Graphic design is one of those things you either have an eye for or don’t. I don’t! As such, I was excited to put this Penji review together. It looks at a service that gives you the equivalent of a full-time design resource for a monthly subscription that’s WAY less that it would cost to hire a graphic designer.
Graphic design is often a sticking point for people starting and running businesses. The cost of design work can vary enormously, with some agencies charging thousands for “simple” logo work, while Upwork freelancers typically charge far less.
When I started this Penji review, I was in the process of starting a new site called TinyLittleChanges. (It’s still a work in progress at the time of writing, and if you’d like an insider’s view of its development, you many want to check out my Patreon Group.)
With the site under development, I had a great opportunity to put the designers at Penji to the test. I didn’t even have a logo at that point! You’ll get to find out what I thought as you read further down my review of Penji.
Let’s start right at the beginning.
What is Penji?
Penji is an online service that gives you access to a bank of professional graphic designers for a monthly subscription fee. You can send Penji as many jobs as you like, covering a wide array of design work from logos to adverts, business cards and social media banners.
Penji provides an interesting alternative to hiring an in-house designer, or buying in work from agencies or individual freelancers.
Who is Penji For?
Penji is great for businesses, solopreneurs, bloggers, and anyone who has the need for quality graphic design work.
Is Penji Legit?
Penji is a legit company with a positive reputation and lots of good reviews. As well as providing design services for small firms, Penji also has some big name clients including the likes of Reebok, Lyft and Penn University.
What Kind of Work Can you Have Done on Penji?
Penji provides a huge lists of the different design tasks you can assign to their designers, all included with your subscription.
Here are some of the options:
- Social Media Banners
- Books Covers
- Presentation Pitch Decks
- Custom Illustrations
The above is only a small example of the different design choices on offer. Some are only available on the higher pricing tiers, something we discuss in the next section.
Penji Pricing: What Does Penji Cost?
Penji is sold on a monthly subscription basis. There’s no fixed term contract or commitment, and there’s a 15 day money-back guarantee.
The cheapest “Pro” package is $399 per month, and like all the options allows you to request as many designs as you need. “Team,” at $499 per month, gives you access to some additional, more complex designs such as infographics, websites, and custom illustrations.
“Agency,” at $899 per month, gives you “double output,” so you can have two designers working on concurrent projects. You also get priority support and the ability to let up to 10 people on your team access the service.
Like many online services, Penji offers a discount for those willing (and able) to pay up-front for a longer subscription. There’s a 10% discount for all quarterly subscriptions, and 15% off for annual subscriptions.
Obviously even $399 per month is a significant commitment for a small start-up, but it doesn’t seem like much when compared to the cost of hiring a designer, even just for a one-off project. Furthermore, the fact you can cancel at any time means you could just sign up for one month and get a bunch of design work all done in that time.
Penji Review: Our Experiences
Now, we move onto the most important part of this Penji review, where we look at how that system works and – most important – the quality of the work from Penji’s crew of designers.
To submit a project, you fill out an online form and detail exactly what you need. It’s simple and intuitive, with different options depending on what it is you need.
Penji emphasises how important it is to provide as much information as you can to help the designers to get a sense of your vision – things like your brand colours, and examples of other websites or logos that you like the look of.
I quickly learned a lesson on the wisdom of this. I send a very vague spec for the logo I needed for my new site. Although the logos I received were great, I didn’t feel the designers had “got into my head” with what they initially produced.
However, after getting more used to the process and sending other projects through, it was a delight to see work coming back that I’d never have been able to produce myself.
I was particularly happy with some Pinterest graphic templates I received for the site, which incorporated a text-based logo I submitted myself:
As you can see from the image above, I was able to receive this in Adobe Illustrator format.
Something I particularly like about Penji is that you can choose to receive your output in whatever format you need, so that you can incorporate the designs into your own workflow. For example, the Pinterest graphics above just require me to drag in an image of my own and change the text.
Within the Penji interface you can ping messages back and forth with your allocated designer, and request as many tweaks and amendments as needed. One thing to note is that they will only work on one design at a time (at least on the “Pro” package I tried.) This could be a bit of a downside if you have a list of tasks to get through and you “block the pipeline” if one takes a while to finalise.
That said, designs come back quickly, with a next day promise. The onus is very much on you to go back with your comments and amendments quickly in order to keep the process flowing. I confess that I wasn’t that hot on that whilst doing my Penji review, due to life getting in the way with other commitments.
Is Penji a Good Fit for YOU?
Penji has an interesting sales proposition, and the value is going to depend massively on how much design work you need.
If you have requirements that will keep the designers busy, $399 could seem like the bargain of the century. On the other hand, it could seem like an expensive commitment if you only have a few things you need, or if your requirements ebb and flow.
The fact you don’t have to commit to more than a month at a time is a big plus. If you were starting a new business or blog, you could feasibly sign up just for a month, and work through everything from your logo to your social media banners and post layouts.
Penji’s the kind of service where YOU will best know if you will make adequate use of it. Personally, there are times when I would, but I wouldn’t have enough of an ongoing requirement to subscribe constantly – not right now anyway.
Penji for Non-Profits
This isn’t really an essential part of my review of Penji, but I thought it warranted a mention.
As a charitable gesture, Penji puts considerable resource into helping non-profit companies, offering unlimited graphic design to qualifying firms for just $1 per month.
The company is also currently running an initiative to encourage donations of personal protective equipment, offering free design credits and helping to move this equipment to where it’s needed.
Companies don’t have to run initiatives like this and give something back, so it’s always pleasing to see when they do. It’s commendable and that’s why I’ve highlighted it here.
If you’re interested in trying Penji out, the company has been kind enough to offer a 15% first-month discount to HomeWorkingClub readers.
You can access it using this link. The coupon code is HWC15, but the link should automatically apply it for you.
Tips for Using Penji
While I completed this Penji review, I learned a few things that should certainly help you if you try it out.
- Be clear on what you want. You can’t blame a designer for not seeing the same thing you imagine in your head. They ask for as much detail as you can give for a reason.
- Work out how much YOU want to decide. Do you want to choose your own brand colours, or do you want some inspiration? Decide stuff like this first, and you will save a lot of “back and forth” on each design task that will hold you back from moving on to the next one.
- Have a list of projects ready. If you’re paying for a Penji subscription, it’s a shame to let it sit idle because you’ve not got around to deciding what you want the designers to work on next.
Penji offers a high-quality service, and it’s great value when you compare it to the cost of in-house designers and freelancers.
Whether you’ll make use of a subscription really is the key deciding factor. I’d suggest of thinking what you need before committing. If you just need a logo and are scratching around for other ideas, the cost may not seem worth it. But if you’re organised enough to work through a heap of different designs, you can get a VAST amount for your money.
One thing you don’t have to worry about is the quality of the designs or the service you’ll receive. Penji has put a tight and effective system together. If you need some design work doing for your next project, it’s well worth giving it a go.
Pros and Cons of Penji
Take a look at the Penji pros and cons in the summary section below.
If you need design work doing, Penji is worth considering.
Definitely Worth Trying!
Penji offers a great service. The price is competitive too, but ONLY if you have enough work to warrant it. That will depend on you!
- Fast and reliable service.
- Good quality work.
- Download in your choice of formats.
- Competitively priced.
- May prove expensive if you don’t use it enough.
- No phone contact with designers.
- One job at a time model can cause “traffic jams.”
Founder of HomeWorkingClub.com – Ben is a long-established freelancer with a passion for helping other people take control of their destiny and break away from “working for the man.” Prone to outbursts of bluntness and realism.