I get it. Brand design is an investment and a lot of people think branding is expensive.
Whether you’ve just received a quote from a brand strategist or brand designer (like me!) or you’ve been doing some research and taking a peek at various prices, you’ve likely been able to draw one conclusion so far: hiring a brand designer for a custom brand design (and maybe also a brand strategy, or website, or other collateral items), is going to be expensive. And though I’m sure you inherently already know this, there are a multitude of reasons behind why a brand design with an experienced designer will likely cost you upwards of $6k for brand strategy and design and $10k+ if you need a website as well. It can be a lot for many small businesses and I completely understand the shock that they feel when seeing those number.
So you might be wondering now how did the brand strategist or brand designer came up with that number? A good brand designer or brand strategist truly is doing so much more than making things look pretty. When we can start to break down what is actually going into a solid brand design process like the one I use confidently at Designed By Betty, we start to see how and why design is an important investment in the success of your business as a whole. In this post, I’m going to lay it all out for you and explain the key factors that go into pricing a design project, our holistic branding design approach and process.
01 / Good Design Takes Time
First thing first, good design takes time, like hell lots of time. For each branding project and strategy I put together and every concept that I present, it involves hours of researching, experimenting and revising that happens behind the scenes that you never see. Although from the client’s perspective, it can seem like we come up with things very easily and quickly, there is often hours upon hours of work going on behind the scenes. I only present 1 logo concepts to my client, so in order to get to that point, there has been a lot of time dedicated to researching, designing and ensuring it is the best option and design solution for the project on the strategy we have developed. Brand designers explore, test, tweak. We spend A LOT of time doing very tedious work like searching for the perfect color palette and typography to create the final design that aligns with your brand, you get that idea, so keep that in mind when you see our pricing!
Because of our one concept design approach, we also take the time to build out the brand experience beyond “just” presenting the brand identity, which includes designing mockups that feature the brand application in various ways so the client can start to visualize what their new brand will look like in use. We start to see how the various brand elements, like typography and colour palettes, can be used together and also start to explore the addition of brand-aligned, intentional imagery to evoke a full brand experience.
02 / Design has value
Design and strategy can truly MAKE or BREAK on your business. It can directly affect things like sales, attracting your ideal customers, standing out while telling your own unique story, selling your products or services, building trust + creating new partnerships, and so much more.
Essentially, better design can lead to more money in your pocket. So some brand designers and strategists take that into consideration with their pricing. What they are creating for you could drastically help you increase your profit. So keep that in mind and know that design is valuable and should be viewed as an investment rather than a business expense! When you hire a brand designer, you aren’t just paying them to spend X number of hours on something or to create X elements for your brand. You are paying them for the result and transformation.
Value is essentially where all of these other factors combine to create a very specific experience based on the design team you choose. For example, with Designed By Betty, you’re gaining access to my specific experience in building brands in design-adjacent industries, my signature style and how to design elevated, refined brands, and an understanding and deep passion for the storytelling and experiential side of branding. We bring that aforementioned experience, education and expertise in a variety of design and style-oriented disciplines to each and every project to create brand experiences that are truly 360°.
From graphic, copy writing and web design to photography and styling to storytelling and innovative insight — it all plays a huge role in our immersive, strategic approach branding projects. That’s what sets us apart, and also the unique approach we can bring to your business. Whether or not we’re actually working on all those different facets of your business, you can bet that you’re benefitting from our approach, no matter what the specific deliverables are.
I strongly believe that design can be used to solve problems (while also looking gorgeous, obviously), and your designer will be the one leading you through that process and helping you craft your visual story to attract your ideal customer. And that’s pretty priceless, no?
03 / Designers Have Experience
Many designers adjust their pricing based on their experience and skills within the industry. Designers bring specialized and specific experience, education and expertise to your business, Not only did I go to school for my skills in business and design but I also have 5+ years working experience at a fortune 500 bank as financial and business analyst to help analyze companies like Facebook, General Motor, LG Electronics, Samsung, Michael Kors, and so many other world recognized brands. I am also a firm believer that continuing education is key to success, I constantly investing back in my business and in myself so that I can help my customers to achieve more and to add more value to the brand design experience. Whether this shows up as enrolling in online courses, reading books, working with mentors and coaches, or even just dedicating our time to practicing and further developing our skills, it means we just keep getting better and better — and then we can apply that to our work, our processes and our clients.
Every project I work on, every hour I spend on learning and practicing my craft gets factored into future projects. This is why prices go up over time, because not only does growth generally mean our expenses increased, but also our expertise — and how much our services are worth.
It’s also important to factor in our style, eye and overall creativity. When you hire a brand designer or strategist, you’re expecting them to have a basic understanding of the technical side of design, but you’re also choosing your designer based on their specific style, creative point of view and ability to solve problems through design solutions that align with your goals. This is something designers work very hard to cultivate, and creativity in and of itself has so much value. Layer that with an understanding of the technical and foundational side of design, and you can start to see why some designers stand out — and price accordingly.
04 / Designers are Business Owners and Have Business Expenses too
Designers & creatives are also business owners and we also have bills to pay. I generally set aside 40% of all my income for taxes, so that money doesn’t even hit my bank account. I also have other fixed monthly expenses to keep my business running. Such as tools (Adobe Cc for client work and design, Flodesk for email marketing, Honeybook for client management system, Asana for Project management, if you are interested to find out more about my biz tools, read more here), outsourcing, marketing, accounting, courses, and things can add up very quickly, especially as you grow. Don’t forget we also have our personal expenses on top of that! Mortgages, car payment, health insurance, student loans, electricity, etc. Just because we just because we run an online business, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have any bills! We’re trying to make a living just like you.
It all adds up, and at the very least, all of these operating costs need to be covered in order to run a successful business.
Ok, so now you’ve learn more about how brand designers come up with the pricing, let’s take a look at what’s involved in this branding process?
Before we dive into designing things like logos, picking colours or fonts and looking for brand imagery for your business, we always begin with the brand strategy. This means setting up the entire foundation of your brand so that we can build a sturdier version that will become the success roadmap, face and first impression of your business. Usually, it entails things like questionnaires, brainstorming calls, Pinterest boards, brand clarity, business direction and so much more.
My goal isn’t to turn around a quick logo design for you. There are lots of other designers, platforms, or DIY approaches that do cost much less. My goal is to help you build a profitable, story-telling, long-term home for your business and to do that, we first need to set up a strong foundation and build the bones of the house with a framework.
Most people often overlook this when thinking about design. Of course, I don’t blame them. We all see the final, shiny results and WANT THOSE without the hard work in between. But this in-between stuff ends up being crucial, fundamental, magical, trust us. In almost all of our design projects, the in-between work ends up being everyone’s favourite part. It’s kind of like therapy, but for your business brain. It works wonders to help with overwhelm, business direction, clarity, and focus. Without a solid brand foundation (aka. Brand strategy), you are pretty much just shooting in the dark or driving a car without knowing where you are heading.
“If design isn’t profitable then it’s art.” – Henrik Fiskar
Designing the Entire Brand Experience
So like I mentioned above, we aren’t here to create a cute or pretty logo for you and move on to the next project. Brand design has so many moving pieces. Here’s a taste of what we typically do for any given project:
- Primary logo design in all necessary colours and file types (for both print and web) This is the main logo to be used in your business.
- Alternate logo design in all necessary colours and files types (for both print and web) An alternate version of your logo like a wordmark or a more compact version for different contexts.
- Submark logo design in all necessary colours and files types (for both print and web) A compact version of your logo for social media, watermarks, stamps…etc.
- Custom colour palette and colour codes So that you can stay consistent on all platforms and when printing
- Brand font files and typography system For consistency and to ensure you can install your fonts for easy use on your computer
- Patterns (if applicable) Can be used for brand recognition, on packaging, social media graphics…etc.
- Brand icons/illustrations (if applicable) Used for emphasis, brand awareness, packaging, social media graphics…etc.
- Other brand elements These may be things like lines, buttons, formats, and any other visual pieces that make your brand more unique and recognizable
- Shareable graphics A folder of graphics that showcase your new brand ready to share on all platforms or use as social media profile pictures
- Library of free stock photos A folder of photos you can use that represent your brand visually – great for blog posts, social media, marketing materials or on your website
- Brand stylesheet or in-depth style guide A summary of how to use your new brand assets in either a simple one-pager reference sheet or an intricate, hardcover book with application tips and guidance
- A training session to review all your files, folders and how to use your new brand
- Packaging for products Which also involves considering things like packaging materials, how things will print on certain papers or products, how people will interact and shop for the product (will it be online or on a shelf?)…etc.
- Marketing materials / brand collateral Like brochures, business cards, opt-in guides, email marketing newsletter templates, lookbooks, menus, ads, social media graphics…etc.
- Website design + development: Shopify, Showit and Wix
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into projects here at Designed By Betty. I want to set your business up for long-term success, so I make sure you have every file you’ll need to go on to build a recognizable, profitable and successful business.
Signature One-on-One Value & Expertise
Because I am working with my clients one-on-one, they’re set up with a built-in design coach/consultant. So not only am I acting as the implementors by actually doing the designing or website development, but I am also working as consultants providing valuable solutions along the way.
As we work through brand and website strategy phases with our clients, we’re dissecting the entire approach to how you should run your business. That means going through your services, ideal audience, and the experience you’re providing your clients or customers with a fine-tooth comb. By doing so, I can work through ways to optimize how your business is running. Maybe that means implementing easier ways to get clients to book a consultation or optimizing where we place email newsletter forms for more subscribers. Having someone in your corner to work through all of these business decisions is a lot more valuable than simply designing a logo!
“if you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.” – Ralf Speth
What if I think branding is still too expensive for me?
If cost is a big issue for you, it may force you to only think about your budget when searching for a designer to work with. But your priority should be finding a designer that you trust will bring you the transformational result, not just finding a designer that you can afford. Some experienced designers are willing to work with smaller budgets and very flexible. All you have to do is reach out and ask! They may be able to take a few things out of their packages to lower the cost (like the non-essential stuff that you might not need yet like collateral design, patterns, etc). Most designers also offer payment plans, splitting up the cost into smaller payments spread throughout the project. These are all things that can make the investment easier for you WHILE still paying them fairly for all the hard, valuable work that they’ll be doing.
Ok, so I get it — design is expensive. But what if you understand the reason why it’s an investment but you still can’t quite afford a fully custom option? It may not the right time for you to work with a brand designer or a brand strategist. And that’s totally fine! Especially for newer business, it’s important to know that things can drastically change during your first few years. Your target audience might shift. Your values may change. You may have to pivot in a way that you never expected. Because of this, sometimes it is best to wait a few years before investing in a professional designer.
Many of my own clients come to me after running their businesses for 2-4 years. This seems to be the sweet spot for a lot of business owners when they’ve gotten through the experimental phase and finally have a clear direction for their business. So just keep that in mind that it’s ok to wait a little while!
There are definitely ways to still tap into all of the value working with a designer brings while staying within your budget, and a lot of the time it comes down to looking at other options that will still fit your specific needs:
- DIY – It’s not always the best solution, but sometimes business owners decide to design their own branding or website in the beginning. I would only recommend doing this if you feel confident in creating something on your own that you can feel ok about. If you aren’t confident in your own design skills, hire someone else.
- Buy a semi-custom brand – Some designers sell pre-made brands that are a great option for when you’re just starting out. Most are designed for specific types of businesses, so you can find one that fits your vision and connects with your audience.
- Day Rate/VIP Intensive Day – Some designers also offer day rates or expedited projects where they create what you want in a very short period of time and at a lower price. Doing branding in a day can be a little rushed and obviously doesn’t go as in-depth as a full project, but it could work if you need something at a lower budget and if you are looking for a quick turnaround time.
I build out all of my packages with custom solutions and generally offer 2-3 options that factor in different budgets. There are also ways to get creative with semi-custom options that tend to be a lower investment but still ensure you’re able to tap into the style and expertise of your designer-of-choice. More on that soon! This is something I’ve been developing a lot behind the scenes, so make sure you’re on my mailing list to find out first. I’ve become very passionate about creating design and visual solutions that are more accessible depending on what stage you’re at in your business and where your core needs and priorities lie, so you will definitely be seeing more of that as I continue to explore this direction.
But in the meantime, feel free to reach out, tell me what you need and we can explore a custom solution that will work best for you. I hope this breakdown has helped you understand the many factors that go into why branding is an investment! Working with a brand designer or strategist can be expensive. But it is totally worth the investment! So keep that in mind when reaching out to designers (or any other type of creative!)