Using marketing animation to amplify your communications
Why read this? : We look at how marketing animation can help you communicate better with customers. Learn the 3 areas where it’s most often
Why read this? : We go through the 3 key uses of graphic design for your business. Learn how it’s used in brand identity, brand activation and customer experience. We also look at how you source graphic design for your business. Learn the pros and cons of doing it in-house versus using a freelancer or agency. Read this to get more out of graphic design for your business.
How this guide raises your game :-
Graphic design helps your business communicate information to your target audience in a visual way.
These visual communications help you draw attention to your brand. They help customers understand the relevance of what you’re selling. And you can use them to guide customers along the journey to become loyal customers.
But most business managers don’t have graphic design training or experience. So they’re not always clear how to use graphic design to grow their business.
Our guide will help you understand the role graphic design plays for your business. And how to source and build graphic design skills to meet your business needs.
Graphic design is used when you need to convey information visually. In marketing, that need comes up most often when you work on :-
Your brand identity is a collection of tangible and intangible assets you use to tell customers who you are and what you stand for.
It defines how your brand thinks and acts, and creates a consistent position in the minds of your target audience.
Graphic design supports the creation of tangible brand assets and the visual style. It’s what your brand looks like.
The most obvious example of this is your logo, a design symbol which visually represents your brand in multiple contexts.
It’s on your packaging, advertising, websites and sales promotions, for example.
But logo development also involves other graphic design skills like colour and typography. You can also influence how customers perceive your brand identity using the psychological associations which come with colours and typography.
You use graphic design in brand identity to help make your brand :-
Customers are often faced with a wide range of brands to choose from. Your brand design has to be distinctive to stand out from competitors. It’s how customers recognise you, and tell you apart. It makes it easier for them to choose you.
For example, bold colour palettes and use of logos make your product look different. They increase the chances customers will notice your product over your competitors. And per our brand identity guide, making customers notice your brand is a common marketing challenge for all brands.
Your brand identity design also helps make your product appear more relevant to customers. It helps show who you are, and what you stand for. It should reflect your values and style based on your choice of icons, colours and typography. It’s about driving consideration and brand choice, alongside more rational factors like product features and price. It helps customers think, this is a brand for people like me.
Graphic design elements also help build a more emotional connection with the brand. For example, businesses which need to build trust (e.g. banks) pick graphic design elements which support values like acceptability, safety and conventionality. Conservative shades of blue, and old fashioned typography, for example.
But businesses wanting to be cool, trendy and stylish, especially high ticket items, will pick different design elements to connect with customers. Modern fonts and stronger, more vibrant colours, for example. It’s all about creating a relevant connection between the brand and what the customer is looking for.
Finally, graphic design elements like logos, colour and typography help create a longer lasting impression of the brand identity in the mind of the customer. They make the brand more memorable.
When they’re ready to buy, those memories / mental associations make the decision easier. There’s less need for persuasion because they’re already familiar with the brand.
Look at big brands like Coke, for example.
Look at their choice of colour and typography. Think about how they continually repeat the use of the shape of the bottle. These are all built from graphic design principles to make the brand more distinctive, relevant and memorable.
If your brand identity is “who” you are, then brand activation is “how” you appear in the lives of customers.
At many stages of the marketing mix, you need graphic design to create an impact. Increased the impact and you increases engagement and sales.
The most common areas are in your product and promotion activities. In particular, graphic design plays a key role in packaging development to help your product stand-out against competitors.
You use graphic design regularly in advertising to create distinctive, relevant and memorable advertising campaigns. Campaigns that grab attention and persuade and influence customers to choose your brand.
And in all your digital marketing activities, whether on your own website or in digital media channels, you can use graphic design as a way to visually communicate key messages to help your brand stand-out.
Another area where you use graphic design in marketing is when working on the customer experience.
Customer experience is the study of the different interactions and touchpoints a customer has with a brand as they move through the brand choice funnel or journey.
At key points in the funnel, you can use graphic design to remove pain points or create new opportunities.
Because visual imagery is easier and faster for people to process than words, graphic design can help customers though the journey in a much smoother way.
(See also our guide to design psychology for more on how to make designs easier to process).
It can reduce friction and lower the chances of a customer misunderstanding a message. You don’t want friction or misunderstanding, customer feedback will tell you both of those lead to lost sales.
So think about websites, for example.
You see a logo in the top navigation bar and know that takes you back to the home page. You see a magnifying glass and know that means “search”. Every time you see a grocery basket, you know it meanss “shop”.
These visual shortcuts reduce the chances of customers bouncing from your website or abandoning the cart on your e-Commerce store.
They increase the chances that a consumer will choose your brand, or buy from your online store. Graphic design helps you achieve your customer experience objectives.
There’s 3 choices when it comes to graphic design for your business. You can create the skills in-house. You can use freelancers. Or you can create a more permanent solution like hiring an agency.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each to help you work out the best way to source graphic design for your business.
The first option is to build up and develop the skill in-house. Either you or someone in your team takes on the responsibility to create the graphic designs.
The major advantage here obviously is that you then have direct control over the graphic design work you need to do. Taking this option depends on two things.
First, the existing knowledge and skill level in graphic design you have in your business. And second, your expectations on the quantity and quality of graphic design work your business needs.
If you or someone in your team already has skills and knowledge in the area of graphic design, then obviously you’ll be able to manage many of your graphic design needs in-house already.
In this case, it’s likely you’ll already have access to key graphic design tools, like Adobe or one of its alternatives like Affinity or Canva.
But you also need to look across the key areas of brand identity, brand activation and customer experience.
You need to consider how many graphic design projects you will have on a regular basis. You need to consider what level of expertise you need to deliver them.
Brand identity for example is usually not a regular and on-going piece of graphic design work. It’s usually done as a project. With a specific beginning and end. And it’s then reviewed and updated at some point in the future.
Because of this, in most cases, you would not create brand identity in-house.
Brand activation is a mixture of project work and some on-going pieces of graphic design. Packaging development for example can be quite a specialised area. Because it not only requires good graphic design skills, but it also needs a solid understanding of how printing works. Designs and colours are printed on to packaging materials and this impacts the final output. Often, this is a niche specialism within graphic design.
But brand activation can also cover areas like social media content posting. Here, there might be a case for regular and less specialised graphic design skills. A post can be generated quickly and removed quickly if there’s an issue. The same can’t be said for packaging designs.
And finally, customer experience is again a mixture of project and on-going work. It’s unlikely for example you would regularly update signage in a store or key brand visuals. But there can be all sorts of regular updates to icons on a website or items for sales promotions, for example.
The choice to manage graphic design for your business really comes down to a cost, time and scope calculation. Each of these factors has an impact on the final quality.
The average salary of a graphic designer in Australia is AUD$54k. But more experienced designers will want more.
Will you have enough graphic design projects over the course of a year? And will those projects generate enough return to justify the cost of the hire? Does your business need the quick access to an in-house resource? Or can it live with longer time frames when you outsource?
Of course, in-house graphic design skills bring other benefits to the business. For example, better understanding of key design principles and creative thinking.
While we believe anyone can learn the basic design principles like Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity, professional graphic designers will bring a much wider repertoire of design knowledge in to your business. (Knowledge of design psychology for example). Having an in-house graphic design professional keeps quality standards high.
The key question is whether the graphic design for your business needs are big and regular enough that an in-house resource makes sense. How important is graphic design to your business over the next 12 months, and how often will you need it? If your needs are more ad-hoc, you do have other options. Because when you use freelancers or agencies, they can also bring that knowledge in to your business.
Just on a more ad-hoc basis.
The quickest and easiest way to outsource graphic design for your business is to go through one of the many online freelancing websites. Because these automate the process to brief, manage, approve and pay for graphic design projects, they can provide relatively fast and flexible solutions to graphic design needs.
When you outsource graphic design, rather than manage it in-house. it will take more time to complete projects.
There are a number of steps to go through when you hire a graphic designer. These can include finding them in the first place, and identifying that their experience, skills and approach meet your needs. You also need to agree on key steps like contracts, deliverables and payment.
And even if you have a regular freelance designer you use, there’s always the risk they’ll be tied up on another job when you really need them.
On a project for project basis, it’s also likely you’ll pay a higher hourly rate than if you had a full-time designer in-house. Freelancers need to cover their own employment costs like tax, holidays and the professional resources they use.
Let’s look at some of the more commonly used freelancer sites.
The most accessible option is probably Fiverr. However, a lot of professional graphic designers do not like to use this service. They believe it reduces the value of what they do, and there are some crazily low priced offers on there.
While you can find good graphic designers on there, its free accessibility can make it a bit of a free-for-all when it comes to service providers offering their services.
Let’s look at logo design as an example.
A quick look at ‘logo design’ on Fiverr shows prices range from A$17 up to A$175 from freelance designers to around A$1,000 to A$2,000 for Pro Verified suppliers.
Consider how unique you want your design to be. How much time / thinking you believe should go in to the design?
Creation of a logo from scratch is minimum 3-4 hours work. Minimum. And more likely a good day or two if you want to look at multiple options. It also takes more time to review, adapt and then complete and send out all the artwork files.
Those designers who charge the low rates may be based in a country where English isn’t the first language and the cost of living is a lot lower. And so, they can do all of this for $17.
But more likely, is that the lower cost designers will have a bank of ready-made designs and files which they’ll adjust / adapt to fit your needs.
Neither of these are necessarily bad things if you’re working to a tight budget. But when it comes to graphic design, you get what you pay for. So with Fiverr, it is a case of buyer beware.
It may take more time or cost more in the long run if you don’t find the right designer.
Another option is Upwork.
This site is less for specific jobs / tasks, more to deliver specific projects. They tend to recruit freelancers across multiple disciplines who are looking for short-term, longer-term or complex projects. These projects can last less than a month up to 6 months. Upwork do split experience by entry, intermediate or expert.
If your graphic design needs are for a specific project, it can be a good place to look. But bear in mind, the Upwork site takes a 20% commission on the fee you pay.
There are other options like Freelancer, but as a final option for graphic design specifically, we’d also recommend looking at 99 designs. You can hire freelancers directly through their services. But they also offer the option to set up a design contest. You commit to paying for a project, but have multiple designers compete in a pitch to win that business.
If your graphic design needs require more than a quick piece of work or even a project, then you can of course go though a marketing agency.
Depending on your needs, this might be the agency you already use for advertising or packaging design.
We cover a lot of the specific considerations you need to make when hiring an agency in another skill guide.
But if graphic design is part of your Scope of Work, and your agency will provide a dedicated graphic design support team, there’a s couple of specific areas to consider.
You should ask the agency to see the portfolio or key work of the graphic design team who will work on your project. Many designers are on sites like Behance and Dribbble.
These are great sites to look at designer portfolios. They are also great sites just to be inspired by great graphic design.
Both these sites give great creative inspiration and you can find designers whose style matches what your graphic design needs.
Look at the designer’s portfolio of past work. Does it give you confidence they’ll come up with distinctive, relevant and memorable designs? Do you feel they’ll “get” your brand identity and produce designs that meet your needs?
We’ve covered writing a brief in many other guides including for advertising and in the logo design process.
The five key areas of brand, business objective, communication, rationale, and project specifications also apply to graphic design projects you run with an agency.
But you also need to consider a few more areas specific to graphic design. So, for example, some of the graphic design tools use very specific file formats. You can only open these types of files, if you have the right software.
So, for example to open the raw design files in the Adobe suite like Photoshop and Illustrator, you need to have those software applications installed.
While they both export graphic files like .jpgs and .pngs that anyone can open, the raw design files that sit in .psd or .ai files are only usable by those with the right licenses. You need make sure that everyone who needs access to the right type of file can do so.
It’s also important to clarify with the agency who ‘owns’ these files. If you changed agency, do they keep the files or do they go with you to the new agency?
Then, it’s also important to have clear agreement on the technical quality of graphic design work. Do you need vector or raster images (see our graphic design tools guide), or you need high resolution graphic files, for example?
And finally, consider where and how you’ll store all these files. Will the agency keep them on their systems? Or do you develop a marketing technology business case to have a digital asset management system, for example?
Each option to manage graphic design in your business – in-house, freelancer or agency – has different pros and cons going for it.
Which option you choose really depends on the nature of your business and its graphic design needs.
In our experience, unless your business is in an industry where graphic design plays a big role in the product – say fashion, food or furniture, you probably wouldn’t have an in-house designer.
Most businesses would use freelance or agency resources to support their graphic design needs.
Which you go with depends on how often you need to use graphic design. The more often you need it, the more likely you will go through an agency than use a freelancer.
But there’s one final area to consider when it comes to graphic design for your business before we complete this guide.
Even if you decide to outsource the creation of graphic design to a freelancer or agency, there’s still a job for the brand owner to do to manage the business impact of graphic design. Someone needs to initiate projects, give approvals and make sure that the impact of the graphic design is somehow measured.
In particular, approvals are the one part of the graphic design process that cannot be outsourced. Whatever graphic design work is done, someone in the business who is accountable for the brand identity needs to review the work and assess whether it meets the business and brand objectives. Someone needs to go back to the original brief and review whether all the requirements have been met.
And once the graphic design element is live and being seen by actual consumers, someone needs to make sure measures have been set and the performance is being delivered. Customer feedback is important. The impact of graphic design should be measured as part of your on-going brand strategy and market research processes.
In this guide, we’ve covered the key areas of your business where graphic design plays an important role. Its use in brand identity, brand activation and customer experience should now be clear.
We’ve also covered options you have to build in-house expertise, hire a freelance graphic designer or work with agencies to meet your graphic design needs.
But our final point to remember is that graphic design is a key creative skill, and however, and whoever you get to do the work, you should consider how you can make that creativity work the hardest on your business.
Graphic design can help create strong connections for your brand in the minds of your target audience. It can make life easier and simpler at all stages of the customer experience. And business and brand leaders who have a solid grasp of the key principles can make it become a valuable business asset that drives brand impact and sales.
We’re not a dedicated graphic design agency as our focus is on marketing and e-Commerce coaching. But we do know a lot about this topic. We can and often do include graphic design as part of our overall business service if it’s relevant for the project.
We can coach and advise how to best meet your graphic design needs. Either using graphic designers, managing it in-house or building your own graphic design skills to make your creative more impactful.
Contact us if you want to know more about how we can support your graphic design needs to grow your business through our coaching and consulting services.
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