written by
Carsten Pleiser

How long should a graphic design project take?

Design Ops 7 min read

Looking to hire a design freelancer? Considering working with a creative agency? You may wonder: “How long should a graphic design project take?” 🤔

While it all depends on a lot of factors which we’ll cover below, the short answer to this is: Every project, every designer, every agency & every client is different.

Surprise. Surprise. I bet you couldn’t have guessed that yourself.

But hear me out:

Before we dive into actual graphic design time estimates, remember: Unless you hire a fully-vetted senior designer, you often don’t have control of whom you’ll be working with directly or what the timelines will be. All you can do is trust your instincts and go with your gut feeling.

The good news? There are a few things you can do to help move design projects along faster. So let’s start with what’s in YOUR control first 👇🏼

(If you like, you can skip straight down to the graphic design time estimates section)

How you can help your designer or agency move design projects along with faster

1. Have your brand assets ready ahead of time.

The first thing you want to make sure of is that you have all your marketing & brand assets ready from the get-go. So what’s my point? Every good agency or freelance will want to know about you, your brand & your company first.

I give you an example. At Design Buffs, all new clients need to complete a 10-minute onboarding form that includes details about why they exist, who they are, what they do and what their brand is all about.

Further, we ask you to submit the design assets you already have in place. Typically, these include:

  • High definition logo files
  • Any brand & style guides
  • Any fonts that you may want to use (if different from Google Fonts)
books, pencils, laptop, and iphone on a desk
Photographer: Aleks Dorohovich | Source: Unsplash

Other questions you may want to answer are:

  • What does your brand stand for?
  • How are you different from your competition?
  • What’s your brand’s personality?
  • Who is your target audience?

💡 Design Buffs Tip: The more your designer or agency know about you, your brand or your product ahead of time, the faster the turnaround. Simples!

2. Prepare an awesome design brief!

Put yourself into the role of your designer first. Their goal is to please you and deliver high-quality work. The problem is, if you don’t tell them what your expectations are, they will come back with questions or get stuck.

Remember, if you put in just a little bit of effort in preparing the design brief in advance, the designer’s job becomes easier.

At Design Buffs, we have already figured out a great way to help you out. For example, after signing up, you’ll get your own dedicated Trello board.

It gets better.

On each board, we’ll share example briefs that you can simply copy & paste. Plus, over time, we’ll create brief templates that are 100% bespoke to you.

Because we realized one important thing:

“Complete design briefs reduce the time it takes to finish a design project by up to 75%”

As a result, it pays off if you spend that extra bit of time outlining what it is that you’re looking for and also sharing some ideas and examples.

This leads us to the next point — sharing design inspiration.:

3. Share ideas for design inspiration.

That’s a big one.

It’s extremely useful for a designer or creative or agency to get some ideas of graphic design examples that you like.

Always remember, your designer can’t read your mind and your ideas matter.

Your Ideas Matter!  Write them down :) A motivational quote on a coworking space.
Photographer: Mika Baumeister | Source: Unsplash

Now, it's crucial to share some ideas and also let your designer know what it is that you like in any of the examples.

Here’s how you can find design inspiration yourself:

“Your designer can’t read your mind so sharing examples for inspiration, especially in the beginning, is crucial.”

💡 Design Buffs Tip: Head over and follow the Design Buffs Pinterest board to get design ideas from various industries & verticals.

4. Give timely design feedback.

At Design Buffs, you have the option to communicate with your designer in real-time.

Here’s what’s important:

When you start working with a designer or agency for the first few weeks, you want to give timely feedback. This way, your designer learns fast, adjusts and delivers quicker in the future. Amazing, isn’t it?

Remember, the more focus you give to the edits, the more refined and polished your design will be.

👉🏼 Get graphic design work done at scale, without adding headcount or breaking the bank

5. Get your copy ready.

Copy is crucial. In fact, it’s possibly the single most important asset that you need to add to your design brief to get good results.

You must be wondering why that is.

The bottom line is, your designer can’t design with placeholder copy. It makes the job incredibly difficult, especially when it comes to layout.

Here’s a secret: Your designer will base his or her design decisions based on the copy you share. Always make sure you know (at least roughly) what you would like to communicate.

Olivetti Lettera 35, typewriter machine
Photographer: Luca Onniboni | Source: Unsplash

💡 Design Buffs Tip: Project management tools like Trello allow you to attach your own Google Docs document, which is the perfect medium for sharing texts and additional instructions. Our team loves having the copy ready before they dive into the design itself.

6. Prioritize your tasks.

The final point, prioritize.

It’s usually a good idea to communicate the deadline for your project ahead of time and communicate it with your designer. Many clients aren’t entirely sure how long a design project may take, so it’s best to start with an end date in mind and then backtrack your timeline from there.

How long does a graphic design project take - Prioritisation

💡 Design Buffs Tip: At Design Buffs, we pride ourselves on having a tech-enabled design process. You can simply prioritize your tasks by moving them up and down the queue.

Graphic Design Time Estimates:

I know you’ve been waiting for this.

Below is the most straightforward piece of design time estimates*
(Based on our own data and experience working with over 114 clients and 1,700 design projects since 2019)

  • Landing page design (from scratch): 8-10 hours
  • Landing page redesign: 4-6 hours
  • Custom illustration with 2-3 variations: 4-6 hours
  • Single illustration: 2-4 hours
  • Slide deck design with 10 slides (no custom illustrations) - 8-10 hours
  • Online PDF or one-pager or white paper: 2-6 hours
  • Infographic without custom illustrations: 4-8 hours
  • Infographic with custom illustrations: 12-14 hours
  • Logo animation (3-5 seconds): 4 - 6 hours
  • Social media branding: 2-4 hours
  • UI animation: 8-10 hours
  • Paid ads banner set: 6 - 8 hours

Couldn’t be more straightforward, could it?

But that’s when you might hit a snag. Again, these timelines really depend on the designer you have, the brand assets you have available and the brief you have submitted.

💡 Design Buffs Tip: Check & re-read the section on how you can help your designer or agency to move design projects along faster.

Other factors impacting how long a graphic design project takes

Your designer

You guessed it. Junior or less experienced designers may take a little longer for a design project to complete. Typically, the more experience your designer has the quicker the turnaround time for your design project.

💡 Design Buffs Tip: Try to hire designers with different design skills. I give an example: If the majority of your design requirements are around custom illustrations, you may want to hire experts with skills in that area rather than a generalist designer. Other domain expertise exists in UI/UX design, general graphic design, marketing design & motion design.

DesignOps & Technology

One may think, gone are the days when clients communicate with the designer or agency in endless email threads.

But here’s what I realized when talking to our clients: A lot of design freelancers and clients still do.

Now, there is no problem with that. It’s just that it’s incredibly inefficient.

What’s the solution?

Tech-enabled design companies allow you to collaborate remotely in the most efficient way. The trick is to use modern tools like Slack & Zoom which allow you to communicate and collaborate in real-time to help you get more stuff done, faster!

Finally: Freelancer vs. Design Agency vs. DesignOps Service

Now here’s what I learned, freelancers that are hired from Upwork, Dribbble & Co. are awesome, but they can also be very flaky.

They may disappear for a while, go on holiday, work on other projects or simply don’t deliver quality work. Matter of fact, design agencies on the other hand can be expensive, and you may have to deal with long waiting times.

The alternative to both is working with a DesignOps service like Design Buffs. You can work with a pre-vetted senior designer for 8, 4 or 2 hours per day.

It gets better.

Design Buffs will work with you in real-time during the hours when you’re working. Plus, you can be reassured that processes are in place to ensure a smooth design delivery time.

Design Buff's creatives are fully-vetted, reliable & give you the reassurance and consistency you need in your business in the most cost-effective way.

Get graphic design work done at scale, without adding headcount or breaking the bank

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