Frequently asked questions. Information to help you.

Hiring a designer can be confusing, even daunting. These FAQs will hopefully help to answer some of your more pressing questions.

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Frequently asked questions about the business side

Do I need design?

Now more than ever it’s the bottom line that counts. And if you look at the numbers, the business case in favour of using design is clear. Here are some facts and figures that you might find compelling:

  1. Two thirds of companies who ignore design have to compete mainly on price. In companies where design is integral, just one third do so.

  2. 83% of companies in which design is integral have seen their market share increase, compared to the UK average of 46%.

  3. Design is integral to 39% of rapidly growing companies but to only 7% of static ones.

  4. 80% of design-led businesses have opened up new markets in the last three years. Only 42% of UK businesses overall have done so.

  5. A business that increases its investment in design is more than twice as likely to see its turnover grow as a business that does not do so.

Source: The Design Council

Why is using one studio better than using several?

In a word: Consistency.

When multiple agencies work on different aspects of a design project it normally means conflicting visions, and inconsistent implementation. Whether you get a unified style or an inconsistent hodgepodge of a brand can, all too often, be a roll of the dice.

Nobody needs that.

Consistent implementation requires a detailed understanding of the thinking behind a design. So it makes a lot of sense for the team that so carefully crafted your logo to also be the team that crafts your web site. And your marketing materials. And your email campaign. And your annual report to the shareholders.

Shark Attack can create a professional and consistently-implemented package of creative, integrated, effective design for your business.

One studio; one team; one point of contact; one clear vision. All of your design needs, whether online or offline, met under one roof.

Every business needs that.

Why is a good brief so important?

As designers we are, essentially, problem solvers. To do our job properly, therefore, we need to be clear about what the problem actually is. And that means that the client needs to be clear about what the problem actually is. That sounds obvious, but you might be surprised at how many people try to commission a designer without having ever really sat down and thought about what it is that they need to design to achieve.

Those projects are nearly always going to be trouble, for the client and the designer both. The project can run on and on through endless revisions and mutations, with the purpose of the design becoming ever muddier for everyone involved. (After all, if you don't know what you’re trying to achieve, how can you know if you’ve achieved it?). Sadly, the result is often a poor design (because nobody was sure what problem it was supposed to be solving) that has taken far more time and money than was initially forecast.

With a good brief, the we can zero-in more quickly on the best solution for your project. This saves you money, makes the project more efficient, speeds things up, and nearly always results in a more effective design solution.

Why do you often limit the number of revisions?

Where appropriate, we can provide a flat-cost estimate for a project, rather than simply quoting a daily rate and letting things ride. In such cases, we commonly place a limit on the number of rounds of revisions that are included within that fixed fee (the exact number depends upon the type and scope of the project). Years of experience has taught us that with a carefully considered brief at the project outset and open communication between ourselves and the client, it is rare for a design to require more than a few rounds of revisions.

In any case, further revisions can, of course, always be requested and will simply be charged at an hourly rate. This will also be the case if it becomes evident that the initial design brief did not accurately represent the project’s goals.

Whilst at first glance this policy might seem restrictive, in practice this has proven to be extremely beneficial to the client’s involvement in the creative process. Firstly, it encourages the client to clearly identify what they require the design to achieve (see: ‘The importance of a good brief’, above). Secondly, it helps the client to give their real consideration to the revisions that they request, and not to just ask for arbitrary changes on a “suck it and see” basis. In short, it helps the client to be focused and decisive both in the brief and during the feedback phase. Both these things are good for the design, and therefore good for you.

(And, not to be disingenuous, yes it is a mutually beneficial system: it ensures that the revision process cannot continue ad infinitum, thereby making the project financially unfeasible for ourselves).

No price list?

Every project is different, and needs to be assessed accordingly. All of our design work is bespoke.

Design is a complex, iterative process involving research, discussion, and the evolution of ideas (this is even more true in the case of web design which involves additional steps such as prototyping, development, testing etc). A common misconception on the client's part is the belief that they are simply commissioning the final result, when in fact what they are commissioning is the process.

For this reason it is impossible to publish a ‘menu-style’ list of prices for different items as though they were pre-designed products waiting to be packaged up and shipped out.

Spec. work

Shark Attack does not work speculatively or participate in free pitches. The studio’s reasons are largely the same as those set forth by numerous design bodies such as the AIGA, BDI & The Design Council, not to mention the majority of independent design consultancies, and can be summarised as follows:

It’s bad for the client because:

  • On the surface, spec work seems like a good deal for the client, but unless they really have no interest in whether the design is a good one or just ‘adequate’, it is not, and the client will not be best served.
  • Spec work inevitably seeks to jump quickly to the ‘end result’, skipping over the essential development process that good design requires. The results, whilst they will probably be pretty, will inevitably be superficial. Professional design is about tailoring custom solutions, not churning out quick visuals.
  • Spec work gives no opportunity for the designer to create a relationship with the client or to get to understand their business.

It’s bad for the designer because:

  • Spec work devalues design work in the eyes of the client, who may not understand the process involved.
  • Participating in spec work perpetuates the Free Pitching culture, to the detriment of the design industry as a whole.
  • Historically, the Free Pitch originated in the ad industry. Advertising agencies typically make much of their revenue from the commission paid on media sales; in the past this was often their entire source of income, and the design side was simply considered an acceptable loss leader. Designers, however, do not generate income this way and need to be suitably recompensed for the work that they perform.
  • The designer is selling a service that requires time and talent. In asking for spec work, the client is asking the designer (in fact, usually several designers) to provide that time and talent without any guarantee that there will be payment forthcoming. Clearly this is not something that anyone could call Good Business Practice.

If you would like further explanations of why spec work is in the interest of neither the client nor the designer, you can visit these links:

Frequently asked questions about design

Why is consistency so important?

Effective design requires a clear vision, consistently applied. We believe that this is best achieved by using a single design team.

What are Web Standards?

Web standards are a collection of best practices for web designers/developers with a common aim: to make websites flexible and accessible. When first proposed and championed by such iconic figures as Jeffrey Zeldman they were taken up by a handful of cutting-edge web designers; nowadays they are a tool employed by (arguably) the majority of professional web designer/developers.

A major component of Web Standards (and I’m talking simplistically now) is to separate the presentational aspect of a web page from its actual content. In other words, you can change the look of the site without having to write the page contents, and other computers (eg. Google) can read and index your content without getting all tangled up in, and confused by, presentational code like table-based layouts.

This can have far reaching benefits, including making the page more accessible to those visitors using assistive technology like screen readers, improving search engine accuracy, reducing the amount of code that must be downloaded by the browser, and simplifying site maintenance.

Why is this good for you?

By having the good sense to hire a web designer or developer who works to web standards, you get a web site that:

  1. Is accessible by the widest audience (having more customers is good for business)
  2. Is easier for search engines to index (having better Google rankings is good for business)
  3. Will load faster (keeps your customers happy)
  4. Will reduce your bandwidth requirements (saving you money)
  5. Can be restyled from a single css document so you don’t have to manually amend every page (saving you time and therefore money)

Sound good?

What’s ‘Colour Management’ and why should I care?

We’ll answer that one in a day or so.


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