Can You Just Do Me a Logo?

In The Design Process by Mark Douglass

Oh man! We get this question – or some form of it – almost every day. Can you ‘do me a logo’?  I need a quick website – simple, easy website.  Just make me a cool brochure that really pops! Can you make me a video and show me how to do it on my own – kinda like a template that I can duplicate?

Why are we asked these kinds of questions? Well, we work in an industry that simultaneously over-values creative brain power and under-values creative brain power. Let me explain.

With the proliferation of user-friendly platforms and design tools, more and more people feel equipped to design for themselves or hire a friend’s nephew who can ‘bust out a logo.’ We know websites offer serviceable templates that look good and do what most folks need a website to do. We have cameras on our phones that would have dropped your jaw in 1988, so hiring someone off craigslist to ‘take a few pics’ seems quite reasonable.

I mean, how fantastic does anyone really have to be at any of these service offerings?!

The tech and usability of that tech have progressed to the point where it all feels like a ‘just.’ Wait. What is a ‘just’? Good question. We are approached (almost weekly) with a request to just ______.

Good design always looks easy. Clean and elegant anything is harder than haphazard work. Simplicity is deceiving in that way. When graphics are the perfect blend of visual communication objectives, art, and imagination it causes a viewer to think ‘of course that looks right, it is the obvious combination.’ Great images, videos, and motion graphics look like it was a hop-skip-and-jump to completion. A well-built website with great media and graphic design that matches a brand’s voice is an obvious expectation.

Why wouldn’t it be this great?!

The truth is, nothing is a ‘just.’ When everything works beautifully, that’s the result of many brains dedicating many hours shredding and constructing various conceptual pathways to arrive at a cohesive and compelling product. The outworking of a thousand considerations should yield beautiful end-results. But that ultimate landing point is the product of years of experience and many hours of grinding labor thinking through a client’s communication goals. Some of the work is mundane and doesn’t require an Einstein’s mind – it’s true. Some hours are spent replicating files and chasing down domain registrations.

Here is a quick comparison that might help—
I’ve launched into a kitchen remodel. Yes, all prayers are appreciated. I’ve been working with contractors, plumbers, and cabinet makers. I approached an old friend who does cabinets professionally, and the quote represented a substantial percentage of the remodel cost. Now, I’ve done a bit of woodworking myself – I installed our last set of shelves, built our cypress wood countertops, etc. I might be able to pull it off. I have power tools and know about wood glue and hinges.

I’m sad to say I caught myself saying the word ‘just’ to my builder friend as we discussed the project.

I immediately apologized. A workman is worthy of his pay rate. My friend’s hours, experience, and eye for a craftsman’s detail are worth his quote. I didn’t want to dishonor his craftsmanship and I just had to decide whether it was worth it to have beautiful cabinetry. There are cheaper options, of course, but the truism – you get what you pay for – kept ringing in my ears.

The other consideration I had to entertain and our clients must evaluate is customer service, speed, and the value of a painless procedure. Customer service matters as much as the craftsmanship and cost. No matter how good the ultimate design product/assets, if it hurt getting there, then it might not have been worth it. If a firm misses emails, doesn’t communicate well, blows past deadlines, or doesn’t honor their word – then the misery diminishes value.

Our firm is constantly maneuvering around all these variables as we produce in accordance with our distinctive competency: holistic branding systems. Brand identity/messaging informs design (graphics, print, web) and determines how media production must behave to maintain the brand ethos. AND – our clients better have a good experience all way through the contract. That critical convergence is the real value of many brains working for many hours. That’s what our clients hire. If we do our job well, the ROI over the next few years should be plainly obvious.

Like a brand, my property should be appreciating in value, so I considered it worth the investment. I bought custom cabinets and I paid for them. It was expensive but worth it.  When business owners are juggling tight budgets, they too have to decide what is worth it and what isn’t.  World-facing brand materials might not peg to an immediately discernable ROI, but companies who short-change the creativity usually make the more costly choice in the long run.  This sort of consideration leaves creative workers making jokes like these:

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