The Pitfalls of Template Based Design in your Professional Image
The importance of image cannot be understated. A good image can be the link you need to succeed, where a poor one can sometimes never be overcome. In the world of business—particularly in the twenty-first century—there is a multitude of ways through which first impressions can be made. Traditional meet and greets are still relevant, but in this fast paced world of technology and ecommerce, faces and names can fall short without a strong image to support them. Web presence, signage, and—thankfully—traditional business cards work wonders to carry your professional image. However, the race to stay on top now relies on your capacity to stand out within these platforms, and not fall to the bottom of the stack. The ability to stand out rests on the visual appearance of these entities, and this visual appearance requires a design that will set you apart. When chasing image, there are typically two ways to go: template based or custom design. The direction a business choses to take in this respect has a great deal to do with finances; however, the belief is that template based design—for any aspect of your professional image—is detrimental to you and your business.
The principle issue with template designs is they are a dime a dozen. If you find a design you like, chances are a few thousand other people have as well. This exact thing happened to me when I printed my first set of cards. The business card is your ticket in the door. It is your personal and physical impression, which links you with what you do. It is also the only part of your image the receiver will take home with him, and—with any luck—they will put it in their card index and not in the trash. I printed using the FedEx kiosk in the local copy shop, using a design that I found very classic and unique. At my first meet-n-greet for the local small business owners association, five other people were handing out the exact same card as me. No one remembered my name or my business that night, and I did not get a single call from that event. The inexpensive template cards ended up costing me more in the long run, because I knew I had to toss them in order to avoid such a thing happening again.
Template designs become faceless in the crowd of other businesses also using the same design. With a good deal of additional customization, a template can work, though the cost and time of this begs the question: why didn’t you just go custom to begin with? We live in a digital age, and curb appeal now exists in the cyber realm. When prospective clients’ and customers’ hit your site, their first impression of you and the sort of business you perform is based on this cyber curb appeal. If they are not sold on you within the first few seconds, they will not stay, regardless of what you actually have to say. Template web designs are often very limited in function, with only a few menu tabs available. The minimal stock image library will also prove to be a hindrance to your brand’s appearance. Your initial appearance needs to make you stand out in a way that wows the visitor enough to stay regardless of your service, and this can never be achieved with a template that keeps you looking like everyone else.
Apart from getting lost in the crowd, a bland template can tell a prospective client or associate that you lack creativity, and possibly do not care about your image. This sounds harsh, but look at it from their end; your business should be the most important thing you have going on right now, and if you are willing to cut corners on something as important as image, where else will you be willing to cut corners in terms of your business dealings? It’s a question of how badly do you want your clients to think you care. Granted, if you are just starting to get moving, plan to create a custom design in the near future, a simple card design might be your best option for the time being; however, if would still be a good idea try and customize it a bit on your own, and keep it minimal. This is not the image your brand will carry forever, but add just enough to make you stand out from the others.
The image you chose to define your business and professional entity is one that you will want to make as timeless as possible. Revamping your image later down the road can be as dramatic and challenging as changing name or ownership. The design elements in your brand are things you will want to take your time with. Often, the process of custom design will help get you exactly where you want to be, and the time it may take will really help you connect with your image. The results will be something to be proud of, and an image you will be pleased to have define your business for years down the road.
Adam Farwell is an online publisher for custom design t shirt printer www.bluecotton.com. He blogs about design, marketing, and creative projects.