When it comes to your car, how often do you bust out your own set of tools and crank away at the engine? Besides the occasional oil change, spark plug swap, or maybe belt replacement, you probably trust your vehicle to a trained mechanic who knows how to keep your wheels rolling. (Unless you happen to be a trained mechanic, in which case you can swap out this analogy for one involving a plumber.)
Think of your marketing efforts, driven a great deal by your visual appearance and your web site, as your vehicle. Why, then, would a business owner or manager take the DIY route when it comes to graphic and web design?
It’s easy to think of graphic design and even web design as an “art,” something that almost anyone can accomplish with the right motivation or muse. Especially since there are a plethora of inexpensive and user-friendly desktop publishing programs out there for the amateur designer. And it’s true; design is an art, and there are lots of tools available for the average Joe or Jane. But giving a novice a paint-by-number kit of water lilies does not put him on par with Monet.
Believe it or not, there is science behind design and a great deal of technical skill involved in creating a printed piece or a web site. In fact, most designers use special software programs that cost upwards of a thousand dollars. These programs give the user infinite control over design elements. It takes a solid year of training just to become familiar with such robust software, not to mention the time it takes to understand the psychology behind design.
When you communicate a message in a visual medium, every element of that message has an impact. Color choice, image selection and arrangement, font choice, and even white space make a statement. Designers are trained to keep the message from the visual elements consistent with the message communicated in words.
Think of the last print or web ad for Apple that you’ve seen. At first glance, they’re very minimal. Lots of white space, a prominent logo, and limited text. Without even reading the copy, you get a message: clean, simple, friendly, refreshing. Psst. Here’s a secret. They planned it that way.
Google Nike print ads, and take a glance at the results. What do you see? Predominantly dark or black backgrounds, large, close-up, bold images, heavy font, and, of course, the Nike swoosh in a prominent position. Their ads, no matter what the actual words say, communicate in-your-face power and action. Again, that wasn’t an accident.
It’s easy to point to these wildly successful companies with gigantic marketing budgets and praise their consistently powerful graphic design. But small, locally based business can achieve the same level of design integrity simply by using a trained graphic designer.
Just like your mechanic, you don’t necessarily need to rely on a graphic designer for every single action item. Once you work together to establish a graphic identity, you can take the elements and work through some of your smaller projects on your own. But when it comes to logos, business cards, print ads, web pages, brochures, or annual reports, it’s time to call in the professional. It will probably save you time, money, and a string of cuss words in the long run.