Our creative agency gets asked the money question a lot. How much will it cost? This question is a tricky question to deal with because it all depends. And, an answer of “it depends” is about as vague as the question of “how much does it cost.”
With creative work, several factors go into developing a project. Questions must be answered to determine how much work a client needs from us on a project before offering pricing.
- Does the client know exactly what they want? They have done the pre-campaign legwork, determined a solid strategy, and simply need it turned into a functional piece of art?
- How much input do they want from us as a graphic design firm and creative agency?
- How clearly defined are they on their messaging, and do they need help to define it better?
- How is their copy? Do they need help with copywriting?
- Do they have a strategy for their campaign, or do they need one created?
All of these questions bring a different level or service to the project, which means a different amount of time will get invested into it.
Sometimes, a client knows exactly what they want, even providing a crude mockup that needs to be turned into finished artwork.
Sometimes a client has no clue what direction to take their campaign, which requires a different level of work from a creative agency.
And, more often than not, a client thinks they know what they want, and they believe they have done all the legwork, but their concept and ideas are all wrong for their target market, which means the project must go back to the drawing board once we take it on.
As you can imagine, the amount of time involved in each scenario can vary, making it hard for an agency to give a client a flat fee for a project without knowing the complete scope of what they will need to provide to the client.
Each scenario must be taken on a case-by-case basis to determine the level of service a client needs. Do they need a creative and strategy, art direction, or simply the production of artwork?
I like the way Joe Lesina, of Jabra GN - Innovation, Marketing, Growth Hacking and OKRs Management, analogizes it using musicians:
– The Graphic Designer is a skilled musician, plays one instrument well – the guitar.
– The Art Director writes a song and works with an orchestra of artists to execute it – guitar ( the graphic designer ), the piano ( the illustrator ), the drums ( video maker )
– The Creative Director select the right songs and work to make them consistent under one clear vision and create a full-length record.
I would add to that the list:
– The Production Artist is a musician, but one with only a little bit of experience under their belt, who aspires to be like the Graphic Designer, and maybe even, one day, an Art Director or Creative Director.
Does the client need creative and strategy work?
A Creative Director is often the ideas person. They come up with catchy slogans, tag lines, and inspirations for a campaign. They develop the brand strategy, ensuring that the work supports the client’s needs. They often work with a team of copywriters to take their ideas and mold them into words. They do not bill out at the same hourly rate as a Graphic Designer or Production Artist, and they generally spend quite a bit more upfront time in the creation of branding and campaigns.
Does the client need art direction?
Many times people confuse creative direction with art direction. They are not the same. An Art Director handles the aesthetics of the design to help invoke a reaction by the consumer. They work hand-in-hand with the Creative Director to bring everything together. But, they are generally more concerned with the look and feel of the artwork, not its strategy. Art directors might be in charge of a team of graphic designers, but they certainly have the talent to jump in there and create themselves. They do not bill out at the same hourly rate as a Graphic Designer or Production Artist. Like the Creative Director, they also spend quite a bit of time coming up with the creative for a client.
Does the client need production with some creativity thrown in?
The Graphic Designer is usually a member of the Art Director’s team and works closely with them to produce the finished artwork. They are working with the concepts and brand strategy already put in place for the client by the Creative Director and Art Director and generally lend their expertise in design to the finished project. Depending on the agency’s size, they may also be overseeing the Production Artists on a day-to-day basis. They do not bill out at the same hourly rate as a Production Artist.
Does the client only need whatever is on their mind produced with no creative input or strategy done?
A Production Artist is a creative professional, usually a junior designer, and part of the creative team. They are essential team members and are the “doers” who run with the design vision and create deliverables for clients. However, they generally aren’t doing the same things as the “higher” level team members.
For many, the lines between Production Artists and Graphic Designers can often be blurred. Usually, a production artist is not generally involved with the brainstorming and conceptualization of a design project than a Graphic Designer. They free up the Graphic Designer to work on more creative things. They execute the ideas and create the final art for banner ads, posters, billboards, social media posts, brochures, and other marketing materials.
And, the above roles are just a few roles that can come into play on a project. We didn’t even cover the importance of copywriting, which brings yet another playing into the mix.
Which Do You Need?
When clients come to a creative agency, they have to determine what they are looking for to fill their needs. If they already have branding in place and a general idea of what they want, working with the agency’s graphic designer may allow them to get the job produced at a lower cost. But, they won’t be getting the input at a higher level for consulting, strategies and concepts.
If they ask for advice on their project or need a higher level of service from an Art Director or Creative Director’s input, they can expect to pay more for the service.