Ron Miller Marketing Communications

Graphics on the Cheap

The first person whom I saw it happens to was my mom. After 40 years of a pretty distinguished career, she was outsourced. Her job, and in fact her entire line of work, was shipped off to India and she was out of work.

Politicians love to blame their rival political party for pushing American jobs overseas but really, it’s a combination of technology that enables it and of course the access to low wage workers. Up until 15 years ago, we knew that manufacturing and other jobs could be done in the Far East for less money, but the average businessperson in the US didn’t have access to those workers. The Internet though changed that for any product whose delivery could be done digitally.

Mildred L. Miller

My mom was a medical transcriptionist. Her exceptional career included a board seat on the American Association of Medical Transcriptionists and work at some of the most prestigious medical facilities in the world. She was good at her job, but being good wasn’t enough to offset cheap. Today, all medical transcription is done in India. Not only is it a lot cheaper but also thanks to the time zones, the turnaround is usually over night. People like my mom couldn’t compete.

I thought I was immune. Four years of college, a bunch of awards and a great resume, but I’d be foolish to try going back to being a graphic designer now. Have you seen What about 99designs? At fiverr, $5 will get you a clipart-style logo. If you want something a little more custom, 99designs will give you 30 design options for $299. You’re not paying off your student loans at those rates.

Example of a 99 Designs logo
99Designs sample logo

Clearly I have a dog in this fight. I believe a great logo requires a deep understanding of the business and objectives. I think it ties into your branding and your message. I’ll argue these points until the day I die… but then again, if $299 gets you a logo that works, then are my arguments even worth my breath? Graphic design has been very good to me but I would tell anyone thinking about it as a career to reconsider.

I think the future of design is that because it’s so cheap, more things will be designed. On the other hand, the overall level of design quality will decline because price is driving the results. If you’re a designer today, you should be thinking about new ways that you can bring value to your clients. Creating a logo isn’t enough.

* Volcanoman is a logo I designed for Brad Lewis Photography

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One thought on “Graphics on the Cheap

  1. What you write makes me feel sad. I’ve been a witness of how much you’ve invested of yourself in your craft over the years (starting with some remarkable Snoopy cartoons when you were 8 yrs old) all the way until now as you are on the doorstep of an MBA. I’ve also seen some of the incredibly creative and compelling work you’ve done for clients. I knew this was coming a couple years ago when I overheard a conversation while cycling between two business acquaintances here in Australia. One guy asked the other how he was managing the graphic design portion of his business. The other guy replied, in a hushed voice, that he now has a guy in India who does it all for him. This guy is available 24/7, turns around all jobs with 24 hours, responds instantly to emails, takes criticism, doesn’t complain, is always happy to help. “And get this”, he whispered. “”$75 a week. No sick leave, no vacation time, no taxes. My wife pays him cash out of our family budget. He has good friends that he says are as good as he is. Want his email address?”

    I know that your work is so much better than his, Ron–because you get to know your clients and you crawl into their heads and you know the American market and you are a student of the American consumer. But, does YOUR boss know that? Does my cyclist small businessman guy know that? Is it all about cranking out logos or ad campaigns like sausages or is there indeed an art and science behind what you guys do? And does it make a difference? My hope for you, my brother is that the jury will be out long enough for you to finish out your career and then you can create the art you were put on this planet for.

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