Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some questions we get asked a lot – and some answers you might find helpful. Please contact us if you have a question that’s not covered here.

What services do you offer? What services do you offer?

Oculus provides visual design services including: brand identity and logo design, web design, marketing & communication design (business cards, stationery, booklets, folders, brochures, etc.), environmental displays (trade show displays, signs, way finding).

We also offer Brand Clarity consulting to help businesses and organizations find their brand essence, their voice and their focus. Really understanding your brand and being able to articulate it clearly is critical to success. Many of our projects begin with a Brand Clarity session, but we also offer it on its own.

In all of our work, we focus first on determining our clients’ needs and helping them determine what’s in the best interests of their brand – and then working closely with them to achieve tangible business results.

What is your process? What is your process?

Most agencies/studios claim to have some secret sauce approach that practically guarantees a brilliant, successful outcome. Frankly, that’s a load of rubbish – good design can’t be reduced to an algorithm, and those special processes are all just minor variations on one another anyway.

Basically, our process changes a bit depending on the project and the client, but pretty much follows these fundamental steps:

Define: Before proceeding with any work, we work with you to clearly define the objectives and scope of work. No one likes surprises and we believe in clear communication from the start.

Immerse: Strategically sound work requires clarity about your business and your brand. We’ll dig deep and take the time to develop a solid understanding of your needs and your customers.

Analyze: Successful branding and design comes from insights that only understanding and experience can generate. Good ideas aren’t enough – they have to be practical and actionable.

Report & Validate: The map is not the territory. No matter how sound the strategy or design direction appears to be, it doesn’t get put into action without consultation with you. In some cases, small-scale testing with select clients/users can also be extremely valuable.

Create: By following this simple, proven process and applying the insights we’ve generated we can create work that has real impact – branding, design and web solutions that connect with your customers.

Most good shops follow a variation on this process – but it’s the experience and the insight a particular designer/team brings that creates results. For some good thoughts on working with a designer, view this article.

How much do you charge? How much do you charge?

Ah… the big question. Of course you may as well ask “how long is a piece of string?” Everyone’s needs are different and that makes pricing hard to determine without asking a bunch of questions first. But to give you an idea: a business card starts at about $800; a responsive website starts at about $8,000; a brand identity engagement usually runs between $10,000-$20,000.

We prefer to work with project-based pricing as it makes budgeting easier for everyone, but we do work hourly when appropriate; our hourly rate is $125. In all cases, we provide written estimates and we’ll sign a contract before commencing any significant projects.

How do you determine pricing? How do you determine pricing?

Design & branding aren’t commodities – like a TV or a pair of pants. The thing about design is that you’re not just paying for the end product – the website, the logo – you’re paying for the process required to get there. That process takes time and energy; it requires a great deal of experience in order to do it well; and it absolutely requires understanding of your business.

There’s a great story (probably apocryphal) about Picasso: A woman encounters Picasso in a park, sketching. She asks him if he’d be willing to draw a portrait of her, as she’s a great admirer of his work. Picasso agrees. He studies her face for a few moments and then executes a quick, gestural drawing on his pad and presents it to her. The woman gushes over it, completely delighted, and asks him to name his price. He quotes her a large sum. The woman is taken aback and protests: “but it only took you a couple of minutes!”. Picasso replies: “No, madame – it took me 52 years and a couple of minutes.”

It’s a great story because it perfectly illustrates that value isn’t derived purely from units of labour – but from an outcome, derived from experience and expertise. That’s why you really do get what you pay for with design and branding.

Mad Men paints a pretty unrealistic picture of the industry; generally, profit margins in design studios are quite small. You don’t become a designer because you want to make the big bucks. We charge what we do because it allows us to cover our overhead, pay our mortgages and take an occasional holiday, but we do what we do because we believe we can help businesses in our community succeed, prosper and grow.

Do you specialize in any particular industries? Do you specialize in any particular industries?

Not really – but we do specialize in a particular approach: we try to treat each brand holistically so that whatever touch points we’re working on fit well with the other touchpoints employed by the brand.

Who owns the copyright on the work you produce? Who owns the copyright on the work you produce?

You’d be shocked by the number of businesses who don’t legally own their logo or the design of their website. Part of our standard contract is the transfer of Intellectual Property (IP) rights to you upon final payment of our fees, complete with transfer of copyright documentation. We retain the rights to any rejected designs and website source code, but provide a perpetual, transferable license for you to use that code.

As far as we’re concerned, you need to own the touchpoints for your brand – they’re part of the equity of your brand and your business and they don’t have much value to you if you don’t own them.

What is a Certified Graphic Designer (and why should I care)? What is a Certified Graphic Designer (and why should I care)?

Unlike lawyers or doctors, anyone can call themselves a designer; some guy using a stolen piece of software who won’t be there next month; your friend’s niece who once took a painting class and has an ‘eye’ for design; anyone.

But a Certified Graphic Designer (CGD) is a designer who has had their portfolio and business practice reviewed by the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) – the national organization that sets standards for professional practice in the field of graphic design in Canada – and is bound by their professional code of ethics.

Why does this matter to your business? Because you need to know that your designer is a professional that takes their business just as seriously as you take yours.

Trusting your brand and your business to just anyone is a risk you can’t afford to take.

We're putting together an RFP – will you participate? We're putting together an RFP – will you participate?

Probably not. We don’t believe the RFP process is an effective way of selecting creative services; it ignores critical considerations such as relationship and fit and it forces respondents to make guesses as to your actual business needs (which only become apparent once you start working together).

RFPs are usually won by lowballing price to get the contract and only then pointing out all the additional work required to achieve a satisfactory outcome, resulting in hidden costs and unnecessary delays. It rewards dishonest practices and favours larger studios and agencies that can afford to prepare responses by charging higher rates to their clients to cover their preparation costs.

RFPs are a great way to procure office supplies, toilet paper or computers, but they’re lousy for design. We may choose to compete in an RFP in certain rare instances, but we’ll be up front and tell you if we don’t feel it’s a good fit.

What is Brand Experience Design? What is Experience Design?

Brand Experience design has its roots in User Experience Design (UXD) – which is a broad term used to cover the design of a user’s interactions with a piece of software or, more recently, websites and apps. But rather than being limited to interaction with computer-based systems, UXD is actually just as applicable to a customer’s interactions with a brand.

Every time someone visits a website, picks up a business card, looks at a billboard or speaks with a company representative on the phone, they have an experience with that brand. Consistent and positive experiences increase trust in brands, while negative experiences decrease trust. And trust – that fragile human emotion – is the grease that allows the wheels of commerce to turn.

Now, thanks to modern technology, someone’s positive or negative experience – their evaluation of your trustworthiness – is broadcast far and wide at the speed of a Tweet. This means that, rather than looking at your various touch points – website, direct mail, etc. – in isolation, it’s critical to look at them as a system – a system that builds trust in your brand and lasting relationships with your customers.

Ultimately, your brand is what other people (customers, prospects) think of it, and you can influence that perception by carefully designing the brand experiences they have.