Why is Design So "Expensive"?

 
 
design is expensive
 

We get it. A lot of people think design is expensive. And now we’re breaking down exactly what goes into a good design process and why that expense is something absolutely worthwhile when it comes to the success of your business.

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I think every designer at some point or another has heard back from a dreamy potential client stating that their quote is “too expensive” or “out of their budget.” We know the drill. And we do very much understand this reasoning and any hesitations people may have about investing so much in the design of their brand, website and/or marketing pieces. Here are our thoughts on why design can seem so expensive for some business owners.

The biggest misconception about design when a potential client first lays eyes on their estimate is that this price tag seems too high to just “make things pretty” when it comes to their brand, marketing materials or website. A good designer truly is doing so much more than making things look nice. When we can start to break down what is actually going into a solid design process like the one we use confidently at Function, we start to see how and why design is an important investment in the success of your business as a whole.

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Ok, so what’s involved in this process?

Brand Strategy

Before we dive into designing things like logos, picking colours or fonts and looking for brand imagery for a client, we always begin with the brand strategy. This means setting up the entire foundation of your brand so that we can build a sturdier version that will become the face and first impression of your business. Usually, it entails things like questionnaires, brainstorming calls, Pinterest boards, and The Brand Planner.

Our goal isn’t to turn around a quick logo design for you. There are lots of other designers, platforms, or DIY approaches that do cost much less. Our goal is to build a cozy, long-term home for your business and to do that, we first need to set up a strong foundation and build the bones of the house with a framework.

Clients often overlook this when thinking about design. Of course, we don’t blame them. We all see the final, shiny results and WANT THOSE without the hard work in between. But this in-between stuff ends up being magical, trust us. In almost all of our projects, the in-between work ends up being everyone’s favourite part. It’s kind of like therapy, but for your business brain. It works wonders to help with overwhelm, business direction, clarity, and focus.


If design isn’t profitable then it’s art.
— Henrik Fiskar

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Designing the Entire Brand Experience

So like we mentioned above, we aren’t here to pop out a cute logo for you and move on to the next project. Brand design has so many moving pieces. Here’s a taste of what we typically do for any given project:

  • Primary logo design in all necessary colours and file types (for both print and web)

    This is the main logo to be used in your business

  • Alternate logo design in all necessary colours and files types (for both print and web)

    An alternate version of your logo like a wordmark or a more compact version for different contexts

  • Submark logo design in all necessary colours and files types (for both print and web)

    A compact version of your logo for social media, watermarks, stamps...etc.

  • Custom colour palette and colour codes

    So that you can stay consistent on all platforms and when printing

  • Brand font files and typography system

    For consistency and to ensure you can install your fonts for easy use on your computer

  • Patterns (if applicable)

    Can be used for brand recognition, on packaging, social media graphics...etc.

  • Brand icons/illustrations (if applicable)

    Used for emphasis, brand awareness, packaging, social media graphics...etc.

  • Other brand elements

    These may be things like lines, buttons, formats, and any other visual pieces that make your brand more unique and recognizable

  • Shareable graphics

    A folder of graphics that showcase your new brand ready to share on all platforms or use as social media profile pictures

  • Library of free stock photos

    A folder of photos you can use that represent your brand visually - great for blog posts, social media, marketing materials or on your website

  • Brand stylesheet or in-depth style guide

    A summary of how to use your new brand assets in either a simple one-pager reference sheet or an intricate, hardcover book with application tips and guidance

  • A training session to review all your files, folders and how to use your new brand

  • Packaging for products

    Which also involves considering things like packaging materials, how things will print on certain papers or products, how people will interact and shop for the product (will it be online or on a shelf?)...etc.

  • Marketing materials

    Like brochures, business cards, opt-in guides, email marketing newsletter templates, lookbooks, menus, ads, social media graphics...etc.

  • Website design + development

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into projects here at Function. We want to set our clients up for long-term success, so we make sure they have every file they’ll need to go on to build a recognizable and successful business.

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One-on-One Value and Expertise

Because we’re working with our clients one-on-one, they’re set up with a built-in design coach/consultant. So not only are we acting as the implementors by actually doing the designing or website development, but we’re also working as consultants providing valuable solutions along the way.

As we work through brand and website strategy phases with clients, we’re dissecting their entire approach to how they run their business. That means going through their services, ideal audience, and the experience they’re providing their clients or customers with a fine-tooth comb. By doing so, we can work through ways to optimize how their business is running. Maybe that means implementing easier ways to get clients to book a consultation or optimizing where we place email newsletter forms for more subscribers. Having someone in your corner to work through all of these business decisions is a lot more valuable than simply designing a logo!

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What’s at stake when you don’t invest in good design?

You’re Losing Money

We aren’t here to tell you that you need a fancy brand or website to make money. Honestly. I personally know a few people who don’t even have a website up and are killing it in their industry. You can absolutely be successful without a magical design formula. But can it help? Absolutely, positively.

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You’re Losing Reach

When you don’t pay attention to the strategy and design of your brand, website and marketing materials, you’re losing eyeballs on your business. It can be that simple.

Even the people I know who are extremely successful without these things… could they be reaching more people or working towards a bigger version of whatever success means to them by having these things sorted out? I say yes.

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You’re Losing Credibility

By taking shortcuts when it comes to design in your business, it’s very likely that you’re losing out on revenue, reach, SEO status (yes, Google rewards websites who have better design because it means higher engagement), and referrals.

Converting views to sales increases a whole lot more when people are enticed, intrigued and engaged by your content. I’m sure you’ve made some very quick judgments yourself when shopping for a particular product or looking for a specific service based on how you felt about their website, packaging or social media posts.

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You’re Losing the Chance to Provide an Awesome Experience

Good design means that you’re building a much faster connection with your perfect clients or customers. You’re establishing trust in a much easier way and people like easy.

When you ask your customers or clients to dig deep into the depths of your website to get the right information, or you’re asking them to try and look past the logo you had your cousin do for free to just give your business a chance, you’re actually asking them to burn extra calories. It’s true! More thinking and considering makes your brain work harder, which burns more calories. Maybe you can market yourself as helping with your audience’s fitness goals! But ultimately, the easier we can get people from point A (stumbling across your content) to point Z (paying for your product or service), the better it is for both parties involved.

When you give your audience the best possible experience with any touch-point in your business, you’re not only making their decisions easier, but you’re also making your business more shareable.


If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.
— Ralf Speth

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What should you expect when you invest in design for your business?

When you take the leap to invest in working with a designer for your brand, marketing materials, and your website, you’re really investing in the future of your business. I truly believe that.

We spend thousands and thousands of dollars on our homes through renovations, decorations, upgrades, improvements, and functionality. Some of this money is, of course, a necessity (like fixing a leaky roof), and some of it is for mere enjoyment (like spending $5,000+ on a deck in the backyard so we can host family or friends a few times a year).

We don’t mind investing in the things we place value on. So when it comes to our businesses, which are supposed to be making us the money to be able to afford these finer things in life, we need to be able to see how these kinds of investments can help us out in the long-run.

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Knowing What to Spend

We don’t have a magic formula for figuring out what you should invest in design, but one of the ways we help our clients sort through this is by simplifying it down to a percentage of your annual revenue or target revenue if you’re just getting started. There are a ton of factors that go into pricing design services and it changes with the needs of each individual project (another post for another time). But, in general and to try and make things more tangible, we like to suggest a 10-13% range for Function clients (there are most certainly ways to get these things done for less, and also there are cases where I would definitely suggest you’d need a higher budget... again, no real formula here).

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Annual revenue or goal x 10-13% = A suggested investment for design in your business

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A Business Making $100,000 Annually

If you are running a business that brings in (or would like to bring in) $100,000 per year right now, it might be wise to consider putting $10,000 - $13,000 aside for brand, web, and marketing design projects (also noting these design projects generally should last you longer than 1 year). We design for the long-run, so this isn’t an annual investment, but rather a guideline for trying to imagine how much you should spend in the design department.

Let’s say you’re going to spend $12,000 on a new brand, a new website, and some marketing templates, which ideally will last you, let’s say 3 years to keep things simple to calculate (I like to suggest doing a brand and website check-in once a year or so to make sure everything is still aligned, but I have clients still using and loving on the same brand 3+ years later).

If we take that $12,000 and divide it over the course of 3 years, that’s $4,000 per year. How many products or services would you need to sell to make back $4,000 in a year? Not always the case, but my guess is that if we could track and break down how many sales you make or lose out on in a year due to the design and positioning of your brand, you’d be well over that $4,000 mark when it comes to the return on investment.

Poor design or a bad brand/website experience absolutely is costing you money, so if you can imagine how many eyes are skipping over your business, and therefore how many sales you’re missing out on because of this poor experience, then you can see the value this kind of work can have on your business overall.

A $1,000,000 Business

So, in the same fashion, if we look at a business who is making $1,000,000 in revenue, then putting aside $100,000 - $130,000 isn’t unreasonable. I know it seems absurdly high, but again, if we broke that down into $40,000 per year over the next 3 years for design and marketing elements, that’s 4% of the $1,000,000 revenue each year. Do I believe that good design can increase a business’s revenue/profit by over 4% in a year? Yes. And even more than that.

A Business Making $50,000 Annually

One last example. If we have a business owner who is making or would like to make $50,000 in a year with their products or services, and they put aside $5,000 - $6,500 aside for their design then again, that’s under $2,200 per year to ensure more sales, more eyeballs, more referrals, better SEO, and a better brand experience for clients or customers.

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You Need to Do What Works Best for Your Business

We understand that we are not the right design studio for everyone. We don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable to the point of hyperventilation when deciding to work with a designer (some discomfort is never a bad thing - it means growth).

Some people do simply want a simple logo designed to kick things off and see where things take them. Maybe they aren’t ready yet to go all in with their business and that’s OK. There are so many options for any person looking to up-level their design. From DIY programs and templates (which are perfect for those just dipping their toes in or who like to learn new skills) to full-on agency services and everything in between. There is something out there that’s exactly what you’re looking for for the price you’re willing to spend. You just have to know where to look.

Whichever way you decide to start implementing better design in your business, you should expect that investing in working with a designer, studio or agency will help lead to results. No, we can never guarantee a 5, 6, 7+ figure salary after you finish working with us. We tell people all the time that we can design something INCREDIBLE to set you up for all the success you are dreaming about, but without showing up and putting the work into your business, establishing relationships, refining your processes, looking at things like SEO or marketing...etc., you aren’t going to see results. We give you the toolkit with everything you need and then ask you to use it and get to work.

What I can guarantee though, is that if you’re ready to go all-in with your business venture (be it part-time, full-time, big, small, whatever the case), then design will be a huge factor in establishing the direction and the future success of your business.


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