Graphic design is a fast-moving industry, and one of the biggest trends in recent times has been the emergence of “try-before-you-buy”: crowd-sourcing companies and ready-made design retailers. These companies allow prospective buyers to view designs before paying any money, and the asking price is almost always low.
That’s very attractive to a particular type of business owner who wants to cut costs and will be satisfied with a design which is a step up from what they could create (with no design training) themselves. When a major player like iStockphoto starts selling logos it undoubtedly upsets the design community, but the reality is that iStockphoto is catering to a market which has emerged in recent years.
This has created a seismic shift in the design industry: where clients once used to shop around for a designer to meet their needs, now it’s the design they’re shopping for, if they choose. Or (as a friend recently described it), some people would simply prefer to browse than create.
With the competition for design services intensifying, ultimately the strongest operators are the ones who will survive. Some of the cut-price operators won’t be able to sustain the low margins for long, but their existence and growth in numbers means that for many business customers, the expectations of a design studio have changed.
I haven’t mentioned the question about the quality of the designs on offer: there is plenty of debate taking place about that elsewhere. The fact that this segment of the design industry has flourished is evidence that, for the time being at least, price is more important than quality to a significant number of people.
Does this sound the death knell for traditional custom graphic design? I believe the answer is no, for these reasons:
Many in business would prefer to work with professional they can deal with face to face.
The Power of Client Referrals
People will always be drawn to a design firm (or any service provider) which generates good word-of-mouth, either in their local area or via social media.
Services that Complement Yours
Designers who build good relationships with linked businesses (printers, marketing, publishing, developers) will continue to pick up client leads from those avenues.
All of which come back to the same thing: Networking.
By maintaining good business networks, you stand to learn a great deal about the type of clients who are prepared to invest in your calibre of design services. And the more you understand them, the better you can target this group with your marketing activities, which means less time wasted chasing people who think window-shopping for a $60 logo is a reasonable investment of their time and money.
What do you think? Do you believe that this trend poses a serious threat to graphic designers and design studios?
More on iStockphoto’s decision to sell logos:
Designer Cannibalism? at littleblackmask
iStock Opens Can of Nasty Worms at Logo Design Love
iStockphoto Now Selling Logos ….. Your Thoughts? at Design O’Blog
Designing in a vacuum: Spec Work hurts the client, too at Sparky Firepants
My Idealistic Opinion on : iStock Selling Logos at imjustcreative