Design is not a Black Friday deal

(Another) open letter to procurement departments:

We wrote recently about why we hate rate cards. That hasn’t changed. If anything, our resolve has grown stronger: design should be charged according to impact, not time.

But we’ve also noticed an even more worrying trend that deserves to be called out right away: design and creative services being sold as a fixed-price, all-inclusive bundle.

We’ve seen some examples that are cheap as chips. But chips are only tasty when they’re hot, and we suspect the design in question may well be a cold, concealed, soggy mess.

For instance, we recently received an email from a company (which shall remain nameless) offering ‘unlimited graphic design support’ for brands for 350 quid a month.

There’s more: unlimited revisions. A 24-hour turnaround. That’s an awful lot of stuff to promise, with awfully few limits. Unfortunately, we reckon the outcome will be awful too – and waste a lot of time in the process.

Nevertheless, it’s the kind of too-good-to-be-true deal that might well be music to the pricked-up ears of a procurement department. After all, there are boxes to tick, and the budget isn’t bottomless.

What could make the bottom line happier than a way to tick every box, every month, for a low fixed cost?

Well, you know what they say about things looking too good to be true. If the bottom line is your only concern, then it truly is a race to the bottom for us all.

It also sets a dangerous precedent for how we value design as a service. Design is not a Black Friday Deal where the cheapest cost wins. It’s a problem-solving exercise. Done right, it can make you far more money than a bargain-basement deal could save you.

As the old adage goes, there are three desirable factors for any client: cheap, quick, and good. You can only ever pick two of those. Anything that claims to be all three is a fallacy.

We also believe that great design is about building relationships. You need a smart, creative agency that shares your vision, and ultimately becomes an extension of your team.

That just isn’t possible if work is churned out on a conveyor belt. Unlimited design requests and unlimited revisions may sound like it should put your mind at rest, but for us it raises many more questions than it answers. After all, wouldn’t you rather have a team that will carefully craft a solution that works for your business, than a promise to keep chucking tat at a wall until something sticks?