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March 21, 2022

DIY design is madness

By Danielle Matthews 4 Minute Read

DIY - the ever-popular approach to doing something out of your wheelhouse, on your own timeline, without paying for labor or other expenses. To me, I think of the many projects and upgrades I could make to my home.  I could save money by looking up how to do it on Youtube. However, we know how this story can go. I am putting life on hold and sacrificing time that could be more productively spent elsewhere to save a couple of bucks. 

When things go haywire, don’t line up, look good, or break, I will definitely start to regret the decision to DIY.  Would I have to buy more materials to fix my mistakes, do I have to start over, or do I need to cut my losses and settle for the outcome? Will I be doing this again in a year or two? Eventually, those few dollars I saved will have added up to valuable time and expenses. If I spent the money and hired someone, the job would have been completed properly the first time.

Does this story sound familiar? Does this sound like the story of the marketing and design you have been trying to take on yourself at some point?  If it does, consider these questions to weigh if a DIY design project is worth it.

The hard truth of many things in life is: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  Everyone has different skill sets, but nobody is an expert at everything. Be it your house, your car, or even graphic design, some things are just better left to the professionals to handle. 

Here are a few reasons why.

It’s not just about making pretty pictures…

Contrary to what some think, designers do more than click buttons and make pretty pictures. (Yeah… I’ve heard that one before.)  While we did spend a lot of time learning how to click those buttons really well, there’s more to it than that.

Professional software is expensive and takes time to learn to use effectively, so it’s not often the choice of someone testing the waters of design. There are many less daunting, user-friendly tools that are admittedly pretty good, but a DIY project won't stack up to a professional designer just because someone can use software.

You may remember your grade-school art teachers talking about color wheels or the elements and principles of design. This may have been a blow-off subject to many, but to designers, these are the foundation of our trade. We have to do more than just know them - we have to understand them and know how to apply them every day!

A good designer will be able to explain their work and use terms such as “contrast, hierarchy movement, and emphasis”, etc., and how these all work together to make a piece effective. A lot of design strategies that involve these principles are psychological. Part of our job is to understand how people mentally interact with visuals.

If given the same direction, a DIY’er and designer could both do the same project. But the results will likely be drastically different. A good designer is skilled in strategically applying these principles, thinking beyond face value, and creating something that will be visually appealing and engaging.

It’s a Science.

Have you ever left a website because you thought it was ugly or confusing?

Behind every great application or website is some principle rooted in a best practice, or guided by data, analytics, and user behaviors.  A full-service agency of professionals will be able to have this data on hand for their designers to use. We will then use proven methods and practices to make educated design decisions that will resonate with users for optimal results.

Those results could ultimately end up paying for the investment of your marketing and then some.  As a DIY’er, do you feel confident enough in understanding user behaviors, the psychology of what draws the eye and emotion, and best practices to ensure you are helping your customers find what they are looking for? If you aren’t, not only are you not attracting customers, you could be pushing them away.

What do others think of when they see you?

We’re talking about your brand and your reputation, and that’s worth an investment. Sure, a small company can get by for a while having less-than-ideal design quality in their branding, collateral, and website. But it won't be without consequence. Having a DIY image of your brand, if not done well, can have a negative effect on your business.

What do people think of you when they see your brand?  Many have learned the importance of having a visually appealing brand and a website to accompany it. 

Many small businesses with poor branding design struggle to grow past their local demographic, where word-of-mouth is king.  Good design makes your business look good, and that is directly tied to growth. According to Adobe's State of Create 2016 report, 59% will choose to do business with a company over one of its competitors solely based on good design.

In Adobe's report, 46% of people responded, "I will not purchase from a brand if its website or mobile experience is poorly designed," and 50% admitted to judging companies based on their marketing material's design quality. That's the last thing you want someone to think about the business you've put so much hard work into.

Creativity is a gift

This one can’t be backed by a number or any meaning of logic.  Some people just have creative minds and think outside of the box naturally, be it in new concepts and ideas, or in finding creative ways to solve problems.

People often have ideas that they want to contribute to a designer. Some are good, and some are bad (in a sense). Part of a designer's job is to reel in those ideas.  Sometimes, we do a really good job stitching things together or marrying ideas that normally wouldn’t work otherwise. Sometimes, we can come up with other ideas a client hadn’t thought of to help expand on their vision. 

Doing all of this yourself, without an outside perspective or a fresh look at things, can be difficult.  You can learn software and study design theory and principles,  but how do you learn to be more creative or have fresh ideas?  Some people are naturally creative and look at the world differently. If you’re someone whose talents lie elsewhere, you’ll want someone like that in your corner.

Things that make a designer skilled and unique are their knowledge of the best tools, formal education, and most importantly, experience and innate creativity.

Starting out, DIY tools may be good but they may not help you grow your brand as a professional agency could.  A dear friend once said to me “Sure, I could open Canva and do it myself and it would look decent, but it just wouldn’t look as good as it would have if a designer did it”.

I know it can sometimes seem like a waste to hire a professional if you could do it yourself, but in the points, we’ve covered, please ask yourself if you would really be able to approach the job with those things in mind, without going over time or budget to make it happen.

I can snake the bathtub drain just fine on my own, but if a pipe breaks inside the floor, I might be better off, in the long run, calling a professional to come to fix it (unless of course, you are a plumber).  The same thing goes for your designs and marketing.  If you need to do things yourself, make sure you know what you are doing and when it is most appropriate to handle it on your own or hire the pros.


Danielle Matthews
About the Author
Danielle is VDG's Senior Art Director. Whenever she gets a minute to herself she enjoys binge-watching Netflix, reading, obnoxiously loud music, fishing, drinking obscene amounts of coffee, and probably being an all-around nerd.

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