Graphic Design: Custom vs. Customization

February 17, 2015

As a graphic designer you take great pride in your custom design work, and rightly so: the ability to visually express the essence of a brand or motivate emotion and response is a considerable talent. At the same time, not every project requires custom design; and even though purists might argue for the sanctity of custom design, there’s a reason thousands of templates are bought by designers every day. In some cases, you can offer your clients greater value by choosing customization over custom design. What’s the distinction? Custom design is when you start from scratch – a blank slate, if you will. You manually create each design element to pull your project together. Customization, on the other hand, is when you start with a template and edit, add, remove and reposition the artwork to make it meet your project goals. Custom design is always best when it comes to branding, but when it comes to clients with tight budgets or projects that need completed yesterday, customization can prove quite useful. In many cases good designers can customize a template so its unrecognizable from the original. Business cards are a great example. You can take a business card template and customize it with unique text, images, logos, and colors. You can even change the font; by the time you’re done, your business card design looks original, and you’ve saved half the time. Event posters and flyers are also perfect candidates for customization over custom design. Another example? CMS themes for platforms such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. There are many themes out there that were created specifically to be customized. This saves the designer the trouble of coding, which is best left to a programmer or developer anyway. Customization isn’t for everyone, but there’s no question it can save time and money. Some resources, such as the PsPrint Design Library, allow you to make all customizations via an online platform and go straight to print – thereby skipping tedious file setup. Of course, always make sure your clients understand the difference between custom and customization so they can make an educated and budget-minded decision. Even with heavy customization, some clients would prefer custom design. In my experience, small businesses with small budgets tend to lean toward customization, while larger companies and corporations invest in custom design. Do you ever customize existing templates, or do you craft strictly custom designs? Let us know in the comments.

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About Brian Morris

Brian Morris serves in various capacities as a freelance writer, content developer and public relations specialist for growing small businesses. When he’s not writing, he can be found on the racquetball court - usually getting his tail kicked by guys 20 years older.

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The PsPrint Blog is a resource for graphic designers, freelancers, small business owners and fans of print marketing. You'll find helpful techniques on printing everything there is to print, including business cards, postcards, brochures, stickers, invitations, greeting cards, door hangers, magnets and more. The PsPrint Blog shares creative ways to improve your design and layout skills, and useful tips for marketing your business in any medium. We also like to have a little fun, sharing design inspiration and spotlighting some our favorite customers' printed pieces in our "Hot Off the Press" series.