Design team

Eleken Pricing Model Explained


mins to read

What are the most common pricing models? In the majority of design agencies, you would be charged a fixed price, paid upfront or split into two parts, or per-hour charge (time and materials). 

Both models have proven efficiency in design-related tasks. We have used them as well at the beginning of our practice. Later, when we started working with SaaS exclusively, we discovered another pricing model: the time-based retainer model.

At Eleken, the pricing is very simple: clients pay a fixed amount every month. We assign each client designer(s) working on their project full-time. Basically, it is a subscription-based product designer.

Fixed price = average project time x 1,5 x hourly rate + overhead costs         Time and Materials = Estimated number of housr x hourly rate + additional hours        Retainer = monthly fee x number of months needed
Design agencies pricing model

Most SaaS businesses use a subscription-based model, which means having a recurring monthly (in some cases yearly) income. What we realized from our experience working with SaaS is that this model works best for clients and the design agency  as well.

Having a designer working on your project full-time for a fixed monthly fee sounds a lot like… hiring a full-time designer. What is the point of using agency services then?

  • Save time. The hiring process is often long, exhausting, and requires a dedicated HR professional. We find you a designer experienced in SaaS and you can start working the next day.
  • Save money. You don’t have to care about social security, insurance, work benefits, and all that stuff. We take it off your shoulders.
  • Get the best talent. There’s no way to avoid risk during the hiring process. With us, the risk is minimized. We only work with professional UI/UX designers who have experience in SaaS. There are no freelancers. Our designers work in a team, share their work and get advice from colleagues.
  • Insurance for any design-related accidents, like a designer quitting for a better offer, the fuss of finding a new employee, and all the other things that might happen. In case our designer quits, we will onboard another qualified professional from our team and provide a seamless transfer that won’t affect your project.
  • Flexibility. You can change the size of the team at any moment without the pain of the firing/hiring process.
  • Free trial. 3 days of working with our designer on your project. After that, you can decide if you want to proceed or leave. No registration or card required.

That is what you get by paying a monthly subscription at Eleken. But what if the project takes less than a month?

For this, we have weekly sprints. Similar to the monthly subscription, this is a shorter commitment for smaller projects. Also, weekly sprints are perfect at the end of a months-long project when only a few things are left to finish. The next question that might come is:

How do I know how long the work will take?

There is no definite amount of time that is optimal for product design. We can estimate the period of time needed based on our experience, but we strictly follow the pay-per-month rule. Working closely with our designers, clients know perfectly well that things that need to take time, well, take time.

But wait, how do fixed-price agencies know exactly how long it will take and how much it will cost? 

The most common formula for calculation is as follows: take an average amount of hours spent on a similar project previously, multiply it by 1,5 (or 2), add all the overhead costs, and there you get it. And if the project requires more iterations than usual, an additional bill is likely to come.

That is what makes design costs often high and unpredictable. However, our monthly charges are not subject to change and are easy to fit into the client's budget.

Often our design process ends up being faster than fixed-price because the team works directly with designers skipping the intermediation through project managers on the agency side. That way, the communication, and feedback are constant and lead to a more productive workflow.

Fixed-price agency vs Freelancer vs Retainer agency

How is the business model connected to design quality?

There’s no discussion about the fact that good design takes time. What some people don’t understand is that user-oriented design takes time again and again. And it’s for good. We believe that design is a process, not an event.

Here is what it means in reality: the initial version of the design turns out great but it is never perfect. We run usability tests and discover space for improvement. We make improvements and test all over again. Each iteration has the potential to make the product more user-friendly. 

When the product is launched, we get feedback from a large number of users, which brings out new insights and shows new spaces for improvement. The product is out and running for a while, and then we get information from the support team and see what needs to be changed again.

All these changes do not mean that the initial product was not good in the first place. These updates are not about changing the whole user interface. Still, however slight these changes are, they matter a lot.

When you work with a design agency on a fixed price basis, each of these upgrades would have a new, unpredictable price. What is more important, some of these updates would not even happen because there wouldn’t be a person in your team following the whole process from the design point of view and monitor user feedback design-wise. 

At Eleken, you know exactly how much you will pay each month and follow designers’ work constantly. Each iteration is under your control.

That’s a lot said about how we work. Want to see what we actually do? Take a look at our case studies

Free trial

Here comes the best part of our pricing model. Like many SaaS companies, we offer a free trial to prospective clients. You can get three days of work with one of our designers for free and then decide if you want to continue. As easy and awesome as it sounds.

Got any other questions?

We’d love to answer them! Please drop us a line.

Masha Panchenko


Table of contents

Top Stories

Design team
min read

How to Give a Good Design Feedback? 10 Tips to Master the Art of Feedback

Andreas is a young talented designer. Recently he was invited to work for a cool design studio. He loves everything about his new role: the project, the team, and the management. The boss is always so friendly and encouraging! Everything is going great…according to Andreas. 

But when we hear the same story from his boss Sandra, it’s not nearly as positive... According to her, “the new hire is top-skilled, but his design ideas sometimes need corrections”. Sandra does not want to sound negative when she gives design feedback to Andreas. So she always finds something positive to add to her comments. 

But Andreas does not seem not to pick up Sandra’s point. It seems that he only  hears the compliments! 

Such misunderstandings are very common. But for a design agency like ours, design feedback from our clients is paramount. Eleken is a design partner for many SaaS businesses, and constant communication with clients has taught us the subtle art of feedback. The time has come to share how to give design feedback that is useful and well-received by your designers.

Why you need to master design feedback?

In short, the design feedback is essential for an effective design process and successful business outcome. 

  • It helps designers validate their design ideas and decisions. Designers need to get their ideas out and make them better. And the best way to do that is through interaction and collaboration with other team members.

  • It aligns the design team with your business goals and your product vision. As a result, the end-product will turn out to be much better.
  • It helps the design team understand what kind of impact their work has on users — which can be very useful for prioritizing UX efforts and resources.

Client feedback can make a real impact on the final design output. For example, design feedback sessions with Fruitful Source. After each design iteration we had a call with the client’s product team and they shared their thoughts about design ideas we proposed. During these feedback sessions we had healthy discussions: the client shared insights about their users, Eleken introduced best UX practices and together we came up with improved UX flows! 

Is the sandwich method still in the game? 

A sandwich feedback method is a popular way of communicating criticism layering it with positive comments. In the business world, everyone has heard of it and it is indeed quite obvious when someone is trying to mask negative feedback with compliments. 

Despite being easy to regognize, the sandwich method still works and you might want to use its benefits, especially when:

  • You find it hard to give feedback.
  • You know the person you give feedback to is sensitive.
  • You heard before that your way of giving feedback is considered too straightforward or even rude.

Imagine the situation: you build a solution for senior users. Your designers present a screen. And the first thing you see is that the font is thin and won’t work for your end-users. It is clearly a bad UX design for seniors and you are frustrated with the team. Now, breathe in and out. Look at the screen again, and pay attention to the overall layout. Is there anything that you like? Good. Now it’s time to give feedback.

We are used to hear about sandwich method for personal feedback. But how do you comment on a design? Try using the framework as on this picture.

And you will see that such example of design feedback works! Designers hear you, they agree and explain that this was only the first prototype and they were mostly focused on UX flows. The next one will be fully focused on UI design, picking fonts and color palettes so they will gladly hear more insights from you. 

When to give design feedback?

Being a control freak and giving feedback every day does not improve your final result. Moreover, breathing down your designer’s neck in the middle of the process stresses them out, wastes your own time, and blurs your vision! 

An appropriate on-time feedback, on the other hand, can direct design team and change their vision for the better. With that being said, let’s see when it's a good time to give design feedback.

  • Give feedback before you start working. Comment on previous projects from your designer’s portfolio or even references. This will help your designers understand your preferences better, and will save time in finding common ground.

  • Give feedback after the designer presented their design decision. Quite often, design ideas make more sense after you hear how design principles work.

  • Give feedback when your designers finished one stage for example wireframing. Giving feedback in the middle of the creative process is usually a bad idea. Learn more about wireframes in our article. 


  • Ask your designer(s) directly. They will be happy to help you pick the right time when you can give comments and change the design.

Challenges around design feedback

Usually, people in the product team are passionate about what they do and care a lot about the product they design. But while the design delivery feedback can be incredibly helpful, it can also be overwhelming and difficult for both parties.

Even if you know exactly what you want, it's not always easy to express it in a way that others will understand. Look at our character Sandra, she tries to use sandwich method but she lacks confidence and Andreas honestly thinks she’s just praising his work. This is rather bad design feedback example:

More straight-forward approach would work better for Andreas.

But not like that, Sandra! Her frustration takes over and the feedback is getting dangerously personal. In such cases, you need to calm down and prepare a detailed and actionable feedback.

Below are ten tips for effective feedback that will help our characters to overcome this misunderstanding. 

How to give good design feedback?

To make sure that the feedback you provide is not hurtful and is perceived well, follow these tips:

  1. Be specific, and state the problem clearly. For example, the design feels confusing. You can tell you designers, that UX flow is not intuitive. Point out where you felt the friction. Give specific examples where you stumbled along the journey or what you have misunderstood. 
  1. Share the context and link your feedback to the bigger picture. Design does not happen in vacuum, so if you have any insights that can help designers, add it to your feedback. Help your design team understand your business. The team aligned around a clear vision and business goals will perform better. 
  1. Explain the logic behind your opinion. Don’t just drop the comment “I don’t like it, let’s change it”. Tell your design team why something is not working for you and what was your thought process behind the feedback. 
  2. Know what to evaluate and when. This is the most important for UX/UI feedback. For example, if you're looking at an early prototype, don't focus on things like color or font choice – these things will change anyway as the design evolves. Instead, focus on whether users are able to complete particular tasks and whether they understand what they're supposed to do when they use your product or not. 
  1. Make your feedback actionable. If possible, suggest solutions or clear action points. Show examples of what you think would work better. Or leave a clear request of what changes you expect.

  2. Be open to suggestions from others. When you give feedback to a designer, remember to hear them out. Often a healthy discussion is a way to success. Hear out your designers, their explanations, and suggestions.
  1. The question is the best form of feedback. The difference between good and bad feedback is sometimes simply in the form you chose to express your thoughts. From our experience, questions are a more constructive form of criticism. They sound less negative and give designers an opportunity to explain the logic behind certain decisions.
  1. Let your feedback rest before your share it. No matter whether you are in a UX meeting or reviewing design in Figma, it’s a good idea to capture your first impression by taking notes. It also helps you organize your thoughts. Then share your opinion after a little pause.

  2. Don't get personal or biased. Make sure you review the design deliverable, not the person. Never mix personal feedback with design feedback. Don’t let prejudices rule you when evaluating design.

  3. Be polite and friendly. We all have bad days, but the nice vibe in work meetings is worth the effort. Use our tips to shape constructive feedback and let go of any frustration.

If you felt that most of these tips sound like common sense, kudos to you! Apparently, you already mastered the art of feedback, keep it up!


Remember, you hired design professionals and they are good at what they do. So don’t stress too much, trust the team and enjoy the process. 

And when it’s time to evaluate the design, use our tips and follow this checklist to give constructive feedback for designers

  • Make sure your feedback is not personal nor biased
  • It is backed up by business or user needs
  • Your comments are descriptive and within the context
  • Your feedback is actionable
  • You are both friendly and precise

Hope you picked up some crumbs of wisdom. The key takeaway is that feedback helps designers create better digital products. And the great role here plays another type – feedback from users. Read our article to learn why’s it’s even more important for designers and discover methods of collecting customer feedback for your product design.

Design team
min read

This Is Why Your External Design Team Doesn't Deliver

Missed deadlines are a plague of the product design teams, and, let’s be honest, most other teams and individuals. The problem is older than product management and older than the word “deadline” itself. 

Our design team has been working with clients remotely for a long time. We have our own methods of curing the deadlines disease, so today, let’s talk about what product managers can do to make sure that their external design team delivers on time. And of course, we’ll also share some of the secrets of successful design teams (like ours).

What’s wrong with deadlines?

I’ve always had a despise towards the term “deadline”. Not just because deadlines bring this constant pressure in my life. It is about the unnecessary drama they add to the work process. Really, no one dies if this article doesn’t get published until the end of the month. And the work of designers is not that life-or-death impactful either.

When doing this little research on deadlines, I discovered that the word originated in prisons. In the 19th century, it actually was related to death: there was a physical line that prisoners were prohibited to cross — otherwise they would be shot. And we are still using this word in 21st-century daily life.

I would love to suggest a good alternative that everyone could use instead. But let’s be realistic: deadlines are not going anywhere. The only thing I can suggest is to use other words as well and be aware of the somehow toxic meaning of “deadline”.


Beyond the word, Eleken designers don’t like the meaning of deadline either. Not because they find it hard to fit in the given terms. This is because the nature of the design process is not always compatible with strict time limits. 

We never know how many iterations we will need for the best result. When the deadline is pressuring, the chances are that the testing will be skipped and the final version would be the one that was the closest to the deadline, not the best one.

It doesn’t mean that designers don’t know how long their work would take. With smaller tasks, like “make screens for sign-up flow”, estimating time is essential. But when we are being realistic and accept the fact that the first version of our design won’t be the best one, we have to give ourselves more time and explain to clients that deadlines can hurt the quality of the design.


That is why we work with the retainer pricing model: we don’t get into the risk of saying the exact deadline and then compromising quality because of a lack of time for iterations.  We work with clients who understand that good design is a lasting process, so our pricing model is like a subscription: you can always unsubscribe if you feel that it doesn’t bring you value. And we are happy to say that people keep their subscriptions as long as it takes to get to the best version of the design.

What’s wrong with the traditional solutions?

Have you ever waited for a few hours to see a doctor with some weird sickness and ended up getting some ibuprofen? Ibuprofen takes away the symptoms, but it doesn’t cure the cause of the disease.

In our case, the symptom is missed deadlines. What are typical ibuprofen and paracetamol of product managers? Hiring new team members, changing design team organizational structure, giving larger time periods, reducing the scope, and so on.

What is the real cause? Don’t want to be that TV doctor here who gives diagnoses on distance, but let me tell you about one common cause: approach to collaboration with external teams. How can it be optimized to cure the deadline fails?

Changing approach to leadership

Sometimes you come to a doctor for strong prescription pills that would cure you, but instead, they tell you that you have to do exercises daily for 30 minutes and eat healthy. It is a good and holistic treatment, but it can also be disappointing.

Changing the approach to leadership is a similar kind of treatment. It requires continuous efforts, but in exchange, it brings more results in long term. Whatever your design team structure is, there is a product owner who has to take a certain level of leadership.

We suggest you focus on such healthy habits as good communication practices. This includes sharing information with the team, taking everyone into account when making decisions, appreciating design team initiatives, getting and giving good feedback. All of this will contribute to establishing a culture of dialogue that will make your team more functional.

We believe that proper communication is the key, really. On our company’s internal guides, there is a part dedicated solely to that. And we love when our clients give the same amount of attention to this – we even wrote an article on how not to talk to designers.

If you are serious about changing your life approach to leadership, here are some of the small habits that you can add to your routine and see how they will bring your team little by little to impeccable deadline management. But remember: learning how to manage a design team is not a one-workshop thing.

Explain the importance of timing

Product team a kindergarten and everybody knows that being late is bad. But being an adult also means that you likely have missed some deadlines in your life and know that nobody actually dies. So people can do it one more time.

To address this issue, the team lead has to give enough information so that team understands what depends on their work.

Designers may not hurry to finish screens when they know that developers will be able to start working on implementation only in one month. On the contrary, when you explain that the testing round is planned for next month, the need to be on time is clear.

When the external design team is not aware of your internal processes, they may not realize how their work is a part of the ongoing project. You have to make it clear: their due date is not only theirs: people tend to show more responsibility when there are more parties affected.

Share product strategy and goals

Often, our clients come to us for redesign and set tight time limits. We know that proper redesign needs way more time. Also, we know that redesign is a means, not a purpose, so we focus on the real objective. Is it better usability? Or easier onboarding? Based on that, we can look for solutions that would bring us closer to the objective without having to redesign the whole product.

Here is an example. When we got to work on Ricochet360, a phone cloud system and CRM, clients wanted us to make a redesign in two months. And after that, developers would need at least two months to implement the design.

So, before starting a new design from scratch, we asked ourselves: “What is the main objective?” Ricochet360’s problem was a long and complex onboarding process. That’s why, first of all, we suggested making little changes to the design that would make a difference instantly. We added a few details to the “add new lead” screen that made navigating over 30 fields easier: asterisks next to essential fields, hints, and error highlights.


After applying similar fast fixes to some screens, we could focus on the main work and get the best result. Now, the pressure of deadline was softer as we’ve already delivered value at the very beginning of the collaboration. That's where our experience in CRM software design came handy.

Keep an open dialogue

That’s one more way of making deadline seem less “deadly”. There are moments sometimes when people are faced with the choice to rather admit that they need more time to finish the task or do it at any price, compromising quality and work conditions.

In products with a high level of trust between management and team members, people feel less pressure and are not afraid to say that they can’t meet the deadline, or, ideally, participate in the planning and make time limits more realistic from the very beginning.

To put it simply, it’s harder to fail the deadline when you are the one who set it.

Understand the needs of your team

First of all, it’s helpful to think of the external team as a part of your team. When you are working with an agency that has to deliver the whole project all at once, it’s different from having an external team that you can get in touch with regularly.

At the beginning of the collaboration, external designers have to ask many things. Naturally, you don’t want to share all your documents with an external design team, but the more you can give, the less they would ask for later. Make sure you include this in your standard external team onboarding process.

Our designers love PMs who ask them if they need something and try to find all the necessary information. Lacking essential information can slower work and quickly turn into a failed deadline.

Next steps?

Solving the deadline issue is a marathon, not a short-distance run. You have to prepare and be ready to change communication habits, the design team process, or whatever it takes. If you are serious about stepping on this long distance, take a look at our step-by-step guide on designing with remote teams.

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