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A blog about branding, marketing, and design, mostly through the lens of practical psychology, intended to be a resource to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Unless otherwise noted, all articles are written by Nyla Smith, owner of n-Vision Designs. {Subscribe to the RSS feed here: RSS}

Designing Web Visuals: DIY or Hire a Professional?

Nyla Smith | Tuesday, June 23, 2015

DIYAny business that is serious about their content strategy for online marketing will always have a frequent need for web visuals: social media banners, website banners, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads, and Facebook ads, to name a few. Unless you have an in-house design team, you’ll likely face the question, "Do I create the graphics myself or do I hire a professional designer?"

Pros vs. Cons: Creating Web Visuals Yourself

DIY Benefits:

  • When you create your own graphics, you will be able to turn it around faster. You can also better assess the time being spent on the work because you are doing it yourself. When you use a professional, then you must allow for time to discuss your needs and for the creative process to unfold. You would also be at the mercy of the designer's schedule, which may not be convenient for you.
  • Doing the work yourself will save you money upfront. You will be able to stretch your marketing budget further to spend on larger or more meaningful projects.

DIY Challenges:

  • If you decide not to hire a designer to create your web graphics, then you run the risk of damaging your image as a professional. How potential customers and your target audience view your business is important in maintaining a steady stream of profitable leads.
  • Depending on how design-savvy you are, you could potentially waste more of your own (billable) time by doing something that could more efficiently be delegated to someone else. If you’re an accountant, you are more profitable doing accounting, not spending valuable time trying to figure out how to create a website ad with PowerPoint.

When Should I Design a Project Myself?

At times the need may arise for you to create your own marketing materials. For instance, you may only have a day or two to prepare for a last-minute project, so it makes sense for you to create a coupon for that one-day flash sale your business is having and promote it on social media. In this case, you needed to get the word out about your business fast and this helped you reach your goal in a realistic timeframe.

Create Better DIY Projects: Use a Style Guide

It may be worth it in the long run to have a visual branding expert work with you to create a brand style guide. This will help you to create consistent graphics even without hiring a professional designer for every little thing. The style guide is a handy resource that should be used by both you and your employees. By using the style guide, you enable marketing pieces to adhere to the brand and you create more professional looking pieces without paying for a pro each time.

DIY Resources and Tips

Focus on two things: the image and the typography.

The image you use is one of the most important elements to a compelling marketing campaign! Use images that reflect your intent. Stay away from using clipart. It doesn't leave a positive lasting impression nor does it look professional. Clipart looks cheap and shows that your company isn't willing to pay for a professional marketing design. Think about how it reflects on you and the image you want to project.

Instead of using images from Word or Google searches, consider signing up for an account with stock photo websites, like istockphoto.com, where you will have access to thousands of high-quality images. Using photos in a legal manner is a much safer bet than being sued for using someone else's work without their permission. Stock photography can help you look professional even when you have limited design experience.

On the web, images speak louder than words, and too many words can be distracting. Communicate only what is necessary, and in the most powerful way you can. Use one or two fonts only – don’t overdo it, and don’t use fonts that look thematic, like Papyrus or Comic Sans. Myfonts.com is a good place to find fonts. Yes, you will have to pay for most of them, but you are paying for quality.

Some technicalities to consider...

Graphics for the web should be saved at 72 or 96 ppi, and in RGB color space.

If you find you upload a graphic and the colors have changed dramatically (typically with greens/blues) then your file was probably saved for print using CMYK color space and you’ll need to resave your graphic in RGB color space for it to appear correctly on the web. If you don’t have a graphics program to do this, you can use a free online tool such as cmyk2rgb.com. Simply upload your CMYK image to convert it for correct color display on the web.

Another tip: If at all possible, save the image as a .png for better quality, though you will have to balance quality with file size, as .png files can be much larger in file size than a jpg.

Pros vs. Cons: When to Outsource Your Web Visuals

Outsourcing Benefits:

  • Professional results! Using professional design results in enhanced brand perception, which puts you in a prime position to increase your profits. A professional designer will take your concept and turn it into a communication piece that best highlights your message and supports your professional image. This will appeal to your target audience and build their trust in your brand — and by extension, you!

Outsourcing Challenges:

  • You will have to pay someone. This can get expensive for the use of a professional's time and expertise. This is a decision you will have to make given your time, money, and resources. You'll have to make a decision based upon what will help your business grow. Think big and you will have big results!

Knowing When to Call Upon a Professional:

The more extensive the project, the more important it is to do it right. For long-term campaigns, for entire website redesigns, for anything that you consider ambitious, for anything multifaceted, for anything that involves different media (video, print) — hire a pro.

If your brand is sacrilege and you always want to make sure you are putting your best foot forward, hire a pro. Better yet, partner with a marketing/design pro on a retainer basis so that you can build a relationship with someone who has a long-term interest in seeing you succeed. The more you work with a professional, the more he/she will understand your brand, your communication style, and your goals. Working together as a team will make both of you stronger in the marketing world!

Leave Print Marketing to the Pros!

Digital marketing may be the hottest marketing trend, and there are situations where it makes sense to create graphics yourself, but for print marketing, it is always better to hire a professional!

Graphic design is more than just creating the artwork, it’s knowing enough about the printing process to make sure the finished design translates well. There are too many potential pitfalls for the amateur designer to fall into, from unexpected color shifts, to not preparing the file with correct bleed, to not saving it in the right format. The list goes on and on. Web graphics do not have the same prickly issues that print marketing materials do. Web graphics can be taken down with ease and quickly replaced if need be, but a printed item is permanent.

Professional Appearance Matters:

Whether you are working on a DIY design project or you are paying to have a designer create graphics for Facebook ads, make sure your work looks consistent and professional. When the need arises, don’t be afraid to create your own web graphics if you’re sure you have what it takes, but DIY at your own risk! Evaluate the circumstance and your situation to figure out the best way to proceed.

Nyla Smith is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Front-End Web Developer and Consultant with over 12 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support and brand consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses needing creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.
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