedule will require you to spent a great deal of time constantly adjusting it. Create one that has no more than 5 hot dates that cannot be missed or adjusted. Remember, the simpler the better.