is there a difference in quality when it comes to graphic design?

Custom Color Palette Cards YES.

(If you want to know WHY, keep reading.)

When it comes to design, I believe that, for the most part, you get what you pay for. A studio, agency, and freelancer functions like any other brand, filling a niche in the marketplace that suits their size, experience, and capabilities. We at Akula Kreative, for example, like to think of ourselves as something in the middle: we're neither agency nor freelancer, neither astronomically expensive nor bargain basement cheap. Our goal as a small business is to serve small businesses—to provide the quality work, personal attention, honesty, and value that young companies need to get off on the right foot.

We have absolutely no desire to grow into—or even toward—another Wieden+Kennedy, despite our admiration for agencies of that magnitude. Sure, I go ga-ga over Nike's ad campaigns, but what I (personally) enjoy most is bringing the visions of small businesses to life. I want the small guys to feel like the big guys...to create designs that make people feel professional, classy, and PROUD of their brand.

To get back to answering the question "Is there a difference in quality when it comes to graphic design?," I'll give you an example:

(Bear with me...I think this is actually a good analogy...)

Let's take two familiar furniture brands: Pottery Barn and Ikea. To me, Pottery Barn represents quality craftsmanship and design for a decent—perhaps slightly higher—price tag. Ikea, on the other hand, provides good design at a crazy-low cost, but the quality isn't even close. A couple months ago, my mom purchased a small bookcase from Pottery Barn. When it arrived (pre-assembled for the most part), she noticed a little chip on the side. She called customer service and, without hesitation, they shipped her out a brand new one. No charge, no hassle. She even got to keep the slightly damaged one. Fast forward a few weeks to when Andrew and I go to Ikea to buy a craft table. After walking through the massive maze that IS Ikea, we find the table and see that the tag says "See Associate" instead of the usual aisle and bin numbers. We get to the warehouse, and the only employee we can find on the floor has a line of 5 people in front of him. So we wait. I tell him what I want. He prints out a sheet of paper, and about 30 minutes later, we are waiting for our big box to arrive at the furniture window. We haul it to the office, then open the box to start the assembly process. But wait, this table IS THE WRONG COLOR. I then get on the phone to find out if they have the color I want in stock. I wait on hold for over 10 minutes. After hauling the box BACK to Ikea, it's another 2 hours before we're back at the office with the correct product, and we still have to put it together. During this process, all I could think was, "This never would have happened if I bought the table from Pottery Barn."

Here's my point: Sure, you can find someone who will design a custom logo for you for $100, but I'm guessing the final product may be lacking some key features. Here are some questions you might want to ask when shopping around:

  • How many revisions does the fee include?
  • How many initial concepts/designs will you show me?
  • What types of files will you provide?

Quality in graphic design refers to not only the design itself, but also to the variety of files you receive and the way in which they are organized. In our Basic Branding Package, for instance, we include:

  1. Logo Design / a custom design from the ground up (includes 3 initial concepts)
  2. Color Palette / a color palette designed just for you (includes RGB, CMYK, Pantones, and Hex Codes)
  3. Coordinated Pattern / a custom-made, seamless .jpg swatch for you to use anywhere
  4. Unlimited revisions not to exceed 12 hours of research, illustration, and design
  5. Unlimited communication by phone or e-mail during the design process

When your logo is finalized, we hand over all the files to you, including the original, editable (vector) Illustrator file. We also provide a .psd, .eps, .pdf, .jpg, and .png. Our files are organized in such a way that ANY designer, printer, t-shirt-maker, or ad manager can pick up where we left off and make you something spectacular.

We also include color palette reference cards that tell you what colors are part of your branding. Say you want to get t-shirts printed using ink that matches your logo exactly. (Consistency is KEY to branding, after all.) All you have to do is whip out your set of cards and you'll be able to tell the printer what Pantone he or she needs to use.

This sounds like a lot of stuff...how do I keep it all organized? No problem there - we send you all of your design files on a flash drive for future safe-keeping.

Shopping for a graphic designer is (for many) a daunting task, but if you find the right fit the design process should be FUN and INSPIRING. We may or may not be the right fit for you, but we encourage you to do your homework and remember that:

BRANDING YOURSELF IS AN INVESTMENT, BUT DOING IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME IS WORTH EVERY PENNY.

Don't get me wrong, Ikea is awesome for what it is, I just don't plan on saving this craft table for generations to come!