Computers are to design what microwaves are to cooking

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Fond as I am of a cliché, adage or saying, the one in the title resonates strongly with marketers and designers alike. It is akin to another quote:

‘If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do a job wait until you hire an amateur’

There are numerous definitions of professional vs. amateur but in the current climate when budgets are stringent and software prevalent, the temptation to ‘do it yourself’ is huge. Or, alternatively, a sympathetic parent or supporter is adept at Photoshop or web design and is happy to volunteer their services…

Don’t do it!

Non professional results really do not reflect well. It is only when we see poor design or execution that we recognise good design and execution.

Collateral may have all the same elements, use all the same images or graphics yet there is discernible quality about professionally produced materials, an edge, and the indefinable, that exudes quality.

Digitally, design and content may be relatively easily achieved, but consider more than just what is on the page – are the mere mortals amongst us familiar with coding, indexing,  ranking, web browsers, platforms, interface, navigation and links? We know our graphics and images and even our CMS, but really do we have the experience, skills and understanding to deliver into an ever changing digital world where new trends and the cutting edge is so fast paced?

We are the brand police, we do need to protect brand integrity – we do need to seek out and reprimand the ‘cut and paste-ers’ within our schools – if we do not achieve this then we dilute our efforts and our presence in the marketplace. We ourselves must not fall prey to the temptation.

It is truly far more cost effective to ask CKD, for instance, to develop a brand style or to redesign a prospectus (or create a digital prospectus) when they have established a relationship with you, understand the grand plan and can deliver on all fronts in a cohesive way. In some instances they can work with you to develop new initiatives to develop your marketing implementation in a collaborative way. Cost is not merely project or item based and tangible, there are insights and support that can be accessed also.

Moreover for us it is the opportunity cost – a potential pupil will really only be a potential pupil once, so we only have the single chance to engage with a potential parent and we need to be sure we are represented accurately and in a style appropriate to our ethos.

If you believe inherently in the sum of the parts being greater than the total, and of integrated marketing, as I do, you will know how all elements of the marketing mix are reliant upon one another to build the most comprehensive picture. A house style needs to be consistent, house design the same and at a level commensurate with your position and standing in the marketplace. That needs to be delivered by professionals who support your own efforts.

Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood have not yet published a book ‘Better Baking with a Microwave’ and I would contend that better design requires more than a computer. Besides who really wants to spend hours frustratingly trying to Photoshop or produce a DTP newsletter when we could actually be orchestrating the whole campaign across many channels and being far more effective in our specialist role?