What is graphic design as a service?
Graphic designers help small businesses all over the world with a wide variety of design needs. Businesses need graphics designed professionally for many different things, from social media marketing to print advertising and all sorts of other marketing materials which can also be for internal use at bigger businesses.
Some business owners might start their business trying to ignore the need for professional graphic design and ‘wing it’ by doing it themselves, which to be honest with you is how most small startups get going with their marketing when there’s no specific design or marketing budget. However, it will quickly become apparent that professional graphic design is vital for a business’s image. It’s common to use a freelance graphic designer to help create your brand and marketing materials to get your business off the ground, but the need for graphic design doesn’t end there. It’s usually an ongoing need in order to continue promoting what you do.
When your business has a regular need for graphic design, having a trusted design service that you can use whenever you need to makes a big difference. This is where “Graphic design as a service” comes into the scene, as it essentially gives you access to a graphic designer on retainer. This means you pay a fixed price each month and receive professional design work in return. Often this means that you can make unlimited design requests, and you will still only pay the same flat fee. This might sound unbelievable, but you can choose from a number of services that offer this option from providers who are disrupting this industry and changing the way graphic design services can be delivered – as part of a monthly subscription rather than an ad-hoc service which is the more traditional way of using a graphic designer.
It’s actually a great way to save money in the long run and to always be sure that you have a professional graphic designer on hand when you need one, rather than wasting your own time figuring out how to use Photoshop!
Why should a business have a regular graphic designer on retainer?
When your business needs ongoing graphics designed for your internal or external marketing campaigns, there are now various options to choose from. Some businesses choose to have an in-house designer if they can afford it (which is probably the best option, in my opinion) but most smaller businesses don’t need (or can’t afford) an in-house graphic designer, but they still might have a regular need for designs to use as part of their marketing. In these cases, the best thing to do is to use one of the emerging ‘graphic design as a service’ subscription services.
I’ve outlined some of the best services in the industry below. Of course, if you’re a UK based business you can reach out to us here at DesignHero to talk about us helping you with your design needs, or you can check out any of our friends in the same space.
Having a graphic designer on retainer means that you can always have your graphics created when you need them. Many services will offer to complete your task within a day once you’ve submitted it, which means that you can receive the work that you need quickly (which is often not the case when you use a freelance designer). As well as unlimited requests, you often receive unlimited revisions too.
Having a graphic designer on retainer means that you don’t have to look for a new designer every time you need something designed, which can take time and delay you actually publishing content or starting a marketing campaign. You can also guarantee that your design service will be available when you need it as they often use a pool of designers, rather than relying on one freelancer.
Using a graphic design service like DesignHero or one of the below options doesn’t have to mean signing up to a contract either as most of these services, including ours, will allow you to cancel at any time so that you’re not tied into any long term agreements.
The Best Graphic Design As a Service Providers
Pricing: $399 per month (standard) or $995 per month (pro)
What’s Included with a Design Pickle subscription?
Design Pickle is a graphic design as a service option that offers two price points to their clients. There is a standard subscription and a pro subscription, which offers further benefits.
The standard subscription includes:
- A dedicated designer
- Unlimited requestions and revisions (with one task worked on at a time)
- Free stock photos (via Unsplash or you can get GettyImages for a $25/m upgrade)
- Native source files (PSD, AI, INDD)
- Average next business day delivery
- Zapier integration
- 14-day 100% satisfaction guarantee
The pro subscription includes everything in the standard membership but also offers the following benefits:
- Real-time collaboration using Slack
- Same-day delivery
- API integration
- Advanced infographics and illustrations
- Digital design and page layout
- PowerPoint and Google Slide decks
- 21-day 100% satisfaction guarantee
Design Pickle allows users to submit their requests via email or their custom platform called JAR. Their unlimited service means that users can make as many requests as they like, and they will be added to the queue for their designer to work on. They say that the speed of completion depends on how long you have been working with your dedicated designer, how many active requests you currently have in your queue, and the complexity of your request. The 100% satisfaction guarantee means that you can reclaim your initial membership fee within the given timeframe (14 or 21 days) if you’re not happy with the work you receive.
Design Pickle is probably the biggest player in this market. Their service has completed hundreds of thousands of requests since they were founded by Russ Perry in 2015. All of their accounts include customer support, JAR software, automation, and integration. Their customer service includes training to help you improve your marketing and grow your business. You have the ability to add and remove designers (called DPU’s) from your team to make the service scalable too. The integration of Zapier means that you can use your choice of apps, including Asana, Slack, and Google Sheets to submit design requests. Pro users can also connect their own software thanks to their open API.
Pricing: $349 per month (or $3,599 per year – a $600 saving)
What’s Included with an Unlimitly subscription?
Unlimitly has just the one membership plan, but it allows you to add more memberships to your account if you need to. Their service is, as their name suggests, unlimited, allowing as many requests as you want, and tasks are completed one at a time. Adding one or two more accounts helps to speed things up if you need to request more work.
The membership from Unlimitly includes:
- Unlimited requests and revisions
- Unlimited users and unlimited brands
- One task at a time with one business day turnaround
- A dedicated account manager
- 14-day satisfaction guarantee
- No contract
Unlimitly offers the ability to keep track of your tasks in your account, and they say that simple tasks might take less than a day. They say that if you use a project management tool that can be used for email communication, you should be able to integrate it with Unlimitly. Most of their communication is through email, with a dedicated account manager helping to answer your questions.
Unlimitly is upfront about what they can and can’t do, which I really like. They say that although they can design product logos, they are probably not the best service to have a brand logo designed. However, they do say that you can request any type of design. Some of the types of design that they offer include blog graphics, PPC ads, social media graphics, banners, infographics, and more.
An account with Unlimitly gives you an easy-to-use platform that allows you to check if your design requests are active, queued, or completed. You can add as many team members to your account as you want so that anyone can submit requests for work. There’s no contract, and you can get your money back, no questions asked, within 14 days if you’re not satisfied with the service.
Pricing: $399 per month (free 15-day trial)
What’s Included with a Kapa99 design subscription?
One of the main benefits of Kapa99 is that you get a free 15-day trial. This is great if you’re unsure about paying almost $400 right away. Rather than rely on a money-back guarantee, you can have some time to try out the service and see if you like it before you pay any money. On top of that, you also can claim your money back in the first 30 days if you’re really not happy with the service, despite having taken the trial beforehand. Another benefit offered by Kapa99 that makes them unique compared to other graphic design subscription services is that you can claim $15 back for every delay on your active account!
Kapa99 assigns a team of people to each account, including:
- Two project managers
- Two art directors
- A custom success manager
- A supervisor
- Unlimited designs and revisions
- Delivery within 24-48 hours
- Source files
Kapa99 says that their global team will prioritise your orders in the order you submit them, and they can complete two to four tasks per day. While most tasks take one to two days, larger tasks can take longer to do. However, they do say that if you have a tight deadline, you can get in touch and request that they speed things along. Revisions are usually completed in 24 to 48 hours too.
Kapa99 offers two methods for submitting tasks and communication. You can use either email or Trello to keep track of the requests that you submit. Trello can help you to take more of an organised project management approach if you need one. In addition to unlimited design from their membership option, Kapa99 also offers a one-time design option. This is another way you could try out the service or just use them when you only have a small amount of work to complete. The fee for one-time design work is $49 with a delivery timeframe of 48 hours and unlimited revisions.
Pricing: $399/$699/$999 per month (US dollars)
What’s Included in a UnicornGO subscription?
UnicornGO offers three different plans for their unlimited graphic design service. The difference in plans lies in how many requests you can make at a time, as well as whether you have a dedicated or shared team, and how quickly you want to receive your design requests back.
All of the plans include the following benefits:
- Unlimited requests, revisions, and brands
- 14-day risk-free guarantee
- Support for any file format
- Source files included
- Most tasks delivered in one to two business days
- Quotes provided for the time it takes to complete larger tasks
- No contract
The “Bootstrap Plan” allows one request at a time for $399 per month. The “Unlimited Plan” gives you two requests, plus a dedicated team for $699, while the “Big Unicorn Plan” adds another request and express work delivery. UnicornGO also offers the option of creating a custom plan if the existing three plans are not right for you, which is great to agencies or resellers of the service who want to use it to scale.
One of the benefits that UnicornGO offers that other options don’t is that they can provide web design services. If you want to design or redesign a website, they can help you if you submit your request and they will give you a quote for how much time it will take. They say that it will likely take 15 to 30 days. They provide a design request system to streamline requests, and you can get in touch if you need anything else. UnicornGO lists a range of different types of graphic design content that they offer, from one-page websites to restaurant menus and letterheads.
UnicornGO is another service that offers a one-off order option. However, there are no prices for this on their website. If you have a custom job, you can request it, and they will send you a quote. The 14-day guarantee will also help you if you’re unsure about testing the service.
Pricing: £399 + VAT
What’s Included with a Designs Unlimited subscription?
Designs Unlimited is a UK-based graphic design as a service provider. It offers the same benefits of many of its American counterparts, although it works out a little more expensive considering the exchange rates, and the addition of VAT if you’re based in the UK. Fortunately, like many other services, it does have a 14-day guarantee, so you can get your money back if you’re not satisfied.
Their single plan service includes:
- Unlimited design requests and revisions
- Typical delivery time of 2-3 working days
- No contract
- 14-day guarantee
- Account manager and dedicated designer
- Personal client portal
- Royalty-free photos
When you sign up for the designs unlimited service, you get an account manager who will help you to set up your personal client portal. You will be able to use this to fill out the design request form and to access your designs whenever you need them. Each client has a professional designer assigned to them too. The service can provide graphics of all types, including display adverts, social media, website graphics, and stationery. Designs Unlimited is also clear about what isn’t included, which includes original logos, complex graphics, web design, and multi-page projects.
One bonus offered by Designs Unlimited is the royalty-free photos. If you don’t want to supply your own, you can choose photos from Fotolia. You can have unlimited brands on your account, and as many revisions, as you need. However, you could find this service a little slower than others. Design requests are assigned the next business day, and a typical turnaround is two to three days. So if you were to submit a request on Thursday, you might not receive it until Monday or Tuesday the following week. Their 14-day guarantee covers the first two design requests within the first 14 days. If you’re unhappy with your first two designs, you can get a full refund.
Pricing: $369 per month (US dollars)
What’s Included in the Kimp design subscription?
Kimp offers a slightly more affordable option for graphic design, although the price difference isn’t a huge amount compared to other similar services.
Included in the Kimp service are:
- Unlimited requests, brands, and revisions
- Free stock photos
- No contract
- Dedicated design team
- Dedicated account manager
- Project management using Trello
- 7-day trial
The dedicated design team offered by Kimp includes a project manager and three designers, who all specialise in different areas. Like other services, Kimp can take care of a range of different design types. This can include anything from logo design to book covers. Kimp has a global team, with business hours available for different countries. For example, in Australia, you can get in touch between 11.30am to 8.30pm, while those in the UK can expect business hours between 6.30am and 3.30pm. Outside of these hours, design teams aren’t available, but customers can use live chat to get in touch with customer service.
Kimp is one of only a few services on this list to offer a free trial. You can try out Kimp for seven days, during which time you won’t be billed. If you decide to stay, you will receive a bill after day seven, but the monthly service doesn’t require any contracts. Kimp uses both email and Trello for task requests. Trello makes it easy to see what requests you have made and which tasks are being carried out, so you know if a project is close to being completed.
Requests are usually turned around in two to three business days. If you need to make more requests, you can add more subscriptions to your account so that you can have more work completed at once.
Pricing: £499 per month (£5,499 annually, £199 one-time)
What’s Included in a Meedeeah subscription?
Meedeeah is based in Kent and, being a UK company, is a little more expensive compared to American options, just like Designs Unlimited. However, it offers the same benefits that you can get from other services, and its location is a benefit for some.
The features included in their plans are:
- 7-day risk-free guarantee (30 days with annual purchase)
- Unlimited requests, revisions, and brands
- 24-hour turnaround
- Dedicated account manager and UK-based designers
- Native Adobe files on request
- Royalty-free stock photos
- No contract
Their unlimited service allows for as many requests as you want, processed one at a time. The month-to-month service offers you a service level agreement (SLA) that guarantees the service that you will receive. If you decide to end your subscription, they will complete the design that they are currently working on for you. They design many different types of graphics for both web and print in a variety of file formats. They aim for a 24-hour turnaround time, which is better than several other options, although some larger projects can take longer.
Before taking payment, Meedeeah makes sure that you have a chance to speak to one of their account managers. This is useful if you’re not sure if the service is right for you. They can advise you about whether it’s what you need or if other solutions are better for you. The 7-day trial means you can test out their services too, without worrying about wasting your money.
Meedeeah offers a one-time service if you have just a single job that you need to have completed. This is a lot less cost-effective, at £199 per design, but it includes unlimited revisions and could be a good choice for one-page designs. The turnaround for these tasks is 48 hours, so you’ll probably have to wait longer for the work to be completed too.
Pricing: $369/$479/$698 per month (monthly pricing)
What’s Included with a Penji subscription?
Penji offers three plans that differ from each other more than some other brand’s plans. Each plan adds to the subscription to help the client to scale up what they use.
All three plans have the following things:
- A dedicated designer
- Unlimited design
- Multiple users
- At least one design library
- 15-day money back guarantee
The starter Pro plan has one dedicated designer and support for up to two users, plus one design library. The team plans add support for web and app design, a further three users, unlimited design libraries and one month of Scan My Brand. The Agency option gives you another designer, up to 10 users and unlimited Scan My Brand. The Agency plan also allows for two active projects at the same time, whereas the other plans allow only one.
Scan My Brand is Penji’s service that takes a look at your website, social media, and other content. They make suggestions on how they think that you can improve your design to make your brand presence better. Penji has its own software to help you keep everything organised. You have the option to create design profiles for different brands or customers with different information like logos, fonts, and colours. You can also chat in real-time with designers about your projects for clear and easy communication.
Penji also offers a Merch By Amazon service which is actually very, very cool. If you’re into t-shirt design or other merchandise you can use this dedicated service for having new merch designed. I’m guessing it can also be used if you use other t-shirt selling websites like Teespring.
Other features include the option to create a shareable link to your designs so that you can share it with someone in your team. You can choose what the link allows them to do, such as only viewing the design or being able to post revisions. You can do the same on team member profiles, choosing whether they can leave feedback, create projects, and approve projects. Specific projects can be assigned to specific team members to manage too.
Penji provides the first draft for projects within 48 hours for most projects. The point and click feature allows users to leave notes for revisions and point out exactly what they’re talking about. After approving a design, you can immediately download it and start using it. The service includes a large selection of design options, including complex designs like websites and app design for the two more expensive plans, which many other services don’t offer. They offer original Adobe source files for all approved designs too.
All of these graphic design as a service options provide useful ways to help you, as a small business owner, save money and time on ongoing graphic design. Have a browse of these providers and see which one fits for your business, and of course if you would like to give us a go you can find out more about our own service here – https://www.designhero.uk/pricing