May 23, 2024

Your marketers aren't graphic designers, and why letting them do their job pays off.

If you're a smart leader, your marketing team is already hard at work creating campaigns, analyzing data, and adjusting and refining strategies. And that's exactly what you want them to be doing, because these are the skills they worked hard during their university or certificate programs, and subsequent on-the-job experience to achieve.

How great marketers are made

According to Forbes1, it takes an average 6-8 years to gain the education and experience necessary to become an effective marketer. While this may not be a surprising statistic, did you know that graphic design is NOT a core component of a marketing curriculum? In fact, the essential skills the best marketing programs2 teach include:

  • Package design
  • Branding: marketing strategy
  • Customer centricity
  • Go-to-market strategies
  • Branding and repositioning communications
  • Analytics

And while graphic design is not generally part of the marketing curriculum its impact and importance is, meaning that every savvy marketer knows that great design is the beating heart of amazing campaigns.

74% of marketers have earned a bachelor's degree or higher.

The fact remains that marketing and graphic design educations are two separate and distinct fields, and while your jack-of-all-trades marketing manager may very well have a few tricks up their sleeve and can churn out a decent social media post image in Canva, his or her time is much better spent focusing on the work they were trained for and what you hired them to do: get your product or service sold.

So unless your marketer has taken a specific education or has amassed years and years of experience in the field, your best marketing pro is not a graphic designer. They're professional marketers — they have been trained to bring your product or service to market, measure reactions, make adjustments, and convert, convert, convert. And that's a great thing for your organization.

What do graphic designers learn?

Did you know that most top-level graphic designers have a minimum of eight years of combined education and experience?3

68% of graphic designers hold a bachelor's degree or higher, and have 8 years or more of hands-on experience at the mid-to-senior level.

While anyone can dabble in design, just as anyone can crack open a marketing textbook, the essential skills great graphic design programs teach include:4

  • Research and concepts (linear reasoning/lateral thinking, visualizing ideas, target group, markets, scheduling, organizing)
  • Composition (form and space, symmetry/asymmetry, design layout, contrast, size and format, photography and illustrations)
  • Typography (meaning of typography, anatomy, understanding and selecting typography, spacing, readability and legibility, hierarchy and emphasis, ornaments, rules/boxes)
  • Color theory (terminology, legibility, contrast and harmony, color associations, color as information)
  • Digital Communication for websites and social media
  • Motion graphics and video
  • Interactive design
  • Design processes and the graphic workflow
  • Package design

Beyond learning all of the above, earning a degree and building a portfolio, it take years for graphic designers to fully develop their skills across an increasingly wide range of software programs and applications. Not to mention keeping skills current with ever-evolving programs.

Okay fine. So I know the educational and skills difference between marketing and graphic design but why does it matter?

Every day, you likely come across dozens, if not hundreds of examples that demonstrate how great design makes a tremendous market impact. In fact, the best designs are memorable, timeless, instantly recognizable, and hold great power — including the potential to define eras and span generations. These illustrations are ALL created by dedicated graphic designers.

Great graphic designers not only know how to build an identity from scratch, but how to give it a long life by weaving your brand across different media to hone in on that sweet spot where target, appeal, function, performance, and brand recognition intersect. The very best designers possess the know-how to achieve this cohesion quickly.

Bottom line? A graphic designer's job is to make your product or service look great, embody your vision and values, and keep your brand alive and consistent across media and messages.

See for yourself

Here's an example of two social media campaigns containing the same great content. Only one was created by a marketing manager, and the other by a graphic designer. Can you tell the difference? Even if you CAN'T, your customer base WILL.

While your product or service may not be a global brand, your marketing team's best efforts fall flat at any stage of the game if they cannot showcase your product or service in a way that connects with your customer base. Period. Research shows that consumers are exceptionally visually attuned and as it turns out, quite PICKY about what they will respond positively to.

How do we know this? The data speaks for itself, and these are only a few examples:

94% of customers will not engage with poorly designed collateral 5

60% of consumers shy away from companies with badly executed branding 6

Okay, so I get that good design is important, but why can't someone on my marketing staff take on that task?

Short answer: that's your call. But beware of the trade you are making in terms of time, ability, and allocation of resources.

Let's start with time. According to a survey conducted by Litmus, marketers struggle mightily with producing custom emails because they are bogged down with too many tasks that take too much time. All in all, the data shows that 62% of email marketing teams need two weeks or more to build a single email! 7

Can you guess what sucks the most time? Building and designing. And why is that? As demonstrated earlier in this blog, it's all about ability. Your best marketer is NOT a designer. Or shouldn't be, even if they are (more on this later). In our own experience, clients often come to us in great frustration after someone on their marketing team tried valiantly, but ultimately failed to produce a single custom email. Usually, they've spent hours, if not days, trying to make one single email but lacked the know-how to get the job done.

In contrast, we have a developed a process where once we have all the basic elements in place, we can produce a perfectly formatted and functional email in under an hour. How do we do this? Experience and ability, and because developing perfect content is ALL we do.

Which leads us to smart allocation of resources. Do you really want your star marketer spending half, or more of their time struggling to create a compelling visual with tools they are not necessarily experts with, or that take two or three times longer (or more!) than a seasoned designer to use? Or, even worse, working overtime creating an inferior result and not focusing on their actual job: generating leads, analyzing data, and building customer connections.

Why hiring a designer PAYS. Let's do the math.

But you can't afford to hire a designer. We get that. But in saving a dime here, you're passing up a dollar later.

Let's say your marketing team consists of a growth manager and a digital marketer, and because you don't want to use your marketing budget to hire a graphic designer, you task your growth manager with creating visual content. You're set to launch a week-long campaign with the goal of attracting and converting new customers to purchase your newly launched product upgrade. In our example scenario, each conversion equals 100 USD.

The outcome? By matching the right expert to each task, you have increased your ROI ratio from 1,7 to 5,4 using the same number of overall hours. As an added bonus, you've saved your staff a LOT of frustration, while possibly even preventing staff burnout or turnover. How so?

Trust us, there are very few things more soul-crushing at work than to be given tasks that set you up for failure.

You're maybe thinking to yourself that realizing such a major increase in ROI with a relatively small investment isn't realistic, but there are reams of stats that back up this claim. According to data powerhouse McKinsey, companies that prioritize great design realize 32% more revenue growth over 5 years than those that don't.9 32%! That's huge, but the benefits to your bottom line don't end there.

Companies that prioritize great design performed 228% higher on the S&P 500 over a 10-year period 10

A consistent and well-designed brand identity increases sales by an average of 33% 11

Strong UI/UX design can increase site conversion rates by up to 200%.12

BONUS! Don't just take OUR word for it: large companies pay top dollar for great designers. According to graphic design trend experts DesignRush's recent report, The 5 Highest-Paying US Companies For Designers, some of the world's most recognized organizations pay their top designers an average of $162,800 annually!13

Why? Because they know that quality equals profit. Now you do, too!

The moral of the story is...

Don't burden your marketing experts with the task of being a designer to boot. Even if they are a good-enough designer, you're best off matching the right person with their best skillset to generate the most bang for your buck in the shortest timeframe possible. So, let your marketers market and let your designers, well design. Don't have a design team? Good news — we're experts at filling the design gap. But don't just take our word for it...

For over two years, Michelle, Paulina, and team have been the secret weapon of our marketing team. As a high-growth fintech, we move quick and have a large volume of moving projects. Agensa delivered every time with exceptional ownership, speed, and uncompromising quality! Not to mention they are a pleasure to work with — even under pressure.
— Nova Credit

Ready to make a profitable change? Contact us (email, text, call, carrier pigeon) and tell us about your goals.


4 Syllabi from UCN's Design, Technology and Business and Digital Concept Development; and University College DK's Digital Graphic programs.
10 our%20insights/the%20business%20value%20of%20design/mckinsey-bvod-art-digital-rgb.pdf

Michelle Juel Larsen

Chief Executive Officer/
Head of Design

Michelle ensures quality via her graduate-level education in Technical Communications at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and years of experience managing communications and content development at top-notch organizations such as Stanford and Princeton Universities, and Ronald McDonald House Charities.

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