Building Your Graphics Business
Graphic design has gone through a revolution in the last few years. What once took hours via pen and paper can now be done precisely in a fraction of the time using computers. Portfolios that once required voluminous files of carefully-preserved artwork can now be stored digitally, backed up in multiple locations.
Because cyberspace is so powerful for businesses today, it can be easy to think that most of your business will reside on hard drives and servers. As you get started with your business, you’ll pick through lots of computer sites, finding the fastest processors, best graphics cards, and biggest storage systems.
Of course, as important as tech is, it’s not the whole picture. Having some of the physical things needed for a successful business is essential, and you need to plan for those in order to make things go well.
Think first about materials. Those are the first things that your work will intersect with once the desktop portion is finished. If you’ll develop fonts, lettering, or other items for labeling with stencils, do some work to identify the best stencil cutter tools on the market. Your product in the office is only as good as its results on the market. Cheap materials that don’t properly separate painted and unpainted areas will leave clients disappointed–and looking elsewhere.
If your graphic design business involves sign making, you’ll be cutting your designs into vinyl, then removing the unused sections of vinyl and applying a backing that carried the backwards design onto the final surface for application.
Quality counts throughout this process. The design will come out of the plotter needing the unused sections of vinyl–the negative areas–removed. The weeding tools used to pluck out these segments need a precise tip that grabs the vinyl and not the backing. They need to be durable for hours and hours of work.
The application film will also have to be applied using a squeegee that forces the air bubbles out from between the vinyl and the film. If it fails to create proper adhesion, the vinyl will be tearing between the original backing and the application film. The design will be ruined, and you’ll have to cut the entire thing again.
For paper-based art, both components are critical. You must have quality paper that’s properly stored and maintained in good working condition. Humidity, high temps, and pressure from being under tall stacks of material will damage paper. You also need to use quality inks that are true to the colors your design calls for, and that will withstand the particular uses of the final customer. That’s also true of the inks and fabrics you will need for a custom apparel business.
Outside the shop matters, too. All your quality work is worthless if no one knows you’re out there, so don’t neglect marketing. A great website, strong and consistent social media presence, and the use of traditional mass media marketing will be essential to put your name in the front of a potential customer’s mind. When they think about graphic arts, they need to think about you, and only marketing will make that happen.
Entrepreneurship is complicated. You need a great idea, a great way to make it real, and a great way to let people know about it. Every step of that process requires a lot of time and attention, and any shortcoming can undermine the whole system. With graphic design, it’s essential to look beyond just the process of creating great products and make sure that you can get them into the hands of customers with high quality.