This subject can be very sensitive so as you read this article, keep in mind that I have written this from both points of view - both the designer and the client. In this economy, clients should know that as designers we completely understand your question and that it is a completely legitimate question. I wanted to write this article to help explain our processes and how we approach a new project, specifically the pricing aspect. Due to all the flexible factors in pricing, this is a very complex and complicated subject. I will try to keep it simple, clear and easy to understand.
The Estimation Explanation
Estimates have the possibility to leave both a good and bad taste in your mouth. A good taste because of the excitement of future changes and new products; a bad taste because of how much those changes might end up costing. First and foremost, all price estimations should have an explanation attached to them. Whether it is in a letter or contract format, either one should be able to clearly explain all the factors that go into the price. The worst, in my opinion, is when the numbers are presented without any explanation. Clients, if you have a new project that might seem a little high, I would strongly encourage you to get an explanation for the price from the designer if you have not gotten one. This gives the designers a chance to explain why certain things cost the amount they do. You never know, the explanation might change your mind and you could end up with a really great final product. Designers, please make sure you can explain why the cost is the way it is. I know that the price might not seem high to you but if you can’t explain why it’s priced in a certain way, you probably shouldn’t charge that much.
Whether in contract or letter, the explanation still might be unclear. This could result from a bad explanation or just an unfamiliarity with the graphic design process. For me, there are generally five main factors that are taken into account for a project: designer experience and quality, project scope, turnaround time, miscellaneous factors including location, availability, etc. and most importantly the workload that will be placed on the designer for the project. Let me take a short minute to explain each of these:
Designer Experience And Quality
Just like many jobs, employees get paid partly based on the amount of experience they have. This includes both educational and “real-world” experience. Many designers should have a good understanding of where they lie on the scale of experience, which means the designer should be pretty trustworthy in this area. If you believe that the price is questionable based on the designer’s experience, feel free to ask the designer about it. The price that they quote might not be determined so much by their experience as it would be by another factor listed below.
“Scope” is simply a fancy word for all the details of a project. The details fluctuate depending on each project so it’s hard to explain what all goes into this process but each party should have a clear understanding of all the details that are requested and need to be completed by the designer. The designer should be able to explain why certain details make it more expensive.
This is a pretty simple area to explain. If a client hires a designer to complete a logo in one week, the price will obviously need to be higher than if the logo only needed to be completed within the year. This is similar to shipping of a product that you ordered online; shipping and handling always cost more depending on how fast the product needs delivered. Mostly because of the extra work that the shipping company has to do to deliver it on-time.
Obviously, this is a very broad factor. It can include anything from availability of the designer to location of the client. If a designer is busy, he or she will need to charge more because of the extra time that they will be having to put into a project and the possible time that they will spend away from family and friends. Another example would be the dramatic time differences between the UK and the US. Some designers would charge more just because of the difficulty that location and time changes could present. Because of the broadness of this factor, feel free to discuss this with the designer in detail if need be.
The Designer's Workload
Finally, the designer’s workload is one of the most important and heavy factors in determining the price of a project. Each designer has his or her own way of completing a project that they were hired to do. The general outline of the creative process though is similar to this: research, planning and concepts, digital creation and implementation. Each phase should be treated as equally important as possible, but some phases require more hours than the other.
The research phase is the foundation of the the entire project. How could a designer create something without any idea as to what the project is for? The research phase includes (but not limited to) a few different areas: a client interview, company research and competition research. This creates a great foundation to know what the rest of the the competition is doing as well as certain characteristics of the company that could be reflect in the final design.
Planning and Concepts - 5 to 7 Hours
This process is where designers are the most creative. During this process, designers think through possible ideas, shapes and forms and many other creative decisions. Pencil and paper are usually a very important part of this process. This phase can break down into even more details such as: 1) brainstorming, 2) sketching and 3) refinement. In order to provide a great end product, the concept must be there first so that’s why this process takes deep thoughts and much time.
Digital Creation - 7 to 10 Hours
Clients and designers are usually the most happy during this stage. Clients are happy because they begin to see all the ideas come to fruition. Designers are happy because the concepts have been chosen and they begin to work on finalizing the shapes, sizes, colors, etc. for the designs. This process can usually take the longest due to all the details in shapes, sizes, colors, etc.
Implementation - Hours Vary
This process can vary dramatically depending on the details of the project and the final files that would need to be created. For example, a logo and business card would not take as long as a full website design. The amount of work that would need to be created can dramatically change the price. This is usually understood by both designer and client before the initial research stage.
As all parties involved know, pricing is such a sensitive subject. Because of this characteristic, each party should feel completely free to discuss these matters before emotions build up and the project is ended before it begins. My final suggestions: designers, be sensitive to your client’s needs. You’re clients mean work which means money. Be careful to not push your clients away with strong opinions before the project even begins. Clients, trust the designer. It's that simple...designers are trained to do exactly what you have hired them to do.