Designing on a Budget

large format printing job

Not every great design needs to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, some of my favorite pieces I’ve designed have been the most budget friendly. So what are some of the best ways to get a quality design without breaking the bank? Printing costs and design time are the two biggest areas that can altered to save some serious money, but it’s a slippery slope. A designer still needs time to come up with the concepts for the designs. Without this time, you’ll likely end up with a bland design that doesn’t stand out from the sea of other materials out there.

Cutting the Print Costs

While it’s obvious that printing in bulk can save a lot, it’s important to find the perfect balance of how large of an order to print. Keeping the price per unit as low as possible, while not having an excess of materials that won’t ever be used, is the overall goal for making the most cost-effective print order. But beyond the order quantity, there is plenty that can be done to keep cost down.

Full bleed designs–with content going all the way to the edge of the paper–tend to look great. They provide more area for the design and tend to look more refined, but they also require printing the image larger and then cutting it down to size. Both of those aspects will definitely boost the cost of printing, sometimes drastically. The added size of the bleeds means that it could become too large to tile and print more than one per sheet. A quarter page flyer could be printed four to a page without bleeds. But that same size flyer with bleeds will only fit two to a page. That extra paper cost will add up significantly in some print orders, and is something to think about whether the design has bleeds or not.

Using Less Design Time

Most designers charge an hourly rate, so the only way to save money on the design end is to use less time. This doesn’t have to mean allowing less time to come up with the concept that make the design great. But there are ways to streamline the design process. Using stock images and illustrations can be a huge time and money saver. Providing the designer with these assets may save even more money, but using stock images that the designer has chosen will usually result in imagery that flows better with the overall design.

Other effective ways to save money on the design end would be to limit the number of design options or the overall design time allowed. When designing websites and logos, it is common for us to present the client with 3 contrasting designs. This way there are multiple options to ensure that the aesthetics of the design match what the business is going for. Allowing fewer design options means there is much less time and money put into the designs. But there is an added risk that the smaller number of options won’t knock it out of the park as much as hoped. The same factor comes into play with other design projects as well. Limiting a flyer design to 1 hour will ensure a set price on the design end, but a flyer with a 3-hour budget will yield more refined results.

Communication is Key

It is important to be communicative with your designer, especially when cost is a concern. Communication and direction given up front will give them a better understanding of what you’re after. Just remember to be open to that designer’s interpretations of your direction.

It is always possible to create stunning design work on a budget. While it may take a little more planning up front, and require more communication, there’s no reason for it to lack in design. Unfortunately for budget conscious people, the design likely won’t be complimented with things like embossed text, foil letters, fancy papers, or other specialty printing. However, the tips above may help save enough money to justify a bit of a splurge in the end.