Take a moment and try to picture a particularly lousy logo you’re familiar with. When you first saw it, did it inspire confidence in the brand, or did it make you want to choose anything but?
How about a poorly designed website you’ve seen? Did you stick around to learn more about the company, or were you clicking the back button like it was a whack-a-mole game?
And who hasn’t laughed at some cut-rate direct mail piece that arrived at your door, desperate for you to take it seriously? We see the owner printed in a pair of Bermuda shorts, superimposed over some garish stock background, locking his sheepish eyes with yours as you pitch him and his sales dreams into the garbage.
Graphic design is an expense, yes. It costs money like any other business service. But unlike your evening cleaning crew, lobby furniture, or the snack machine in the kitchen, graphic design offers a return.
Or it should. Bermuda Bob isn’t doing himself any favors, but strong graphic design that’s creative, thoughtful, and well-executed will pay for itself and then some. It offers a positive return on investment.
Which means — and say it so Bob can hear you — graphic design is an investment. Stop cheaping out, Robert. You need to spend money to make money.
How Graphic Design Lines Your Pockets
Let’s look at product packaging. A bleary-eyed consumer browsing the freezer section for a breakfast burrito at six in the morning will make her choice based on the packaging design that best captures the experience she’s hoping for.
Packaging design isn’t arbitrary. Every detail is considered because each little nuance can communicate something about the product and what it will be like to stuff it in your face.
Consider a more earnest example — organic food packaging. There’s a lot of information to convey to consumers using a tiny canvas. The designer might create a pastoral scene with serene animals frolicking in the sun to evoke farm-raised, pasture-fed livestock.
An old-fashioned butter churn might rest on the farmhouse porch, suggesting a brand that reconnects with the old ways of doing things, before big factory farms. We see children playing in the distance as Mom and Dad work the field, capturing consumers looking for family-friendly products with a small-town sensibility.
The entire scene is a fabrication. The product is almost certainly made in a factory somewhere, albeit using organic techniques. But that’s not the image the manufacturer wants the consumer to picture when food shopping. The packaging’s design tells the story they prefer, and if we’re being honest, the story the shopper is looking for.
Inside the box, you’ll find a frozen cauliflower and goat cheese pizza. Outside, on the other hand, you’ll find an experience — a carefully crafted narrative that stretches the truth but never lies. This graphic design is an investment because it creates value. It takes a frozen pizza and makes it leap off the shelf, promising wonderful flavors, well-paid farmers, humanely-treated animals, and a return to life as it should be.
Sometimes a pizza is more than a pizza, and we owe that to graphic design.
Your Brand is Your Company’s Visual Representation, and it Must Be Designed
Let’s circle back to the shoddy logo we started with. To someone that has no other experience with the company, the logo IS the company. It’s the same with marketing collateral, store signage, and the company’s website. They’re visual representations of what the consumer can expect when interacting with the business. Do the designs communicate good things or bad things? Will they beckon people to call or scare them off to the next company on the list?
In the minds of consumers, your brand collateral helps define who you are as an organization. Are you serious or whimsical? Professional or fun? Edgy or straightlaced? When your logo and the rest of your branding matches who you are and who consumers want you to be, it creates a seamless experience that welcomes new customers into your world. Good graphic design builds an image for you and then sells it.
If graphic design were an expense alone, it would be disposable. You’d change logos like (hopefully) you change underwear. Packaging would be utilitarian, displaying a product’s name, ingredients, and general sales features with little to no differentiation between brands.
But we know that’s not the case. Store shelves are a cacophony of competing messages, and graphic design helps elevate products above the din. It’s the packaging that sells the pizza and the marketing collateral that sells the company.
Graphic design doesn’t just sell value. It creates, nurtures, and grows it into a beloved brand that sells like organic hotcakes.
Let Good Design Work Magic For You
At Costello Creative Group, we know a thing or two (or ten) about what graphic design can do for you. We’ve built websites, crafted logos, and designed packaging for companies and brands around the world. We’re intimately familiar with how an investment in good design can pay dividends for years to come.
If there’s one lesson we could share that rises above the rest, it’s this. Bad graphic design costs money, the same as good. But its return on investment is significantly lower because it doesn’t fulfill the primary purpose of design — to tell a compelling visual story that hooks viewers and gets them to read more.
Good graphic design is more expensive, but it does its job in spades, creating value far in excess of your initial investment. Don’t trust your brand’s subtleties to a logo maker app or your accountant’s son who knows his way around Photoshop. Invest in yourself. Create a brand you’re proud to share with the world, and one that the world is excited to interact with in return.
Then you’ll understand why graphic design is an investment, not an expense. Yes, we’re talking to you, Bob.