Creativity and Pricing

October 7, 2009 | Business, Design Basics

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$$$The creative process can be a challenge to control, and therefore tricky to price. One of the best and worst things about being a graphic designer is that the work is creative, but also functional. It has a distinct commercial application as the end result. Whether it’s to promote a service, educate someone or explain how something works, graphic design is ultimately a commercial endeavor. Therefore, someone cares about how much it costs.

I read a great quote on a fairly new blog called Group Thinkery. In a comment, book designer Christopher Tobias stated:

I try to give every client 100%. No matter what the budget. Those who are willing to think and work and are open to creative ideas end up with the best product.

Project variability

I couldn’t agree more. It can be difficult to price graphic design services. It is a combination of how long something will take and also value of the end product.

What I often don’t know when pricing a project with a new client is how well we will work together. Whether it’s the personalities involved or the project itself there are just some projects that progress smoothly and result in high-quality, exciting design work that produces tremendous response and success for my clients.

In all honesty, there are other times when the process is slow and painful and the end result a bit disappointing.

You pay for experience and consistency

Many years ago I read something about being a graphic designer than I still believe in today. I think it was in Roz Goldbarb’s Careers by Design: A Business Guide for Graphic Designers (but I honestly can’t remember for sure). The jist of the quote was:

Working as a professional designer is a bit like being graded on your school work. It’s unlikely that every project will be an A+, but hopefully your average is high and you rarely do work that is less than a B. Some designers tend to vary more (some C-, a few Ds and an occasional A). An experienced and successful designer will find they they can consistently complete work at a high level, like always a B+ or above.

Most of my work is estimated beforehand and based on a per project price, however, some projects have huge variability‚ÄĒespecially things that have to have a one hit, instant pop to them. Logos and book covers fall into this category. You can’t expect people to take a lot of time to “get” your logo or your book cover. Both of these are projects where sometimes things come to me quickly and other times I need to work and work and work to get something. All I can do is put an estimate together based on a typical timeline and hope for the best.

But it is the client who is open to the process, who will benefit the most. I like to be able to “wow” my clients in the first round of design samples, but sometimes it takes longer. And those clients who can handle the uncertainty of that process will see a successful end result even if the ride is not a smooth one.

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