My Marketing Thing

The design template problem

party shirt cartoon 1

“I really, really love it” said a budding entrpreneur when talking about a particular Vistaprint template design she had recently discovered. “I’m going to use it for all my promotional material.” I grimaced, knowing I was about to burst her design-happiness bubble.

In case you haven’t come across Vistaprint

Vistaprint is a popular worldwide online printing service that is incredibly cheap for small runs of anything from business cards, to rubberstamps, lawn signs and mugs. They even have reasonably-priced website and email marketing services.

I’ve used them on behalf of many clients and give them a big thumbs up.

Vistaprint have pre-designed templates for business cards, flyers, etc. for people to pop their details in and hey-presto! You are looking pretty darn spiffy. So what’s the problem?


Back to the budding entrepreneur…

According to this budding entrepreneur, there was only one problem. She wanted to change one element of the design and was wondering whether she’d be in breach of copyright.


The problem she thought she had:

According to the Vistaprint customer service officer I spoke to, there is no copyright issue regarding altering a Vistaprint template while you are in their site, printing and purchasing from them. Not all templates can be altered, but some can.



If you take the design and have someone else to print the material then you are in breach of copyright – tweaked or non-tweaked.

So if you want to print with anyone else down the track and you have a Vistaprint template as the basis of your branding, you are in trouble. You need to re-brand.


The real problem

Sites like Vistaprint are very popular. This means that many people out there are likely to be using the same template you choose. This defies the whole point of branding – i.e. presenting yourself as something special.

If someone sees your design and recognises it as a generic design template – which is becoming more and more the case – you look like you haven’t had enough money, or care enough, to have your own brand developed. In short, it reduces your image of professionalism.

I know enthusiastic business owners who have completely by-passed their own branding and embraced a generic design template. Why? Because it’s cheap and easy while making them look good. Or so they think. These people love showing me all the new marketing materials they have just bought…without their logo – the logo that’s established their image over the years. I could cry.


Please, hire a graphic designer…

…preferably a graphic designer who understands branding. Feel free to show them the design template you love. They might be able to do something similar – but not the same. Showing your graphic designer layouts that you like fast-tracks the job nicely (which may even make the job cheaper).

Even better, sites like Vistaprint usually have clear specifications for graphic designers to work with so you can upload the designs yourself and enjoy all the perks.


IF that design is what’s best

You loving the template design is all well and good. Your potential clients or customers loving it could be another matter entirely. So how do you know that’s best? Find below two articles about logos. You logo should inform your brand – that is, your whole ‘look and feel’.

By all means, use Vistaprint and other services like them. I do. Just go in with your eyes open about branding and about copyright.

This post was written by Megan Hills. Megan is a writer, cartoonist and marketing consultant who believes everyone is special – and wishes they would market themselves as such! Find out more about Megan.

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  1. Nicely articulated.  Vistaprint is a terrific resource for those of us with limited budgets… but definitely use your own design.

  2. This is spot on Megan, great blog thanks for sharing.

  3. Liz

    What a helpful post! I am in the very early stages of designing a logo and website for my healthcare business, and this has definitely tipped me over the edge towards hiring a professional graphic designer to do the work. Thank you.  

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