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  • Writer's pictureLisa Silverman

Are DIY Design Apps Making Agencies Obsolete?

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

Many of us are becoming all too familiar with DIY applications for design, graphics, and social media templates such as Canva, Vista, and Adobe Express (formerly Adobe Spark.) Creative strategists, directors, graphic designers, and copywriters have had very lucrative, long-lasting careers in the ad agency business. Now, almost anyone can morph into a graphic designer by taking advantage of a plug-and-play templated system for design and curate anything from logos and brochures to social media campaign,s and videos. Someone who sold shoes at JCPenney last week can now be a CMO at a startup and design marketing materials themselves "in-house" for pennies on the dollar.

Recently, I met 10-year-old kidpreneur who literally has his own logo design and video production business. I asked him what he's using... Illustrator? Photoshop? Premiere Pro? "Nope!", he proudly boasted, "I use Canva!" So, here I am, a 35-year marketing strategist, who's also self-taught in many Adobe Creative Suite apps, and a 10-year-old is competing with my business with Canva. That's all well and cute and I hope this kid makes bundles of cash, but DIY design is like microwaving a Lean Cuisine vs. creating 4-course gourmet meal using your stove and oven.

What is the true cost of DIY design?

Well, monetarily, not much. If you use the Canva Pro version for instance, you will have to pay licensing fee for each design you create. Adobe Express Premium is an additional monthly fee. For brand integrity and marketing strategy, using plug and play apps may cost you the ability to differentiate your brand and own your white space. Their is a finite limit to the number of images available on both of these major platforms; there are also over 100 million of users generating visuals using the same images. so originality is may not be so easily achieved. Canva owns all of the IP of its graphics. End-users cannot copyright their Canva creations. You can create stunning web landing pages on Adobe, but you won't be able to integrate those pages on your web site, which likely is hosted somewhere else. Adobe Express graphics can be stored on only on Adobe's hosting servers.

Will DIY graphics replace highly experienced creative directors and graphic designers? Not a chance. Those plug and play templates didn't create themselves. Creatives designers and content strategists don't just create logos and clever taglines; they build sustainable brands, backed by market research and a deep dive into who their buyers are and understanding how to connect with, and engage them. In the end, the professionally designed logo will be more identifiable and will go further in helping small businesses achieve their goals. 80% of SMBs (small to medium-sized businesses) understand that graphic design and a strategic content plan is vital to their success and original graphics (not including charts and video) account for 37% of the digital assets used according to 99Designs.

What is our responsibility as designers and creative thinkers?

1. Be Open to Learning New Tools, Trends, and Tricks

At one time, we thought galley proofs and print were the way and the light. The introduction 6 and 8-color presses upped our creative design game. Now, unless you're fully immersed in digital solutions, you're falling behind. Emerging trends with AI-driven software, such as Adobe Sensei are now integrated into our Adobe Creative Suite, and are opening doors to innovative technology for designers to level up their skills. As the adage conveys, if you've stopped learning, you've stopped growing.

2. Leave Your Bubble

Are you solely a digital creator? I know several mature (we don't say 'old'), individuals that taught themselves how to paint using acrylics, watercolors, metals and oils. Grab a canvas and go experiment in other mediums and expend some creative energy away from the screen.

3. Tour Your Agency

Take a walk through each department (or, if virtual), set aside an online coffee chat to spend meaningful time with other associates in different departments such as the account team, the production staff, and market researchers. Talk with people who work with your agency’s clients in other roles to understand challenges and strategy from their point of view. Listen and gather feedback as many of these people have direct relationships with clients and hear their feedback firsthand.

4. Shrink the Fear

Don't be afraid to make mistakes and don't let your ego get in the way of learning something new. Not everyone has an Ivy League degree and 20+ years’ experience in market research and creative design but we aren't just designing pixels, we have a mission to serve our clients in their most successful marketing moments. Experimenting with different tools is not only fun, but also an effective way to stay current.

5. Have Fun

In our industry, there is no such thing as "just for fun". Your online and social media presence is being evaluated by your clients, prospects, and competitors. Be sure to make it a part of your business strategy and have fun doing it.

6. Share Your Skills

There are many folks that can benefit from having access to excellent design and strategic thinking skills, but for various reasons don't have the means or know how to get their brand identity off the ground.

I often share my experiences and skills with both new entrepreneurs and seasoned business leaders and I’m happy to dole out helpful advice. Our mutual goal as good humans should always be to take pleasure in seeing others succeed. Mentoring is a priceless gift we can give and costs us nothing. I believe it comes back in good faith one way or the other.

DIY apps are great for creating many basic marketing assets, especially social media posts and videos. Go play and explore with some of the no-cost platforms and let your curious creative spirit go nuts.

About Brand Device, Inc.

Brand Device merges intelligent, strategic branding solutions with powerful, imaginative and interactive creative driven by a team of leading healthcare marketing veterans with a rich history in promoting medical devices, hospital products, nutrition, health institutions, pharmaceuticals, direct-to-patient and physician practices.

About Brand Local

Brand Local is an initiative of Brand Device, developed to support budget-conscious entrepreneurial start-ups and small businesses define their brand and own their white space, working with award-winning creative and marketing strategists.


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