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  • Genesis Cosme

Graphic Design is an Exchange: A Distribution Approach to Marketing

With advancing technologies, more access to information than ever, and sophisticated design applications like Canva, small business owners are cutting costs when it comes to hiring dedicated designers for their creative materials. Fellow designers would agree - nothing makes us cringe more than having to justify our services when confronted with an “it’s okay, I can just do it myself.”


To make one thing clear: while designers and these tools can (and should) coexist, nothing can replace the expertise, efficiency, and “eye” of a dedicated designer. In fact, businesses that embrace design generate 32% more revenue and 56% more shareholder returns on average. According to a 2018 McKinsey report, it was found that businesses that scored in the top quartile of their design index outperformed in the market by as much as two to one. This means that hiring a designer is more than just bringing an artist on the team - designers can have a positive impact on business growth activities.

Core marketing materials for any business need the strategic input of a designer and the unique, beautiful brand assets to make a strong first impression on a consumer. On the same token, as graphic designers, it is up to us to also make a strong first impression so that we can build strong client relationships, garner their referrals, and have to spend less time giving justification for our value as our professional brands develop. In looking at it this way, graphic design becomes an “exchange” between ourselves and our clients instead of just another transaction.


Brand strategist Anthony Miyazaki calls this the distribution approach to marketing exchange which instead considers the flow of information, innovation, and compensation as opposed to traditional marketing mix elements. Reframing the way we see capturing a lead or closing a sale as graphic designers as a mutually beneficial relationship with our client allows us to make more authentic connections with these business owners and create more meaningful designs.

Let’s look at how these flows can work in a design setting:

  1. THE FLOW OF INFORMATION - Your client wants to reach as many customers as possible to receive their patronage and information. As a designer, you’ll need to know what their target market looks like so that you can implement design elements in your client's branding that meet the needs of the consumer and more. It is in your best interest as a designer to strategically achieve this so that you have a successful case study in your portfolio. Why wouldn’t you want your design concepts and clients to prosper in the market?

  2. THE FLOW OF INNOVATION - Innovation is probably the single-most distinguishing factor that sets you apart as a designer from your competition and other DIY designs. The introduction of platforms like Canva has created overused and tired “aesthetics” and templates for brand assets that, at the end of the day, cannot be owned by the company due to copyright. Thus clients may find more value in creative ideas that help them sustain a competitive edge in the market.

  3. THE FLOW OF COMPENSATION - Compensation here means more than just the cost of your service. What desired message is the client trying to communicate for their business and how can you inherently incorporate this into their materials or your design workflow? Perception functions as an additional benefit for the consumer, so compensation may also include your responsiveness, trustworthiness, and other client success stories as social proof.


As the market evolves and grows, designers must find ways to set themselves apart and remain relevant to clients so that the industry remains a valuable asset to businesses. Marketing ourselves with a focus on the exchange as opposed to the sale allows business to become a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship between designer and client. Ultimately, businesses aren’t buying a design, they are buying outcomes.


Genesis Cosme is a graphic designer and digital marketer based in Miami, Florida. She helps small businesses and startups find their creativity to compete amongst giants. Contact Genesis.

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