6 Reasons Small Businesses should make Graphic Design a Priority

6 Reasons Small Businesses should make Graphic Design a Priority


Imagine this scenario: you receive a call from a small business owner who needs some design work. He says he doesn’t have time to do it himself and asks for a quote. When you give him the project estimate, he balks at your rates and thanks you for your time, never to be heard from again.

You probably don’t have to imagine this; throughout your career as a graphic designer, it’s probably happened to you countless times.

Professional design work is notoriously undervalued in small businesses. When financial times get tough, the creative budget is one of the first things cut. Only one small business out of several I’ve worked with had a dedicated graphic designer on staff. In one sense, that’s great news for freelance designers and design agencies, but it also highlights exactly where designers fit on a small business’ list of priorities.

Small business owners typically run on limited resources, and while each wants a beautiful website, clever logo, and compelling marketing collateral, they’re not always willing to pay professional rates to get them. Instead, they ask an employee without adequate training—usually a marketing assistant who wears many hats—to try their hand at DIY design. Or they start searching the web for “cheaper” options. Either way, the business owner is probably not going to be happy with the results.

The first red flag in the opening scenario was the caller’s assumption that he could successfully do his own design work if only he had the time. This may be true in some cases, but generally it’s not. The second was his aversion to your professional rates. But designers know that sharp, well-thought-out graphic design can mean all the difference to companies big and small. The next time you find yourself talking to a hesitant prospect, reference this list of reasons small businesses should place greater value on graphic design:

First impressions matter.  

You know what they say: you only have one chance to make a first impression. Whether it’s a website or the logo in an email signature, potential customers will judge a business in just a few seconds based on visual appeal alone. High-quality graphic design gives businesses credibility—and that’s priceless. No matter how great a product or service, with poor design, it’s unlikely anyone will stick around the company’s website or keep its email long enough to find out.

Design can tell a story.

Similarly, it’s important that people get a feel for what a business does even if they’ve never heard of it before. Thoughtful design evokes the right image in customers’ minds. The concept for a daycare center would be entirely different than that of a law firm. That’s a dramatic contrast, but it holds true in more nuanced ways as well. Consider, for example, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, a small company with a short history rooted in Seattle. Beecher’s finely detailed logo and packaging labels echo the artisanal nature of the company, the historic imagery alludes to tradition, and its black and white color scheme suggests a classic quality.

Branding makes a company memorable.

Solid graphic design provides branding consistency across every visual, customer-facing aspect of a business. A professional graphic artist will use precise colors, typeface, imagery, and mood for everything he or she touches. This way, customers have the same experience visiting a company’s website as they do reading its brochure. Think of it as a kind of alliteration—it helps the business become recognizable and memorable. Plus, consistency symbolizes professionalism, and professionalism symbolizes trustworthiness. It’s win, win…win.

Creativity can be a differentiator.

If there’s one thing all small businesses have in common, it’s that they all face competition. And to set themselves apart, they generally have a handful of differentiators, whether those include pricing, quality, customer service, or something else entirely. But consider that creativity can help a small business stand out, too. A company’s visual communication plan serves many purposes, and making the business unique should be one of them.

Good design converts.

A slick website is nice to have. A slick website that converts is even nicer. Design isn’t just about making things look pretty; effective design should entice and persuade. A smartly designed website can direct visitors to take action, like clicking a “buy” button for instance. A well-crafted pamphlet compels readers to keep turning pages. Professional graphic design has the potential to deliver measurable results for a small business.

Spending more up front saves time and money in the long run.

When businesses don’t take graphic design seriously in the beginning, they will more than likely go through a design overhaul eventually—in some cases, more than once. However, quality design has longevity. Paying for great graphic design one time is no more expensive than paying for subpar design multiple times. Not to mention, redesigning a business’ image over and over wastes time and can be detrimental to its brand.

Many small business owners understand the value of great design. Many others do not. Whether you’re just starting your career as a graphic designer or you’ve been on the receiving end of that phone call one-too-many times, this list might come in handy. If you’re up for the challenge, you can educate small business owners about the value professional graphic designers provide. And if that doesn’t work, you can always remind them of David Ogilvy’s famous words: “Pay people peanuts and you get monkeys.”

5 Reasons You Should Hire a Professional Graphic Designer

5 Reasons You Should Hire a Professional Graphic Designer

by Sharon Mendelaoui


I don’t recall the number of times a small business owner or work colleague came to me with a logo designed in PowerPoint looking to expand their marketing materials for their business. As most small business owners do they try to cut corners when they first open their business and unfortunately skimping on your businesses look and feel can be a costly fix later on.

Graphic design requires a creative expert. There is a major difference from a R100 logo you purchased from an online site and one that has been customized for you and your businesses. Good graphic designers will know the best approaches to communicate your products and services to your customers. They will know what your competition does (because they will research it), the will take your preferences into mind and then come up with a number of creative solutions to get your message across. Most importantly they will develop the logo/art in the proper software so that it can be printed by any printer. Designing anything in Microsoft Office is not going to go far when it comes to printing your projects!

Here are a five reasons why you should hire a graphic designer for your business?

1. Saves Time

You have enough on your plate already. Do you really have to spend time trying to come up with designs for your logo, brochures or powerpoint templates? A graphic designer can come up with a design or format a marketing document in a quarter of the time it will take you to do it yourself.

2. Save Money

A graphic designer will know the most cost effective ways to design your materials to keep your printing costs to a minimum. By the time you’ve been able to create a layout using Microsoft Publisher (a program printers hate, and will charge you an arm and a leg to print from), a designer would be able to design a proper file in their graphic suite of software, that printers will not have an issue with.

3. Helps You Stand Out From the Rest

Having a template logo or look and feel you bought cheap online is not going to help you stand out from your competition. The only way people are going to remember you and your business is if your materials stand out compared to the rest. Having a distinct brand is what is going to raise your business above your competition.

4. Keeps Your Look Consistent

If you’ve gone through the effort of hiring a designer, but then try and mimick their work on your own, your look and feel may lose it’s edge by being inconsistent. A designer will know which fonts to use where, will keep font sizes and colours consisitent and ensure the overall look and feel of all your materials will consistently capture your brand.

5. Help You Get the Results You Want

Many clients have an idea of what they want their business materials to look like, but have no way to convey them. A designer will be able to get through your list of preferences and ensure that your end results will not only look the way you want but will help you achieve the goals you set out for your business materials.

Don’t start your business off on the wrong foot. Make a lasting impression with the right logo and the right marketing materials to help you get your business off the ground. Improve your image, stand out from the rest of the pack and spend some money on a graphic designer from the get go. The right designer will work with your budget and help you prioritize what items you need in the first year of your business and what you should consider as your company grows.

Use your Annual Report as a Fundraising Tool

Use your Annual Report as a Fundraising Tool

6 Key Steps to Creating Your Best One Yet


Your nonprofit’s annual report is more than just a legal document; it’s a fundraising tool. Creating one that captivates your donors can be one of the most important fundraising moves you make all year. An effective annual report powerfully illustrates the critical value of your mission, and the tangible impact of donor support. The best annual reports take considerable planning and preparation, so we’ve laid the groundwork for you: within the following pages are the six key strategies to creating your nonprofit’s most successful annual report yet.

1. Determine Your Schedule & Budget


  • When do you want your annual report to be published? Once you’ve chosen a date, use this chart to help you determine a project start date. Remember to be realistic with your timing; take busy schedules into account, as well as the time you may need to search for and hire a professional designer.






  • Hire a professional. Yes, there’s an upfront cost to bringing in the experts, but an experienced designer can put together a beautiful document in a fraction of the time it takes to teach staff to do it—thereby using fewer resources. Depending on the length of your report and the design team’s level of expertise, the budget for designing an annual report can range from R50 000 – R250 000. Determine your project needs and then shop around to find a firm that’s right for you. Creating an RFP is the best way to receive proposals that you can easily compare.
  • Determine your distribution rate. Are you a large, national non-profit with a large number of donors? Or are you a smaller organization reliant on volunteers? Do you distribute the report to all donors—or just those you would consider major donors? The more printed annual reports you distribute, the more you’ll spend.




2. Write a Creative Brief

A CREATIVE BRIEF is your guide for the creative process. It answers the questions that are important to making sure your report is a success:

  • What are the goals for the report? What conclusions do you want your reader to draw? What actions do you want her to take? These goals will help you figure out how to lead
    your reader through the report.
  • Who’s your audience? Draw character sketches. Imagine your current and potential donors, and try to determine their common traits, tastes, styles, and most importantly, what it is about your work that inspires them to invest in it. Your answers will inform the voice and style of the report’s content.
  • What “look and feel” of the report will help reflect your organization’s personality? If your organization was a person, how would you characterize them? Warm and friendly? Or innovative and wacky? Determine the traits that you want the annual report to demonstrate. This will help your writers and designers tremendously in the early rounds of the creative process.




3. Pick Your Format: Printed, or Electronic?

  • Remember your AUDIENCE. What is more appropriate for them? Would your particular supporters prefer receiving a tangible, printed report from you in their mailbox, or an e-mail announcement with a link to an online electronic report?





4. Gather the Pieces

What should your annual report include? Here are the BASICS:

  • Your logo
  • One letter from either the Executive Director, CEO, or Board Chair
  • A brief overview of why you do the work you do and what differentiates your organization
  • Stories that showcase the real impact your organization made in the past year
  • Irresistible photos
  • Challenges you’ll be addressing in the near future
  • List of donors
  • Financial report
  • Contact information
  • Remit device to encourage new or additional donations




5. Write and Develop Content

  • Tell your organization’s STORY. Though they may be familiar with your mission statement, your donors may very well lack a deeper understanding of the unique problems your organization exists to solve. Remind them of your critical value to the community. Speak to their minds and hearts.
  • Report on your RESULTS, not your process. Talk about the specific individuals thatwere positively affected by your programs. Show your donors that your work is making a real, tangible difference.
  • Choose powerful PHOTOS. Your annual report should be filled with photos that are up-close, colorful, and active. These photos should depict your mission in action.
  • What’s more compelling: a picture of your smiling constituents benefitting from your services, or a group photo of your smiling donors at a fundraising function? The former, of course!




6. Use Principles of Good Design

  • White space is key. Having enough “white space”, or open space, is a simple design strategy to avoid overloading your reader’s attention. Effective use of white space will help draw the reader’s eyes to the most important written and visual information.
  • Limit your typeface selection. We know—there are thousands of beautiful fonts out there that you’d love to incorporate into your annual report. Choose carefully. Too many typefaces result in a loud, busy aesthetic that makes reading difficult, and could lose your audience’s attention.
  • Make your report visually consistent with other marketing materials. Though each annual report should be a stand-alone piece, the color, type, and imagery of each report should instantly communicate the look and feel of your organization’s brand. Is the annual report harmonious with your logo, letterhead, newsletters, and website?
  • Pass what we like to call the “I’m too busy to read” test. A passing grade means that even if your reader only takes 15 seconds to leaf through the annual report, they will have absorbed a general understanding of the work you do-and gained a positive impression of your organization as a whole.



You’ve set your schedule, written your creative brief, gathered your materials, written the content, and started the design process. Believe us, the end product is worth it. When distributing your nonprofit’s annual report amongst your donors and volunteers, you’re handing them a chapter of your organization’s story—one that will reinvigorate their commitment to your mission, and their excitement to be engaged with your work.