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Selling Graphic and Web Design

Selling Graphic and Web Design

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Selling Graphic and Web Design

294 pages
3 hours
Sep 7, 2010


Expert guidance on selling graphic design, in print and online. Attract today’s savvy design clients! A veteran designer who turned his small business into a multimillion-dollar new-media company shares his strategies for success in this new edition of the acclaimed Selling Graphic and Web Design. Donald Sparkman’s approach blurs the lines between graphic design, web design, and marketing by building strategic partnerships and thinking outside the box. No-nonsense advice for writing proposals and offering the right design solutions, plus information on providing services that fit a client’s needs and budget, have made this book indispensable. Now, in this revised and expanded version, leading Internet designers share strategies on effective marketing for the web, including pricing, billing, portfolios, ethics, brand design, web content management, brand law, and much more. Trusted advice and the latest strategies combine to make Selling Graphic and Web Design a great one-stop resource for designers in every field. New edition of a classic Up-to-the-minute advice on selling to internet clients Get the top clients and keep them

Allworth Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, publishes a broad range of books on the visual and performing arts, with emphasis on the business of art. Our titles cover subjects such as graphic design, theater, branding, fine art, photography, interior design, writing, acting, film, how to start careers, business and legal forms, business practices, and more. While we don't aspire to publish a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are deeply committed to quality books that help creative professionals succeed and thrive. We often publish in areas overlooked by other publishers and welcome the author whose expertise can help our audience of readers.
Sep 7, 2010

Tentang penulis

Donald Sparkman is the president of Sparkman + Associates, Inc., which has won many awards for design excellence. Sparkman has developed graphic communications for AT&T, Black and Decker, Coors, Eckerd Drugs, GE, Marriott, MCI, Mobil, NASA, and countless other top companies. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Selling Graphic and Web Design - Donald Sparkman






Allworth Press,New York

© 2006 Donald H. Sparkman, Jr.

All rights reserved. Copyright under Berne Copyright Convention, Universal Copyright Convention, and Pan-American Copyright Convention. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior permission of the publisher.


Published by Allworth Press, an imprint of Allworth Communications, Inc.

10 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010

Cover and text design: Don Sparkman

ISBN-13: 978-1-58115-459-7

ISBN-10: 1-158115-459-3

ISBN: 978-1-58115-824-3

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Sparkman, Don.

Selling graphic and Web design / Donald Sparkman. -- 3rd ed.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Rev. ed. of: Selling graphic design. 2nd ed. 1999.

1. Graphic design (Typography)--United States--Marketing--Handbooks, manuals, etc. 2. Web sites--Design--Marketing. 3. Design services --Marketing. I. Sparkman, Don Selling graphic design. II. Title.

Z246.S658 2006



Printed in Canada

To those who know the difference between

function and form.

To Those Who Chose to Help

Mary Edens, Brian Choate,

Tad Crawford, David Cundy, Chris Foss,

Ed Gold, Ed Gracholski, Glen Kowalski,

Monica Lugo, Barry Miller, Esq.,

Kathy Renton, and John Waters


Foreword: Multi-Tasking Design by Ed Gold

Preface: A Blurring of Lines in Design: It’s about the Design, Not Just Production

Introduction: The Hard Sell: Who Says Selling Isn’t Hard

Part I. Opening the Door

1  On-the-Job Marketing Research: An Interview with Yourself

2  Self-Promotion Begins with Self: And It Involves Others

3  Networking for Effect: You Must First Go to the mountain

4  Turning a Cold Call into a Warm Call: All You Need Is a Plan

5  Winning Proposals Start Here: The Devil Is in the Details

  Part II. Closing the Door Behind You

6  How You Do Business with Others: The Graphic & Web Design Trade Customs

7  Ethical Business Conduct in Graphic and Web Design: An Interview with David Cundy of Design Trust

8  Selling Brand Design First: Are They Dressed for the Kill?

9  Everything You Need to Know about Trademarks, Legally Speaking: An Interview with Intellectual Property Attorney Barry Miller

10  Low Budgets/High Design: It’s Quality, Not Quantity

11  Web Design Marketing Strategies: An Interview with John Waters of Whet Design, Inc

12  Content Management on the Web: An Interview with Brian Choate of Timberlake Publishing

13  Marketing Complex Web Sites: An Interview with Chris Foss of AmericanEagle.com

14  Strategic Partnerships Work: An Interview with Ed Gracholski of the Lindberg Group

15  We’re Not Paperless Yet: Paper Cuts Can Be Fatal

16  Buying Illustration and Photography: Saavy Is Happy

17  Billing for Your Time: You’re Worth It

Appendix A

Commonly Used Business Terms: Learn the Talk, Then Walk the Walk

Appendix B

Commonly Used Graphic Arts and Computer Terms: It’s an Acronym World Today

Appendix C

Internet Terms and Definitions: A Little More to Add to Your Already Stuffed Vocabulary


Words Worth Reading

About the Author


Where to Find It



Communication Seamlessly Integrates

Words and Images

Afew years ago I began to notice an amazing change taking place in the design community. Design firms were no longer being asked to create design.

In 1990 I began a second career as a design instructor at the University of Baltimore, having been fascinated by the unusual approach to design I saw there. Led by a few very far-seeing and brave English instructors, the university had created a design program based on the at-the-time revolutionary idea that the best kind of communication is that which seamlessly integrates words and images.

In order to accomplish this, they created a graduate program that requires students to study and master both design and writing. In the almost thirty years that the program has been taught, it has turned out to be one of the most successful programs at the university. Graduates of the program are now spread out over the entire country championing the message to all designers integrate or perish!

Educational Overload

The problem with that message is that there is just too much for a designer to learn in order to integrate everything that needs to be integrated.

Designers are now being asked to create brands. A brand identity is something that exists in the minds of clients and consumers based on every experience they have with a company. If designers wanted to stay in business, much less grow, they were being asked to understand and manage a whole range of disciplines they had had no experience with, including public relations, advertising, packaging, crisis management, employee relations, interior design, marketing, and media selection, just to name a few. This means that designers were being asked not only to create effective design elements, but also to advise their clients on how they could successfully convey their message across the board, in every possible way.

Clients were no longer interested in design as most designers understood the term. They were certainly still interested in problem solving, but the problems they were posing to design firms were no longer the same, simple ones they used to ask their designers to solve. They finally understood what designers have known for years: Design is not merely about what something looks like, it is about the blow to the psyche a person feels when he or she is confronted with a powerfully constructed message that comes through in everything they see, hear, feel, touch, or smell.

A Brave New World

The newly sophisticated demands of clients caught many designers unprepared. Most of them had spent years mastering the medium of print and perhaps television, but they found themselves at a loss when asked to develop branding strategies that communicated an integrated message across every possible communications medium, including ones that they themselves had no clue at all how to construct.

Recognizing this, the University of Baltimore approved the School of Communications Design’s request to create a new terminal degree, the MFA in Integrated Design. The objective of the degree is to prepare designers to not only master all the various media clients are now asking designers to work within, but also to manage all the parts and pieces of an integrated branding campaign.

More and more, all businesses recognize that design can make the difference between products and services that succeed and those that fail. More and more, businesses are seeking graduates with MFA degrees rather than MBA degrees. Those who can innovate and create are being actively recruited by businesses that wish to grow.

Opportunity Is Knocking

Don Sparkman’s book is the first one I’ve read that addresses this incredible opportunity being presented to designers. In this book, Don is asking designers to raise their heads from their computers and recognize that they have the power to change the world, and, at the same time, change the design business from the equivalent of a mom-and-pop store to a megaplex.

It won’t be easy to do this, and, for certain, there will be many designers who will hate the very idea of abandoning the arts and crafts approach to design that the profession has followed for years.

But, as always, change is inevitable, and, as Don writes, this particular inevitability is already here.


Ed Gold is a professor in the School of Communications Design, which is part of the Yale Gordon College of Liberal Arts, University of Baltimore. He is the author of The Business of Graphic Design (Watson-Guptill).



It’s All about the Design, Not Just


Graphic design today covers print, animation, and the creation of Web sites. Some people argue about which method of communication is the most effective. If you are a designer, you must be grounded in all forms. If you want to sell only Web design or only print, I’m sure you can find a firm that shares that tunnel vision, and you’ll be happy in the short term. But design, like water, will seek its highest level. If a message is better communicated through print versus the Web, it should be produced for print. If interaction is important, the Internet is probably best. The Internet can stand alone as a medium, but with no support from print, Web sites are easily forgotten or never found in the first place. While the Internet has the flash and sparkle that much print lacks, people need a break from constant motion, hype, and glowing color (even with millions of television sets and computers in homes all over the world, there are more magazines published today than ever before). Often, both print and Web design are needed in concert; they can complement each other. The one-two punch of a good print ad that features a Web address is ideal.

Embrace Technology

The Internet is not the first, and certainly not the last, revolution in the field of design. Letterpress printing was replaced by offset. Hot type was replaced by cold type. Paste-up was replaced by computer-generated, page-making programs. The printing standard went from two-color offset, to four-color printing, then five color, then six, etc. The point is that you should never feel like you’re on the leading edge. Design is just a train moving ahead, and you are on one of the cars. It’s amazing to me how many people have retired because they didn’t want to cope with the new technology. They couldn’t embrace what they couldn’t understand. Whenever we feel too superior, we should remember the arm in the bucket theory. What you do is fill a bucket with water and then put your arm down in the water. Now pull your arm out and see how much you’ve affected the level of the water. This is an old trick, but it certainly says a lot about our true importance.

Design is just a train moving ahead, and

you are on one of the cars.

My first book, Selling Graphic Design, has been criticized as being pertinent only to account executives involved with client acquisition and maintenance, not designers. Anyone working with a client is my audience. This book is written for those who must market: be it themselves, their fellow designers, their company’s production or programming staff, and everyone in between. So unless you are at the bottom of the design food chain at a very large firm, this book is written for you. If you are an account executive, graphic or Web designer, or an entrepreneur, this book will give you a sense of where the business of design is headed. It was written to help you avoid mistakes, seize opportunities, and close sales. You’ll learn how to target the right clients, network, and write effective proposals. Best of all, you’ll see graphic and Web design as a lucrative business opportunity. There may be things in this book that you already know, but that will only reaffirm what you originally thought.

The Art of Selling

This is a book on selling design. Design is different from other services or products. There is art in design, whether it’s Web or graphic design. You can sell design even if you’re not a designer, but you must understand design to sell it well. Most of the movers and shakers in the industry are designer/presidents who came up through the ranks and in many cases are still designing. They have vision, and they can inspire those who are working for them, and just as important, they can inspire their company’s clients. I’ve also known presidents of Web and graphic design studios who could talk a good story but their company’s design was not stellar. In some cases it was lack of imagination, in others they were only concerned with the almighty buck. And in many instances, they couldn’t win the big accounts. Anyone selling design must know design and embrace change. To quote Ed Gold, who wrote The Business of Graphic Design, To sell graphic design, [one] must be knowledgeable about every aspect of design, design history, and the technology of design, which changes almost every day.

I didn’t write this book in two distinct parts, one for selling graphic design and one for selling Web design. This book is for anyone in the business of design who wants to acquire and retain clients. It’s as simple as that. If you feel that this cheapens your design practice, you should probably stop reading this book now.



Who Says Selling

Isn’t Hard

I’m sure you’ve heard of the school of hard knocks. This is about the school of hard sell, because selling is hard. All of us are in sales. Selling, as we’ve all been told, begins with selling ourselves to others. Whether it’s to our employer (perhaps for a raise or promotion) or to the public (the potential client or customer), we are selling. Now, here’s the hard part. You are only paid for what you sell. No sales, no clients, no pay. Today, the media your company works in isn’t as important as the results of your sales efforts. Your company can be the world’s answer to high-tech graphic design and super-savvy in cyberspace, but with no clients, there’s no business, no compensation, no reason to come to work.

With no clients, there’s no business, no compensation

and no reason to come to work.

If you are selling a product—yourself or something else—it only makes sense to want to sell the best product available. But always remember that if you are selling graphic or Web site design, you should be selling the best design, and anything else your company does should only support this function. Selling anything else in addition to design will only result in a second-rate design. Several years ago, I met with the principals of two other design firms in my office building’s conference room. We were working as an advisory committee to the local art directors’ club. Both of the other companies were ahead of mine in technology. They had more sophisticated software and expensive hardware. There’s a large bookcase on the far wall of my conference room where I display our work. The majority of the pieces are high end and full color. I commented that I believed that design was the most important thing my company did and that, while also important, technology didn’t seem to impress my clients. One of my guests shook his head, motioned toward the bookcase, and said, That’s easy for you to say. We don’t have Fortune 500 clients like you do! I nodded politely, wondering if he would later reconsider what he had said and realize that he made my point for me. We have such great clients because better design, not newer technology, brings in better clients.

It’s true that you have a lot more to learn than your predecessors ever did. But every negative has an equal if not stronger positive; you have a tremendous opportunity to become a valuable asset to your prospective clients. In many cases, they have little to no knowledge of the latest technology—for design or in general—and they are afraid to let anyone know how

You can be their greatest ally. Be thoughtful, cheery, and best of all, approachable. I remember a very successful printing saleswoman who made it a point to bring donuts to her first appointment. She was always welcome because management felt she helped morale and the staff thought the donuts were great. It was a win-win situation.

Keep in mind that selling isn’t always just about being friendly and accessible. It’s also about thinking on your feet, no matter what discipline you’re working in. For example, we have designed award-winning Web sites for clients. After establishing sites and turning them over to clients, sometimes their IT personnel make changes. The changes can be small—or major and disastrous. Once I was invited to make a presentation to a prospective client showing specific types of pages we had designed. Unfortunately, the sites had been butchered, and our designs were barely visible. I decided to turn the presentation into a PowerPoint show using the original layouts we had presented our clients with before they changed them. At the end of my presentation, I was asked why I didn’t show the sites as they are on the Internet. Fortunately I had brought a couple of screen shots of the sites on my laptop and was able to show them the cyber-carnage. If I hadn’t had the screen shots, I don’t know if they would have believed my explanation of good work gone bad.

Inside This Book

In the first half of this book, you’ll learn how to research prospects before you make a cold call. In fact you’ll learn how to prepare for a call so it won’t feel cold. You’ll also learn how you can tap into resources that will bring results rather than maybes. Once you’re in the marketing mode, you’ll be asked to prepare proposals. We’ll walk through the process of preparing winning proposals. There are tricks of the trade that you’ll never be taught by your prospects or your peers.

The second half of the book addresses what to do once you’ve got an account on board. The Graphic and Web Trade Customs are the terms that you use in doing business, and they have teeth. When used correctly, they can save your company time, money, and heartache. We’ll explore each of the customs and learn what they mean. With business comes the question of ethics. David Cundy explains the ins and outs of ethics in this high-tech world of design. There’s good, bad, and definitely ugly; David has seen it all and will share his experiences with us. His observations offer us a savvy view of today’s ethics in high technology.

It All Starts with the Brand

Next, we will examine branding. You’ll learn how to audit your client’s brand. Whether or not it needs to be updated or totally redesigned will become apparent with this short but effective audit. Once you’ve addressed branding issues, you’ll need to know about trademark law. Barry Miller, a prominent intellectual property lawyer, shares his knowledge of trademark law. While the World Wide Web can give even a small company high visibility, it also makes them highly vulnerable. By knowing the legal perils a brand can encounter, you may be able to save your client from a lawsuit and be their hero.

We then delve into specific concerns for Web and print. First up is John Waters, a veteran of the Internet revolution, whose new company has blurred the boundaries between methods of design communications, mixing conventional printing and the Internet. His unique perspective comes from true on-the-job training in the school of hard knocks. Content management is important for organizations that want their Web sites to automatically inform and serve visitors. Amazon.com is a prime example of exceptional content management. Bran Choate, president of Timberlake Publishing, shares his company’s methods and goals, giving us an understanding of this type of Web site design. Chris Foss of AmericanEagle.com will explain how his company markets the design and production of complex Web sites. You’ll also learn how to manage commercial printing jobs and the intricacies of choosing paper and envelopes for yourself and your clients. With this information, you’ll not only impress your client, but also perform a service that is worth compensation.


It’s Not Just Where We’re Going, But It’s

Getting There in Style.




An Interview with Yourself

We all feel that there is someone out there who will click with our personality. It’s the law of probabilities. But, let’s face it, effective sales are planned. Marketing research is a daunting term if you are not familiar with it nor experienced in the field.

The first step is to analyze the company or studio you’re working for.

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