In the Listen To Your Freedom business training program, I have an entire module on Outsourcing tasks to talented (yet much cheaper) workers in other countries. And graphic design is an ideal task to outsource. It is something that tends to be very expensive in western countries (US, Canada, UK, Australia, etc), but something you can find very talented people to do cheaply in countries like India, Brazil and Eastern Europe.
Here’s the problem though: Many – if not most – of those outsourced graphic designers may be excellent with the design part, but not so good with the production part. As long as their work is only being used on the web, or digitally (an eBook, or PDF report etc.) the files they give you will probably be fine.
The problems set in when you want to physically print something – like business cards, brochures, a book, etc. At that point, if you really like the design, it’s a good idea to have a western graphic designer re-build the file (logo, book, flyer, etc.) from scratch.
So… you may be thinking… then why not just get the western designer to do the original design?? Oh, perfect solution! IF you have the cash.
You Get What You Pay For
A western designer will charge you anywhere from $300 to $3000 for a logo, depending on how much work they put into mapping out your brand identity. If you outsource your logo, you can get a perfectly workable logo done on Fiverr.com for $5 – $20
When I first started working on the LTYF program – back in 2013 – I wanted to have a logo done just for the website, so it looked good as my program testers worked through it, and so I could begin building a list of my readers who were interested in the program. But I knew I was at least a year away from launching the program, and I also didn’t yet have a clear enough idea of the program/market to commission a brand identity.
So I hired one of my overseas designers in Poland to do a logo for me – just to see what he’d come up with. Turns out, I LOVED the logo he did, so I’ve kept it.
However, when it came time to print business cards and a Workbook for the program, his production didn’t hold up. By ‘production’ I mean the way he built the logo and the file formats used for output.
So at that point, I gave the Listen To Your Freedom logo design to a local graphic designer with 20 years experience in print production. Now here’s the thing about graphic designers, they’re also artists, so when you give them an inferior design product, don’t be surprised if they get all het up about it!
My new designer told me, “Okay, I need to have a bit of a rant here: the lowest price is not always the best solution, especially when building foundational brand components!”
Of course, I agree with him – IF you have the money or want to spend that kind of money at that time. And if you don’t, then my one-two design process (outsource to get going –> then hire western) works just fine.
But let me share with you the rest of our discussion so that when you do need to have something designed for print – you’ll know what to specify from the designer you hire. Keeping in mind, that an outsourced designer may tell you that he can do what you’re asking, just to get the job, or because he actually believes it. So you won’t know for sure until you give the file to your printer. So ALWAYS get a hard copy, printed proof from your printer before giving the go-ahead for the entire print job.
Standard Best Practice
Okay, back to New Designer Guy – he says the proper way to build vector-based logos is with Illustrator, not Photoshop. Standard best practice for logo creation, he informed me, is to lock down the font and convert it to outline to prevent any font issues. That, and – this is the most important part – it needs to be created as a vector, not a bitmap image. So always demand vector files (AI and EPS files, in CMYK with all fonts converted to outline).
The file I had from my original designer was actually an RGB bitmap image embedded as an EPS file – whoops!
One File to Rule Them All
Why all the technical mumbo-jumbo?
“A properly built vector logo should be able to scale the size of a barn (or bigger) and lose no resolution. Vector files are built by math (ones and zeroes) and bitmap/raster images are built with ‘dots’ of colour. That’s why a web image built at 72dpi (dots per inch) when used for print (300dpi or above) will look like crap when printed.”
So while the original logo file looked fine to my eye, when I tried to alter the size and use it in a different situation, the file type simply couldn’t maintain its integrity and the image quality was compromised. And if I were to try to print it, it would look awful – not crisp and the colors would likely be different from my web logo.
You want one definitive file that can be used anywhere – on your website, in your email signature, on your business cards, letterhead, on your book, on your car. A proper vector image only has to be designed once – after that, it can function in almost any format.
Some Basic Principles of Design
Besides file type and the design process, I was also schooled on basic visual design. This all started when I realized that the word “Listen” wasn’t properly centered on the logo. Here are the two files side by side; the pink lines are to show the subtle differences between the first file (on the left) and the fixed file (on the right). In the one on the left, you can see by the lines drawn that the text is slightly off-center with itself, as well as with the yellow circle. The horizontal lines show that the spacing between lines is also uneven.
The second file has been rebuilt in Illustrator, so it’s a vector image as we discussed before. The color is slightly different, as it’s now in CYMK instead of RGB color mode – but it’s so slight, it really doesn’t worry me. The yellow circle and all three text blocks now align down the center, and the words are now equidistant, “This helps to focus the eye and will be psychologically more pleasing to the eye, rather than having subtle discordance.”
Yes, they look very similar, but remember how sensitive humans are psychologically. That subtle discordance may be the difference between a customer trusting your brand or not – for a reason they just can’t put their finger on!
Best of Both Worlds
Okay, but realistically, what if you need to have a proper printable logo or brochure done when you’re just starting out? That’s still no reason to cheap out on quality. New Guy had one more gem of advice – he recommended hiring a student from a local school with a design program.
“Local design students work cheap as they are trying to expand their portfolios. Any many are excellent. They learn industry best-practices so the files and quality can be really good all things considered. Some can even work out superbly over the long haul. It’s a much better solution than outsourcing overseas – and they speak your language and live in your time zone.”
Don’t forget, you can use local students for many different kinds of tasks, including audio mastering and video production, that may otherwise cost you 10 times more to hire a professional. Just call up your local film or technical college and ask the prof of that department if there’s a student they would recommend for your project.
At the end of the day, if you have deep pockets, it’s best to hire a western designer so you will have the least amount of hassle. Your next best option (price-wise) is to hire a western student – but be prepared for projects to take a bit longer as they are still learning. If money is super tight, then outsource your design task overseas; if you only need a digital file for web, eBook, PDFs etc. you’ll be fine. Also, send them this blog post and tell them to follow the instructions for file formatting and output so that you can go to print with their design, and then hope for the best!
If you need to go to print with something, and your current file is not working, or looking good – remember to always get a hard copy proof mailed to you! (this means you have the printer print out a physical copy or actual example of your brochure, flyer, logo, book cover etc. and mail it to you) – at that point you can upgrade to a western student or professional graphic artist if you need to.