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Creativity vs Cost – A Balancing Act

Posted by: Paul Blandford on 3 July 2017

There are many pressures in the modern studio environment, from deadlines to matching client expectations. That’s not to say other marketing departments do not face similar requirements, everyone has a challenge of some kind, but when it comes to creative thinking, it can be like balancing a spinning plate with one hand and trying to make a sandwich with the other.

The amazing advances in technology for designers has changed the game significantly. In the ‘good old days’ of design (circa 1990), we creative types were offered more freedom to think of exciting new ideas and daring new initiatives. Why so?

New technology and new services are open and accessible to all. The assumption from many is that a job can be done in less time. It can, but aren’t we all forgetting the amount of time required to think of a groundbreaking new concept? With ever improving InDesign and PhotoShop software, photo editing apps, stock image services such as Shutterstock and iStockPhoto and easily purchasable website layout themes, it is tempting to cut corners, save budget and ask for shorter deadlines.

Bad Shutterstock Creativity

Such platforms can be great, especially for the pitching and idea process. But they have their downsides too. There are a great many tools available for designers currently, and I’m sure there will be more in the years to come, but ultimately it is better from a creative standpoint to design something from scratch, rather than borrowing from elsewhere.

One key reasoning is to stand out from the crowd. If you visit the Audi website, there are no stock images. There was a creative brief, that incorporated brand values, and then photographers and designers went to work to make those products look astonishing. The investment has been on time, effort and creative vision. Consequently, the results really differentiate the vehicles.

Audi is obviously a premium product, and ultimately a budget always has a limit. I am not suggesting you spend as much as Audi to promote your latest range of toothbrush bristle replacements for local council workers, but the idea process should not be underestimated as it is crucial to conceiving a successful marketing campaign.

Imagine the horror of using a stock image for a website page or an important piece of in-store POS, only to see a chief competitor also using the same stock image. Customers, at a glance, will not be able to distinguish between your marketing and their marketing. Somehow you can just tell an image is purchased rather than created.

Invest in good Design

From an agency point of view, using such platforms prevents our talented studio team from flexing their considerable design chops. Over time, simply finding stock images online is far less stimulating than producing fresh images ourselves. We could almost become ‘rusty’, and who wants to become ‘rusty’?

The current focus on reducing the time spent on a project is great for finding a low-cost alternative in a short period of time. But that is a short-term methodology. Long-term, originality and creativity will always win out.

As agencies, our job is to collectively push the idea of individuality, pushing the design envelope. We have a dedicated team of talented individuals, all of whom can produce stunning pieces of marketing material and web design. We aren’t alone. Ultimately, more time spent on the idea — and having everything else follow that idea — provides better results. Cutting corners compromises the vision of a project. Our best work comes from being original, and long may it continue.

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