Buying Creative Services #2

A good package is art everyone can afford. How often do you buy something because it looks great? The Italians know this. They can make a jar of crushed chilies be the thing you have to have. Looking good, as is more than obvious, sells stuff. And yes, style is subjective so all the more reason to find people that take the time to understand you and what you make.

Like I said in Part 1, creative talent (branding experts, web and graphic designers, copywriters, illustrators, photographers) is about who. It could be about spending more money, but the thing you really want is a relationship. Nobody will ever care as much as you about your baby, but your creative people should care that you succeed and that means caring about you. So how to find one?

First, a cautionary tale… I had a client with plenty of money and not a clue so they hired me as their creative contractor to guide them through their creative process for new food packaging (smart) and then didn’t listen (not smart). Instead, they found their own design company, chosen because they liked the shiny picture of the fast car on the designer’s website. Go figure. My client’s beautiful food did not look beautiful in the packaging they got. Besides looking like a Grade 8 Photoshop project (from a boy who liked fast cars), it didn’t comply with the many government food labeling regulations. The design company didn’t know they were supposed to build this stuff in. They also didn’t care.

If it’s food package design you need, hire a food package designer. It’s finicky stuff. These people know what the government wants – how big the fonts have to be, how to get both official languages on a teeny tiny label, how a nutritional table and a bar code goes – and they make it happen so that it looks good and people want to buy it. The connections they have (translators, food scientists) and things you will learn from them is remarkable. How to find one? Ask a colleague or contact the Small Scale Food Processor Association of BC or BC Food Processors for resources (or your provincial counterpart).


How to find talent

The Budget Route

Many marketing, graphic design, and photography schools have programs in place to give their students a real life client experience. This includes high schools and post secondary. Phone the department and ask. Some instructors treat it like an internship (with an application process) to ensure a professional experience for everyone. It’s slower but you can get a good product at a fraction of the cost. I hired Robert Popkin, then a student in the Langara commercial photography program (which has a food photography component) to shoot some website images for a non-profit circus site. He delivered and then some. Now look at him!

The Independent

If you don’t have a name, ask everyone you know. That doesn’t help? Go online, Google ‘graphic designer, food writer, Vancouver (or whatever you’re needing). Do what you would do if you needed a plumber – read websites, call around, ask questions. The independent advantage? They will take smaller jobs. Their fees can be less than an agency because they don’t have the overhead. They have different reasons for why they want to do something – maybe they want the profile, or they’re building their portfolio in a different direction, or they’re not as busy as they want because they suck at getting business (creative types often do but don’t expect to pay them crap; that’s not the point, nor is it right).

The Agency

Everybody is here and if they’re not, someone will summon them. If you haven’t the time to coordinate and art direct a photographer, a web designer, graphic designer, or a writer, then this full deal is for you. You will be completely looked after and all you have to do is be the client. As in everything, being completely looked after costs more than the DIY approach.


None of it is free or even cheap. Free is almost always some kind of trouble and cheap is, well, cheap. Most projects are quoted as a flat fee based on the scope of the project. If you start to wander outside that predetermined scope it may cost you. Read the scope document before you sign on with anyone. Know what you are buying. BTW, if you end up paying an hourly fee, it starts around $80.00 and goes up, sometimes way up, from there.

Visual and written communication is a very specific kind of knowledge. We went to school to learn our crafts. Trust us; we will make you as beautiful on the outside as your are on the inside.

Part 1 – The who and how of creative

Part 3 – How to be a good client

If all this sounds like more than you want, you can hire me to be your creative contractor. Like getting your kitchen redone, you hire a contractor. I look after the whole lot and you.