For example, a gift cataloger needed a major design overhaul. But her budget was so tight she could afford only a few hours with the top-flight designer she wanted to use. Rather than convince her to use a cheaper designer, which would risk down-scaling her book and losing sales, we minimized the designer’s time.
Before design, we researched design elements we believed would increase sales, such as a color palette from a past best-selling catalog and a headline treatment from a magazine her customers love. We asked the designer to bundle many of these design elements into a layout and to make his layout a tight template that even an inexperienced designer couldn’t foul up. He gave us a beautiful design — but just one spread. His layout template was so rigid we could pass it to a young or cheaper production designer.
By adding one round of quick review and revisions from the expensive designer, we ended up with a beautiful, inexpensive catalog and record sales for our client.
There are other ways in which design templates can save money. One successful cataloger with a 100-plus-page book simply doesn’t have time for a single great designer to complete all design in time. Instead, a team of (mostly young) designers works on the book, building all pages to a prescribed template and style sheet. The lead (experienced) designer controls the evolution of the design template each year, and reviews all pages from the design team before submitting them for client approval.
Talk is Cheap
One of the biggest design expenses comes in making revisions. Usually, revisions aren’t due to a lot of price changes, but to hating the design. Takeaway tip: A good technique for getting a design you like without having the designer rework it over and over is to talk more and draw less. Before design ever starts, mark up your old catalog with what you do and don’t like. Mark up other companies’ catalogs, too. Look for patterns. Ask your designer to do the same, then talk (and talk and talk) about all your examples until you have a meeting of the minds. You should find that your revision expenses plummet.