How much for the design?


Generations of designers have already made various statements regarding sensitive questions like “What is the cost of having NO design?” or “good design is ultimately cheaper than bad design!”. At the end of the days we’re consumers too and we understand that, for many clients, cost-efficiency is among the major criteria when choosing their design partners. Although the powerful effects of design have been proven thousandfold already, many clients are still unsure about the cost-issue.

The cost or fee for a design project depends mostly on the effort that needs to be put into it. It doesn’t matter if the design is meant to generate lots of revenue or only appeal to a small niche. Most designers, us among them, are paid “according to effort”, the detailed sum being subject to the complexity of the task and the thoroughness with which the design process is to be conducted.


Factor #1: COMPLEXITY 

It‘s self-evident that more complexity equals to more effort for the designer. A greater number of single-parts, many different versions, a large number of competitors that need to be considered, a bigger development-team, many stakeholders, the number of necessary feedback-meetings… all of this leads to more complexity, more time consumption and more effort for the designer – and therefore a higher cost for the client.




Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler

This beautiful quote, attributed to Albert Einstein, demonstrates another challenge when assessing the expected effort of a design task. Simplification of the shape, the usability, the production process – all of them are proof of excellent design, but unfortunately are also accompanied by more effort. Simplification is difficult. It is tough work, usually being overlooked because it appears so easy once accomplished. It seems counter-intuitive, but simplification costs money…


Factor #3: SECURITY

At first glance, the relationship between security and effort may not be very obvious either. It becomes clearer when we take a look at goals of design development – success on the market. As far as possible, success needs to be secured (and protected) from competitors. Although this will never be 100% possible, extensive research and analysis, a careful consideration of different versions and alternatives, as well as a thorough verification by the employment of simulations, models and prototypes ultimately lead to a high security. This factor indirectly includes creativity, since the newer and more creative a design solution is, the stronger its potential market has to be analysed.

So, in short, costs rise with:

  • The complexity of a task
  • The degree of simplification
  • The demand for security
  • The degree of creativity and innovation


Design-costs are not an easy topic, there are different ways to your goal. What are your experiences? Write to us in a short comment. Ask us, if you want to estimate the projected costs of one of your jobs better.


This is one of 7 frequently asked questions (FAQ) that are always met with great interest by our customers and clients alike. If you want to find out more about the design process check out our previous posts or ask us in the comments!


Check out our other design process related posts:

As client, what rights do I have?

What risks does a designer carry?

How can the quality of such a service be measured?

Who does a design agency work for?

How does a design project happen?

How do I start a design project?


Do you have some more detailed questions concerning design process? Let us know in the comments and we will answer shortly! And don’t hesitate to ask us for a (FREE of course) estimation of your design project cost!


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Markus Wild


Markus writes about design- and innovation management, creativity methods, medical design and intercultural branding. More about...

Originally written by Markus Wild, 24. June 2015. Last updated 22. April 2016

One response to “How much for the design?”

  1. mia says:

    I’m looking for a kind of form to estimate my design project cost. thx.

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