The right technology is key to every part of a design business, from how things are created to how they are delivered.
Heading up a small design firm has its challenges. But Dean Gallagher, co-founder of Fresh Folio Design, a design firm in suburban Chicago, notes that technology has opened new doors for the company. It influences many elements of the business, from how designs are created to how they are delivered.
Q: What devices do you use daily?
A: Dean has several devices that he uses daily as part of his business, but each has a different purpose. "The primary go-to devices would have to be our Mac Pro, iMac and iPhones. As far as actual design work we do, the computers are indispensable, but as far as timely communication, working without smartphones seems unthinkable."
Q: What technology do you use to get ahead of your competition?
A: In talking about technology, Dean points out that in the past his firm would have to update its computers every few years to keep up with running its design programs. Today, however, processing speed has caught up, so improvements in design software don't require a new machine to keep up.
But that makes it hard to use technology as a differentiator. "From a technology standpoint, there really isn't much that a small graphic design company can do to get ahead." That doesn't mean that technology can't enable better customer communication and service, however. For instance, technology has made it easier to share work with clients. In the early days, file sharing required proximity to the client or delivery via UPS or USPS. But that has changed to Dropbox and FTP. "Fortunately, as connectivity speeds have increased, almost all of our file delivery became digital."
Q: Is technology a significant enabler for your business?
A: "Oh, absolutely," Dean said, mentioning that when his wife first started in the industry, computers were just beginning to be used as part of graphic design. "I can't even fathom what it must have been like to concept and lay out any sizable pieces."
But it isn't just the speed and ease with which the work can be done now. Technology has changed the industry itself. For instance, design for the web is a new branch, while digital, variable and high-quality printers are readily available for smaller firms. Even where customers come from has changed. "In the past year, we have started an Etsy store to sell our hand-lettered art, and we are currently putting together our own store. Even 10 years ago, being able to create, print and easily shop those pieces would have been very different."
Q: Has social media influenced your business at all, from internal employee policies to the way you promote your company?
A: Social media has changed Fresh Folio's promotion, as well as its reach. "When we started, most of our business came through word-of-mouth, and networking was more face-to-face." The internet has changed that. The company is no longer restricted to local clients. "You can easily work with a company on the other side of the country, or the other side of the world."
Dean acknowledges that keeping up with social media is a challenge for a smaller design house. They know that fresh content is important to their social media strategy. "One of the priorities that we've had was producing a weekly blog for each site and working on improving our social media outreach for both sites."
Q: Have you had to adapt your business because of security concerns brought about by the increased use of technology?
A: "Because of our size, up to this point, there hasn't been much of a need for concern." But that doesn't mean that they leave their security to chance. "We continue to keep updated on potential threats and have antivirus and malware protection to prevent being blindsided."