Why it is important to hire an agency or designer with experience and craftmanship

I like to work with small businesses and start-ups as it gives me a sense of accomplishment that I have been able to help my clients demystify the unknown and help them manage what can be quite overwhelming initially, in terms of taking an idea and turning it into something quantifiable. However, I am always surprised at what some clients think the cost of work will be. The problem is usually the lack of understanding of the amount of time and effort required to come up with creative solutions. Creativity by its very nature does not just happen (ok in some random instances it may well do) but converting a brief into a piece of visual content is slightly more time consuming. Designs do not happen by pressing a button or running a workflow, but instead are explorations of ideas that lead down various routes of which some of these routes are abandoned or revisited or re-worked. Design takes time. Yes, the more you design the quicker you become but nonetheless it still takes time.

As a comparison, you ask a painter to quote on decorating your front room and you receive your quote, but you are not sure how you want the colour scheme and style to be, so you ask for it to be decorated 3 times and the new quote reflects this being 3 times the amount of the original job. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. With design, the same process occurs. It’s not any faster pro-rata to create 3 designs compared to 1, it is simply 3 times the work because each route needs to be completely different.

Before a designer even gets started on your design work, we need to look at inspiration, we need to make sure that any ideas we have do not already exist. This is called an audit. If your designer does not do an audit, you should be concerned! With certain sectors of design, especially food and drink packaging, a sector audit is ESSENTIAL! Food and drink brands operate in a highly competitive market and you need to convey the right messaging for your product and make sure that it stands out against its competition. A food supplement product will have a different look and feel to an organic whole food product. That is the nature of branding, you need to ensure that the design fits the product.

Colour coding and variant studies – that is looking at the range of products and working out a colour scheme or colour coding for all the different flavours/aromas is another essential part of packaging design. If your designer does not ask you this question I would be concerned! This shows a lack of understanding of food and drink branding. Did you know that some colour coding is subliminally known for certain food products, like light blue or purple for milk chocolate or blue for fish, red for meat, yellow for poultry, all of these colours help the consumer navigate between products without even realising! That’s not to say they have to be used if there is a strong enough rationale behind the decision.

Clients often do not understand the value of paying for good design. They may think that the cost quoted is expensive, yet a better design has the potential to increase sales significantly and therefore the initial investment already pays for itself and more.

Make sure you understand the costs of packaging print before you embark on grandiose designs. If your designer does not ask what your print budget is and starts designing for the format you have asked for without even considering the cost or how it will be printed, you should be concerned! Print can be far more costly than design depending on the substrates and materials specified, the amount of ink, the print process etc. So make sure you design for your budget. Unless of course you have the budget of an international brand such as Unilever, but then you wouldn’t be reading this. Labelling is by far the cheapest solution and is a cost-effective way to get started. Grand ideas of 8 different products on 8 different shaped packs will be exceptionally expensive, so much so it might have you reaching out for your inhaler. Even with digital printing, costs soon mount up. Paper is not a cheap commodity.

In terms of branding and identity, if your designer does not offer you your logo created in 4 variations, colour, black and white, positive and negative, you should be concerned! I often receive existing logos for packaging design and they have not been considered to work on any background colour other than white. A good logo should be designed to work at a minimum size or a special sized logo should be developed for small use. Multiple lockups should be considered such as stacked and horizontal versions. Caring for all aspects of your logo or design will be second nature to a skilled designer, ensuring the logo works visually on multiple formats and different sizes. There are exceptions of course if you know you will never have the need to use your logo on anything other than a bit of stationery and van signage. But if your logo will go on any form of packaging, it is a must.

I hope by reading this, it gives you a little insight into the value that design gives you. If you found this article helpful, please read my blog on “a day in the life of your project” this gives you a detailed account of a logo design project.