Graphic design for your business

In this guide, we cover the three key uses of graphic design for your business. Where you use it to build brand identity, to support brand activation and to improve your customer experience. But what are your options to source graphic design for your business? And how do you make sure the quality of the work leads to stronger brands and more sales? Read our guide to find our more. 

Graphic design for your business

How this guide raises your game

  1. Identity the three key areas where graphic design for your business has the biggest impact.
  2. Learn the three key ways to source graphic design for your business.
  3. How to get the best out of  graphic designers. 

For your business, graphic design is a way of communicating information to your target audience in a visual way.

As part of your brand identity, graphic design helps consumers identity who you are and what you stand for. 

As part of your brand activation, you can use graphic design to help create distinctive and memorable communications. 

And finally, as part of the day to day operations of your business, graphic design can help guide consumers through the interactions of your customer experience. 

But the reality is, most business owners and leaders have little training or experience in graphic design. There’s little understanding of the connection between impactful visual graphic design and marketing and business results.

Our guide will give you a better understanding of the role graphic design can play. And how to source and develop graphic design skills for your business needs.

Behind desk shot of a creative graphic designer at work using adobe creative products

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The role of graphic design in your business

There are three key areas from a marketing point of view where graphic design for your business can make the biggest impact.

These are your brand identity, your brand activation and your customer experience.

At each of these three key areas, graphic design can improve the impact and increase the chances of efficient and effective marketing activity. 

Let’s look at each of those in turn

Graphic design for your business - showing brand identity, brand activation and customer experience

Graphic design and brand identity

Your brand identity is a collection of tangible and intangible assets that you use to tell people who you are and what you stand for. It defines how your brand thinks and acts and creates a consistent position in the minds of your target audience.

Graphic design supports the creation of tangible brand assets and the visual style. It is what your brand looks like.

The most obvious example of this is your logo design, a key graphic design element that develops a specific symbol to represent your brand in multiple contexts. From packaging to advertising, and from websites to sales promotions for example. 

Brand identity asset classification examples

But the development of logos, also links in to key graphic design skills like how to use colour in marketing. And how to use marketing typography. You can also use the psychological associations that sit behind colour choices and typography choices to influence how consumers view your brand identity.

There are three clear objectives when it comes to using graphic design in your brand identity that can be applied to all brands. Your graphic design needs to make your brand distinctive, relevant and memorable.

Distinctive 

All businesses have competitors. And it’s important for your product to differentiate itself from those competitors. 

From a consumer point of view, there can often be a bewildering array of choices in any category. Anything that helps them identify specific options in an easier way helps a lot with the purchase decision. 

You can use graphic design to make your product distinctive and stand-out from competitors. Bold colour choices and use of logos for example can make your product look different to competitors. You make it more likely that your consumers will notice your product over your competitors. And as we cover in the brand choice funnel, making consumers notice your brand so that they become aware of you is a big challenge for any brand. 

Relevant

Your graphic design to support your brand identity should also be relevant to who you are and what you stand for. It should reflect your values and style based on your choice of icons, colours and typography. From a brand choice funnel point of view, graphic design helps to drive consideration and brand choice, among other more rational elements like product features and price. Graphic design elements help build more of an emotional connection with the brand. 

For example, businesses that need to build trust like banks and medical supply businesses, will pick graphic design elements that support values like acceptability, safety and conventionality. Lurid hot pinks and comic sans fonts won’t work for those types of businesses as an example.  

But businesses that aim to be cool, trendy and stylish, they will pick much different design elements. Modern sans serif fonts and subtle colours from the colder end of the colour spectrum for example. 

The important point is that when you understand the emotional and psychological associations that consumers have with certain design elements, you create a strong combination of graphic design assets for your business and marketing. They work better together. 

Memorable

Finally, from a brand identity point of view, graphic design elements like logos, colour and typography create a lasting impression of the brand in the mind of the consumer.

So, the next time they look to buy, they have those same mental associations from their previous experience, so you have less of a persuasion job to do the next time. Graphic design can make your brand much more memorable.

Look at big brands like Coke for example.

Look at their choice of colour and typography. Think about how they continually repeat the use of the shape of the bottle. All those brand identity elements have a lot of graphic design principles that sit behind them.

Coca-Cola Sign

Any successful brand with a strong brand identity needs to be able to apply graphic design in an impactful way to drive distinctiveness, relevance and memorability.

Graphic design and brand activation

If your brand identity is “who” you are, then brand activation is “where” you appear in the lives of your target audience.

At many stages of the marketing mix, you use graphic design to enhance the impact of the activation. And this increased impact, increases the chances of a brand engagement or sale. 

The most common areas are in your product and promotion activities. In particular, graphic design plays a key role in packaging development to help your product stand-out against competitors.

Marketing mix 4Ps and 7Ps example variables

You use graphic design regularly in advertising to create distinctive, relevant and memorable advertising campaigns. Campaigns that grab attention and persuade and influence consumers to choose your brand.

And in all your digital marketing activities, whether on your own website or in digital media channels, you can use graphic design as a way to visually communicate key messages in a way that helps your brand stand-out.

Graphic design and customer experience

A further extension to where you use graphic design in marketing is when you look at it through the lens of customer experience.

Customer experience is the study of the different interactions and touchpoints that a customer may have with a brand as they move through the brand choice funnel or journey. 

At key points in the funnel, you can use graphic design to remove pain points or create new opportunities.

Because visual imagery is easier and faster for people to process than words, graphic design can help customers though the journey in a much smoother way.

Customer Experience Journey Map

It can reduce friction and lessens the chances of a customer misunderstanding a message. Because those things lead to lost sales opportunities.

Graphic Design and Customer Experience example

So, think about websites for example. 

Every time you see a magnifying glass for example, you know that equals “search”. Every time you see a grocery basket, you know that equals “shop”. 

These visual shortcuts in the customer experience journey come from graphic design.

They reduce the chances of customers bouncing from your website or abandoning the cart on your e-Commerce store. They increase the chances that a consumer will choose your brand, or buy from your online store.

Graphic design helps you achieve your customer experience objectives. 

How to set up and manage graphic design for your business

There are three choices when it comes to graphic design for your business. You can create the skills in-house. You can use freelancers. Or you can create a more permanent solution like hiring a marketing agency.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each approach to help you decide which is the best way to source graphic design for your business. 

Option 1 – In-house graphic design

The first option is to build up and develop the skill in-house. Either you or someone in your team takes on the responsibility to create the graphic designs. 

The major advantage here obviously is that you then have direct control over the graphic design work you need to do. Whether you decide to use this approach will depend on two things. 

Firstly, the existing knowledge and skill level in graphic design that exists in your business. And secondly, your expectations on the quantity and quality of graphic design work your business needs.

If you or someone in your team already has skills and knowledge in the area of graphic design, then obviously you will be able to manage many of your graphic design needs in-house already. 

In this case, it’s likely you’ll already have access to key graphic design tools, like Adobe or Affinity. You won’t need to source those separately. Or you might already be familiar with online graphic design tools like Canva. 

But you also need to look across the key areas of brand identity, brand activation and customer experience. You need to consider how many graphic design projects you will have on a regular basis. You need to consider what level of expertise you need to deliver them.

Project vs on-going work

Brand identity for example is usually not a regular and on-going piece of graphic design work. It’s usually done as a project. With a specific beginning and end. And it’s then reviewed and updated at some point in the future.

Because of this, in most cases, you would not create brand identity in-house. 

Adobe Illustrator Screenshot

Brand activation is a mixture of project work and some on-going pieces of graphic design. Packaging development for example can be quite a specialised area. Because it not only requires good graphic design skills, but it also needs a solid understanding of how printing works. Designs and colours are printed on to packaging materials and this impacts the final output. Often, this is a niche specialism within graphic design. 

But brand activation can also cover areas like social media content posting. Here, there might be a case for regular and less specialised graphic design skills. A post can be generated quickly and removed quickly if there’s an issue. The same can’t be said for packaging designs.  

And finally, customer experience is again a mixture of project and on-going work. It’s unlikely for example you would regularly update signage in a store or key brand visuals. But there can be all sorts of regular updates to icons on a website or items for sales promotions, for example.

Cost, time and quality

The choice to manage graphic design for your business really comes down to a cost, time and quality calculation. 

The average salary of a graphic designer in Australia is AUD$54k. But more experienced designers will likely be on higher salaries. Will you have enough graphic design projects over the course of a year? And will those projects generate enough return to justify the cost of the hire? Does your business need the quick access to an in-house resource? Or can it live with the longer time frame when you have to outsource the work?

Of course, in-house graphic design skills bring other benefits to the business. In particular, around the understanding of key design principles and creative thinking.

While we believe anyone can learn the basic design principles like Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity, professional graphic designers will bring a much wider repertoire of design knowledge in to your business. Having an in-house graphic design professional will make sure the quality level of your graphic design outputs stays high. 

The key question is whether the graphic design for your business needs are big and regular enough that an in-house resource makes sense. How important is graphic design to your business over the next 12 months, and how often will you need it? If your needs are more ad-hoc, you do have other options. Because when you use freelancers or agencies, they can also bring that knowledge in to your business. Just on a more ad-hoc basis. 

Option 2 – Freelance options 

The quickest and easiest way to outsource graphic design for your business is to go through one of the many online freelancing websites. Because these automate the process to brief, manage, approve and pay for graphic design projects, they can provide relatively fast and flexible solutions to graphic design needs. 

When you outsource graphic design, rather than manage it in-house. it will take more time to complete projects.

There are a number of steps you need to go through when you hire a graphic designer. These can include finding them in the first place, and identifying that their experience, skills and approach meet your needs. You also need to agree on key steps like contracts, deliverables and payment. 

And even if you have a regular freelance designer that you use on repeated jobs, you run the risk that they might be tied up on another job when you really need them. 

On a project for project basis, it’s also likely that you’ll pay a higher hourly rate than if you had a full-time designer in-house. Freelancers need to cover their own employment costs like tax, holidays and the professional resources they use. 

Let’s look at some of the more commonly used freelancer sites. 

Fiverr

The most accessible option is probably Fiverr. However, a lot of professional graphic designers do not like to use this service. They believe it reduces the value of what they do, and there are some crazily low priced offers on there. 

While you can find good graphic designers on there, its free accessibility can make it a bit of a free-for-all when it comes to service providers offering their services. 

Let’s look at logo design as an example. 

A quick look at ‘logo design’ on Fiverr shows prices range from A$17 up to A$175 from freelance designers to around A$1,000 to A$2,000 for Pro Verified suppliers.

Fiverr logo design screenshot

The thing to consider is how unique you want your design to be. How much time / thinking you believe should go in to the design?

Creation of a logo from scratch is minimum 3-4 hours work. Minimum. And more likely a good day or two if you want to look at multiple options.

It also takes more time to review, adapt and then complete and send out all the artwork files.

Those designers who charge the low rates may be based in a country where English is not the first language and the cost of living is a lot lower. And so, they can do all of this for $17.

But more likely, is that the lower cost designers will have a bank of ready-made designs and files which they will adjust / adapt to fit your needs.

Neither of these are necessarily bad things if you are working to a tight budget. But when it comes to graphic design, you get what you pay for. So with Fiverr, it is a case of buyer beware. 

It may take more time or cost longer in the long run if you don’t find the right designer.

Upwork

Another option is Upwork. 

This site is less for specific jobs / tasks, more to deliver specific projects. They tend to recruit freelancers across multiple disciplines who are looking for short-term, longer-term or complex projects. These projects can last less than a month up to 6 months. Upwork do split experience by entry, intermediate or expert.

If your graphic design needs are for a specific project, it can be a good place to look. But bear in mind, the Upwork site takes a 20% commission on the fee you pay.

99designs

There are other options like Freelancer, but as a final option for graphic design specifically, we’d also recommend looking at 99 designs. You can hire freelancers directly through their services. But they also offer the option to set up a design contest. You commit to paying for a project, but have multiple designers compete in a pitch to win that business.

Option 3 – Hiring an agency

If your graphic design needs require more than a quick piece of work or even a project, then you can of course go though a marketing agency. Depending on your needs, this might be the agency you already use for advertising or packaging design. 

We cover a lot of the specific considerations you need to make when hiring an agency in another skill guide. But if graphic design is part of your Scope of Work, and your agency will provide a dedicated graphic design support team, there’a s couple of specific areas you should consider. 

Handshake to symbolise agency relationship

Review the graphic designer style portfolio

You should ask the agency to see the portfolio or key work of the graphic design team who will work on your project. Many designers are on sites like Behance and Dribbble.

These are great sites to look at designer portfolios. They are also great sites just to be inspired by great graphic design.

Both these sites give great creative inspiration and you can find designers whose style matches what your graphic design needs. 

 

Behance design website home page

Look at the portfolio of past work from the designer who will work on your projects. Does that work give you confidence that they’ll come up with distinctive, relevant and memorable designs? Do you feel that they will “get” your brand identity and be able to produce work that matches your needs?

Commissioning graphic design for your business

We’ve covered the important of writing a brief in many other guides including for advertising and in the logo design process. The five key areas of brand, business objective, communication, rationale, and project specifications need to apply to all graphic design projects when you work with an agency.

But you also need to consider a few more areas specific to graphic design. So, for example, some of the graphic design tools use very specific file formats. You can only open these types of files, if you yourself have the right software application. 

Marketing Communication brief - blank template

So, for example to open the raw design files in the Adobe suite like Photoshop and Illustrator, you need to have those software applications installed. While they both export graphic files like .jpgs and .pngs that anyone can open, the raw design files that sit in .psd or .ai files are only usable by those with the right licenses. You need make sure that everyone who needs access to the right type of file can do so.

It’s also important to clarify with the agency who ‘owns’ these files. If you changed agency, do they keep the files or do they go with you to the new agency? 

Then, it’s also important to have clear agreement on the technical quality of graphic design work. Do you need vector or raster images (see our guide to graphic design tools) or you need high resolutions graphic files for example? 

And finally, you also need to consider where and how you will store all these files. Will the agency keep them on their systems? Or do you develop a marketing technology business case to have a digital asset management system for example?

Which graphic design option is best?

For each of the three options to manage graphic design in your business – in-house, freelancer or agency – there are pros and cons to each approach. So, which option you choose really depends on the nature of your business and its graphic design needs. 

In our experience, unless your business is in an industry where graphic design plays a big role in the product – say fashion, food or furniture, you probably wouldn’t have an in-house designer. 

Most businesses would use freelance or agency resources to support their graphic design needs. Which you go with depends on how often you need to use graphic design. The more often you need it, the more likely you will go through an agency than use a freelancer. 

But there’s one final area to consider when it comes to graphic design for your business before we complete this guide. 

Graphic Design approvals and evaluation

Even if you decide to outsource the creation of graphic design to a freelancer or agency, there’s still a job for the brand owner to do to manage the business impact of graphic design. Someone needs to initiate projects, give approvals and make sure that the impact of the graphic design is somehow measured. 

In particular, approvals are the one part of the graphic design process that cannot be outsourced. Whatever graphic design work is done, someone in the business who is accountable for the brand identity needs to review the work and assess whether it meets the business and brand objectives. Someone needs to go back to the original brief and review whether all the requirements have been met. 

And once the graphic design element is live and being seen by actual consumers, someone needs to make sure measures have been set and the performance is being delivered. The impact of graphic design should be measured as part of your on-going brand management and market research requirements. 

Graphic design for your business

In this guide, we’ve covered the key areas of your business where graphic design plays an important role. Its use in brand identity, brand activation and customer experience should now be clear. 

We’ve also covered options you have to build in-house expertise, hire a freelance graphic designer or work with agencies to meet your graphic design needs. 

But our final point to remember is that graphic design is a key creative skill, and however, and whoever you get to do the work, you should consider how you can make that creativity work the hardest on your business.

Three brains graphic design logo

 Graphic design can help create strong connections for your brand in the minds of your target audience. It can make life easier and simpler at all stages of the customer experience. And business and brand leaders who have a solid grasp of the key principles can make it become a valuable business asset that drives brand impact and sales.

Three-brains and Graphic Design

We are not a dedicated graphic design agency as our focus is on marketing and e-Commerce support. But we have picked up a lot of knowledge on this topic. And this means that we can and often do include graphic design as an important element of our overall business service.

We specialise is coaching and advising on how to best meet your graphic design needs, either using graphic designers, managing it in-house or building your own graphic design skills to make your creative more impactful and more efficient. 

If you want to know more about how we can support your graphic design needs to grow your business  through our coaching and consulting services, click the button below to send us a message.

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