Everything you need to know to choose the right design subscription for you.
Some of the best design subscriptions currently available
Design subscription services present an alternate route into design for a lot of businesses and startups, and it’s easy to see why.
They often offer unlimited design and revisions, along with appealing pricing, a cancel-anytime policy, and an almost immediate start-date. This addresses some of the most common issues associated hiring designers or agencies:
Design subscriptions for these reasons are great, and sit at a range of price points depending on your budget. But with the advent of more and more subscription options in the market, it begins to become difficult to decipher exactly which service you should go for.
So I want to break down 3 things you should consider when choosing a design subscription service for your business. 3 important decisions you need to make, in order to make sure you choose the right service for you.
The first, and most important distinction to make in choosing a service, is to understand your business goals in advance.
This seems obvious, but I’ve seen a lot of people go into these services with nothing more than a vague idea that they’d like ‘a new website design’ or some ‘social media templates’.
Know that going in to a subscription, for the most part, you won’t get any strategic support. This means if you tell a design subscription service you want a ‘new website’, they’ll deliver the new website. The problem is, it might actually end up performing worse if you don’t know the objective or metric you’re trying to impact.
So be clear about what you want to accomplish for your business first, and then choose a design subscription second.
Different design subscriptions offer different levels of input based on your brief. Design Pickle for instance, offers little strategic support, and operate more as ‘order takers’, where they’ll complete your brief without asking too many questions.
If you need simple design work, or already have a strong strategic view of your business and what you want to achieve, this is great, as turnaround is quick, quality is decent, and the price is low.
However, if you’re looking for more support with your product or service, say you have a complex product in a competitive industry, and you have a strong view of your brand and mission, you might need to go with something like We Are Heroes, or Tokyo Calm. These subscription services offer much more strategic input (similar to a traditional agency), including bespoke strategy, user research and testing, and in-person or virtual 1-on-1 consultations, and with a higher price point to match.
The second consideration you need to make is in making sure you choose a service that supports the creative industry, and doesn’t devalue the work of designers.
I’m aware that supporting the design industry may not be top of your list of priorities when it comes to your business and potentially tight resources, which is why I also like to call this consideration ‘you get what you pay for’.
There are a myriad services out there (which I won’t name), that use cheap, off-shore designers, often working for far less than they should be paid, to execute design requests at huge volume.
And far from just impacting the design industry by creating a precedent for cheap creative work, this also often means that anything you brief may not be entirely on-brief, can vary hugely in quality, and quite likely will be done by a designer who has no context or understanding of your brand, your product, or your business goals.
And this can have an incredibly detrimental impact on your business.
Design, unfortunately, is not a linear scale that starts at zero, where any design is better than no design. Design investment has both a negative and positive access, where poor quality, cheap design, can actually have damaging and negative impacts to your business growth.
Your third main consideration when choosing a design subscription service is to focus on the type of design you need primarily. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the services you are considering?
Often, the more services a subscription offers, the more broad but less specialised their services will be.
Look at examples of their previous work and find what they are strongest in. Look at their service offerings and identify what they are calling out most prominently.
There’s no use signing up for a graphic design subscription service if you are looking for a full website design, or an onboarding flow for your app, because that’s not their area of expertise.
Likewise if you hired a UX/UI design subscription service to design banners or packaging design, you’d be spending money on something you don’t need, from a service with the wrong expertise.
Fortunately, most of the good design subscriptions services will speak to you in advance, to understand exactly what you are looking for, and be honest, and up-front about their strengths and weaknesses. If they aren’t, this should be a major red flag.
So now we’ve explore what to look for in a design subscription, let’s look at some of the best subscriptions available today.
They vary in regard to the services they offer, and the type of clients they are targeted at, but what they all have in common is a super high level of design quality, with a very clear and specific focus.
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