Photo by Headway on Unsplash

As organizations and their leadership team mature, they start to better understand the importance of Design, and as such, they are more willing to invest in it. You may have heard of Design Thinking, Design Process, or DesignOps in the past year quite a lot, and for a valid reason! Especially if you are in the innovation and technology scene. Yet, even though you may be familiar with those enigmatic terms withholding mysterious meanings, you are most likely going to have to Google them to genuinely understand what I’m referring to. Don’t be afraid to do it and most importantly don’t feel embarrassed for not knowing what those mean or what they conceal behind their fanciness, as they are emerging and yet to be part of mainstream discussions. But right now, they are still known and understood by only a few, and I would encourage and invite you to read more about them as it would give you a glimpse into what we are going to be addressing here.

First of all, in the recent years of high-technological advances in our society, many developers and engineers have been fueled by all types of investors and banking groups to enable them into bringing life to very innovative concepts and ideas. Whether we are talking about a startup or a large company with its expanding teams, it is always the same scenario that unfolds. Technology leads the discussion with executives, encapsulates projects by defining the technical limitations, and sets more than flexible deadlines to ship products on time.

As we move at a fast-paced rhythm of creation, more designers are part of the process. Realistically it is already the case in many companies but guess what… you are well aware of those companies doing well, and it is because they valued Design early on, implemented it in the creation process and making it a significant factor in the success of their products.

They measure success by whether the Design satisfied their users needs rather than just meeting deadlines to ship on time.

Designers in Leadership teams

Designers have earned their seat on any board of directors and in leadership teams as they bring substantial cultural shifts, change minds and improve ways we interact with products. You name any of the fields of expertise that come to your mind, from UX/UI Designers, Graphic Designers, Web Designers, Interaction Designers, can do anything Designers and the list continues with whatever titles companies can come up with for their Designers, or whatever self-assigned titles freelancers give themselves. It doesn’t matter as long as their expertise, human understanding and empathy are heard and taken into consideration.

A real cultural shift is at work!

Jessica Zhang at Adobe UI/UX Design Tournament. Jessica is a renown visual and product designer.

People engage with how a product looks like, and if it satisfies their expectations. When it seems professional or finely tweaked and polished, they are more likely to purchase or download a product. To achieve a sublime level of visual quality, you will need a Designer with an extended knowledge of all the ingredients and methods that can help a product reaching for the stars and becoming a commercial success. It’s great, but there is just one issue…

… Great designers are a scarce commodity, and they know it!

What Design is worth to your organization?

If an organization or an individual is looking for a strong visual identity for their project or product, they will have to seduce those great designers we mentioned above.

Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash

Before we even delve into this, knowing what the worth of what you are asking for to a designer to do for you is is essential. Here are a few questions for anyone requesting Design work before they “just go for a logo because they just need one to ship their product out”:

  • How is this Design work going to improve and benefit their organization in terms of revenue and awareness?
  • Are they ready to pay for quality work to maximize their chances to increase revenue or awareness?

Simply put, if they are not ready to invest a realistic amount for the Design that is apparently going to bring myriads of fantastic financial benefits to their organization, then it blatantly means that they are not willing to put their precious money it what matters the most for their success.

As you may already imagine, great Designers will not waste their already limited and precious time after having talked to potential clients showing disregard or valuing down the work that could be delivered. The worst behavior that can be encountered is bargaining… far from negotiation talks, a bargain conversation cheapens down anything that is worth way more, and we all know that.

Fortunately for “cheap” people, there is a wide range of Designers who will accept to work for rocks to build their name and portfolio, but really, they should not!

The bottom line is that polished designs will boost credibility and give a level of authenticity, directly leading to trust and acquisition. In other words, it demonstrates care and attention of the work. It adds value!

So… what’s the value of design?

Regardless of what you may have heard, it’s not complicated to evaluate the worth of a Design. First of all, the requested work should never be charged or paid hourly. Instead, it should be scaled to the value it brings to the client and equal to what it profoundly means to them.

“Woman with painted nails wearing rings and bracelet sketches on light table” by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

If you are a client, you don’t only pay for a pretty piece of design or an illustration, in fact, what you are really paying for is the expertise and experience of the Designer or the Design team working on your project. But that’s not all, add to this the years of learning, studies, and tuitions, personal research, and growth to bring you a fantastic and tailored design at the end of the line.

Generally, as a client, you like to know what you are paying for and on the paragraph above you now have an idea of what you are going to invest in. Sometimes we can hear “what’s your hourly rate?,” and some Designers may respond “€25,” “€70,” “€120,” or even more! But is your design of a logo, website, business collateral, banner, SaaS platform look really worth that little to you? Let’s say you find a competent Designer, which you very commonly can find, working really fast and efficiently. Should they charge you just for their time? If you believe that’s suitable, you are an archaic conservative individual with a vision of business and design anchored in the past, and I humbly urge you to reconsider your approach, open your mind and understand what you are asking for and what it is worth to you! Let’s look at it from another perspective. What if that friendly Designer of yours takes his sweet time to deliver? Should they charge you a tremendous amount just because they seem to be slow? Suddenly, your brain just ticked and said… “of course not! I’d go for the efficient one,” but it’s the wrong thinking. If a Designer is able to produce what you are asking from them expeditiously and efficiently, meeting all your expectations, well I’m afraid to break it to you: it’s worth A LOT, so you should pay for it!

If you are one of those rare, unique and exceptional Designers and you are charging the client we were just talking about in the previous paragraph, you already know that your price won’t be hourly, it will be a fixed value scaled to what it is worth to the client.

A caricatured example of a frequent type of conversation that Designers can face with cheap clients:

— Client: “I need a design for my e-Commerce platform.”
— Designer: “Of course, let’s talk about why you need it and what it’s going to bring to your business to have a high-quality design from me.”
— Client: “Sure that’s great, I would need it very quickly. Also, what’s your hourly rate?”
— Designer: “We don’t have one, we need to understand what you need to be able to adequately price your request .”
— Client: “Well, I don’t have a big budget, I can only spend so much on the design, I have other running operational, development and marketing costs. I’m looking for a good price and to be done quickly!”

This above is a red flag, if you are a Designer, tell the client that you don’t think you are what they are looking for and kindly dismiss the project.
In the end, the price of a Design will be scaled to the worth and benefits it brings to an organization. A such, a given web design project could cost €5,000 or could go up to €100,000 or more based on several factors.

If the produced Design increases company sales by 10% and it represents €100,000 per year, it is fair to state that you will charge 20%–30% of that amount. Next year, you’ll go up to 25%–35% for the next iteration.

Keep the business and relationship going by being upfront about your approach, it is essential as it builds a quintessential and robust sense of trust.

When a Designer charges a certain amount, you will have what you paid for! And the quality is proportional depending on the amount invested.

What does it takes to bring your Design up to life?

A few fundamental elements such as vision, exploration, deconstruction, associative thinking, iterations are of the utmost importance to bring a Design to life. A Designer must be competent in many areas of expertise, one of them being accurately and precisely good at problem understanding. Having a global overview of the objective leads in getting the right decision.

Inspira Stationery used by creative minds at Black Pug Studio

It’s great, but they are more down to earth notions to think about as well. Time and dedication are critical as well as they allow for high-quality work to be delivered. Expectations are often sky-high, and therefore Design requires a singular focus to give designers the headspace to bring your vision to life.
Serendipity is at the cultural core of design. How many times will you stumble upon a great idea on a lucky day? Very often! Another vital concept to reach the full potential of a Design team is Interruptions, and I’m talking about constructive instructions, criticism, and comparisons. And finally Deconstructive Creativity. We talked about it earlier, it is the ability to understand a project, envision a rough idea of what it will be and tear it apart to rebuild it right!

All of these simple constructs, when harnessed, will enable excellent quality outputs, and it is precious to any organization or individual in search of Design with added value.

Designers work as chief advocates of human understanding and empathy within an organization but also for clients and their users.

To conclude, I believe all designers and I have a role in creating more awareness around the real value of design, unifying the design force and empowering it. It is mainly why I will say that specialized craft work is expensive and can take time. Never cheapen down your craft, it reflects poorly on you and the creative industry, and doesn’t serve your client well. On the contrary, be strong and confident about your design output and price it adequately based on the worth of it overall for your client. You’ll make a name for yourself as you will be trusted and recognized as a reliable professional in your field of expertise!

Go! It’s time to review your price table now!

Tony Moreno is the Managing & Creative Director @BlackPugStudio. He is also Head Lead Google Organizer for the Google Developers Group — Galway Chapter @GDGgalway. Former Community Manager at companies such as Blizzard Entertainment for World of Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo and BioWare/EA for Star Wars: The Old Republic.