Saturday, March 14, 2009

Designer Stagflation

At a recent graphic design organization seminar about pricing I asked the question—“Why haven’t costs for graphic design changed over the last 15 years?”

It was a rhetorical question, it was open-ended, there were bound to be many different takes on the question’s implications. I was astounded at the answer the successful design studio proprietor provided. I just didn’t think it would come from one of us.

He said, “Starting up a business is so much less expensive now, you’re overhead is lower because of that and you don’t need as much stuff to get your work done.”

That is what clients have said to me when trying to bargain a lowering of a reasonable cost estimate. I was really astounded to hear this illogic spouted by a fellow designer, disappointed that they had bought into this line of reasoning. Almost like visiting a designer’s studio and seeing a time clock and steam powered break whistle in use.

So because you invest in a computer and printer and they help you work efficiently, you should lower your costs? Lawyers and accountants and the medical profession—they see it differently, it is increased productivity increased profit margin.

Position yourself in regards to the value you bring to the table. Your worth as a designer is more than the cost of your time alone. Knowing what your time is worth—that break even number—is simply good business sense. Now determine your value added, what you bring to a project and what that is worth.

Graphic design and illustration is a good value today and part of our mission is to educate people and clients about what we do for society and communication. We know it’s not all about making things look pretty. There is a larger purpose we serve.

Act like you are somebody and lead the way for other designer comrades. The next 15 years will see a rise in the respect and paychecks we deserve if we act united.


© Copyright 2009 Guy Arceneaux All rights reserved

Your Audience: Starting at the very beginning.

Ask yourself this when developing any communication—to whom am I communicating?

The answer will inform you as you plan, develop, design and edit. Don’t trick yourself—keep asking yourself that question—become objective enough to become one with your audience.

At one time your audience may have been a thesis review committee but you’ve graduated and are in a new arena. The audience for a brochure about food security needs a much more direct approach, content relevant to their experience and understanding.

Center yourself in the task of communicating with someone, not to someone. Success lies in the subtle difference of those two simple words, it all comes down to relevance.

Who is your audience? What is relevant to them? How much time will they spend with this communication?

Often organizational communications get trapped in a syndrome that alienates their audience right away. This can best be described as the talking to yourself—again.

Everything you know about your topic does not have to be conveyed in this communication. Don’t unload all of the technical terms you use in your workplace on your unsuspecting audience. While willing to listen to your logic, your audience may be very unwilling to become fully indoctrinated at this first exposure.

Next ask yourself another question—what do we want the audience to do? Do we want them to write to their congressman? Ask them to do that. Do we want them to give generously? Ask them to do that. Do we want them to attend an event and bring a friend?

You don’t ask you don’t get! Don’t count on your readers to do the right thing—it may be obvious to you what needs to be done, but then—you work for an organization that makes doing the right thing part of its daily duties.

You have to help them do the right thing and that means making it simple to act. A clear choice, with a benefit that is comprehensible and means something now not in the distant future.

Audience focus, content relevance, clear call to action. Three simple guideposts for making your organization’s communications work as hard as you do.


© Copyright 2009 Guy Arceneaux All rights reserved