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Graphic design by template – is it really all that bad?


Written by Matt Smith

When a business wants to stand out from the crowd or put a message out that cuts through the noise, why do so many resort to off-the-shelf design templates to develop their websites, collateral and even brand identities?

Surely a generic, freely available design isn’t going to enable you to meet these goals or allow you to truly tell your business story and engage with your target market?

We understand that not all businesses have the time, or budget, to commission a bespoke design for every conceivable communications project. In some cases, using WordPress, Mailchimp or HubSpot templates can offer a quick, easy and measurable solution. But we are increasingly seeing marketing teams wanting to take ownership of specific types of design collateral through templates – social media and stakeholder communications spring to mind – in order to deliver materials without having to employ a skilled graphic designer.

How can businesses hope to amplify their brand message by essentially re-using someone else’s work? With measurement and ROI sitting front and centre in the digital marketing world, investing in original design concepts in the right places will pay dividends in the future. Developing a unique brand identity will truly resonate with your target audience.

Having said all that, templates are not all bad. In fact, with the right advice and a keen eye for what fits with your organisation’s current branding, they can be fast and easy to use. You just need to design the right ones for your business rather than investing in one designed for someone else’s. Any template needs to align with your specific audience and delivered as part of a brand design toolkit — not just a one size fits all, £99 ‘masterpiece’ you’ll spot on many other company brand materials.

If you want brand design that really stands out, work with graphic designers to develop on-brand master documents and templates. This approach can bring significant business gains, allowing marketeers with only basic software knowledge to deliver content in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Templated designs can be tested and tweaked, their performance judged and improved on. Budgets can be spent in the right places, using graphic designers to deliver the more complex components of your marketing mix including developing brands, events, collateral and stakeholder reports.

So next time you think that an off-the-shelf WordPress template is just the thing for your website, or to base your marketing communications on, take a moment to think about your audience and the impression you want your business to give. Will it help you cut through the noise or leave prospects cold and looking to your competitors for a more compelling response.