Design or profit – why do sign companies have to choose?

I personally believe that sign companies, in general, do a horrible job of promoting the value of their designs. Now, I include myself in this statement so don’t get your panties in an uproar…

By the “value of their designs” I am referring to the same value that any reputable graphic artist, marketing designer, advertising agency or design firm regularly places on their products. A good Graphic Designer can easily command $1,000+ for a well thought out, cleverly executed and
visually appealing logo design. And that does not even include additional design work for brochures, cards, letterhead, annual reports, print ads, packaging, web sites and a whole plethora of other “visual communications” products.

So what do these talented artists and designers have that we don’t? How about the firmly entrenched belief in the value of good design (and it’s profit potential). It is really that simple. We all know that good design communicates effectively. Good design can influence political campaigns and educate children. Good design can draw out emotions as well as sell you something you didn’t even know you wanted… Hey, wait a minute, don’t signs do all of these things too?

Yes, signs CAN do all of these things (and more!) if they are designed well. So, if you are a talented and competent sign designer, why aren’t you reaping the same rewards (and profits) that the Graphics Artists, Designers and Agencies are enjoying? Easy, as sign professionals, we have a tendency to focus on the “product” we make (namely signs) and forget about the value we are providing to the customer. We get so caught up in the sign itself that we never communicate the value of the creative concept, the innovative idea, the effectiveness of the design…

In short, we do it to ourselves so, honestly, can we really get angry at the client who “disrespects” our design offerings when we never placed a value on them in the first place? Is is their fault that they assumed your designs were free when you let them walk out the door with them? Did you put your copyright stamp on them? Did you charge a design fee? Did you do anything to protect your intellectual property? Did you communicate, at any time, the value of what you are providing to them and what benefit it will bring to them? As an example… If a man hands you a drawing, and neglects to tell you that it is an original Van Gogh… can you be blamed for not valuing it any more that just another piece of paper with scribbles on it?

… something to think about the next time a prospect walks into your sign business “just looking for some ideas” for their new sign. If they truly want a good design then remember that you don’t have to choose between design or profit. Communicate the value of both your design AND the sign itself and enjoy the rewards of both.