Are you a cook or a chef?

The past couple of years, AIGA Houston co-hosted a series of monthly teleforums called  “Nitty Gritty” to help designers with some of the business issues we face everyday. I was re-listening to one of them, “Value Pricing = Greater Income + Happier Clients” from our host Pam Bryan. I got to thinking about our profession versus others – we usually get comparisons to lawyers or doctors in conversations like these (For example, would you ask your doctor to do a procedure for free so that you could see if you like them or not. Or would you ask him to discount his price?). A better analogy might be that of a restaurant. The food is the final deliverable, or the reason someone walks in the door, but the overall dining experience is what brings him or her back and is the opportunity to show “value.”

First, think of your firm as the restaurant and the “front of the house” your client-facing staff. Do your customers value a little extra personal service or are they just looking for something quick and economical? If you’re a firm that prides itself on personal service, then you need customers that value that in order to charge what you feel that service is worth. Even in these times when everyone is getting more budget-conscious, the idea of value remains true – if your clients feel you are helping them in ways beyond just producing the work, they will perceive your value.

Think about your talented creative as the kitchen. This is where the magic happens. ☺ Is your staff short-order cooks churning out orders, or highly trained chefs with years of experience? If you have chefs, then you are a fine dining establishment and looking for quality over quantity.

The truth is, most of us reading this blog are more like chefs. We have focused our education and spent years perfecting our process and knowledge. Take a look at your client interactions, the experience of working with you, and be proactive towards managing your value.

The link to Pam’s PDF notes from the call:

Also, we are be putting together our own kind of “Business Breakfasts” get-togethers this year to keep these business conversations going. We are currently looking for topic suggestions or emails from those who would like to participate. Drop us a line at

By Robin Tooms
Published July 26, 2009
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