Cheap online print and design. Good or bad?

Cut price design and print?

We have all seen the blanket advertising, especially in social media, by design and print farmers.  Are they any good and is it right for you?

The word ‘Farmers’ refers to those set up primarily as middle men.  They harvest leads and farm those leads out to printers and designers who can do the work for the lowest price possible. These farmers then pocket the difference.
There is nothing wrong with that, of course.  It has been the basis of commerce for centuries.

Print Farming

Vistaprint (Cimpress) are the most well known farmers in the print industry. Cimpress have acquired print businesses worldwide enabling them to farm printing throughout their huge empire of smaller printers.

Operating for more than twenty years now they have cut swathes through the print industry by offering low cost print based on very high volumes.  As a business model it is a great success.  However, the print quality reflects the price.  It is a budget printer and produces budget quality.  That is where its market lies.  For the majority of businesses who use this type of low cost provider, quality is not that important. It is purely a price-led model.

The others catch on

Graphic design farmers have sprung up using this model and farming jobs out to low cost providers.  These providers are almost entirely based in low income centres in Asia.  99 Designs, Fiverr and recently Design Pickle are all farmers. Design Pickle, for example, farms almost all of its work out to the Philippines where it can get the work done for a fraction of the cost.
They also offer a slant on the “stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap” philosophy, offering a low monthly fee for unlimited design projects, safe in the knowledge that the type of customer who would use this low cost option is unlikely to use the service more than a handful of times.

Again, these types of services have their market.  It is pretty much the same market as the low cost print market – one that is not too discerning about the quality and mostly driven by price.  There is nothing wrong with that either.  Regardless of the current pandemic, businesses often struggle to make good money, so keeping costs down is very important.

Cheap providers and templates!

Farmers and the providers can only make a profit if they keep their costs down to the barest minimum.  Simple economics.  The key to this is cheap providers and templates!
Farmers can’t allow their designers to spend time on ideas or exploring different approaches.  That takes time and time is money.  They need immediate turnaround  so they can get on to the next job and earn them more money!

The design process has to be stripped down to its bones by having a bank of templates. These have either been designed or copied. They change the details and pass it off as an original.  A few minutes and job done!

Sometimes, these templates are good.  Sometimes they are not!  However, they are cheap – and that is what that particular market wants.


Image courtesy of


Pros and Cons


Fast turnaround
Adequate quality


Unlikely to be original.
Little ongoing support
No local knowledge of markets
Not supporting local business
Profits go overseas


These cheap services have their place.
You may think I will have an unfair bias in this discussion, being a professionally qualified and trained designer.  However, the reason I think this type of service has a place, is because the type of business that would use it, is very unlikely to be the business that would commission my studio anyway.

Branding is crucial when marketing.  This is especially true nowadays when it is incredibly difficult to get noticed when there are so many messages being screamed at you every minute!

A studio like mine, will research a client’s market.  Find out who their customers are and where they are.  Research what they like, how they buy and where they buy. We carry out extensive research into trade names and trade marks to ensure any design concepts we come up with are unique and original.  We carry out extensive research into our clients’ industry. We investigate our clients’ competitors and what edge our clients have over them.  We compile a thorough checklist of what we, and our client, needs from the design.  What outcomes need to be satisfied.  We are expert professionals.  we know what questions to ask, we know how to get our clients to think hard about their business, its current position and where it wants to be in the future and how it wants to be perceived in the community in which it operates.

Then, and only then, do we put pencil to paper and work on design solutions!

In conclusion, the simple answer is – you get what you pay for.  A cheap, ordinary design is unlikely to really harm your business or your reputation.  A brilliant, thoughtful and researched professional design will improve your business without a shadow of a doubt.