I've been working as a graphic designer for a small company for a little over a year (I originally started as a college intern and became my boss's first employee). My boss specializes in video production, my creative director has no background/experience in design or art, I'm the only art related person in my office.

For our regular clients who I'm familiar with and provide me branding guidelines and graphic assets, I can create an ad within 45 min-1.5 hours. When we get a new client they often provide us with bad/no assets & branding guidelines, and vague requests. These ads I create from scratch in approx. 3-5 hours.

For the ad I've just completed I was provided with no assets, no guidelines, I even had to write the text to go in it. I created a 4 piece ad from a blank canvas and my imagination. My total time clocked in at 10 hours.

I would really like some feedback from people in the field as to whether or not my times are realistic. I don't feel like I can trust my co-workers feedback, as I don't think they have a realistic idea of how much work actually goes into design.

  • 3
    While this is a reasonable question the time it takes you to produce an advertisement is not necessarily a good indicator. The question is rather how much money you bring in during that time and how much slack you have. Also the kind of quality your going for affects time quite much, in reality talking to clients and getting what they want or need in my experience takes more time than producing it, but this is part of the time it took you to design it. It is also worth noting that your not supposed to do things a t a death march speed or it will end up costing you personally in the end.
    – joojaa
    Aug 26, 2016 at 9:14

1 Answer 1


Estimating billable time is a difficult task for most designers. The more experience you have with particular projects, the more accurate you will become. The caveat to that is that every project has its own set of parameters, and every client (and/or boss) has his/her own personality. So one 1/4 page ad could take an hour for one project/client, and 5 hours for another, depending on assets supplied, revisions needed, opinions given, and so on.

All that said, I think the time you've described is fairly reasonable (of course, without knowing what the ads actually look like, and what resources/info were supplied).

As joojaa commented, what's more important than the actual time spent is the ratio between that, and the time you're going to bill the client. Many (but not all) designers give an estimate up front, so the client knows what to expect regarding price. For instance, if you estimate an ad will take 3 hours, but it only takes you 1.5, you're ahead of the game. But if you spend 5 hours on it, and the client is only paying you for 3, you've basically done 2 hours of free work. Without knowing how your company bills clients, handles revisions, and sets guidelines on hours billed, it's hard to say if you're being cost-efficient.

Lastly, people who don't have knowledge of design almost always think that the job can/should be done faster than it can.

"Can't you just hit the 'Design Ad' button on your computer?" "This is an easy project. It should only take you 5 minutes." "I designed my son's birthday party invitations in Powerpoint and it took me less than an hour."

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