Ah, the graphic designer — that creative, artistic, aesthetically minded wizard who translates broad ideas into full-fledged visual forms for a brand. You don’t even have to be a business owner to recognize the importance of this “magic.” Asking why graphic design is so important for businesses is like asking why that business has to turn a profit — it won’t stay open very long if it does otherwise.
However, aligning this interest in a graphic designer with your actual needs, timelines, costs and brand direction is an entirely different tale. Questions like how to find a graphic designer, or what qualities make a good graphic designer, only get you so far in a thriving, mutually beneficial partnership that blends design with business development. To build that kind of relationship, you need deeper insight.
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers — tried-and-true tips for hiring a graphic designer who won’t churn out a few logos here and there but build you a brand that grows your business and turns a profit.
What Does a Graphic Design Business Do?
Graphic design businesses are agencies, organizations or independent freelancers who ideate and create visually communicative collateral for clients.
There’s more than meets the eye with this definition. To fully understand its business leveraging, we must first understand both the importance of collateral and the importance of communicating a brand.
- Collateral is an industry term for the media used to accompany product or service messages. While collateral was traditionally only associated with materials that supported a physical sale, such as a product catalog, it has broadened in recent years to encompass nearly all visually dominant materials associated with a brand across consumer touchpoints and lifecycles, from websites and flyers to front-of-shop signs.
- Branding, at its simplest, is how you want consumers to feel and think about your business. What associations do you want to come to mind? What emotions do you want to instill? What adjectives would you like people to use if and when they describe your company?
Therefore, we now have the terms necessary to answer what a graphic design business does — they create the media that helps create their client’s brand.
What Can Graphic Designers Create for My Business?
A graphic design partner will be a linchpin in establishing your visibility, familiarity and value in a market. Yet this relationship goes two ways, as the best corporate graphic designs don’t just appear out of thin air.
On the client’s end, a business must provide company background and communicate relevant values, beliefs and details. The graphic designer or design agency takes that information and siphons it into visual concepts.
That collateral can be a number of things broken down into the following three categories:
1. Professional Assets
Professional visual assets are those which relay to others your authority and industry expertise. This includes materials like business cards, business illustrations and custom direct mailings. Most important, though, they’ll revolve around your company’s logo — a central product of graphic design and one of the staples an agency or freelancer can create for you. A business without a logo is like a person without a face. Ensure you have this critical professional asset designed today.
2. Physical Assets
Physical assets are your tangible branded goods. They’re the collateral you or your customers can hold in their hands, from printed flyers, brochures and pamphlets to actual product packaging. They can be the banners and signs you display on your storefront or the branded merchandise you hand out at a sponsored event. And of course, they highlight your logo, that all-important graphic-design staple.
3. Digital Assets
The most contemporary assets graphic designers can create, digital assets include things that will be seen and interacted with digitally.
Central to digital design assets will be your company’s website — the importance of which cannot be overstated. Presenting a clean, user-friendly and engaging website designed by professionals is one of today’s leading ways to drive online conversions — in some cases doubling, tripling or even quadrupling them. What’s more, 46 percent of consumers state they will not trust or make a purchase from a brand whose website lacks a professional “look and feel.” That’s nearly half of all website visitors. Yikes.
Business digital assets get rounded out by mobile-friendly website design as well as mobile apps, animations and digital advertisements run strategically across the web.
What Qualities Make a Good Graphic Designer?
There are a number of traits that help define what to look for in a graphic designer. After all, this is a business partnership. Prospective teams should approach design firms and freelancers with the same time and attention they give to other hiring and growth initiatives since this is precisely what good graphic design will provide.
Communication is at the heart of a functioning graphic design partnership. Not just in the literal sense, either, as designers function to build communicative visuals for you and your small business, but as a matter of practice and professionality.
Graphic designers must get to know you and your brand, ask the right questions and curate the right idea-generating conversations. They can then identify the key branding and storytelling elements through meetings, surveys, questionnaires and more to whittle precisely what you need to convey your business’ story. Most of all, they need to listen.
The importance of this two-way communication continues through design-concept templates. Some agencies may even offer numerous design concepts early on, garnering feedback and ensuring they meet a client’s every expectation. This sort of communication across every step of the design process signals one of the chief characteristics of a graphic design partnership rather than a one-and-done service. Creative and insightful communication begets creative and insightful designs.
2. Project Management Prioritization
When thinking of graphic designers — or anyone in a creative profession, for that matter — many people conjure up images of the eccentric artist, sitting alone at a desk or sketchpad, waiting for inspiration to strike.
While it’s certainly colorful, this stereotype fails to account for the methodic attention, scheduling and routine that’s part of a professional’s approach. Graphic designers work across client concepts linearly and diligently. They don’t pull ideas out of thin air but work with consistent and collaborative structures, often with the assistance of project managers and client liaisons, marketing analytics, researchers, advertisers, copywriters, editors and more. They have tight and overlapping schedules with clients in numerous industries expecting a range of collateral, from initial concept conversations and mock-ups to the final finished product.
All that is to say that a good graphic designer is one who can, and does, professionally prioritize. Only those with a keen sense of time and project management can genuinely keep pace, setting themselves apart from the competition.
3. Critical Design Thinking
We stick “design” into the proverbial “critical thinking” skillset not only to emphasize the specific talent and deliverables a graphic designer brings but also to show how it is an evergreen mindset unique to these individuals, not just an empty way to promote a work ethic.
The best graphic design partners in your area don’t see their trade as churning out collateral one after the other. It isn’t an assembly line. Instead, designers are methodic and immersive, taking disparate pieces of abstract information and funneling them into a cohesive, creative visual message. It’s a process about thoughtfully and empirically narrowing down, not pumping out. And they do so strategically, balancing the creative with the technical — a hallmark of the critical thinker.
Patience is the glue the keeps the graphic design process together. Across all the communication, meetings, mock-ups, market research, concept designs, tweaks and re-tweaks, no other trait assures projects run along smoothly.
This virtue also encourages persistence and quality assurance within the studio. Even if a design concept is on its tenth version and still not quite there for the client, patience puts aside any frustration, recognizing the high stakes and standards at play. It doesn’t just seek to get things over with and move on.
What’s more, the very nature of the industry invites criticism daily. Those who cannot bring patience and level-headedness to their work will not only damage client relationships but they’ll also hurt their own professional reputation.
A graphic designer’s or creative agency’s portfolio will give you direct insight into their core competencies. It will show you what kind of clients they’ve worked with in the past and on what projects. It will also allow you to pick out design elements or features consistent across their work — a sort of creative signature you can use to distinguish further who’s the right partner for you.
Just remember not to confuse quantity with quality. Sure, an established studio could have worked with hundreds — if not thousands — of brands and collateral over its lifetime, while a newer agency or freelancer perhaps only a dozen. We cannot stress enough how graphic design is not an assembly line. Look for those whose portfolio mirrors the traits above. You won’t miss it.
Who Hires Graphic Designers?
Okay, so you’re still wondering why do you need a graphic designer? You know your brand better than anyone else. You know its story and its work culture. Doesn’t it make more sense to keep things internal, especially if you’re already an established company?
Besides offering a substantially more cost-effective alternative, hiring an external graphic design partner brings many benefits to a business it simply wouldn’t get on its own.
In short, you’re in good company here. There are more reasons than not for a business to seek outsourced graphic design work — many of which go beyond a brand new business’ need for an initial logo and website. Some of the most common reasons we’ve seen to hire graphic designs include the following.
1. Businesses Seeking a Complete Branding Overhaul
There comes a time when even the most grounded visual brands need a facelift. Consumer beliefs change, aesthetic trends shift, a company seeks a new target market or taps into an evolving demographic. Combined with updates in software and technology that allow for new and interesting design tweaks to collateral, these are only a few reasons a business might feel it’s time to revisit their brand’s look and feel.
Businesses that seek out a complete branding overhaul often begin with a logo re-design. Logo updates can include anything from new fonts and typography to coloration, changes in lines and depth, shadows, spacing and even sound and movement if digitally displayed — think the swirling fox in Firefox or the deep sonic drum when opening Netflix.
Hitting this refresh button requires equally fresh input. An outsourced graphic design partner is the logical perspective for you to seek.
2. Businesses Shaking Up Their B2B or B2C Focus
Business-to-business or business-to-consumer marketing are two specialized niches that prioritize different things. Ask any career marketer on the street, and they’re bound to tell you stories of companies misunderstanding or misapplying logic from one to the other, often with expensive consequences.
This is because designing collateral is about knowing your intended audience. One size will never fit it all, and thinking so will encourage oversights into how you convey yourself to others. While most businesses have a B2B or B2C emphasis, some are by their nature both, or look to expand their product or service offerings into both fields. Doing so means pivoting brand messaging and visuals, and therefore partnering with a design agency to successfully do so.
3. Businesses With Overstretched, Over-Worked Marketing Departments
Whether in a company of five or 500, graphic design often gets included in the broader marketing department. That department, in turn, is in charge of every single facet involved in boosting brand visibility and capturing sales — a formula that everyone knows is perpetually harder said than done.
This department takes care of anything and everything brand-related, from marketing analytics, segmentation and customer research to advertising, content marketing, social media, web development and product sales strategies. This list is hardly comprehensive, too.
Graphic designers offer a lifeline to a saddled and overstretched marketing team. In simply taking one aspect of marketing off your shoulders, you save time, money and energy even after factoring in the new amounts of collaboration.
4. Start-Up Businesses
Speaking of being overstretched, have you ever met an entrepreneur or new business owner who wasn’t doing it all?
When you’ve just opened a new business venture, it’s more important than ever to manage your time strategically, doing what you can when you can and bringing in talent to fill the gaps — at a price point you can afford. There’s simply no better way to achieve business basics like logo and website creation at this stage than by hiring a freelance designer to ideate, implement and root your new brand.
4. Businesses That Want to Maximize What They Do Best — and Minimize the Rest
In today’s ever-competitive world, businesses looking to keep fluid bottom lines understand that sometimes you have to perfect what you can and let others take care of the rest.
This sort of thinking isn’t just economical, it’s the way of the future. Business specialization keeps production systems lean, employees more productive and costs more manageable regardless of what industry you’re in. You keep your time and resources dedicated where they thrive, then leave the rest to experts — who, incidentally, are also focusing on what they do best. It’s a model of specialized support that truly benefits all.
Why Is Graphic Design Important for Business?
Graphic design is crucial to a business’ identity. It conveys in the blink of an eye who and what you are. It is creative, tactical and memorable. When done right, graphic design causes wide ripple effects that complement your overall marketing and advertising strategies — often to the tune of larger profits.
Why exactly is graphic design important for your business? See for yourself.
1. Graphic Design Can Drive Sales
The visual messaging you produce can entice, engage and encourage people to buy from you — time and time again.
This is true for several reasons. First, the visual impact of a unique and professional logo or branded iconography can instantly stick even in a passive viewer’s mind. Phenomena like logo recall and brand association start as young as 3 years old. Simple visual messaging hacks activate parts of the brain from the amygdala to the sensory cortex, triggering an emotional reaction and a sense-driven experience, respectively.
It’s a powerful chain reaction. Once an individual establishes a stimulated, emotional connection to something as simple as seeing an app icon, their sense of self begins to change. They identify with that logo and will return to it accordingly.
Consider some other revealing statistics about the relationship between good graphic design, brand visibility, recall and sales:
- Consumers take only about 50 milliseconds to form an impression about a visual message.
- When rating the trust and likeability of sample websites, studies have found that participant opinions are based over 90 percent of the time on design, not on content, products or services.
2. Graphic Design Can Increase Profits
You’ve caught their eye. You’ve made an excellent first impression. That first impression sticks in their memory. Over time, this brand-recall relationship puts you top-of-mind when it comes to making a purchasing decision in your industry.
Studies have found that for every $1 invested in graphic design collateral, a brand will earn back around $3 in net operating profit and nearly $15 in net turnover. These numbers compound over time, with that $3 to $15 adding up to some serious gross profit — profit you just wouldn’t have without impactful visual messaging.
3. Graphic Design Can Improve Marketing Efforts
Graphic design grounds complex and often abstract marketing ideas into something simple and visual.
The effects of this are tangible. Rather than hitting clients or customers over the head with facts, long paragraphs of marketing information or even some catchy but worded slogan, graphic design collateral like a logo, animation or app icon relay the very same messages but in a fraction of the time. Remember, sometimes you have as little as 50 milliseconds to do so. And they do this by incorporating memory stimulating and emotionally connective design elements like colors, shapes, negative space and animations. A text or voice-based marketing campaign alone cannot do that.
Still need more convincing about how graphic design both complements and improves current marketing initiatives?
- Half of consumers say the majority of current brand messages, like ads, come across as irrelevant.
- Over 75 percent of polled marketing professionals say branding is key to their marketing campaigns. Around 34 percent of those said the number one goal of their marketing campaigns is new customer acquisition.
- Branded, unique color schemes increase brand recognition by 80 percent.
Companies That Use Graphic Designers
Hiring a graphic designer for small business is essential. There’s simply no way around it, as their impact on drawing in and sustaining a business is research-backed and undeniable.
Many small, mid-sized and large companies use a graphic design partnership to strengthen their branding potential without sacrificing budget dollars or internal resources. You have products, services and expertise you’ve worked hard to turn into an enterprise, but you cannot and should not do it all — especially if your business falls into the following industries.
From how we date to how we order dinner, mobile apps have transformed the way we live. They’re also a singularly unique platform with their own functionality, as graphic designs meant for mobile apps must be configured strategically to stand out on small device screens — and in the saturated mobile app marketplace.
As such, it’s essential for new and established mobile applications alike to have on-brand, creative and bold icons. App icon design leverages traditional graphic approaches for a digital interface. But you need experts who know how to do this for your icon to reap the valuable rewards described above.
A little over half of all restaurants in the United States are independent, meaning they operate without the branding resources or familiarity of chains. They also tend to be family owned, run like a small business with similar operational and budgetary concerns.
The importance of a distinct restaurant “flavor,” therefore, goes beyond what you’re serving on the menu. Yet it’s highly unorthodox for an independent restaurant to staff an in-house designer to curate this, making an outsourced graphic design expert the natural partnership.
From dental offices and counseling centers to vitamin shops and urgent care clinics, many branches grow on the healthcare tree. Businesses unaffiliated with a parent healthcare organization must devise their own branded logos, websites, stationery, direct mailings and more to achieve marketing initiatives. A graphic designer is essential to do so, ideating professional yet original iconography to better establish a compelling healthcare brand.
4. Law Firms
Law firm logos are a categorical way to denote authority and professionalism. Most law firms have a specialty as well, practicing family, health, corporate, personal injury law and many more subspecialties. These categories are ripe for branding and logo potential that designate expertise without sacrificing an eye-catching impact.
5. Real Estate Agents
More and more prospective homebuyers are turning online to find the house of their dreams. In fact, over 70 percent use a mobile device to initiate and explore available real estate in their area.
As an independent or contracted agent, it’s critical your digital presence meets this digital reality. That means a clean, crisp and professionally designed real estate agent website first and foremost, plus one that’s mobile friendly and intelligently branded to set yourself apart from other agents. Don’t forget how your physical assets, like your business cards or yard signs, must match accordingly.
6. Hotels and Hospitality
Hotels carry distinct, branded personalities just like any other business type on this list. Yet many hotels, bed and breakfasts and others in the hospitality industry fail to harmonize the branding they’ve spent so much time on inside their buildings with those elements facing outward.
A professional graphic designer connects those dots, ensuring the attention spent on curating the physical hotel environment gets complemented and amplified in its business cards, pamphlets, website, mobile platform and more.
7. Health and Beauty
Health and beauty brands are fiercely market-driven. Not only must they remain plugged continuously into changing consumer tastes and social trends, but they must pivot their products to continually exceed them.
It’s also one of the most heavily based in e-commerce. In 2017, approximately 30 percent of all online purchases fell into the health, wellness and beauty category. Health and beauty websites can make or break a brand’s ability to retain target consumers. Through branded images, advertisements, videos and animations, they must convey how they align with a certain target demographic’s lifestyle. A professional graphic designer can do so keenly.
It is vital for professional consultants to spark interest and convey who they are and what they do with one look at their logo or business card. The consulting world is highly competitive, and those looking for your services likely have specific ideas in mind on the nature of services and the levels of expertise they’re seeking. This needs to be relayed the moment they begin interacting with your collateral.
9. Entertainment and Media
Entertainment and media brands garner some of the most loyal followings from consumers. Just consider how many people have a favorite news channel, magazine or video game. Yet the nature of the industry is also broad, encompassing everything from movie theaters and go-cart tracks to gaming companies and hobby centers. Entertainment brands require personality and pithiness, and the consumer needs to understand instantly what experience they can expect from engaging with an entertainment company’s content or venue.
10. Food and Beverages
Food and beverage brands face a new market reality — more than ever, people want to be informed and feel good about their food choices. Seven out of 10 U.S. consumers state they take an active interest in what’s in their fridge or pantry. Even more say they want to feel connected to their food, be that emotionally, culturally, sustainably or a mix of these. Branding icons and communicated visual messages on-par with the explosive new awareness and interest in food and beverages will be the future of this industry’s most successful collateral.
Where Can I Find a Graphic Designer as a Partner?
Luckily, how to find a good graphic designer doesn’t require backbreaking weeks of work or insider connections.
Today, there is an abundance of studios that employ both in-person and even remote, fully online portfolio services. Some specialize in producing particular collateral — such as digital graphic design — while others are full-service agencies that can offer you everything from a client liaison or a multi-person design team to design prints, digital files and ongoing support. It all depends on the nature of the partnership most compelling for the vision of your business’ future.
Once you identify the scope and scale of your design needs, you can initiate the following:
1. Conduct Targeted Online Research
When we say targeted, we mean including as many specific keywords into your search query as possible. Sure, you’ll find plenty of hits if you search “freelance graphic designers near me.” But this hardly gives you any indication of their work styles, core competencies, communication habits, value alignment and availability.
Use keywords that are project and audience-specific for your required vision. Looking for ongoing animations for a series of B2B content marketing videos? Then search “video animation business-to-business graphic design.” Need stationary re-vamped when you add a new partner to the firm? “Full-service law firm stationary graphic design” will do the trick better than any traditional broad search.
Take your time assessing prospective partners’ websites and social media accounts, too. This is your first chance for a service screening and likely the first place to see a real portfolio.
2. Ask Around
Word-of-mouth referrals still dominate when it comes to driving leads and building trust. Over 90 percent of people say they are influenced by brands and companies they hear recommended by friends, family and acquaintances.
Tap into that power. Survey your own network, especially those running their own businesses or ventures. Ask what services they’ve used, agency or freelance, as well as what collateral and communication was like. This is especially important if you’re looking for a local graphic design partner, as your immediate network will court more immediate area connections.
3. Consult Professional Directories
The AIGA is the country’s premier professional association for designers. They have boards where design jobs can be posted and professionals sought, as well as other resources to connect with individual designers and studios alike.
This is only one example of the dozens of graphic design professional directories you can mine to narrow your search and find a reliable graphic design partner. Depending on your own location, you may even have a local directory similar to the AIGA but highlighting professionals in your backyard, bolstering the specificity of search.
Just remember to take ownership of this entire screening process, especially when it comes to collaboration and communication. An agency or freelance graphic designer simply cannot deliver high-quality, high-satisfaction collateral if they weren’t equipped with detailed sets of expectations, objectives and a creative brief from the get-go. This part is within your control.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Graphic Designer for My Business?
There is no fixed price for hiring a graphic designer. Rather than approaching this by asking how much a graphic designer charges for a logo or a brochure and expecting an immediate answer, rates and fees will come based on many context-specific variables. Never be afraid to negotiate these during screenings and consultations with all prospective design partners.
For the best quotes, though, keep in mind that graphic design cost structures either charge by the project or by the hour. Both of these rates will, in turn, come based on:
- The designer’s experience levels
- Project duration and detail
- Team members or number of design professionals involved
1. By the Project
Agencies or freelancers may opt to charge based on the overall package of design services they provide.
This structure works particularly well for more substantial or multi-phase projects, such as a 20-page website design or a corporate identity collateral package. It allows a set schedule for payments without surprises or ambiguity — attractive for new businesses and entrepreneurs or those facing already tight budgets.
Project-based fees may also be open for extra perks, with agencies throwing in things like unlimited free concepts or unlimited free revisions until you’re completely satisfied.
2. By the Hour
On the other hand, it is also equally common to see graphic designers charge by the hour. Average hourly fees can range anywhere from $50 to $250 an hour, once again depending on the scope, timeline and type of design work required.
By-the-hour graphic design fees work particularly well for projects with a specific, at-time objective or those where the visual message is unlikely to need updates in the foreseeable future. Think collateral like a print banner, posters or vehicle wraps for on-brand company cars.
A Graphic Design and Development Strategic Partnership Near You
There’s no way around it — graphic design and business growth go hand-in-hand. You need a graphic design team that not only understands this in theory but also practices what it preaches, today and tomorrow.
With The NetMen Corp, you get a true design partner that considers the success of your brand imperative to its own. Our portfolio of work attests to the unique and dynamic relationships we’ve built along the way, delivering everything from custom logos and app designs to business mascots and so much more.
Contact us today to see how we can be your go-to graphic design team to improve marketing, boost sales and drive business growth. We can’t wait to get started.