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How to commission a designer: Step 2 - Set your budget

How to commission a designer: Step 2 - Set your budget

1 May 2015

A six-part guide featuring practical tips, advice and checklists for businesses investing in design.

Design could be one of the best investments you ever make. But how do you get that investment right? How do you choose the right designer at the right price? How will the designer get to grips with the complexities of your business? How can you communicate what you want when you’re not quite sure yourself? How will you manage a designer and how will you assess whether what you get is ‘good’ design or not?

These are questions businesses ask all the time about using design. This guide aims to help you answer them.

Step 2: Set your budget

Just as there are different types of designers, design businesses differ too. They range from sole traders to large consultancies offering a range of skills under one roof.

How and what a designer charges will depend – as with any profession – on where they are based, their reputation and their experience.

Designers are usually classified as:

  • Junior designer (1-2 years’ experience)
  • Middle-weight designer (3-6 years’ experience)
  • Senior designer (minimum 7 years’ experience)
  • Creative director

This means that the fee structure will be more complicated for a major web overhaul involving junior and senior designers and a creative director or a sub-contracted external specialist, all charged out at different day rates.

Usually designers charge either a daily (or hourly) rate or a fixed fee for the whole project based off their day rate. Design fees are usually quoted as an estimate, fixed price or on a ‘price-not-to-exceed’ basis.

In some projects designers are paid on a royalty basis, so that rather than a fee they receive a share of the revenue generated by their work. Payments can also comprise a combination of fees and royalties.


Don’t forget also to budget for a pitch fee. If your project aims are very clear, you may want designers to present creative ideas for tackling the problem you want the project to solve. It’s usual to pay a fee for the considerable time agencies spend generating concepts, as well as models or graphics. You’ll need to factor in to your budget, say, a day’s worth of time for each designer who will be making a creative pitch. (Learn more about pitches in our section on choosing a designer.)


The quote from your designer should detail a fee for the design work, expenses incurred during the project (costs such as travel and accommodation incurred by the designer or design consultancy in connection with the job) and implementation costs, or the costs of producing what is designed. 

Make sure you are clear whether the following costs (if applicable) are included in your quote:

  • Specialist equipment or skills
  • Prototyping and testing
  • Photography or illustrations
  • Pitch fee
  • Copywriting
  • Intellectual property assignment
  • Print and production
  • Design changes
  • Packaging
  • Market research

The Design Council offers support programmes to help organisations get the most value out of design. Learn more about our work here.

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Download a PDF of this guide that includes case studies and more tips and information.

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