Heading a small design firm comes with its share of challenges. But Dean Gallagher, co-founder of Fresh Folio Design, a design firm in suburban Chicago, said technology has opened new doors for the company. Tech influences many elements of the business, including how designs are created and delivered.
We asked Gallagher how he uses technology at his business and how it has benefited his company.
Gallagher uses several devices every day as a 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,” Gallagher told us. “As far as actual design work we do, the computers are indispensable, but as far as timely communication, working without smartphones seems unthinkable.”
Using a popular messaging platform such as Slack can be a great way to stay in touch with your team and ensure that everybody is on the same page. You can access these apps on your desktop and mobile devices.
Gallagher said that in the past, his firm would have to update its computers every few years to keep up with its design programs. Today, processing speeds have caught up, so improvements in design software don’t require new machines as often.
However, 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,” he said, but technology can still enable better customer communication and service.
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 the U.S. Postal Service, but that has changed thanks to tools such as Dropbox and file transfer protocol (FTP). “Fortunately, as connectivity speeds have increased, almost all of our file delivery has become digital,” Gallagher said.
“Oh, absolutely,” Gallagher said, noting 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,” he said.
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.
In addition, online selling platforms have changed how customers buy from the business. “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,” Gallagher said. “Even 10 years ago, being able to create, print and easily shop those pieces would have been very different.”
Social media has changed Fresh Folio’s promotion and reach. “When we started, most of our business came through word of mouth, and networking was more face-to-face,” Gallagher said. The internet has changed that, and 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,” he said.
Gallagher acknowledged that keeping up with social media is challenging for a smaller design house and that fresh content is essential to the firm’s 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,” he said.
“Because of our [small] size, up to this point, there hasn’t been much of a need for concern,” Gallagher said, but that doesn’t mean the company leaves its security to chance. “We continue to keep updated on potential threats and have antivirus and malware protection to prevent being blindsided,” he said.
It’s a good idea for business owners to stay on top of trends that can benefit their company. Here are some of the biggest technology trends for businesses:
Chad Brooks contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of the article.