Category Archives: Article

Design & Money: Understanding Value

Dear readers, I was given this opportunity, probably once in a lifetime, to write an essay on Design & Money. I was assigned to do it on a voluntary basis or in much more simple constructed words: “Do it for free”. I accepted those terms. To bring more transparency, I need to break down the concept of “Design & Money”.


Design has nothing to do with money — nothing at all! Design is a state of mind, a creative process of continuous development and improvement. Design is like art — a way to shape history; pointing out its beliefs and to be able to come up with great solutions that are practical and useful for that specific time-period. What’s important during the process is to accept the flow that makes it possible to bring great ideas to life. Ideally, design is about ideas that affect our present and how we create an idea for tomorrow, how we come up with meaningful solutions for the client, for the primary target, for the one who it might concern, for ourselves and for the purpose it’s intended to be used. Design is important from the perspective of profiling, understanding the market and applying a good quality aesthetic solution that the customer and market can accept for the reasons given in the context of a mission. Design is exactly what you think it is — You might be wrong but you should better try it first.

Money has nothing to do with design. It’s merely a tool of the trade; it reciprocates value for value. Money is not a concern except for those who wants to discuss the graphic and illustrated shape of money, but that’s another case. As a designer, you hold the most important tool in the process — the gift of accepting and converting a client’s need to a practical and useful design. Design has nothing to do with money but everything to do about creating a value.

In times of change we are forced to understand what value truly means and learn to be more flexible and be aware of the role of designers and money. This is increasingly true due to the fact that internet has emerged a powerful connecting tool in the recent years. From where I work I hear more and more often about businesses ordering their work from a wide range of countries were the pay rates are a bit lower compared to my country and companies are grabbing such opportunities of outsourcing their work, all in the effort to reduce costs.

Since a few decades it has become cheaper to print books in other countries and have them shipped backed again. Although we we have some great paper production companies and distributors over here it all boils down to the salaries of the workers, the stock and the rent. This will change further when the new digital reading tools are established and accepted on a broader market, and this in turn make printed material more or less confined to information-material or advertising & packaging design or exclusive printed books. How will this affect us as designers? What choices will we make for our clients? What’s the best medium of presentation for our clients’ needs? How can we take advantage of that knowledge?

We can, of course, give ourselves a greener world with digital distribution and online or offline digital design. When it comes to design and internet we will experience a wider market, when it comes to value and money we will experience a great change in competition since it will include designers from other countries taking part and offering services at their rates. More or less we are pushing ourselves towards a larger equality in the world economy and we need to keep in mind what the regular accepted costs are in other countries. But there are also other aspects than just world economy, an that is “The value of good design”. What are the customers buying? For what use and purpose is the intended design? Everything has a value and from a more interesting perspective it is the knowledge of how to create good design that fills and works for the consumers’ needs and in the best cases also gives other benefits. In those cases it will be more interesting as a designer to be not only talented but have a good reputation in the fields of quality and services as well as the costs. For some it will be better to accept royalty and licensing fee as additional perks. A third aspect is how and what regulates the copyright and how it changes depending on what country the designer or artist comes from. This will probably be a tricky part since not everything is bound by the Berne Convention and also it can be alarming for a customer who is not aware of how and where it can be used.

And then there is reputation, which is really hard to get. Even regular customers aren’t ready to spread your work by word-of-mouth unless they can find a value in endorsing your products. It only works out if you’re already popular and then customers use your name as another brand they own. Small firms have nothing to loose but larger corporations with more customers will either have to offer products and services at higher prices or have longer waiting lists depending on how many orders there are assigned to a designer.

Recently I got hooked up in a long conversation about customers who start their request with a “zero budget”. They would only pay the designer as much as a “bravo” or a handshake or tapping on the shoulders. It’s so easy fall for this simple trick. Either they will get a yes or no, or at least they will try to have a dialogue and get it for a bargain. They don’t want to pay what it usually costs. Working with such money-grubbing clients or working for a bargain or free doesn’t make a brilliant business model. In such cases its best to offer a royalty-based solution where your design fee depends upon the sales or plainly offer your services at your real prices with a no thank you note until they have come back to their senses; their needs won’t have gone away but they might just be forced to change their minds.

Clients know their budget and the possible earnings from their investment. As a designer it’s important to understand that as well since that’s the key to discuss proper payment. It’s also important to keep in mind all other factors that can affect the final design solution such as how the market will react, who the target audience is, how they will react to the design, the colors, the shapes and the messages being conveyed by the business. Another key to understanding value of your design is to research different economic and geographical regions, the standard practices and prices there. You should also include a legal disclaimer that prohibits the use of your design until the final payment is made.

Knowledge is the key to good service. Get the necessary knowledge and be service-oriented. But make sure that you don’t lose your time — which is now. It is in your hands to find and create value.



Magnus ‘Mojo’ Olsson
Swedish Illustrator, Artist and Graphic Designer

Design & Money: How Good Design Becomes Good Business

Incubis was set up as a design studio in the mid 90s together with a close friend from NID, Sabyasachi Paldas; My brother, Rohit, an architect, joined us in a couple of years. We started in a time where Design (especially Industrial Design) was relatively unknown (a time when NID and NIIT were used interchangeably and Design meant “Dress-Design”, whatever that is). There was no mobile telephone, no email and no internet, which meant that the only way to get potential clients to know you was to either connect through office switchboards or wait patiently for appointments in assorted receptions. One worked out of the backyard at home (or in offices of small clients who were often equally broke!). A PC with an Intel 486 chip was an absolute luxury that was the result of close to a year of toiling over a drafting board (How many designers are familiar with this term anymore?). Though things seem somewhat quaint and laid-back in hindsight, one was actually quite charged-up and hands-on about getting companies and entrepreneurs to know, understand and experience the power of design. Though often insecure about the prospects of our education at NID, we were still mostly optimistic, landing new clients (and learning at their expense) was satisfying in itself.

Our enthusiasm and reckless can-do spirit more than made up for our relative lack of experience—many mistakes were made and one had to learn to apologize often and then go out and find new errors to trip over. We were lucky to find many equally adventurous clients who were happy to work with wide-eyed rookies. These early clients deserve a lot of credit for letting us discover where design would take us and for being generous with new opportunities and guidance. We realized that we were mostly hired to give shape to and help realize dreams nurtured by others, and shine our unique point of view through the cracks.

We grew up with a sense that we were lucky to be paid to do stuff we genuinely enjoyed and money was seen as a bit of a side effect. We lacked the hard-nosed profit motive of true entrepreneurs and though that was a blessing in our early days, the lack of business nous became a major impediment to growth in later stages. I don’t think the queasiness of asking clients for our hard-earned money has left us completely, with often-disastrous consequences.

It takes some time to see design actually making an impact for clients and it is only once the multiplier effect kicks-in that both designers and those who hire them start recognizing the huge value and outsize returns embedded in the engagement. It’s important to recognize the contribution of design and ensue that time invested in projects as well as professional equity are rewarded without sacrificing humility and honesty-of-purpose.

It was only when we started expanding the team slowly that the need for more discipline and a systematic approach to managing financial and other resources became obvious. It would have been a lot nicer to have this simple realization dawn on us earlier on! When I look around me its quite clear that design is good for business when done right, however, not necessarily the best business to be in – So the motivation to go on irrespective of the financial upside needs to be high. Being an entrepreneur and being a designer are not always compatible and not taking oneself too seriously and retaining a sense of fun and excitement is what it takes to tide the swings.

Good design becomes good business when designers realize that they are providing a professional-service (not unlike dentists, lawyers and accountants) and high standards, responsiveness and constant improvement need to stay in lockstep with creativity and original thinking. It’s, of course, equally important to sensitize clients to the iterative and often indeterminate nature of the design-process so that they learn to see failure as a stepping-stone.

The thing about design as a business is that no two clients are alike and no two projects use the same process — One not only creates products, services and spaces for clients, one ends up reinventing the process behind the design service very often to suit new situations and expectations. This continuously-variable environment is where one needs immense reserves of intensity and stamina. Scaling-up creative services on this changing-canvas is a challenge we’re still grappling with. It is the sheer diversity of what one can do with design that makes this marathon totally worth it.

Design is all about creating an ecosystem with diversity of thought and constructive dissent backed by precision and clarity. It’s about multi-disciplinary teams that mesh together and sustaining a high ‘tolerance for ambiguity’. With age and experience comes the danger of becoming jaded and predictable; it’s important to then to surround oneself with and mentor young, passionate professionals and allow them to explore fearlessly. What I’ve also realized is that there is no ideal size and scale for a design company, however, I suspect smaller is more manageable and affords greater creative freedom.

What also keeps things exciting is finding new and impactful areas to discover. Getting out of a comfort zone and back into the learning curve is what really gets creativity going. Here in India, we’re fortunate to be in an environment where many things are broken and design is one of the most potent ways of fixing complex systems. We need to start caring about the outcomes of our work and gradually align ourselves to the kind of design that will deliver lasting and meaningful change.

Here are some images from Incubis’ iconic 100 m long iconic ‘Mudra’ installation at the T3 air terminal at New Delhi.

delhi-airport-mudras mudra-1 mudra-3 mudra-2


Amit Krishn Gulati studied industrial design at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and is the founder and managing director of Incubis Consultants, one of India’s leading design firms with a diverse mix of Fortune 500 multinationals as well as several start-ups as clients. Incubis employs close to 50 professionals in Design, Engineering and Architecture at its New Delhi studios. Incubis’ clients value the unique ‘Experience Design’ process, which brings together user insight, local knowledge and innovative zeal to create a wide range of built-forms, spaces, products and service offerings.

Incubis is known for its design work in the low cost sector with innovative projects for Ginger hotels, Honda, Unilever and GE. Recently, Incubis conceptualized and helped create the iconic 100 m long ‘Mudra’ (hand-gesture) installation that has become the celebrated symbol of the new T3 airline terminal at New Delhi.

Amit is also one of the founding investors and design-advisor at, Barista Lavazza, India’s pioneering espresso retailer and at Eye-Q — a successful and fast-growing chain of affordable eye hospitals targeted towards low-income patients in small towns.

In addition to the consulting work at Incubis, Amit is involved with design education and is a visiting faculty at The School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, IIT Roorkee, and The National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. Amit is actively engaged in creating design awareness in India and served on the CII National Committee on Design for several years.

Amit is the recipient of several awards from organizations such as, the Plastindia Foundation, Indian Society of Lighting Engineers, Art Centre Europe, Sony Corporation Japan, National Gallery of Modern Art and the Ashok Jain Foundation.

Money & Design: How Much?

“How Much?”

Two words that have echoed all my professional life.

As young designers, we always knew what we were worth for a client: the value we would bring to his business, the increased brand value, the costs we would save for him but when it came to costing our own efforts to achieve this, we were hopelessly out of sync.

Years ago, I was called upon to do the product graphics and colour schemes for a tractor. A large industry with heavy spending on a research centre, it was an ideal client to have. The briefing was professional, the meetings were cordial, till the time came to discuss the quote. “ You would charge that to put just a few lines on the tractor?”, I was asked. “If it is just a few lines, you would have done it yourself, “ the young blood in me retorted. I dug my heels and got what I wanted.

But I have not been so lucky, all the time. In fact, most often I have been cajoled, requested, brow-beaten and bullied into accepting a lower fee.

“We cannot afford it now.”

“Let’s start with this, for now”

“We are not a corporate company with unlimited funds. We are an NGO.”

“We are not an NGO with foreign funding. We are an industry.”

The reasons were many. The excuses were endless. But it is rather clear: most people don’t want to pay for design. It is not like they do not have the budgets. Design is not perceived by many, as a service worth paying for.

These are the same clients, who would rather pay celebrities to endorse ordinary looking products, paying millions for the endorsements. Bag-makers are known to spend more on Bollywood stars like Kareena and John Abraham than on product designers. Appliance makers believe that paying cricket players like Dhoni a fee, is money well-spent, than spending on product development.

These are the same clients who believe that making an ad film and releasing it across all the satellite channels is a necessary investment for marketing than spending on appropriate design that will do the marketing itself.

These are the same businesses that understand stardom, more than value. It is the absence of star designers like a Karim Rashid that is also affecting the economies of the design industry.

Add to this, the fact that the design fraternity is small and fragmented. There are no stars. There are no rules. Each to his own. The professional bodies are also not making an impact, yet.

There are no minimum or maximum fees. I have had instances where designers have known to quote ridiculously low or exhorbitantly high fees. This may also be because of no minimum standards of work.

Designers, often do not have the patience to invest in a client. To give him value. To demonstrate the value created. To educate him on the profession. On why we charge the way, we charge.

When that happens, clients begin to look at you as a resource. That is when, designers will be called upon to develop new stuff when a business is set up. They would look upon you as problem solvers. And not as vendors. Or suppliers. Or contractors.

I am not surprised that clients find it easy to allocate money for vendors and contractors. There is no ambiguity in the product specs. If it meets the specs, you pay the value.

But good design itself is ambiguous. The value of good design will be felt much later than sooner. As a society that is so used to ‘making-do’, the importance of good design is hard to understand.
So, how does one get what we deserve?

  1. Spread the good word. Never lose an opportunity to disseminate the idea of good design.
  2. Discuss money with fellow designers. This will help understand if one in under-charging or over-charging.
  3. Do good work. Even for clients who pay less. This pays off in the long run.
  4. Build a design-aware constituency. When people appreciate good design, they would demand it.
  5. Get professional fees for design. Do not disguise it in implementation, publication or contracting expenses.
  6. Do not settle. Over time, people will understand why you charge the way you charge.

Till then, keep your chin up, when faced with the question: “How much?”

A Balasubramaniam is one of the early graduates of NID, (National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad) having specialised in Industrial design. He is known for his work in both the industrial sector and the crafts sector having done projects with Eicher Tractors, Eveready, Hero Motors, Usha, Crafts Counci, DC Handicrafts and the UNDP.

He has been involved in institution development as well, having headed the Fairtrade division of Oxfam, GB in India; co-ordinated setting up PRIDE, a design excellence division at NSIC; and led the design team of bamboo design and development projects in the North East for UNDP.

His foray into design education started with NIFT Delhi and he went on to teach and be a jury member in all the major design institutes, including NID, NIFT, SPA and IILM. Till March 2010, he was also heading the IILM School of Design, Gurgaon as its Dean.

He is the founder of January Design, a consultancy that works mainly with design and strategy projects for the MSME sectors of the industry, grass-root innovations and the crafts sector. He is also a consultant to the National Innovation Foundation.

He regularly writes on design issues in Times of India, Economic Times, Pool and other major design publications. His blog, Design Thoughts is popular for its cryptic commentary on the Indian design scenario.

Feel free to send him a mail.

Diaries of Transformation: Anirban Ghosh

I. Swamped


The Indian Society by and large condemns homosexuality, trans-identities and any form of expression that challenges the hetero-normative patriarchal structures. At the same time India is going through an interesting phase where socio-cultural and sexual stereotypes are being questioned.

On 2nd July 2009, in a historic statement, the Delhi High Court held that the Section 377 (drafted in 1860 during the British Rule) of the Indian Penal Code, that made consensual sex between two adult men a criminal offence, was unconstitutional as it violated the right to privacy and the right to live with dignity, that are enshrined in the Indian Constitution. However, violence and discrimination are still an integral part of the lives of those with ‘deviant sexuality’.

The graphic narratives and illustration reportage works capture the tales of love, violence and social acceptance of such individuals in the times of change. In the milieu of turmoil and shifting identities, the characters conform to the norms of the society yet at certain junctures ridicule and subvert them. At the same time they celebrate their sexuality and look forward to a better future, to a society where all are different and all are equal.

About ‘Swamped’

Rai worked at an electronic showroom in one of the busiest streets of Kolkata. Rai did not conform to established notions of masculinity and preferred keeping long hair as opposed to her other male colleagues. Therefore, she became an easy target at her office, where she was regularly harassed, ridiculed by everyone – right from the gatekeeper to the manager. In order to teach her a lesson, her colleagues asked her to either cut her hair or quit the job.

Her story was captured in Diaries of Transformation, a docu-feature on the lives of seven individuals with trans-identites in and around Kolkata, which I made in 2009. SWAMPED – a 4 page graphic narrative is an imaginary take on the real life experience of Rai.

II. Monaz Diary

About ‘Monaz Diary’

Manish Nayak likes to call herself Monaz as she feels the name completes her. Monaz lives in Ahmedabad and works at the Civil Hospital as a senior ‘male’ nurse. Married at the age of 11, Monaz’s daughter was born when she was only 18. She calls herself a transgender (Male to Female) and has made up her mind, not to succumb to the pressure of the society anymore.

For her relatives and family members who would never understand the concept of being transgender and probably murder him if he comes out to them as a homosexual man, Monaz is an incarnation of Mother Goddess, Bahuchara-ji*. In the month of Chaitra – Monaz believes that the Goddess enters her body, transforming her completely. At this celebrated time of the year, Monaz’s daughter refers to her father as Mata-ji (Mother Goddess).

Bahuchara Mata or Bahucharaji is a popular deity or ‘Devi’ of Hindus. She is particularly worshipped by the hijra and transgender community in India. At the Mehsana district of Northern Gujarat, there is a temple of Bahuchar Mata. The Goddess armed with weapons sits on a rooster – because of which she is also popularly known as the Murga Mata (Rooster Goddess).

Kothis are feminine men or boys who take a feminine role in same sex relationships with men, often with a desire to be the penetrated member in sexual intercourse. The word kothi is common across India, similar to the Kathoey of Thailand. Kothis are different from hijras as they do not live in the kind of intentional communities that hijras usually live in. Additionally, hijra may be classified as a branch of the kothi family, differentiated by their castration and initiation rites.


Anirban Ghosh is an artist and filmmaker currently based in Kolkata. A graduate in Mass Communication and Videography from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata Anirban specialized in Animation Film Design from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. He has worked under various media houses in the capacity of an illustrator, graphic designer, storyboard artist, cartoonist and journalist.

Storytelling fascinates Anirban, as he uses illustration reportage, sequential art, short films and documentaries to narrate tales on gender, sexuality, human rights and other tales of growing up and the world around him.

[alert type=’info’] Contact
Send me an email! 
Give me a call: +91 – 8697842610, 9913600338 [/alert]

VSUAL would like to thank the young designer for sharing such wonderful work. We wish him all the success in all his creative pursuits! If you are a student and want to be featured on VSUAL, please get in touch with us via the ‘Submit Work’ botton on the top.

You can share your compliments or send feedback to Anirban in comments below.

Skolar Devanagari: A Typographic Journey

Text typefaces are essential for serious typography. Yet there is an absence of such typefaces in most Indic scripts. And when it comes to typefaces that work well in multi-script environments, the scarcity is even more pronounced.

Skolar’s new complement aims to fill this gap for Devanagari – one of the major scripts of India. The foremost consideration was to create a design suited to Devanagari and its particularities, and not to uncritically borrow formal principles from one writing system to another. The objective was to create a versatile type family that would work smoothly for complex typographic purposes and yet remain distinctive and energetic in larger sizes.

[alert type=’info’] Skolar by David Březina is an award-winning text serif, originally designed with scholarly and multilingual publications in mind. Primarily intended as a robust, energetic text typeface, Skolar addresses the needs of serious typography. At the same time it furnishes the designer with the hallmark versatility of the family in display sizes, fitting the demands of corporate design.

The family supports over 165 languages using Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, and, most recently, Devanagari scripts. Coming next, Skolar Gujarati is in the final stages of development.

Skolar Devanagari, is the first from a series of Indian typefaces Rosetta Type Foundry plans to release in the next 12 months. The fonts support Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, along with a wide range of regional languages that use the Devanagari script. [/alert]

The typeface was designed and engineered by two professional type designers, Vaibhav Singh and David Březina, both of whom have experience with designing for Indian writing systems. Importantly, they undertook substantial research in the historical developments and current situation of the Devanagari and Gujarati letterforms. Both have previously written dissertations on these subjects during their postgraduate studies.

The original brief for Skolar was adhered to, and the Devanagari complement also provides extensive support for scholarly and multi-lingual publications, covering a wide range of possibilities – complex Sanskrit can be set with it as readily as regional languages; contemporary mixed-language messages as harmoniously as academic treatises.

Skolar Devanagari also attempts to provide alternative solutions to the legacy of metal-type and its shortcomings. Limitations arising from the physical nature of metal-type made many compromised typographic practices prevalent. These are still carried on in digital fonts today although they are not relevant given the advanced OpenType capabilities. Skolar Devanagari presents a reevaluated attempt at a more well-considered solution with contextual substitutions and appropriate mark positioning.

Figure above: Mark positioning in various metal typesetting environments (top to bottom: handsetting, Monotype, Linotype).

Figure above: The logic of Anusvara placement in Skolar Devanagari: if the letter has ‘width’, i.e. has two strokes touching the headline, then the Anusvara is optically centred over the width of the letter.

The typeface provides an extensive range of conjuncts and adopts a rational approach to letter-combinations. It covers almost all meaningful bi-consonantal conjuncts and frequent tri-consonantal and quadri-consonantal conjuncts with a view to provide for the unexpected or novel combinations often encountered in scholarly texts as well as in day-to-day transliterated words.

All in all, the typeface has been optimized for more than 1500 basic syllables, which are either precomposed or built from half forms. These basic syllables can be further modified by means of matras (aka vowel marks) and other marks (reph, rakar, anusvara, nukta, candrabindu, …). All of the meaningful combinations are designed and engineered to avoid ungainly collisions.


The complex engineering work is an integral part of the design for most of the Indic scripts. Skolar Devanagari fonts were developed in the Adobe Font Development Kit for OpenType (AFDKO) instead of the more commonly used MS VOLT workflow. Skolar Devanagari is apparently the first Devanagari font built this way. Thanks to custom macros for syllabic analysis in FontLab and Glyphs the sheer amount of syllables and mark combinations could be tackled precisely. Using the new tools streamlined the whole process and allowed for rapid prototyping, systematic issue-tracking and prompt updates.


The authors would like to express their gratitude to Fiona Ross who taught both of them and commented on the design in the early stages, to Adobe Type team (namely Paul Hunt and Miguel Sousa) who provided impeccable support during the production in AFDKO, to Georg Seifert for help with some of the custom macros, and to Rosetta’s intern Ami Shah for careful testing of the beta fonts.

Skolar Devanagari won the first prize in the Indic text typeface category at Granshan 2012 competition.


David Březina is a Czech type designer and typographer, writer, lecturer, the impresario of TypeTalks, and co-founder of the Rosetta type foundry. He got Masters degrees in Informatics (Masaryk University, Brno) and Typeface Design (University of Reading, UK). From 2004 to 2007 he also ran his own design studio, with projects in graphic, web, and interface design. He has been working as an associate with Tiro Typeworks and giving various type workshops around Europe.

His interest in the world’s writing systems and multilingual typeface design and typography manifests in the award-winning type family Skolar. So far, he has designed typefaces for Cyrillic, Greek, Gujarati, Devanagari, and various extensions of Latin.

Vaibhav Singh is an independent typographer and type designer from India. He received a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Pune and a master’s in Visual Communication from IDC, IIT Bombay. He was a recipient of the Felix scholarship for the duration of his MA in Typeface Design at the University of Reading, from which he graduated with distinction in 2011.

He has worked as a typographer, graphic and exhibition designer in Bombay/Delhi and Panjim and is presently based in Reading, where in addition to developing typefaces, he has been researching aspects of the typography of Devanagari and its implications for print cultures in India.

VSUAL would like to thank David for sending in this article. Co-founded by him, José Scaglione and Veronika Burian, Rosetta, an independent foundry has a strong focus on multi-script typography. The foundry has been promoting research and knowledge in the field of typography and also ventures in world-scripts type design.

One of the main objectives of the foundry is to create a retail library of high-quality typefaces that are respectful of the traditions and cultural background behind each of the supported scripts. Rosetta actively promotes team-work and collaboration between designers, consultants and language specialists. To date we support pan-European Latin, Arabic, Greek and Cyrillic for Slavic languages as well as for many Asian languages. The addition of type families for Indian scripts will come soon.

You can find out more about the foundry and see their work here.

How much should I charge for a design project?

Students, freelancers, young designers and upcoming design studios face this dilemma quite often: how much should we quote to a client? Most of the times designers are clueless about how a particular design project should be billed. People often scour the internet to find answers and what they mostly stumble across are websites that claim spit & polish for 99 dollars or on the other hand they come across case studies where agencies made millions redesigning something. That doesn’t give a very clear picture, does it?

If you try asking a designer directly, say on facebook, “How much do you charge awesome sir for the fabulous work you do?”, chances are you wouldn’t get a straight answer. Nobody wants to spill the beans so easily and also, there cannot be a straight answer to such a question. You see every design project is different and there is nothing like a simple identity design project, if you ask me.

I started freelancing while I was in college. It was around 2004 that I began designing logos. I was also, clueless about how much a logo should cost or much I could make doing a brochure. However, for me there was a higher interest, if I dare say now, I was then, still practicing the craft and honing my skills. It was more like a paid learning exercise for me. It worked for my clients as well—they didn’t want to spend a lot of money getting a logo made and I could also keep my conscience clean as I knew I wasn’t overcharging for what I delivered that time. Still, I had figured out a crude method of deciding the charge. Sometimes I would see how much time and involvement was required on my part and at other times when I was doing a logo for a restaurant, I would just go through their menu and see how much a tripple chocolate sundae costs there.

During the next 8 years I did many more projects and now I was dealing with a larger variety of clients — from real estate developers to venture capitalists, from educationists to medical equipment manufacturers. Reading a menu wouldn’t work now so I devised a method of calculating a fair price for my work. As I said earlier, every project is unique so this isn’t certainly a formula but I sincerely hope that it can be put to use by those who every now and then find them in a situation where they don’t know how much should they charge for their new project. So here it goes, the simple guide to an honest invoice:

  1. Experience counts: yes it does, if you’re still in college, you certainly cannot charge as much as a full time designer would, who has been sweating his grey matter for the past 10 years. So rule number one—the more experience and the more projects you have under your belt, the more you can ask for. However, the kind of projects also matter. A brochure design for your favorite Aunt’s boutique doesn’t equal a brochure design for an airlines. But then how much can you charge? Read along…
  2. Involvement matters: how much of your time will the project take up? Is it going to be a weekend job or will it require constant participation for the next two months. Obviously as a student you wouldn’t take up projects that require a full time commitment, however, as a freelancer or a new studio you might be getting into one. If that is the case please read the following points carefully;
  3. What am I worth: No this isn’t a spiritual question; what I am referring is to your market value. No offense here, but you have to decide what you’re worth. Say, if you were to take up a job now, what would you be honestly getting paid as a salary? If that’s something difficult to determine then take a look at your qualifications + experience and head over to a job site. Say if you hold a diploma from a design school and have been freelancing for 3 years, look up any job site and see how much they are willing to pay to such candidates. Now suppose with your qualifications and experience, the best offer you could get is of Rs. 45,000 a month, then that’s your current worth in the job market. In other words, if somebody is employing you for a full month, you at least expect to be remunerated that amount. We can also call this your minimum price or the lowest bid you’ll ever make.
  4. How much time will it take: Now moving on, say you finally got that project to do a logo for ‘Happy Tummy Ice Cream’ or you got a deal to do a set of 20 illustrations for the book ‘Why Little Kids Are Afraid of The Dark’. You have to do a time estimation for yourself and also for the client. For the logo, suppose the client is looking for 5 options and then he’ll be picking out three from which you’ll both finalize one brilliant logo. Say you’ve got a knack for drawing logos, even then you’ll be churning out options at a certain rate and let’s say that rate is a logo in 3 days so for 5 options you’ll take at least 15 days, then say refining the logo would take another week and then there will be feedback from the client and time lost in convincing him what the best logo out of the lot is, let’s add another week for all of this. So now we know you’ll take 15 days + 7 days + 7 days = almost a month to do the logo with 5 options. Now you already know your net worth is Rs. 45,000 a month so you could pretty easily say that you’ll charge Rs. 45,000 for the logo. For the set of 20 illustrations: let’s say you take 2 days to do an illustration so 20 illustrations should take 40 days. There will also be feedback from the client so add another 20 days for that. So it means you’ll take 2 months for the project. But, you’re also doing a book cover and another website along with this project. Say for the website you’re getting Rs. 15,000 and for the book cover you’re getting paid Rs. 20,000 so you’re already making 35,000 for the first month. So for the fist month your deficit is Rs. 45,000 – Rs 35,000 = Rs. 10,000 and for the next month you’ll be completely focusing on the illustrations so you expect a full remuneration of Rs. 45,000. Therefore, you would now quote Rs. 10,000 + Rs. 45,000 = Rs. 55,000 for the project and not Rs. 90,000. If you were working on only this project full time, you’ll certainly finish it early. Stil this is a rough approximation. If you have a pretty good client aka a rich mogul then you could charge more but bear in mind that most distinguished clients wouldn’t have approached you (a freelancer or a student) if they wanted something done.
  5. Market situation: We all know that warm beer is pretty bad, you know what else sucks? The economy or so people have been saying or using that as an excuse. Still, this is something you might want to consider. Say you’re working for the hospitality industry and your client runs a hotel and you really know that hotels in West Virginia have had a lean season, then in such a situation you’ll have to be considerate. A hotel wouldn’t be making as much money in West Virginia as one would make in Las Vegas and if the hotels is listed in you know what to expect. In such a case I would suggest you stick close to your minimum price as discussed in point number 3.
  6. Aftermath: So a logo is a one time process, right? Wrong… in most projects the client will expect you to provide some sort of after sales service. You might get a call some day and the client may complain that he’s not able to get this thing printed on a high gloss plastic coated card. So you’ll have to take out time, maybe a day and explain to him that this logo isn’t supposed to be printed on a plastic coated card and that hand made paper might work better. This will take time and your involvement. So if you’re apprehensive about providing customer support to your client, then do add this on your bill so you’re not frustrated later. Now your monthly asking rate is Rs. 45,000 so your daily wage is Rs. 1,500. If you think the client may pester you for a week after you do the logo, then instead of charging Rs. 45,000 you should quote Rs. 45,000 + (Rs. 1,500 x 7) = Rs. 55,500 and you’ll be providing service + support with a broad smile.
  7. Where are you from: Say you’re from India and have just read an article on AIGA that says graphic designers make US$5,000 a day. Sounds ridiculous right? So should you charge that much? Yes & No. ‘Yes’ only when you are one of those designers AIGA is talking about and ‘No’ in most cases. US economy is different. A pizza costs much less here than it would in US so you’ve got to set your price accordingly.

I guess 7 is a good number for any list. Makes it look profound, like the ‘7 Spiritual Laws’ or something like that. Once again I’ll like to point out that this is not a formula but can certainly help you in asking a fair price for your work. Sending your client a good quote is important. If you get greedy and ask for a lot, you might end up losing the project… if you’re too unaware of how market works and in your humility and shyness ask for a price too low, you end up being exploited. Design is an honest profession or at least should be one and my only suggestion for students / young professionals is that put in your 100 percent, grow with each project and don’t hesitate to ask for what your work is worth. I hope this article was useful. You can post your feedback in comments below.

Remember the scene in the movie Face/Off where FBI special agent Sean Archer aka John Travolta undergoes an experimental surgical procedure to have his face swapped with the freelance terrorist Castor Troy, played by Nicolas Cage. That was quite a seamless fit but a very painful to watch procedure. Face Transplants have been a topic for research for quite sometime and quite a few have already benefited by some successful transplants. In the virtual world, face swapping has been crudely implemented, till now at least!

There have been quite a few apps that allow end-users to place props and masks over their faces. Apple’s new Photo Booth app allows you to have a bunch of birds hover over your head or even have some hearts pop up for the love stricken. These are fun but if you’re like me, you always wanted to address the world with an inspirational speech as none other than Che Guevara himself. Over the years as technology has rapidly developed, real time tracking has become accessible to the masses and now there are tools that allow you to have a metamorphosis of your facial features. What you end up doing is only limited by your imagination and end motives.

This is a technical demo for face substitution technique. The application works in real time and it’s developed using the opensource framework for creative coding openFrameworks: Most of the “magic” happens thanks to Jason Saragih’s c++ library for face tracking​jsaragih/​FaceTracker/​FaceTracker.html. The face tracking library returns a mesh that matches the contour of the eyes, nose, mouth and other facial features. That way the mesh obtained from a photo is matched to my own face in the video. Applying some color interpolation algorithms from Kevin Atkinson’s image clone code:​ gives it the blending effect that can be seen in the final footage.

Here is another video by Kyle McDonald that uses a different blending algorithm, which get rids of the artifacts and an results in an even creepier look:

FaceTracker, is an open source code developed by Jason Saragih that serves as an out-of-the-box tool for designing face alignment and face substitution apps. Non-rigid face alignment and tracking is a common problem in computer vision. It is the front-end to many algorithms that require registration, for example face and expression recognition. Even those directly working on face alignment and tracking often find implementing an algorithm from published work to be a daunting task, not least because baseline code against which performance claims can be assessed does not exist.

Source Code:
OfxFaceTracker Addon:​kylemcdonald/​ofxFaceTracker