Post-Recession Trends in the Design Business

Here’s a news flash, the Great Recession is over. However, the effects still linger. It’s a different world now and the fallout continues to trickle down.

There are some positives that came from this event, providing your company survived it, and that’s the fact that it opened our eyes to how high off the hog we were living. It was a stark comparison to what it is today… and this in my opinion is a good thing. We have learned to scale back and do more with less. It tests the imagination.

This is precisely the trend taking place in the graphic design and marketing industry now. Clients that came through the recession learned this very fact, how to do more with less, pulling a lot of design work in-house to save money. This dramatically impacts studios who counted on this ‘guaranteed’ continual work to flow through their company. It’s not just there anymore or coming in a drips and dabs.

The problem with this trend is the work being produced can be unimaginative and bland. Not to say that this is the case with all corporate in-house departments. In fact, I have seen some very good work come from in-house designers. Award winning stuff.

Instead, I am referring to those companies that do not have a designated in-house department per se. In these cases, the design is being done by the marketing director, sales manager, or worse, an administrative assistant with little or no graphics training. The result is poor work, poor brand image and poor communications. This could easily devastate a brand making it difficult to shed the negative impact that it may incur.

The benefit of hiring an outside firm provides the ability to look at the marketing problem from a complete unbiased and objective point-of-view providing the client a more viable solution. Graphic design studios can offer up fresh ideas and approaches that maintain brand equity and enhance brand image which leads to future success and increase sales. Think of design companies as your personal marketing consultant and then weigh the value of the company against the cost of the ‘do-it-yourself’ approach that may damage and tarnish the corporate image, all for the sake of saving a few bucks. Is it worth it?

However, pulling things back in-house is now a fact of life. The challenge to design firms today is to prove how they can increase value to the client’s bottom line. An uphill battle, but one that must be fought if we are to survive in these post recession times.

The second trend identified is an increase in competition from freelancers. Where a design firm was bidding against other design firms, now we see that design companies competing head-to-head with freelancers who have very little, or no overhead.

Being a former freelancer myself, I’m not knocking freelancers here. We all need to make a living. I’m just identifying a trend in the marketplace. If any finger pointing must be done, this trend is being spurred on by the results of the recession and clients who are looking at freelancers as an option to save money and cut expenses.

Although freelancers can bring much to the table at a substantially reduced rate, many do not have all the resources that a full-fledge design studio would have at its beckon call. When clients opt to use a freelancer rather than spend money on a design studio, they are often short changing themselves.

Both these trends are real and impacting the design business locally, nationally, and across the globe. How we deal with them today will ensure how successful or unsuccessful we will be tomorrow.

By | 2017-06-15T11:31:54+00:00 September 17th, 2013|Rod's Rants|