Posted 04.07.2020 by Meghan Crawford
So, you need a design subscription service. Maybe you’ve tried getting by hobbling together templates in Canva and it’s not cutting it. Maybe you even have an in-house designer, but they’re just swamped with all the projects on their plate. Whatever your situation, it’s a great time to outsource.
We were there, too.
After years running a fully in-house production team, we needed a scalable solution for editing the thousands of graphics and videos we produce for our social media marketing clients each year.
There are a variety of graphic design subscription companies out there to choose from in 2020. While many offer free trials, it’s still a headache to wade through all the options. To save you some time, we’ve reviewed two services that we know, like, use, and trust.
Let’s get into it.
*Disclosure: We’re customers of both services. Nobody asked us to write this. If you sign up for either service with our link you’ll get free money, and so will we. Win-win?
Design Pickle is a graphic design service marketed as a creative solution for teams of any size from entrepreneurs to agencies to large businesses. Their focus on easy, inexpensive high-quality design makes for an appealing offer.
A true productized service, Design Pickle combines the onboarding, buying, and workflow experience of software on the front-end with an efficient, professional service run by humans on the back-end.
Design Pickle publicly offers two subscription packages—standard and pro—with the option to pay monthly, quarterly, or annually. Their pricing is simple, scalable, and fair.
Here’s the breakdown of services offered:
Standard plan: $399/mo
Pro plan: $995/mo
If you need more deliverables produced than your dedicated designer can handle (typically 1-5 per day in our experience), you can add another designer by increasing your monthly rate.
2 Pro designers = $995 x 2, and hypothetically, 2x the volume of daily deliverables.
These are a few of our favorite things about working with Design Pickle:
This is a Pro feature but it’s easily our favorite. Design Pickle will merge their Slack organization with yours if you request it. Sculpt uses Slack for most of our internal communication, so having a design service that integrates with our preferred IM platform is *chef’s kiss*.
If your team lives on Slack too, communication with your designer will be as simple as sending a channel message.
A Slack integration makes revisions particularly easy. Your lead designer will upload finished designs in the dedicated Slack channel. You can then download the files in channel to review or respond with an edit request.
✅Slick User Interface with Common Dimensions
Design Pickle’s UI is clean and intuitive. Particularly helpful is their dimensions guide. Whether you’re writing a design brief for a freelancer or a design service, you need to know what size design you’ll need. If you have the dimensions of a YouTube thumbnail, Facebook Event cover photo, and LinkedIn carousel ad all individually memorized, more power to you. We don’t – that brain space has long since been dedicated to cat memes.
✅API with Zapier Integration
Design Pickle’s Zapier integration means there are over 500 ways to automate your design requests, edits, and exports. For instance, you can set up a Zap that automatically shares completed files to your Google Drive. As a company that uses Drive for everything, we’re big fans of that one.
✅Keep The Raw Source Files
Design Pickle’s UI makes it easy to choose the file type for your design export. The raw source files are auto-checked, meaning that you’ll be able to make quick changes to the design yourself. Why would you need to do that when Design Pickle offers unlimited revisions? It’s sometimes faster to make the edit yourself, especially if it’s something small like a single word change. Revision requests can clog up the queue, slowing down production time on your other projects. Plus, this way you fully own your artwork.
Of course, no service is perfect. Here are some snags we’ve run into with Design Pickle:
Predictability of Turnaround Time
Both packages cite an impressively short turnaround time on deliverables (1-day and same-day, respectively), but we’ve found that submissions frequently take longer than that—sometimes up to 3-4. The reason is a daily capacity issue.
Sometimes it is unclear how much will get shipped in a day, as your designer is likely assigned to other accounts as well and might have projects that take priority over yours. Additionally, requests are handled one at a time if you are paying for one lead designer. This can further delay production.
We recommend sending a personal Slack message and setting a higher priority for tasks with a specific deadline.
Design Pickle assigns a dedicated designer to each account, however special projects sometimes get handed off to other designers, which may have a longer lead time or compromise the cohesive look of a campaign or larger scale project.
Learning Curve for Submissions
Writing a detailed brief is key for any design project, of course, but it’s particularly crucial with this service. While your team is still learning how to write design requests for Design Pickle, the submission process could be time-consuming and frustrating. You’ll also likely end up needing to request multiple revisions. Design Pickle recommends attaching or linking a template for your designer in addition to your written instructions. We’ve found that this helps limit the number of revisions needed.
Static Design & GIFs Only
Design Pickle will handle a wide scope of projects. As of April 2020, they will not edit your videos. That means they’re not a one-stop shop. Luckily, they do other design well. Unicorns are hard to come by.
No Limit Creatives markets themselves as a full-service design solution. Unlike Design Pickle, they also provide video design and product photography services. We won’t be covering the photography services in this review, but still wanted to highlight the full scope of service that NLC offers.
No Limit Creatives uses a flat-rate model with monthly, quarterly, and annual subscriptions. They also offer a biannual rate and a pay per project option for single designs. All plans offer a 14-day trial period with a satisfaction guarantee.
Here are the design packages they offer:
Pay Per Project
Graphics + Video: $764.10/mo
Note: With their special offer, you can get 20% off the first month of service. 👍
Here’s what we love about using No Limit Creatives’ service:
✅Flexibility of Service
The versatility of being able to use No Limit Creatives for both graphic and video design needs is an obvious pro. The real win, though, is the variety of packages available. And since you’re not locked into a long-term contract, you can upgrade or downgrade your service at any time, depending on your needs. You can even just use them for a single project, no strings attached. They’re all about options.
Given the unpredictability facing businesses in 2022, more flexibility is generally a good thing.
✅Comprehensive Example Design Library
NLC’s image and video library of previous work gives you both a good idea of the team’s abilities and a great place to start in your creative brainstorming process. You can also link to examples from the library in your design request for your designer to reference.
✅Familiar and Easy to Use Project Interface
NLC uses Asana as their service backbone. Asana’s intuitive task-based interface coupled with NLC’s helpful design request template really streamlines the submission process. Unfortunately No Limit Creatives does not offer an alternative for those unfamiliar with Asana. But honestly, Asana is so similar to other project management platforms that learning to use it is a breeze.
✅Experience with Social Media Advertising Formats
No Limit Creatives has several years of experience designing high-performing social ads, so if you need a low cost solution for paid social creatives, NLC is where it’s at. This is an especially great perk for agencies. With the unlimited brand profile option, you’ll be able to crank out multiple ad variants for all your clients, all for very little effort or cost.
✅ Continuous Improvement and Transparency
No Limit Creatives is growing fast so there’s plenty of good news to share. Their team is transparent with customers on their journey, and communicate new product releases and updates weekly.
We’ve had considerable success with NLC’s service, but we have identified some potential drawbacks:
Your assigned design team may push back deadlines with little warning, depending on the needs or size of the request. You can circumvent this by putting hard deadlines in your original notes.
Editing Service Only
This is only a con if you were expecting it. While No Limit Creatives does offer product photography services as a separate offering from their design services, they won’t shoot custom videos or sound bites for you. You will need to have your own assets ready to go or use their free stock footage library.
Whether you decide to go with Design Pickle, No Limit Creatives, or another company, there are pros and cons to working with any design service. To get the best results, there are a few things to keep top of mind:
You can avoid some of the inherent growing pains of using a new service by training your team on best practices.
Build a template for them to reference when writing design requests to standardize the process. This will cut down on in-house hours spent drafting requests and revisions.
Avoid disappointment by setting realistic expectations. Subscription design companies hire talented designers who can produce great work for you, but they do have limitations. Review the company’s scope of service and past work to get a better idea of what kinds of projects they can feasibly take on.
We’ve also found that the more direction you can give in your brief, the better. Design services work best editing from a template. Realistically, they won’t be your ideation partner.
To that point…
You’re augmenting your team with a design service, not replacing them.
You still need an in-house designer or network of experienced freelance partners for more complex or creative projects. Design services are great for repetitive, high-volume work that your in-house designer doesn’t have the bandwidth to complete. Think of them as a scalable side kick.
While both NLC and Design Pickle cite “unlimited” requests in their top service packages, unlimited really means what the designer has time for—which will vary depending on the size and scope of each request. Too many requests in the queue will affect the turnaround time.
To make sure you don’t miss deadlines, it’s important for your team to communicate with both the designers and each other to prioritize requests correctly. This is particularly important for agencies with multiple team members adding requests to the queue for various clients.
Like most things, it depends. Design Pickle takes the cake from a customer experience standpoint with their Slack integration, playful branding, and templatized ordering process.
If you’re looking for motion-based assets in addition to stills, No Limit Creatives offers a more flexible solution with competitive pricing. They’re an especially good fit for paid social agencies that need lots of variants with small edits.
Honestly, why choose? Our agency uses both. 😎
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We haven’t had enough questions to consider them ‘frequent’, but I bet we know what you’ll ask.
Design subscription services make a profit the same way you do: selling their product at a higher value than the cost to produce it. Subscription services are tech-enabled design agencies. They typically recruit and train their designers remotely around the world and use technology to eliminate administrative costs from change-orders and onboarding. From what we can gather, DP and NLC pay and treat their talent fairly. The best services are transparent about the home base of the designers you work with, and typically have offices in the US for sales and customer support.
All deliverables are put through a QA review process and pass through at least 2 people before notifying you.
Many design subscription services offer packages with unlimited revisions and deliverables. While hypothetically you can request as many design deliverables as you need in a month, of course, there is a limit to what a dedicated designer can produce. The service is limited by the daily capacity of your assigned designer. Tasking bigger, complex assignments like infographics or long-form video will require more bandwidth and restrict the volume of assets produced that month.
Have more questions?
Leave us a comment or DM, we’ll add it here. 💬