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Offering Graphic Design Services in Europe

Takes about 15 minutes to read

The European market for graphic design services is picking up again. Every company uses some form of graphic design, ranging from logos to product packaging to advertisements. Graphic design services are ideal for outsourcing. It gives companies access to the necessary talent, skills and tools, while saving costs. When providing graphic design services for European companies, you should make clear copyright arrangements.

1 . Product description

What is graphic design?

Graphic design is the process of visual communication through the use of typography, photography and/or illustration.

Companies use these graphic designs to deliver a message, like:

  • the identity of the company
  • a simplified representation of complex information
  • advertising a product or service.

Designs can be printed or digital and design services can be of any scale. From designing a business card, to developing a complete corporate identity design package.

Every European company uses some form of graphic design for their visual communication.

Examples include:

  • logos and branding
  • advertisements and infographics
  • posters and billboards
  • websites and banners
  • product packaging.

The graphic design market is fragmented, with no dominant players. Graphic design companies are often small. For example, in the Netherlands 85% of graphic design companies have less than 10 employees. Around 52% of graphic designers are freelancers or independent contractors.

Graphic design work is ideal for outsourcing, as it can easily be performed off-site. If you have the necessary talent, skills and tools, as well as an internet connection, you can provide graphic design services to European companies.

2 . Why do European companies outsource graphic design services?

Cost savings

For 64% of executives, cost reduction is their main reason for outsourcing IT. This confirms that cost reduction continues to be the main driver for European companies to outsource IT, like graphic design services.

Good graphic design is labour-intensive. This can give you a clear advantage, as labour is relatively cheap in developing countries. Outsourcing graphic design services can achieve cost savings of up to 70%. To attract European buyers, your pricing should be competitive, clear and transparent.


  • Offer competitive pricing, but don’t compromise on the quality of your services.
  • Be transparent in your pricing: avoid hidden costs.
  • Emphasise the cost savings a company can gain from outsourcing their graphic design services to you.

Lack of in-house talent and skills

Good design requires talent and expertise. Professional graphic designers should be skilled in such things as Photoshop, Fireworks, Illustrator, InDesign and Sketchbook. Most European companies don’t have the required talent, expertise, skills and tools in-house. Access to this is a major reason for European companies to outsource graphic design services.


  • Emphasise your expertise in your marketing activities.
  • European companies often require proof of your skills. Provide references, testimonials and examples of your work, preferably on your website. If copyright prevents you from using recent assignments as examples, you can create demos instead.
  • Follow the latest technological developments to keep your knowledge and skills up to date.
  • Familiarise yourself with the design preferences and styles in your European target market(s).
  • Offer graphic design services in various disciplines, like logo design or animation, so you can provide your buyer with any printed or digital design they need.


Graphic design is often project-based. European companies rarely employ in-house graphic designers as a fixed part of their team. This is because most companies only need a new design from time to time. They use the services of a graphic designer when they need a new logo or corporate identity design, for example. Outsourcing these graphic design services offers companies the needed flexibility, at a fraction of the cost.


  • Emphasise your flexibility in your marketing activities.
  • Offer graphic design services for both small and large-scale projects.
  • Offer add-on services, like transferring existing graphic designs to new media and formats.
  • Become a preferred supplier for repeat business by providing good quality products and service.

3 . What are the challenges when it comes to outsourcing graphic design services?

Clear communication

Good communication between customer and service provider is essential to graphic design services. Poor communication may cause misunderstandings and disagreements, which can lead to disputes with your buyer.

Graphic designers often have to translate a buyer’s feelings or ideas into visual design. To define what your buyer wants, ask key questions like:

  • What is the target group of the design/product/company?
  • Are there any particular colours or shapes the buyer likes or dislikes?
  • What are examples of graphic design that the buyer likes?

And of course:

  • What is your budget?
  • What are the deadlines of the project?

The extent of communication with your buyer a project requires depends on the type of contract.


With a fixed-price contract you agree on specifications, budget and deadlines in advance. During the application development you keep your buyer up to date, but you don’t need to negotiate further. This type of contract is suitable for most graphic design projects.


More flexible models are Time & Material or Dedicated Team contracts. These are especially suitable for relatively complicated projects. You and your buyer discuss and agree on the specifications during the development process. This also means the budget and deadlines are not set in advance. These types of contracts require intense communication with your buyer.


  • Listen carefully to your buyer’s ideas, problems and wishes and thoroughly document them. Ask questions to better understand what your buyer wants.
  • Regularly update your buyer on the progress you are making.
  • Be prepared to communicate with your buyer during their office hours, even if they are in a different time zone.
  • If you use a fixed-price contract, make clear agreements with your buyer on a structured plan and the expected timeline of the project.
  • For more information on the different types of contracts, see Cleveroad’s Types of Contracts in Outsourcing: How to Make a Wise Decision.

Language skills

Related to clear communication are language skills. Because it involves translating your buyer’s ideas into design, providing graphic design services for European companies requires good language skills. At least in English, but preferably also in the main language of your European target country. These skills are especially relevant when your design also includes text, like infographics.


  • Make sure that you have staff with good English skills in your company.
  • Focus on countries whose language your staff is fluent in, or you could recruit staff for.

Cultural differences in design

Graphic designs should be designed specifically for their target culture. Think of elements like language, colours, typeface, shapes, symbols and images. Different cultures may have different interpretations of these graphic design elements. There can be differences between your country and your European buyer’s country, but also between European countries. For example, a country’s flag can affect the meaning attached to its colours in that particular country.


  • Study graphic design preferences in your European target market(s). Local websites can give you a good idea of common design elements in a particular country or culture.
  • For some interesting examples of cultural differences in graphic design, see National Geographic’s Even Graphics Can Speak With a Foreign Accent. Information is Beautiful gives you an overview of the meaning of colours in different cultures in their Colours in Culture graphic.


A barrier to outsourcing graphic design can be uncertainty about the ownership of the designs. As a graphic design service provider, you generally have the copyright to your graphic designs. However, companies need to be free to use the graphics you design for them. You can transfer your copyright to your European buyer, for example when the payment for your services is completed.


  • Make clear agreements with your buyer on the terms and conditions of copyright transfer. Include these agreements in your contract.
  • You can include a clause that allows you to use the graphic design in your portfolio.
  • For more information, see our requirements section.

4 . Which European markets offer opportunities for graphic design services?

Graphic design market is growing

The graphic design industry is sensitive to economic changes. When money is tight, companies postpone their investments in services that are not essential to their core business. For example, the design of a new company logo can wait until there is room in the budget again.

Between 2010 and 2015, the graphic design industry has slowly recovered from the global recession. The average annual growth rate in this period is estimated to be around 2.0%. In the coming years, this growth is expected to pick up. As the European economy continues to recover, companies can increasingly afford to invest in graphic design services again.

Most promising sectors

Every industry uses some form of graphic design, be it for the company logo or for product packaging. The sectors with the greatest demand for graphic design in the coming years include:

  • manufacturing
  • gaming
  • mobile
  • healthcare
  • education.


  • Focus on the most promising sectors for graphic design services.

Printed and digital design

Printing is a traditionally strong graphic design market. However, with the increasing digitisation of newspapers and other publications, demand for printed design is declining. At the same time, digital design is becoming increasingly important.

However, printed design continues to play an important role in graphic design, for example due to the demand for product packaging design. Companies also need their corporate identity to be consistent across digital and printed media.


  • Provide both printed and digital graphic design services. These can be different designers, as long as you can guarantee consistency across media.

European IT outsourcing market continues to grow

41% of European companies plan to increase their IT outsourcing. Another 37% intends to continue outsourcing at their current rate, while 13% had not decided and a mere 9% planned to decrease their IT outsourcing activities. This indicates that the European IT outsourcing market continues to be a promising target market.

5 . Which trends offer opportunities on the European market for graphic design services?

Design trends

The graphic design market is sensitive to trends. These design trends usually emerge and evolve gradually, with some continuing for years and others lasting only a season.

Current trends include:

  • modern retro
  • geometrical shapes
  • hand-drawn illustrations
  • flat or material design
  • motion (animations and cinemagraphs)
  • minimalism.


  • Stay up to date on design trends, particularly in December and January when trends for the coming year are forecast, for example via blog posts like 7 Big Graphic Design Trends to Watch for in 2017, or 7 Graphic Design Trends for 2017.
  • Be sensible about including trends in your design. Focus on trends with some staying power, unlike, for example, the “colour of the year”. Make sure they are a good fit for your buyer and/or their product.

Free design tools

There is an increasing availability of free graphic design tools like Canva, GIMP and PixIr. With these, any person can create a graphic design. Although some may think these amateur designers could become a threat to the professional graphic design market, the effect is probably limited. A professional design requires a professional designer to create a quality graphic with a strong concept behind it. This is especially important for companies in need of graphic design services.


  • Emphasise the benefits of using a professional graphic designer in your marketing.
  • Clearly communicate your professional skills and expertise in the field of graphic design.

User interface design

Graphic designers are becoming involved in user interface design. Graphical user interfaces allow users to interact with their devices via graphic designs, like icons. They are increasingly common, on mobile devices like smartphones, but also household, office and industrial supplies. Designing these interfaces requires expertise on how people interact with their devices.

Graphic designers can cooperate with software and web developers to create the complete user interface. You can also become a specialised user interface designer so you can develop the complete package. For this, you need to be skilled in, for example, HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript.


  • Specialise in either complete user interface design, or the design of the graphic elements of a user interface.
  • For more information on application and web development, see our studies about mobile applications and web design and applications.

See our study about trends on the European outsourcing market for more information on general trends.

6 . With which requirements must graphic design services comply to be allowed on the European market?

What legal and non-legal requirements should you comply with?


Graphic designs are the Intellectual Property of the designer, or their employer. They are automatically protected by copyright, giving the designer control of their production, distribution and display. This ensures that designers receive proper payment and recognition for their work.

When you create a graphic design for a European company, the company should be able to freely use this design. According to the European Union’s copyright legislation, designers can transfer or license their economic rights to their buyer. This gives the company the rights of:

  • reproduction
  • distribution
  • rental and lending
  • public performance and communication to the public
  • adaptation.

In some European countries, copyright is not transferrable, for example in Germany. There, you have to authorise the use of your designs via licensing.

Designers also have moral rights to their graphic designs, which protect their non-economic interests. They include the rights to claim authorship of the design and to object to any derogatory action in relation to the design. Legislation on moral rights differs per country. For example, in the United Kingdom you can waive your moral rights, whereas in Germany you cannot, but will have to license them instead.

The European Commission is currently revising its copyright legislation to make it suitable for the digital age. In 2016, they released proposals for a Copyright Regulation and a Copyright Directive. The European Parliament and Council are discussing these proposals in 2017.


See our study about buyer requirements on the European outsourcing market for more information.

7 . What competition will you be facing on the European graphic design market?

Competition on the European graphic design market does not differ significantly from the outsourcing market in general. See our study about competition on the European outsourcing market for an overview. Also refer to our top 10 tips for doing business with European buyers.

Nearshoring more popular than offshoring

European companies prefer to outsource services to providers within the same country (onshoring). When outsourcing abroad they prefer nearshore locations because of proximity, language, cultural similarities and the little or no time difference. These are usually Eastern European countries, due to their relatively low wages, for example Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.

However, prices in nearshore countries are rising. This development makes service providers in these countries less competitive for offshore service providers. It makes European companies more open towards outsourcing to destinations further away. You can choose to form subcontracting partnerships with these nearshoring providers, or compete with them.

Offshoring destinations with the strongest potential are:

  • India
  • China
  • Malaysia
  • Brazil
  • Indonesia.


  • Limit the possible disadvantages of being offshore. Provide excellent communication, availability in the required time zone and good security and privacy measures.
  • Distinguish yourself from onshore and nearshore providers to remain competitive. Emphasise how you are different in your marketing message. Do not just compete on price, but also analyse what other advantages you can offer. For example access to skills, specialised industry expertise or around-the-clock operations (24/7). 
  • Research what your competitors are doing right and wrong. This can help you distinguish yourself from them.
  • Partner with nearshore service providers, as Eastern European companies are looking for cheaper destinations. Many service providers in developing countries have not yet recognised this opportunity.

8 . Which channels can you use to put your graphic design services on the European market?

Subcontracting by European service providers

Subcontracting by European service providers, like advertising agencies, is your most realistic market entry channel. It entails European service providers subcontracting graphic design assignments to you that end-user companies have contracted to them.


  • Decide on a business model. Either develop your own graphic design services, or focus on providing services for a European partner.
  • Target service providers whose size is in line with your capacity.
  • Focus on companies that serve the same industries as your company.
  • Attend relevant industry events in your target country to meet potential partners. This also allows you to learn more about their business culture. Consider the D&AD Festival and London Design Festival in the United Kingdom, OFFF in Spain, OFFSET in Ireland, TYPO Berlin in Germany.
  • Use industry associations to find potential customers in Europe, for example the Bureau of European Design Associations, BDG in Germany, BNO in the Netherlands and CSD in the United Kingdom.
  • National outsourcing associations can also be interesting sources to find potential customers, such as the Global Sourcing Association in the United Kingdom, Outsourcing Verband in Germany and Platform Outsourcing in the Netherlands.
  • Develop good promotional tools, such as a professional company website and a company leaflet. Also invest in Search Engine Marketing, so potential customers can easily find your company online.

Direct sales to end users

You can also try to sell your graphic design services directly to European end-user companies. New electronic marketplaces may make this easier. These marketplaces are a cheap marketing tool. Although they mainly contain smaller projects for freelancers, they could lead to pilot projects for companies. However, you will need excellent end-market knowledge.


  • Research the end-market segment that you want to focus on. This allows you to effectively market your company.
  • Look for potential leads in the field of graphic design on online outsourcing marketplaces, for example UpWork and Freelancer (freelancers) or Ariba and Hubwoo (corporate).


You can approach European service providers and end users of graphic design services directly or through an intermediary. A local contact person is an advantage, especially if you are located in a lesser-known outsourcing destination. Intermediaries, such as a consultant/matchmaker or sales/marketing representative, can therefore be an important channel to establish contact with potential buyers.

See our study about market channels and segments on the European outsourcing market for more general information. Also refer to our study on finding buyers in the European market.

9 . What are the end-market prices for graphic design services?

Price is the main reason for European companies to outsource graphic design services to developing countries. Staff salaries make up a large share of the costs of these services. This means outsourcing them to countries with lower wages can lead to considerable savings.

For example, annual graphic designer salaries in the Philippines are much lower than those in the United Kingdom:

  • junior – €10,000 vs €26,000
  • mid-level – €14,000 vs €36,000
  • senior – €17,000 vs €48,000.


  • Research the average salaries in your European target country, for example via Payscale, a global database for salary profiles.
  • Emphasise the potential salary savings in your marketing.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

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