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19 July 2019

Cutting cost – or corners?

There’s an old Dutch proverb that says: Goedkoop is duurkoop. Germany’s equivalent is Ich bin nicht reich genug um billig zu kaufen; while over in France, it’s rendered as Je ne suis pas assez riche pour acheter bon marché. Different tongues and cultures, same wisdom acquired the hard way: I’m too poor to buy cheap.

In our uncertain and increasingly straitened times, the lowest-cost option can seem like simple common sense. That is until it breaks or doesn’t work properly, and fixing it (or doing what you should have done in the first place) costs you way more than you originally saved (or assumed you had). We’ve all been there. And it applies to almost every aspect of business, from cut-price IT that keeps falling over and low-rent office space that leaks like a sieve to the contractor who gave you the best estimate but lets you down every time.

In our line of work, we frequently get calls from companies (including, it has to be said, the occasional client) who’s had design work done cheaply or had a go themselves. They’re wondering why the campaign didn’t turbocharge their sales, why their website traffic is tanking, or why their brand is circling the drain. Sure, we can put it right; but that means more spending time and money they weren’t expecting to and don’t really have. And in that situation, no one truly wins.

The simple answer, of course, is to spend a bit more and do it right from the outset. Anyone with a Mac and a Pantone book can turn the handle and make something pretty come out. But by engaging with professional designers, you’re buying a commodity that’s intangible and thus often undervalued: experience. For every hour or day you pay for, you’re getting several decades’-worth of strategic thinking, creativity, knowledge, imagination, curiosity and learning. It’s that experience that separates design that merely looks nice from design that actually works and achieves your commercial objectives.

Your brand is a huge and critical business asset that you literally can’t afford to get wrong, especially in tough times. In our experience, any economy you make on building and maintaining it is likely to prove a false one. Or, to coin a phrase: with design, as with most things in life, you tend to get what you pay for.