I was taken over to Staples the other day to be shown some of the services they provide, services ranging from business cards to letterheads to fliers, the sorta thing a design firm is typically hired to do. I flipped through the binder at the print counter reviewing the business card designs that you can order. All a customer simply needs to do is provide their contact information and Staples applies it to one of the cards from the binder.
If you’ve seen pre-built business cards, they’re usually quite horrible, but I was honestly impressed with the quality of the designs. They were clean, gridular for the most part, and the typeface choices weren’t bad (i.e. times, helvetica, geneva). A customer could have a decent business for very little money and not be ridiculed for having a prefabricated card.
Did this designer just recommend Staples business cards?
I could stomp my feet and complain; prefabricated office store business cards are undercutting my business and the business of the firms that I work for.
Not quite. In fact it is just the opposite.
There are a million design schools cranking out designers by the truckloads and sending them out with a credential that says they are a design professional. This saturates the market and increases the competition to secure a job or account. However, with office supplies stores such as Staples, the competition for low level design is brought to one level where as concept driven, brand positioned design is brought to the next level, changing the market to a two tiered playing field, one for amateurs and the other for professionals.
This situation can be clarified through another example, logo design. There are an abundance of logo design sites out there that offer clients a complete logo for a few hundred dollars. You provide a handful of words such as unique, innovative, creative, leader, and then your company name, within a few days, a logo is delivered to your front door, and what do you know, not bad. Not great though.
The process of developing a logo, or a business card for that matter, is left out when ordering a prefab design. Concept, process and development are left out. Working with clients, I’ve gone through many iterations to develop the logo that best suits the client and their needs. The rounds aren’t because my designs are being revoked, rather a series of steps are being followed that include the client as a part of the process. The form, the color scheme, the overall application from the logo to the business card, to the letterhead is being considered. If I showed a client a single logo, with color, sure he might be happy then, but wait for a short while and see how he feels then. See how that logo can then be carried over to your letterhead. Do the colors match? Are design elements reintroduced? Is the design succinct?
My business as a graphic designer is to solve a problem and to help achieve the goals of clients. I can appreciate low end services such as stock logos and business cards, especially if they look sharp. However, I appreciate more smart design as it provides the client with a lasting solution that they can be proud of and iterate to their business partners and clients. All I want to do is to provide strong design solutions with the transparency that clients deserve. No bs, no strings, just damn good design.