The true cost of design.

If we had $10 for every time someone came to us wanting a whole brand identity turned around within a week or two we’d be pretty damn rich. Nothing against those who are asking, it just means they aren’t aware of the intricate details involved in brand development.

Chances are, most people aren’t aware. So, it’s up to us to let you in on what’s involved and how we go about it here at YO&O.

Let’s break this down.

Step 1 – Consultation aka. The briefing.

Before we begin anything, we need to get the project scope.

  • The details
  • The size
  • The project leads
  • The budget
  • The inclusions
  • The timings

Step 2 – Strategy.

After we have the brief sorted and we know the project scope, we begin the strategy.

What’s involved in this we hear you say?

Well as a rough overview we talk in detail about:

  • Brand direction
  • Target market
  • Competitors
  • Tone of voice
  • Brand Personality
  • Positioning
  • The Product/Service
  • Differentiation

If the brand already exists, we talk about what’s working and what’s not working. The changes that want to be implemented and we discuss what areas we feel need to be addressed first. We also ask for existing brand guidelines or collateral to leverage a consistency with what is currently in market, unless it is a brand update, in which case that’s a whole new discussion.

If the brand is new, we go into detail about the best way to approach each area and plan together the best way to present your brand in market. On top of that, if the budget is allowable, we bring in other legends in their fields to assist in other areas to really bring the brand to the forefront, these include things like; photography, copywriting, video, web development and more.

Step 3 – Design direction.

Once we have a plan of attack for the direction, we get to work on planning the best creative identity that will not only attract your target market but communicate to them. A lot of the time we pair with a copywriting team here as words and visuals are key to communicating best!

But first, we need to clarify that Photoshop doesn’t have a button you press where the design magically appears in 2 minutes. This part involves a lot of research and planning prior to reaching the final concepts. Layouts, typography, competitors, placement; each thing holds a crucial detail that can make a world of difference.

What do we look at when figuring out the direction?

  • We make sure the fonts have the right tone for the message being communicated
  • The colours are chosen to attract the right target markets not just because someone likes them
  • Making sure the design is versatile across a range of different mediums and sizes
  • That we’re creating something different that wholly relates to the brand we’re creating for for longevity, not something that’s currently ‘on trend’

Step 4 – Setting the rules.

Pending the inclusions of the project, in our branding guidelines we make sure that we specify in-depth rulings that apply to the identity and assisting assets.

  • How to use them
  • Typography and its rulings
  • Primary and secondary colours
  • Logo clear space, iterations and usage
  • Imagery and asset guidelines
  • Brand outline (and if a verbal strategy has been implemented, a whole lot more)

If there is a style guide instead of brand guidelines, here you will receive your logo rules, colours and brand font.

It’s important that we not only provide you with a cracking brand, but the tools that allow you to continue rolling it out across a range of mediums in the right way to maintain consistency. This helps to build strong brand recognition with your audience.

Step 5 – Execution.

This part is probably one of the most undervalued areas. Most people would assume that the bulk of the time comes from the design development. Though if the job is in-depth this part can be one of the most time-consuming areas of the project.

It involves things like:

  • Image set up: Some technical skill comes into play here. Someone may know how to make a super cool design for online usage, but when the client says they want creative for a huge OOH (out of home for those in the back) piece, they’re screwed because the design won’t work at a size that large. Here we make sure that from the beginning everything can be used across an array of mediums and if it can’t we’re very clear from the get go about the restrictions, depending on the design itself, though we avoid this as much as possible.
  • Proofing: This area is a whole shade of grey. We 100% proof everything that heads out the virtual door, regardless of if the copy has been supplied or not. We want to make sure everything is right, even if that supplied copy has grammatical errors, we’ll be sure to flag it before it hits the printer. Technically in most terms, supplied content can be placed in as is, so if there are errors it can be on you. On top of that it’s making sure images are right, fonts are supplied or outlined and the correct colour breakdowns (both on and off screen aka RGB and CMYK) are provided.
  • Correct programs: We’ve had instances where client’s think that we design in Word (which for any designer is absolute rubbish) and it’s an easy mistake to make if you aren’t familiar with design. So, if you’re one of those people, the Adobe Creative Suite programs are industry standard in design. It includes your big 3: Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. Knowing these inside and out takes some good time and regardless of what you know there’s always more to learn. In saying that, having the right things developed in the right programs is pretty crucial. Just because a multi-page doc can be worked up in Illustrator, doesn’t mean it should be.
    In fact, it’s pretty simple:
    • Vectors, logos, illustration: Illustrator
    • Imagery, retouching and photos: Photoshop
    • Layout and publication: InDesign
      If you’re paying top dollar for a job – Nothing screams inexperience more than the wrong programs being used and the wrong files being supplied.
  • File output: Now that you know the difference in design programs, it’s important to know that with the right program usage comes the right file extension. Online vs offline. As well as vectorised (scalable) files (generally ‘ai or EPS’) for editable files that can be accessed by other designers, signage specialists or anyone who needs your logo for promotional material.

We could keep going, but this is a topic for another day.

Project Management: Ahhhh, the one that flies under the radar. And, of course it does, no one thinks about the time involved in this stage, which we might add is the whole length of the project. The communication aspect of the job is huge and can be lengthy pending on how responsive the client can be. If we’re on a deadline it’s crucial that the client is also as responsive as we are, because if they’re not, the times will get pushed out. We also want to make sure that we don’t rush things because the best ideas come at the last hour and we want to make sure we have that time to make any necessary adjustments. With super tight time restrictions comes minimal creative freedom and that can sometimes show. We mean, we’re good, but we need that time to think of even better ideas because the first idea can always get better.

When it comes to allowing time, it’s crucial that we get plenty of notice. If the client has rushed things on their end and want us to spin around a project with next to no notice, then they’re going to cut into our creative time. So, as a rule of thumb we usually need at least 3-4 weeks for an identity job (more as we need notice to allow for current studio allocations and future bookings). And for a branding job, we’ve had projects that have exceeded 6+ months in development due to the complexities involved. While we understand people have deadlines, we also know that we want to create our best work and as the saying goes ‘all good things take time’.

A perfect summary to this:

So you see, when investing into any design job, there are a few unseen variables that need to be taken into consideration. Hopefully this helps to clear things up on what goes on behind the scenes!   

If you have any questions or want to know more, click here and get in touch. Or check out the services page to see what’s on offer. Alternatively, head over and follow us on Instagram and see what’s happening with us daily!


  • Korii says:

    Really enjoyed this read! When you put it all down in writing, you really do realise just how much goes into your work. And completely get that need to factor in time for creative freedom, unfortunately ideas don’t just instantly pop into your head (it would be great if they did!). I got a lot out of this so thanks again for sharing!

    • Tara Ladd says:

      Oh, that’s so good to hear Korii. I think we can all be a little more transparent with what goes into our work so that people understand that it’s not just the pretty picture at the end. 🙂

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