Design and Pizza

“Hey, can you whip this logo up for me real quick? It’ll only take like fifteen minutes, so I’ll pay you like twenty bucks on PayPal.”

Have you ever heard a more uneducated and unattractive proposal for work? I used to work as a pizza cook at a bar for ten dollars an hour and not once did someone try to negotiate their bill or assume they knew how long it took to cook a pizza. This is because I was an obvious authority to the customers: I make pizzas, I’ve been making pizzas all night, and everyone else seems to like the pizzas they received.

Yes, people know what they like on their pizza, but that’s only superficial. What they don’t know are the ingredients of the dough or how long it’s been set to proof, the herbs in the sauce, the butcher that supplied the pepperoni and sausage, where the green peppers and onions came from, or even the kind of cheese the pizza joint is using. The customer has no idea how hot you have to get the oven to cook the crust properly. Nor do they know that breadsticks are just plain crust with garlic butter and parmesan, but let’s just keep that between us.

You see, it’s these little things that nobody notices or care about, which matter the most. Inferior sauce or crust is enough to close down a restaurant if there’s a good competitor nearby. As Papa John’s says, “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza.”

While I’m more of a Dominos thin crust sort of guy, I feel that the “better ingredients” idea translates well to…you guessed it! Graphic design!

Think about a brand as your dinner. You begin the night with an idea of what you want to eat. Is it fast food tonight? Are you feeling a pizza and a beer? Maybe some Italian, maybe something even more high-end with a prime rib and red wine? Is it just you eating, or do you have a date tonight? As such, you begin your search for your brand with an idea of what you want, and that often reflects the goals of your organization. For example, if you want steak and you go to McDonalds, you’ll end up with a Big Mac or McRib or something else equally as unsatisfying and probably gross. But you wouldn’t do that because you know where to go for dinner, since each restaurant specializes in something and they all advertise it.

Graphic designers actually do the same thing. Look at our portfolios as abbreviated menus or advertisements that show potential clients what we tend to make. If you’re wealthy, you’re probably not going to McDonalds every day because you can afford better food and go to better restaurants with nice things like “ambience.” If you’re a multimillion-dollar client and you’re looking for a re-brand, you’re not going to go to Fiverr, you’re going to research design firms and agencies in your area to see which one fits your company best, come up with a list, and get quotes from the firms on that list. This is like checking Yelp for reviews before getting in your car and going out.

At the mid-level range, a hungry diner with some cash to spend might want to go to a nicer restaurant or bar in the hopes of impressing a date or meeting some contacts with more money who are interested in what he or she does. This is where freelancers thrive. Do you have a few hundred dollars or a couple thousand to devote to your brand? Are you looking to impress people who are a little higher-up than you on the corporate and social ladder? Hire a freelancer. The good ones used to be in agencies or want to be hired by them, so work can be comparable. The down side is that it takes longer and freelancers are a little harder to work with because it’s literally a one-person operation. A freelancer is an easy ticket to visual legitimacy and recognition for your brand if you don’t have the funds for a design firm.

And what about those of us who only have $50 to spend on a logo? Well, that’s the reason for places like Fiverr and 99Designs. They are the cheap fast food of graphic design. Asking someone to make your logo for any less than $250 is like going to a steakhouse and asking if they have anything for about $3.50. You’re never going to be taken seriously in that context. Don’t bother offering a percentage of profits either, that’s going to that same steakhouse and telling the waiter you’re going to take the meal home and sell it, and you’ll give him a cut of the profits if he’ll forget to charge you. The concept is absurd and quite unappealing to designers.

So instead of telling your designer how much time something should take and how much it’s worth, tell them how much time a project has or how much time it can take, and how much the finished piece is worth to your company and business goals. I don’t mean to hammer the metaphor to death (actually, I totally do), but this is important: quality service should be rewarded with sufficient monetary compensation. A McChicken is worth about a dollar. A roast chicken dinner with all the stuffings is worth considerably more. If it’s prepared by Gordon Ramsay, it carries an even higher price tag. This is completely just and on-purpose and should be considered when commissioning design work.

Let’s talk about your project. Maybe over pizza?