Don’t Use Stock Photography Unless You’ve Paid for It

Yesterday I went to a restaurant to try their food and looked up at the menu board in sheer horror! There’s nothing worse than seeing a great graphic design with the watermark ‘Shutterstock‘ over a visual component. The possibility exists that this could have been an FPO (For Position Only) that the graphic designer failed to replace before print.

An accurate re-enactment of my horror

As a designer, it is your biggest responsibility to your paying client to ensure you thoroughly review your work to eliminate errors so they get the best product attainable. If you want really good images, consider the following options:

  1. Paying for it via Shuttershock, Getty Images or iStockphoto
  2. Searching using Google Images
  3. Visit free photo sites like Flickr, Death to the Stock Photo and Stockvault
  4. Taking your own images based on your client’s needs

The latter isn’t such a bad thing, especially when you’ve just created original material.

Food photography of a delicious cheese hamburger Credit: Tyllie Barbosa Photography
Food photography of a delicious cheese hamburger
Credit: Tyllie Barbosa Photography

If you choose to go that route, there are plenty tips and tricks on photography and with smartphones only getting better and better, you don’t need to have an expensive digital SLR camera to capture great images.

So just to recap, do not, under any circumstances whatsoever, use stock images with a watermark over it! It’s in bad taste and cheapens the overall look of your work. If you’re aiming to be a professional then try to be better than that mediocre, be great!

An Australian Photographer Making Big Waves in His Industry

This photographer captures waves in a totally gnarly way (surfer speak) that makes them the focal point of his awe-inspiring images. Ray Collins is an Australian photographer who bought his first camera a mere eight years ago (in 2007) to shoot his friends surfing around home.

Ray Collins photo waves
Source: Ray Collins’ Facebook Page

He’s since gone on to work for major companies like tech giant Apple and renowned magazines like National Geographic and adrenaline junkie Red Bull employing “his unique signature seascapes across their international campaigns.”

'Found At Sea' is a 184 page hardcover coffee table book
‘Found At Sea’ is a 184 page hardcover coffee table book

One of the most striking revelations is that Collins is colour blind, yet this hasn’t held him back in a space like photography. I suppose the worse case scenario, he could’ve just shot all his images in black and white! His published book, Found At Sea, features stunning photographs of seascapes and the first edition has already sold out. You can follow Ray on Instagram where he already has 80,000 followers.

I can’t swim nor can I surf, but I definitely want to learn; I can’t promise you I’ll be taking pictures of waves. In the video below, you get to see Collins in his element capturing nature’s most powerful element.

Here’s When You Use a Registered Trademark Versus a Trademark Symbol

It’ll be Christmas in less than a week and for some of you designers, your desk just got more cluttered. You’re working late at nights and up as your alarm goes off the next morning. You’re doing this all in an effort to meet your deadlines and satisfy your clients as you’ve always done. If one of your projects just happens to be a logo design, identity and branding then you’ll find this blog useful.

The question was asked by a fellow graphic designer in a designers forum and closed group, Jamaica Design Association: “Is it okay to use Registered Trademark and Trademark together?”

The trademark (or trade mark) symbol is an unregistered trademark, used to promote or brand goods. In contrast, the registered trademark ® is exactly what its name implies, a legally registered logo (mark or icon).

Typically its one or the other even if a logo has been redesigned. But in some instances, you’ll see the trademark symbol beside the tagline if it came after the logo had been successfully registered as a trademark. Only when a logo is registered with a government body (Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) in Jamaica’s case), can you display the registered trademark symbol.

In the United States, your client can choose whether they want to register their logo at the national level or at the state level. A federal registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides broader coverage but is more expensive than a state trademark registration.

It is important for you and other designers to understand the proper usage of each symbol and to also educate their clients on what is involved in getting a registered trademark for their logo.

For a bit more information*, you can start off by telling your client(s) that they should protect their intellectual property against infringement. A registered trademark may begin legal proceedings for trademark infringement to prevent unauthorised usage of that logo, but registration is not requirement.

Your client can also file a suit with a common law trademark. The downside of an unregistered logo is that it may only be protected within your country. If your client plans to promote brand goods in other countries then it is best to apply for your logo to be registered.

*℠ sm for an unregistered service mark, that is, a mark used to promote or brand services.

Leave a comment and let me know if you found the post helpful.

How Not to Work for Cheap

With each design project I’ve done, I’ve learned something new; whether it’s about the warmth of sheepskin, tennis terminologies or direct ad marketing. The most important lesson I learned recently was revising my rates as a graphic designer. Who knew all this time my rates were actually way below the minimum. As you would imagine, this discovery was extremely disheartening and it made me instantly want to increase my prices.

When you start out freelancing, you fall into the trap of making your price so low that you get stuck in that trap if you fail to adjust your rates as your skill sets sharpen. The more in demand you are, the more you should focus on increasing your rates. I’ve spent a lot of days determining my value as a graphic designer who has been at this for the last 10 years or so.

If you’re feeling a little afraid or unsure or both about changing your rates, you have absolutely no reason to feel that way. In every other field that you can think of, professionals charge what they know they are worth. Consider this, if you get an email or call from a prospective client who wants you to develop his or her visual branding from scratch, you seriously need to factor into your rate how much money they stand to make. Don’t end up the biggest loser.

The worse thing that can happen is that you lose a prospective after you submit your quotation. It’s not the end of the world. The people who understand the value your work will bring will pay what you’re asking. After all, creativity takes tremendous mental capacity, especially if you’re constantly doing custom work versus production work (templates).

Your ideas and time are valuable.

12 Tips to Successfully Design a Restaurant Menu


So my first restaurant menu design project just happened to be with one of my favourite restaurants in Jamaica called Jack Sprat Restaurant. It’s an ultra cool space to hangout with great food and a great atmosphere sitting right next to the ocean; very picturesque. It also just happens to be world famous too.

When I was asked to take on this design assignment, I was extremely ecstatic because it was an opportunity for work, but more importantly it was for a place I’ve spent many hours making memories and having experiences.

Here was my approach to the project and perhaps there are a few tips in here that might be useful to you in case you too ever land a similar design job:

  1. Always remember, its a collaborative effort with your client even if they’ve given you free rein.
  2. Research as much as possible. Google is your best friend.
  3. Try to understand your client’s needs. Ask pointed questions.
  4. Find inspiration from existing menus.
  5. If the restaurant has an existing menu, look at how you can improve the entire thing.
  6. Layout is important, but (food) categorisation is integral to a well-designed menu!
  7. If a brand and identity exists for your client’s restaurant, try to preserve it in your updated design.
  8. Simplicity continues to be “…the ultimate sophistication.” (Leonardo da Vinci).
  9. Never include the dollar sign ($) or currency equivalent in front of prices; psychologically it affects the customer’s purchasing decisions.
  10. Include all the important details about the restaurant: opening hours, accepted payment methods and a back-story (optional).
  11. Imagery is a plus. Try to get some good photographs of the restaurant, food, drinks, etc.
  12. Proof read! Better yet, get a fresh pair of eyes to help you.

Good luck!

Fun Fact: Jack Sprat Restaurant was named after the famous English language nursery rhyme.

What are your best tips? Leave a comment below and keep the knowledge exchange going.

7 Simple Pieces of Advice for Freelancers to Successfully Bill a Client

As a graphic designer and as an owner of a graphic design business, I’m always looking out for ways to help like-minded freelancers. This heading got my attention in the Graphic Designer Lounge via LinkedIn – “Need advice for billing a client.”

Below is my response to the gentleman and fellow graphic designer. I hope it will help you too in your own pursuits of freelancing successfully. This simply means delivering on your word, worth and work (bit of a tongue-twister!) and getting paid in full at the end of the design process.

Hi Jared,

I’m a freelancer from Jamaica, so already economies of scale would dictate I’d be of no help in suggesting a rate. However, seeing that I’ve been running my own graphic design studio for nearly four years now, I can offer you some advice.

I’ll keep my points simple and break them out for you so it’s easier to go through. They are as follows:

  1. Ensure that you always retain the value of your work.
  2. Just because you’re new to freelancing doesn’t mean that you should go lower in price to compete.
  3. Charge by the project (as you’ve said) and not by the hour.
  4. Keep a simple time-log (Microsoft Excel) of all your projects so you know how much time on average is spent designing a flyer or a logo or whatever the design.
  5. It’s a good rule of thumb to collect a retainer fee (50%) before you commit yourself to a project.
  6. Give your clients a package deal if you think it fit, but never ever give “discounts”.
  7. Always remember and apply advice # 1.

Good luck and if you need any more advice, I wrote some blogs on similar scenarios that may be of some help –

Thanks for Taking the Ride with Me These Last Two Years!


My blog officially turned 2 years old on April 20, 2014! I’m excited!

After nearly 70 blog posts and approximately 4,300 views, I have to be honest with you, I never thought I’d have gotten this much support from the WordPress community.

Thanks to the 78 of you who follow my blog and to every other blogger and non-blogger (who should blog), your likes and comments are greatly appreciated!

I’m going to keep blogging and I hope you’ll continue to take the time to read and comment and share my posts with others.

What Should You Charge for a Logo Design?


Recently I was asked by another graphic designer how much he should charge one of his customers for a logo design. Below is an edited version of what I told him.

I have three (3) different rates based on small, medium and large scale businesses with the last two (2) coming with perks like a ‘stationery package’.

For start-ups or small businesses I currently charge a reasonable rate that does three (3) things:

1) It is a good and fair price for a new graphic designer and

2) It makes people see the value-added of having a logo design and

3) It communicates to people that a logo is not a mere ‘commodity’.

You have to evaluate each client and what they say their budget is because you stand the risk of being “low-balled” since people will always try to negotiate the lowest possible price. You need to establish your price and let them know what that figure is. If they ask for a “discount” let them know you do not give discounts, but you might be willing to “not include” a specific charge in the overall cost for let’s says “online research” or “development of concepts”. This makes the client see the value of your work.

In this particular instance, as you said, you might get ongoing work from this client so that’s something you can factor in when you think about charging him. But establish a fair price and if anything you can offer this client a lower price if he says to you it’s too much. You will have to look at how low you’ll be prepared to go. Sometimes a little bartering is good where he can give you something else of value for you taking off a specific cost off the overall price.

In the end, you have to know what payment you would be comfortable with.

Fun Fact: The price for logo design is not just for labour, but more for IDEAS.

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How To Avoid Getting Burned By Customers: Stop, Drop and Roll

I was asked these questions “Should I have asked for a down payment? If so what is a reasonable price for logo design?” by a fellow graphic designer. Here is my answer to the questions asked in hopes that it can also help someone else with a similar issue(s) whether you’re a graphic designer or just in the business world.

“Well from my experience (both good and bad) it’s always in your best interest especially, as well as your client’s interest to ask for a 50% deposit as a ‘Retainer Fee’. In the past I’ve had clients ‘change their minds’ mid project and at the end of the project and you end up getting burned. That’s your time and creativity down the drain. Always protect you time as that’s your most valuable asset. You can even develop your own ‘payment procedure’; like ‘50% deposit as a retainer fee. At least 3 designs will be developed. Select the top one or two designs. Make changes and present final design. 50% final payment upon submission of final design files.’

Always put a watermark with your name/logo and copyright over your design so it prevents them from being able to use it upon presentation.

As for a fee, there are no set rates. Every graphic designer measures his or her own worth and time and there’s economies of scale; so the price that is good for me may not be good for you. My advice would be to create a time log in Microsoft Excel and record the time you spend on any design. You can probably come up with a number on how much an hour of your time is worth to you.

On the contrary, you could also just do a flat rate which I think is best because sometimes ideas come in a second and you’re through with the design in a few days. Other times inspiration can take you into 14 days worth of work before you’re done. I currently charge around $219 US for logo designs for a start-up/small business.

Look online, and see what logo designers charge. Don’t sell yourself short though. A logo design should last 10 years so let the client know that it’s an ‘investment’. When they look at it from that standpoint, they’re often times more than willing to pay the price you’ve quoted.

I hope that helps.”

The ‘Free’ In Freelance Graphic Designer Doesn’t Mean ‘Voluntary’?

Graphic Designers are often underrated for the value we bring to any venture. The prospective clients some times fail to understand how much work is involved in conceptualisation, design and digitisation.  This results in a devaluing of how much a particular graphic design project may be worth; ergo being asked to “work for FREE”.

I think with any opportunity, you have to evaluate what taking on a specific project is going to mean for you in the short, medium and long-term.

I’ve done work with several non-profits with noteworthy projects that have included outreach to children through sports or creating local economic development within varying communities and each one has been a different experience. Some of these projects have led to other spinoff opportunities such as networking, free publicity and meeting prospective clients and admirers of a specific design you may have done.

Give advice for free, but limit the advice (not unless they’re going to hire you). At the end of the day, you can work for free, but never sell yourself short. Always ask for something in return. Bartering never gets outdated.