As a child of the Digital Revolution, I’ve watched new technologies come and go. I’ve seen the death of using paper and ink to write a research paper, the transition from reading a newspaper at your kitchen table to using the Yahoo News app on the go, and God’s gift of spellcheck. I was at the age during this technological transition where I understood what it felt like to search through encyclopedias, yet young enough to jump on the Google bandwagon. Our world has delved more and more into the realm of instant gratification. The era of, “We want it and we want it now!”
The human desire for instant gratification is inherent. This inherent need has brought about many techniques and tools that have improved our quality of life, e.g., cell phones, running water, or even the rapid strep test. While having the ability to attain what we need when we need it is a wonderful thing, it is not always the best route. When it comes down to it, some things just need some extra time. A little love and care if you will. Design is one of these things.
As a working creative, I know that effective design is so much more than pushing pixels around or slapping some elegant typeface over a landscape photo that’s been heavily altered by a filter. But the companies that deliver readymade designs for the masses don’t want you to know that. Why hire a professional that will personalize a website for you, when you can pick a design off the rack and plug in whatever information you want for half the time and cost? There is an answer as to why you should choose the former, but it’s not simple.
The Fast Food of Design
Let’s compare the design world to the food industry. Readymade design is to tailored design as fast food is to a home cooked meal. You might get that burger in less than five minutes and for a little over a dollar but is it actually any good for you? You will be full for a short time afterwards but then again your body isn’t getting any essential nutrition. When you take the time to make a home cooked meal, you know exactly what ingredients are in that fresh salmon salad and you feel satisfied for hours to come.
Designers Don’t Just Make the World Pretty
A design is only as good as it’s ingredients! As a designer, I handpick the freshest and most nutrient rich elements to your brand. Being a designer is more than just making things pretty for pretty’s sake. A designer is a problem solver, an information gatherer, a gatekeeper, a communicator, and an architect all wrapped into one little package. Everything we designers do, we do with conviction lead by reason. As Mike Monteiro of Mule Design puts it, “A designer’s work starts way before a single pixel gets placed and ends way after the last one is locked in place.”
It’s all about process and the first step of a designer’s process is to locate the problem that must be solved. It is impossible to create a successful design without understanding the problem from the very beginning. This is why readymade design just isn’t as effective as some make it out to be. The overload of fast food style design not only undermines the value of the role of the designer, but it also leads to a fruitless investment on the client’s end.
Companies like Wix that pride themselves a “create your own website” platform offer options to “select a template out of 100s of fully customizable HTML5 templates in every category” and “choose yours and create something totally original”. The issue is that these templates are the exact opposite of original. The designer who crafted this lovely layout has no clue what the essence of your company is, who your audience should be, or how to go about solving whatever design problem you’re in need of.
There are countless companies that hand out fast food design in various fields. In the web design world you have Wix and Squarespace, then you also have the companies penetrating what is left of the print industry. Vistaprint offers 500 business cards for only $8.50 and guess what? You can choose from hundreds of premade designs regardless of who you are or what your business actually is. There are even companies like Bigstock that sell cheap “Your Brand’s Name Here” logos based on category.
The logo is meant to be a custom staple of a company’s campaign, not something that is sold to the masses. Then you have the lowest of the low, websites like Fivver. Fivver is a “global online marketplace offering tasks and services, beginning at a cost of $5 per job performed”. The idea here is captivating and could be put to good use but what you tend to see here are freelance designers being taken advantage of and design being rapidly diluted. What should be taken on as a large-scale lengthy process, ending with a high-level and effective product (the design process) is being treated as if just anyone can do it.
Designers are Important
While anyone could call herself a designer, only the ones true to the process can design well. So, next time you see that ad promising to increase your sales through modern design in under an hour, take a step back and think about it. Look at the label and check out the ingredients. Ask yourself, “Is this good for me?”. To put it simply, you get what you pay for, whether that’s in time or money.