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Are Online Graphic Designers Okay? [Dear Ginny WTH?]

“Dear Ginny, WTH?” which is like a “Dear Abby” column for real estate objections. If you have a tough client or a marketing problem, “Dear Ginny, WTH?” is for you. Questions can be funny, they can be serious, it doesn’t matter, just ask!

Dear Ginny WTH,

I’m considering using one of those online graphic design firms that creates marketing materials for a low cost. Do you think that I could get a quality web site design or an advertising campaign design for under $200? What do you think about these online graphic design companies like or

Anonymous & Typically Cheap

Dear A.,

Great question. I call it the commoditization of creativity. People who produce ideas are being transformed into production lines. This results in commodity ideas that are less organic, less researched, more simplistic and oftentimes “recycled”.

With that said, I think companies like and are useful in certain situations. If you are a small business with a limited budget, sites like these can be helpful in giving you a low cost alternative to a service that is typically expensive. But the service is pricy for a reason.

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With online graphic design firms you would typically need to write a creative brief that gives the multi-million designers from around the universe insight as to what you seek from a design perspective. And at lightening quick speed, they come back with numerous design options. The good thing is you’ll get to see numerous designs. The bad thing is you’ll get to see numerous designs. It can be confusing.

Once you’ve reviewed the designs you then have to refine and/or provide feedback to get to a final version. And you may have to do that with numerous designers. It’s way do-it-yourself and takes time, knowledge and understanding of all sorts of things potentially out of your wheelhouse.

With a graphic design firm the creative brief process is extensive and if the firm is worth their weight in salt, they ask you as the client questions about the intent of the marketing, the audience, the application and distribution. In other words they put strategy against the design. They are also experts in things like type facing, color blending, placement and layout. A junior designer in Perth, Australia has no idea…he’s just cranking out as many designs as he can for $200 or less a pop.

To be better and smarter than your competition you need strategy and real expertise when it comes to brand, messaging, marketing and positioning. That’s a whole different ballgame than a junior design mill.

So, while quick, cheap and decent design might make the world look a bit prettier (which certainly isn’t such a bad thing), good strategy is what delivers real and lasting results.

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Ginny is a 360 degree marketing specialist with over a decade of experience in real estate-related fields. She’s held senior level marketing positions at Alain Pinel Realtors and Prudential California, Nevada and Texas Realty. She left the corporate world in 2007 to start her own marketing communications company, Cain Communications. She markets to segments that matter using media that matters. Follow her on Twitter @ginnycain.



  1. Janet Reilly

    April 8, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Ginny is one of the indurty’s bona fide originals. Trend setter and creative genius. Great article.

  2. Brandie Young

    April 9, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Hi Ginny –

    Great question & feedback. I love the term “commoditization of creativity” . And while I think it’s great everyone has access to so many tools, to your point, if there isn’t strategy behind it, it may not be the best choice. And, in the end, is the money “saved” worth the time and perhaps a less-than-desirable outcome?

  3. BawldGuy

    April 9, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Would it be too harsh, describing online design for under $200 as the commoditization of mediocrity?

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