Design Pickle Review: My Experience, Advice & Honest Opinion

Design Pickle Review: My Experience, Advice & Honest Opinion

I don’t know about you, but after 5 years of regular blogging, I still feel like finding and editing images is still one of the most frustrating parts of keeping up a blog.

First, you’ll have to figure out where to get your images: Will you take them yourself? Use some freebie stock image site? Awkwardly draw them because you just don’t care anymore? Don’t judge me…

Then you need to edit them for all of the different places you’ll be using them: on your blog, on various social media sites, possibly YouTube… it’s not difficult, but it’s time consuming and frankly, a pain in the butt.

A Wild Pickle Appears…

A few months ago I came across an “All you can eat” design service called Design Pickle*. The price tag felt a bit steep at $370/mo (Now $399/mo), but I was struggling to increase the quality of the images on our website and they had a 14 day free trial. I decided to give it a go.

TL;DR: How much stuff can you get done in a month?

I bet this was your first question, so let’s hold off on storytime and get straight to the point. (This is based on my own experience only, and isn’t backed up by Design Pickle* HQ.)

Q: How long does it take to get a project back?

A: For easy stuff like resizing a bunch of images for the blog / social media, usually one business day. If you need to request changes, add a day for each change. For more complicated stuff like the Quick Reference Guide I’ve mentioned below, it took 2-3 days for the first draft and a day or two for each subsequent iteration (depending how many changes I requested).

Q: How many projects do they complete in one business day?

A: Again, it depends on the complexity of the project. Usually I’ll get 2 things back per day, but if my requests are particularly easy it may be 3 and if they’re super hard (again, like that Quick Reference Guide below), it may be 1 or zero (it may take them two days.)

Ok, now you want the whole review? Keep reading!

Design Pickle Review: First Projects

If I was going to truly test the service, I wanted to make sure they could handle a variety of different kinds of content requests. So I sent them the following:

  • All of the images I’d need for a simple blog post. This included one image which needed to be touched up and resized for the blog, Facebook and Instagram, plus adding some text and creating images for Twitter and Pinterest as well.
  • A full page infographic guide that’s included in our Mixology Certification

This seemed to cover two very different styles of design and would give us a good starting point to see if Design Pickle* was worth the cost. Here’s how it went. (Bonus! I’ve included some embarrassing before-and-afters. Oof.)

Test Project #1: Blog Post Images:

For blog posts that aren’t intended to demonstrate a technique or step by step process, we’ll usually only use one “base” image. Then we’ll take that base image and edit / tweak / resize it for use across all of the various places we share our content. So I decided to ask Design Pickle* to do it for me.

The Process

I found a stock image I liked and sent it over to the team using the following email template:

Design Pickle Request Template for Blog Images:

Hi team!
The purpose of this request is to create images for our article – both for a blog post and social media. What we typically do is take one “base” image and then resize it to lots of different sizes which we will use in various places.
The “Base” image:
Please use this image: [ADD BASE IMAGE HERE]
Output Files:
After choosing a good image, can you please create the following versions?
  1. Post Image: Landscape orientation, 1024px by 640px
  2. Instagram Image: Square, 1080px by 1080px.
  3. Featured Image: Square, 500px by 500px.
  4. Facebook Image: Landscape, 1200px by 630px
  5. Twitter Image: Landscape, Please add the text “XXXXXXXXX” Size should be 1024px x 512px.
  6. Pinterest Image: Vertical orientation, including the words, “XXXXXXXXXX”. Size should be 736px by 1104px.
Thank you so much and as always, just let me know if you have any questions!
Julia

(Obviously I replace the stuff in brackets with the URL for the image I like and the text I want in my Twitter / Pinterest Images.)

I send the email to the designated email address and immediately received an auto-reply confirming they’d receive it. Brilliant.

Around 5pm PST, I received a follow up note from a designer saying she was assigned to our project and would get the images back to us. Around 9:30pm, I received another email with a link to our images stored in a Box.com workspace.

Believe it or not, they were great! She even offered two different designs for the “Pinterest” image so we could choose the one we liked best. I didn’t even have to request any tweaks – this project was done!

Design Pickle solved three problems here:

1: Decent (Free) Stock Photography

There’s virtually NO free stock photography or quality free Creative Commons photos out there that work for our niche. But using Design Pickle* meant we have access to the whole library of Getty Images – no extra cost!

Take a look, there are a bajillion images in there. Yes, there are some awkward ones in there (like this one – what is happening here?), but there are so many great ones, we’ve always been able to find something that works.

2: Great Design

It should go without saying, a graphic design service should produce better designed stuff than, well, I do. (Especially since I don’t even know Photoshop – I just use PicMonkey!)

We’ve asked for our VA to do this too, but she’s not a designer either. (And she did better than me.) When I handed it off to Design Pickle*, I was very pleasantly surprised at the difference.

See for yourself with these two examples of  a “Pinterest Optimized” image:

On the left, my own attempt. (Ugh, embarrassing.) On the right, Design Pickle‘s* design. So shiny!

I hadn’t been sure a designer would be able to make that much difference. Whew, I was wrong.

3: The Pickle Does the Job

A bit obvious perhaps, but the third “win” for me was that Design Pickle* did the work! I no longer had to do anything, nor did my VA. I’ll admit they don’t fit seamlessly into our process because we use Asana and Design Pickle* has their own separate platform. But we’ve found a workaround that works well. I’ll go into that a bit later in this article.

Test Project #2: The Full Page Guide

DP was one for one, so I thought I’d send them an impossible task. Back in 2014 when we launched the very first version of our Cocktail Design Course, I’d made some one-page recap guides to go with each section. Recently I made the mistake of looking at them.

Oh it is so terrible! My eyes are burning. Seriously. I was embarrassed to even send this to my designer to ask for her help. But send I did!

Since there was a lot more subjectivity in the project, I had no expectation that the designer would have it perfect on the first try. But frankly she did pretty well. It ended up taking four iterations to get to our final product.

The final design was stunning and professional – but even the very first version was leaps and bounds above the (hideous) piece above!


The designer’s work, from first (left) to final (right). Click the image to view bigger.

Not bad, right? 

Overall I was very pleased with the designer’s work on my two test projects.

Ok, so what about the workflow?

The workflow? I thought you would never ask!

The Process:

Unfortunately, Design Pickle* doesn’t use Asana. 🙁

They have their own platform and you can submit new requests via email or using their UI. Subsequent feedback can be provided by email or within the UI. I usually just stick to email, which works just fine.

Our template Asana task includes a pre-written template email (like the one above) which I simply drop into an email, add images (link or attachments), update the image text, and send it over. This makes the process very quick and efficient.

A confirmation will come within a few minutes and the project will get added to our queue.

A note about Stock Images:

By the way, you can have your designer choose images for you, based on a description you provide. In all honesty, I haven’t had much luck with this and I find it almost always adds at least one iteration to the project. Nowadays I just go directly to Getty, find an image I like, and include it in my initial project request. It’s quicker and I can weed out images like this. (Seriously? I’m speechless.)

Timing

While I don’t know for sure, I’m fairly confident Design Pickle‘s* designers are located in a distant time zone. (This is because usually the first emails I receive from designers come around 4-5pm PST.) They work Monday – Friday nights (Pacific time), and if you want them to get to your task tonight then you need to send your request in by 4pm PST that same day. If you send it after 4pm it’ll get reviewed in the following day’s queue.

By the way, I LOVE this. Having the team work overnight means I have all day to get my feedback back to them without feeling like I’m slowing anyone down. I just need to make sure I get back to them by 4pm. Can do!

Side note: Pickle HQ let me know they actually do offer a different service for folks looking for designers working during US hours of operation. They call it “Dayshift”. It comes with a hefty price tag at $1,500 per month, but if you really, really need your designers working at the same time as you, it may be worth considering. (Like I said, I prefer the overnight service – but that’s just me!)

Workload:

Here’s the biggie. If you’re trying to assess the “cost per project” of Design Pickle*, you’re going to want to know how many images/projects you can really get done within a month, right? Because while the service is advertised as “all you can eat”, it’s subject to the working capacity of their design team. So if you send them 30 requests in one day, it’s going to take a while for them to get them all done.

Here’s my experience:

  • If a project is big / subjective (like the first draft of that Quick Reference Guide above) then expect it to take a full day or two. (That’s the longest I’ve ever had to wait for a design.)
  • If you just need a few small revisions done (like later versions of the Quick Reference Guide, or small text changes etc.) then you should expect to get roughly 2 projects back each day.

For the most part, I usually get two projects back per day. Sometimes three. Rarely one. (Provided I keep the queue full, of course!)

Assuming 21ish work days per month and a couple revisions , I think you could expect to get somewhere around 25-35 projects done. At $370, that’s approximately $12 each.(Note, $399 now) Not bad! (And in some cases, that’s cheaper than just licensing the photos!)

(Of course this is TOTALLY subjective and depends heavily on how hard your requests are. So you may want to use a more conservative figure if uncertain.)

Taking Full Advantage:

Obviously Design Pickle* is going to feel especially expensive if you can’t keep your project queue full. So what I do is try to keep the queue full with a backlog of “no deadline” projects that the designers can work on. Then if something comes along that does have a deadline (like a blog post), I’ll simply add “Top Priority” to the request (usually in the subject line and body of the email. )

The intake team sees that and moves it to the top of my queue for that evening’s work, that project gets done first, and then the team moves on to the rest of the backlog. This works well for us.

Pros and Cons of the Design Pickle* Service:

OK my fingers are getting tired, I think it’s time to wrap it up. Here’s a summary of the pros and cons of Design Pickle* overall:

First, think positive: the Pros:

  • You’re probably not a designer. (If you are, why are you still reading this??) A designer can probably make prettier designs than you.
  • You’ll have access to Getty images for all of your Design Pickle* projects. No more digging through Creative Commons or paying for stock photos!
  • Having access to a designer can open the door to more awesome visual stuff than you may otherwise consider – like infographics, custom social media images, or sweet new business cards.
  • The designers are super nice, even when I change my mind on what I want. They will put up with an endless number of revision requests. (And you don’t have to feel guilty about being picky, because it isn’t costing you more.)
  • Frankly, the designers are really, really good. Frequently in my request I’ll offer broad guidelines and then say “whatever you think looks good!” Usually they are right – it does look good!

But it’s important to also consider the cons:

  • $390 / mo is a lot of money. No question. You do save 20% if you pay annually, but, uhh, that’s still $3,500+. Which is about how much my car is worth. (My car doesn’t have a cute pickle drawing though, so there’s that.)
  • If you’re looking for someone to work during your business hours, you’re gonna have a bad time. That’s just not how they are set up.
  • You’re going to need to communicate visual instructions through written word, which can be challenging at first. You won’t be able to hop on the phone and chat with your designer. (I have been known to scribble my ideas in MS paint to help illustrate an idea.)
  • It takes time to keep your queue full, provide feedback on designs, etc. And if you don’t have the time to invest, you may not be able to keep your queue full and it might just be too darn expensive. But if you can manage it, the time you invest is highly leveraged.

So what’s the Dill?

OK that was terrible, but totally irresistable. 🙂

In summary, I’ve been pretty happy with the Design Pickle* service. They’ve not only sped up my workflow by taking design work off my plate but they’ve drastically improved the quality of our images and saved me from hours of digging through awful images from Creative Commons. Plus, I’ve done a whole ton of different projects with them!

Examples of other projects we’ve done with Design Pickle* in the last ~6mo:

  • Design new business cards for Chris & I (front and back). Hint: they are awesome.
  • (In progress) Create a series of designs for a printed product for our Bar Tools business
  • Redo all of our Quick Reference Guides for our Mixology Certification
  • Create a couple of infographics for blog posts
  • Redo our main Podcast artwork for iTunes
  • Obviously, do all of our blog post, recipe, and podcast images (including YouTube Thumbnails, Pinterest optimized images, etc.)
  • Create infographics for our full line of products on Amazon

Once you have a designer at your disposal, the world is your canvas! I’ve used them much more frequently than I’d expected and for the most part, I keep the queue full. If you have enough work to keep them busy, I truly believe it’s worth every penny! (And even better if you can pay annually. 🙂

Happy pickling!

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