Choosing a graphic designer can be a nightmare in the making


By Shane Drew / December 18, 2015 / No comments


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Firstly, don’t be alarmed at the headline. I don’t hate designers…. well not all designers anyway.

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Unfortunately design companies and sign companies don’t always get on like we should. Some designers have this attitude that the sign companies can’t do their job if it wasn’t for the design team first giving them the concept. Sign shops on the other hand, feel the designers are a bit like architects. They draw these fancy concepts and then need someone with the skill to implement them and replicating their blueprint in their head. Builders and architects have a similar battle to the sign shop and designers. It is a tense standoff on many occasions with lots of handshakes and smiles in public but pins and dolls in the staff room when no one is around.

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There are a lot of industries like that I guess, but it can pretty nasty in the graphics/design/sign industry some days.

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Now I’m the first to tell you we deal with some absolutely awesome designers. If you have seen some of the wraps we have put out, you’d agree that the concepts are brilliant. That’s not the issue. The issue is whether they consider our input or whether they see no value in our suggestions. A good designer will consider everyone’s input. Sadly some design teams only listen to their peers and discount anyone outside their circle as uneducated or inept.

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The biggest issue when looking for a design team and a signage team to do your project is to find either professional that actually understands the concept of wrapping or signing the item or vehicle in question.

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Don’t just settle on a low price. The money you save on a cheap design team could be eaten up in design revisions or excessive material use because they really have no idea how the job will be fitted.

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Also, make sure they understand scale. So many designers are specialists in web design or the printed page, but give them a canvas that is 15 meters long and 4 meters high and they get a bit overcome with the sheer size.

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Many times we have had to get artwork re scaled or pictures redone as they start with  resolutions of images that look great on a screen or brochure, but get pixelated when they are in a large sign at close range.

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Billboard signage isn’t as critical because you view the image from so far away the eye doesn’t notice the pixelation. But, stand close to a sign on a vehicle and you’ll see every flaw and pixelated image very easily. It is all about scale.

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So, when you visit a design team, ask them up front how many vehicles have they done of the size you are interested in. If they say none, ask them if they understand the requirements of what is required.

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When you see a sign company, ask them the same things. Once you have decided on the two teams, introduce them to each other and encourage dialogue. That is the key to a smooth process. It’s also where you’ll encounter the most trouble. A design team may not want to consult with the sign team and visa versa. If they don’t converse, you can almost guarantee there will be delays.

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We have a few design teams that specialise in large vehicles for instance. Others that are great in billboard design. It is becoming increasingly obvious that businesses are targeting niche or vertical markets and shops are less likely to cover the whole gamut of sign or design.

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Another trap to beware of is letting the design team maintain ownership of your design. Sign shops will do that too, especially franchised companies. That’s how they keep you coming back. It also keeps you locked in to their system and they can charge accordingly. Never agree to anyone maintaining ownership of your designs. It will cost you dearly.

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I’ll give you an example. Many years ago an education facility commissioned all new signage with new fonts and colours for their revamp. The design team came back with a concept that was accepted and implemented throughout the facility. They were charged nearly $20,000 for a five use license of the design.

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The initial revamp was done by a sign team aligned to the design team and all was good. Over time the sign team became tardy and started to become unreliable. The facility called us in to continue the work.

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The problem then raised it’s head with the design license. Embroidery, screen printing, initial signage, stationery printing and flag makers had already been given design licenses, making us the 6th required. The design team submitted a bill for another $20,000 for another 5 licenses.

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A quick investigation found the new font online and readily available. It wasn’t an exclusive font as they had been lead to believe. The design team were charging $20,000 for a font they actually paid $29.00 for online. The logo was a rework of their original logo with a tweak here and there. The facility assumed the design team had invested time and energy for an exclusive font and colour scheme. They learned a very expensive lesson as to why you should always own your own design.

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Another example was from a cleaning company that came to us with a logo they needed redrawing. Their designer had disappeared and they didn’t own or have the original. I’d seen the logo before but couldn’t work out where. Her response was typical of people who had been fed a story. She said it couldn’t have been hers because she paid a designer to draw it exclusively, costing her $1500.00. Plus she was so excited with the designers work, she showered him with champagne.

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A quick search of a graphic design site that I visit came up with the exact design in 5 minutes. I purchased it for her for $5.00. She was stunned. Unfortunately she was so embarrassed at finding out from me that she had been ripped off, she ceased using our services.

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So, it pays to clarify who owns the finished product before you engage a designer. If you will  never own it outright, keep looking for someone that will sell you the ownership rights. Designers that keep ownership will charge you for each use and if it is for a big print run or targeted to a large audience, their fee goes up accordingly.

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It is a minefield out there for the trusting and the uninitiated.

 

 

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