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In many small businesses, owners and employees often wear many hats, doing multiple jobs, for which the business simply cannot hire experts in each. For example, the administrative assistant might also be the marketing director; the office manager might also be the graphic designer.

In theory, this approach can save money on additional full-time employees. However, in many cases, keeping your marketing and graphic design in-house can be more costly than hiring an expert in the field.

Marketing and graphic design are much more technical than many people understand or assume. (“It’s not rocket science,” right?) However, lack of familiarity with design programs or best practices can result in projects that take more time than necessary, or easily go over budget.

If you’re doing your design in-house, we hope you’re at least using Adobe’s Creative Suite, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat (a $1,500 investment, or $50/month for the Creative Cloud) —the core programs every print-designer needs.

If you’re building your print projects in MS Word, MS PowerPoint or MS Publisher, then your printer isn’t going to be happy with you and, more importantly, you very likely won’t be happy with the end result. These simply are not industry-standard applications for designing marketing materials, and they can result in poor quality graphics. Remember that this reflects on both your business and your brand. Printers need to put in additional effort when dealing with these applications and that can increase production time and print costs.

Now, let’s say your employee is a pro with Adobe’s design programs, how is she with print production and mailing best practices and understanding the importance of adhering to your established brand standards?

An expert designer has worked closely with printers and understands terms such as bleed, live area, safe area, resolution and “effective” resolution. The designer knows that a 72 dpi image downloaded from a website will print poorly (unless it is scaled to 23.9 percent of its original size). And, speaking of images downloaded from the web, chances are that image your office manager downloaded from Google for your latest newsletter is copyrighted, opening up your business to potential legal actions. (Trust us; it happens.)

The professional designer also knows what the US Post Office requires for a postcard, booklet or other mail piece.  In order to make a piece “machineable,” it must fold in a certain direction; have address information property oriented to that fold; and be sealed in a specific manner. Not adhering to USPS specifications can result in higher postage per item. When you’re sending 10,000 pieces, the difference between letter and postcard postage is $1,500 – a significant budget increase!

Bottom line: keeping your graphic design in-house can extend production times, take employees away from their core competencies, increase costs and decrease brand equity. Does that really sound “less expensive”?

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