Editor’s Note: This article is the second part in a series on design. Read the first here.
Good design is vital to building a solid brand that can support a growing business, but the process of getting good design can be intimidating. With limited resources, many small businesses may feel priced out of good design options. But instead of throwing in the towel, business owners just need to get resourceful.
Companies can often get more for less when they look to options other than large-scale design firms and ad agencies, says Jasio Stefanski, professor of graphic design at Virginia Commonwealth University. “There are so many different choices aside from huge corporate ad agencies.”
Stefanski cautions DIY-minded business owners that, while many inexpensive platforms offer design help, the results are likely to be, satisfactory, but not exceptional. If you have the design skills to craft great content, go for it. But if not, get educated or hire a professional.
So, where should you begin? Here are four ideas to help you begin the design process:
If you want to learn a little about design on your own, consider taking classes to learn basic-level skills.
For online courses, Lynda is a great place to start. Lynda is a web-based learning tool that helps regular Joe’s learn creative and professional software programs for design, photography, video, 3D and animation, business and more. Lynda courses are led by experts in these fields, from practicing designers to Excel spreadsheet geeks. Videos are available via membership plans, which can be purchased individually or in a group, starting at $20 a month.
If you’re looking for classes to take in person, check with local community colleges and continuing-ed organizations. There are usually classes that take place at night for professionals hoping to learn web and design basics. A handful of design agencies also offer classes to clients. For instance Jabber Logic, a design firm in Minneapolis that serves small businesses and nonprofits, offers night classes in website development, design, social media, marketing and more.
Online platforms are available by the dozens for individuals and companies that want an inexpensive online presence. Sites such as Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, Jigsy and Jimdo are revolutionizing the website world by breaking down website building into a simple, and even fun, process.
Alana Range, creative director and CEO of Radish Lab recommends Squarespace, a popular platform that allows anyone to build a professional looking website in about one work day, no coding required. “It’s mindless to use and a great resource for businesses that are just starting out,” Range says. She still recommends hiring a designer to lay a foundation of fonts, color scheme and logo.
Squarespace offers a number of templates depending on the type of business and style of website you’re hoping to build. It also provides mobile compatibility, domain names (free for the first year) and 24/7 customer support. Squarespace’s services start at $8 a month.
Freelancers, Freelancers, Freelancers
If design isn’t your thing, reach out to professionals. But remember that sometimes a team of one or two can do the job just as well as an agency. “Ad agencies often regurgitate the same language over and over again,” Stefanski says. Sometimes freelancers bring the most unique work at the best price.
Freelancers are usually best found through word of mouth and personal recommendations, but you can also find talent via local Facebook pages, LinkedIn and “crowdsourcing” sites like Crowdspring. As you search, Range says to only work with a person or company that you trust completely. When you and a designer are on the same page, everything goes smoother.
Find Agencies that Fit Your Needs
Not all design firms are looking for the biggest client with the biggest budget. Firms like Radish Lab and Jabber Logic work specifically with clients that are making a social impact, including small businesses, nonprofits, academia and cultural centers. Agencies of this kind not only boast top-notch designers, but they also have experience working with limited budgets.
Radish Lab recently launched Discovery Lab Beta, a program to bring design expertise to worthy organizations for free. Each month, Radish Lab chooses one organization from a group of applicants to sit down with its team to strategize, research and workshop anything and everything about the organization’s design. Discovery Lab Beta sessions last 2 hours and can be done virtually or in person.
No matter where you turn to for design know-how, the right provider will help you prioritize and find solutions that best meets your company’s capabilities and needs. Compelling design gives you the “power to increase your cause,” Range says.
With countless resources at your fingertips, it’s time to get started.