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An Inside Look Into Camden’s Newest Startup: Penji

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Within the developing City of Camden, there are gems popping up in their business district. We sat down with Penji’s co-founder, Johnathan Grzybowski. In this conversation, we learned about the problem with design and what Penji is doing to resolve it.

Penji is a dependable on-demand design service that helps marketing teams receive custom design at an affordable monthly cost.

How did you come up with the idea of Penji?

It’s the culmination of our journey as a design agency and our desire provide jobs for students in Camden. Penji is a product we built from the ground up to give our customers a better experience working with a designer, meanwhile we focus on training and hiring students in Camden.

We believe our platform can give customers high quality design at a set monthly cost while giving internships, jobs, and opportunities to students within our community.

What does Penji mean?

Let’s just say that there are a lot of hints out there in the digital universe and we will leave it up to you to decide what you think Penji means.

What is the problem with design today?

The main problem with design is the “pick two” stigma in business. Typically, clients want affordability, quality, and speed, but never have all three.

For example, if you’re a startup looking to expand your marketing strategies, you’re stuck scouring the internet to find a high quality and affordable designer. So then you hire that designer, but you get your affordable and quality design delivered…late. In this instance, the problem is speed.

If you’re an established company, you’ll likely hire an expensive agency to deliver high quality design on time, however you’ll be paying an arm and a leg for it. The problem here is cost.

We believe that we are in an age where we can build just about anything we put our minds to, but the greatest differentiator we have in business is design. We shatter the pick two stigma by helping marketing teams to obtain cost-effective, quality design, on time – every time.

What is your mission?

We strive to be a community-conscious design platform that delivers an exceptional service while providing learning and job opportunities for students in underprivileged communities.

We’ve been in Camden for almost three years and have seen a complete transformation throughout the city. New businesses are coming into the city and are now opening their headquarters here in Camden. We want to set the precedent as one of the first community-conscious tech startups to relocate to the city and pave the way for others to follow.

We also believe greatly in the entrepreneurship and business community as a whole. We set out to develop a product that entrepreneurs, business professionals, and marketing teams want to use.

Finding a quality designer is hard, but at Penji, we believe there are great designers hidden within our community. That’s why we provide design internships, workshops, and learning opportunities to help students learn about design and further hone their design skills.

We are allocating our resources by focusing on the future of design and it begins here in Camden. By giving resources to educate students and professionals about design, it will allow for a smarter workforce, paid internship opportunities, and help grow the local economy.

Can you describe your team?

One of the hardest things to do in a business is to find a reliable team that sees our vision and believes in our mission.

It starts with our core team:

Jie is the glue that brings everyone together. She’s that fiery outgoing personality that is an absolute joy to be around. She’s the person you first want to meet at a networking event, because she will set the tone of incredible people you’ll meet during the rest of your event.

Then there’s Liam, we call him our “Damn Good Designer.” Well, actually, he calls himself that, but that’s a different story. Liam first started as a young and talented designer, now he’s head of design, and sets the tone for everything that’s delivered to our clients. Liam has thorough process and focus on our quality control to make sure that when we design an item for a client, it’s met with the highest quality.

Our dark horse is Steven. The quietest person in the room and the individual with the biggest brain. He’s our problem solver and is dedicated to providing a memorable experience to our customers. What makes Steven so amazing is his ability to do all of his tasks, with little involvement from the founders.

One of the hardest workers on our team is our sales manager, Andria. If you’ve received a phone call, a cold email, or an ask for a guest post or podcast interview, it more than likely came from the focused mind of Andria. With her efforts, we’ve had the opportunity to grow as quickly as we have.

I would be remissed if I didn’t mention the efforts of our outreach specialists, Thomas. He’s the slider of all sliders of DM’s. He’s handling an exceptional campaign for cold outreach and has the ability to execute the most difficulty of tasks. Our interns are also a major asset to our success. The willingness of our team to take these individuals in as our own, and have the ability to constantly teach, is the foundation to who we are today, and the community conscious platform Penji is.

Lastly, my cofounder is the ying to my yang. We are the perfect balance and level each other out. During the entire process of creating Penji, we stuck to each other’s strengths and maintained focus. I couldn’t have done it without him.

I am grateful and honored to have such an inspiring team.

Who is your ideal customer?

Our ideal customers are marketing teams seeking to improve the overall quality of their marketing materials, having designs done on time – every time, and to lower their overhead.

Our clients consist of Rutgers University here in Camden, Camden County College, Cooper’s Ferry, Hardenbergh Insurance Group, Boomerang Office Furniture, just to name a few. These are organizations with large marketing/sales teams that have integrated Penji into their business with ease to better their digital products.

Then you have startups and other small businesses like Only Good Things that just started their business and need help to brand their digital imprint. Level5Wealth that has been in business for years. They are absolutely killing it, but their previous designer left a lot to be desired. Waterfront Lab that’s doing incredibly awesome things for the city of Camden. They have an event every week that needs a graphic for promotion on their social and email channels. These organizations are using Penji to help get their time back, so they can spend more time on their business.

Finally you have non-profits and other economic development organizations like Cathedral Kitchen, Kingsway Learning Center, and Waterfront Ventures. We are so proud to have these organizations as clients because we are artistically telling their story through our digital design efforts.

What differentiates Penji from your competitors?

We’re a monthly subscription service that starts at $349/m for 15 hours of design. Penji is a project management service that allows you and your entire marketing team to work seamlessly and efficiently with our designers and project managers. Gone are the days of going back and forth with emails and poorly marked revisions.

We wanted to make a product that is so simple and easy for our customers to use. Every piece to our backend was done with purpose. Khai, our internal design team, and our development team did a brilliant job.

As soon as you sign up you are met with a screen that allows us to understand your brand. It takes less than five minutes to complete. As soon as you’re complete with that task, you’re set to begin submitting your projects.

Once projects are submitted, your project manager and design team begins working. In under 24-48 hours you will receive the first draft of your design.  If a revision is needed, Penji’s project management service is intuitive enough for you to easily communicate your changes. A simple click of the mouse will unlock an edit section on that design for you to submit your request.

We also transparent to our clients. We bill on recurring monthly basis, which makes using Penji predictable. You’ll never have to wonder if a design is going to go over your budget. Our clients will always know the status of their project, which team member approved what, or who on their team submitted which revisions. Penji provides both transparency and control for marketing teams of all sizes.

What are some challenges that you faced with Penji?

Well, our first challenge was to prove that we have a viable product with a good product/market fit. We introduced the idea to our closest friends, networking groups, and cold called close to 400 local businesses to see if what we were building is a product that marketing teams want. We received a ton of feedback making it difficult at first to understand what each person wanted from the product. We continued this process for about three to four months before designing a single aspect of Penji.

Although this challenge was rather tedious, it did two things for our business:

  1. It allowed us to get feedback to create a better product.
  2. It allowed us the opportunity to get initial interest and beta users before the product launched.

Having general interests in our product was a huge lifesaver because we didn’t have to go far to get our first initial customers. We brought our contacts into our sales process. We told them what we were doing, how we were doing it, and what they needed to know about the product itself. We used things like email newsletter, blogging techniques, and even vlogging to document our process and the production of what Penji is today.

How do you plan on scaling?

In the beginning we needed to solve two huge issues within our business; sales and delivering design in a cost efficient and timely manner. To scale design, i’ll leave that up to my cofounder to discuss in more detail. What has made us so successful is sticking to our roles and not straying away or butting into one another’s process.

So then, how were you able to scale sales and get your first 100 customers?

We’re not at 100 yet, but we’re getting there! It started with documenting every single process, number, and interaction that we had with a prospect (Cold lead). We became a numbers and analytics company. Salesforce and other CRM were not cutting it for us, so we developed an internal CRM that allowed our sales team to be more efficient while allowing us to see the data in real time.

Our cold call and cold email strategies are not revolutionary by any means. We did the work that others didn’t want to do and continued to refine the process over time. If you’re curious how we are doing it, we’ve documented every single strategy and step on my personal vlog/blog. All of our scripts, templates, and internal processes are all there for the taking.

Once we had our process down, we then created a workflow and then hired accordingly. We knew who to hire and how to hire based off of our numbers. We knew that if we wanted to grow by 25% we needed to increase our efforts by hiring two additional people doing x. Because of the numbers we knew what they needed to do, how they needed to do it, and were plugged into the process.

Along the same lines of documenting, we also put an emphasis on content marketing. The vlog did an incredible job bringing more people together. It’s funny, sometimes you may not get the comments or the “likes” directly within a social media post, but people are always watching. Get your information and message out to your audience, whatever way that works best for you. Stop thinking, stop waiting, stop believing that you need this huge and expensive set up, because you don’t. I recorded every vlog on my iPhone 7 Plus. I edited on my Macbook Pro using Final Cut and occasionally used my DJI Mavic Pro for b-roll. Other than that, that’s about it. I focused all of my energy on the story.

Where do you see Penji five 5 years from now?

I’ll revert back to our mission, we strive to be a community conscious design platform that delivers while providing learning and job opportunities for students in underprivileged communities.

It starts right here in Camden. In five years, as our organization grows, we will expand our efforts to other cities. For us, success means that we are able to give back to our community, provide learning opportunities for others to succeed, and allow businesses  to differentiate themselves through quality design from Penji.

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Business

TikTok Is Toast: Get the Secret Weapon Brands are Using to Power Through

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Just when you thought the drama surrounding TikTok couldn’t get any juicier, the US government drops a bombshell. Just days ago, President Biden signed a bill that could ban TikTok across the entire country. 

TikTok has been asked to find a “new, non-Chinese owner” within the next 9 months according to CNN. The company is within its rights to comply (which will be tough) or file a lawsuit. Unsurprisingly, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is already leaning toward the latter, announcing it’s ready for a legal battle.

With over 170 million Americans entrenched in the app, the prospect of its sudden disappearance sparks more questions than answers. What does a “ban” actually entail? For one, it doesn’t mean you’ll face legal action as an individual who still uses TikTok. And it doesn’t mean the app will magically vanish if you already have it downloaded.

Instead, the ban threatens to remove TikTok from Apple and Google’s app stores, which means no more updates, security patches, or bug fixes. This could pose a security risk to TikTok’s loyal user base.

But fear not, social media enthusiasts, because while the chaos unfolds, brands and influencers can use this time to get clear on their strategy. While the rest of the digital world is losing its mind, you can set your brand up to thrive like never before.

Enter Penji: Your Secret Weapon for Social Media Domination

It’s hard to stay relevant and have an effective social media strategy when things are so volatile in the digital world. But that’s only really true if you’re working alone.  

Particularly for marketing, design, branding, and social media agencies, getting help from professionals is crucial. You likely need copywriters, marketers, designers, and coders as the bare minimum.

So who’s Penji.. and who cares? 

You could say Penji is an ‘all-in-one chaos solution’ for brands with lots to do and little time to do it. They’re a design team that creates the visual assets that power numerous brands year-round. Penji can create custom:

  • Ad designs
  • Organic social posts
  • Custom illustrations
  • Logos & branding
  • Blog graphics
  • Infographics
  • Email templates
  • Landing pages
  • Web & app designs
  • And more

If you can name it, Penji can probably design it. Brands are getting crazy results. For example: 

RevenueZen saw a 25% increase in customer engagement and a 20% boost in sales after partnering with Penji for their new website.

Rush Order Tees upped their productivity by 2200% with the help of just 5 Penji designers who mastered their brand visuals.

How does it work?

Penji is an unlimited graphic design service, which means they don’t put limits on how many designs you can get each month. You pay a flat monthly fee and request any designs, anytime. There’s no contract, so you can cancel or pause anytime too. 

Step 1: Create a Project: Go to Penji’s dashboard and select “Create a Project.” Choose a category (eg. logo) and provide all the details your designer needs to knock it out of the park.

Step 2: Get Matched Right Away: Once you’ve submitted your design brief, you’ll be matched with a pro designer via our AI matching system. From here, just sit back and relax.

Step 3: Review & Give Feedback: Within 24 to 48 hours, you’ll receive the first draft of your design. Provide point-and-click feedback directly on a project, and the designer will make revisions until you’re completely satisfied. There’s no limit to revisions, and you can swap designers if you don’t like the direction.

Step 4: Mark as Complete and Download: Once you’re happy with a project, simply mark it as complete. You can then download the files directly from the Penji platform, no need for external links or emails. Your files are securely stored in the cloud, ensuring easy access whenever you need them.

Not only can you communicate directly with your designers, but also creative assistants, project managers, or art directors depending on which plan you choose.

Never Hire an Unreliable Designer Again

For brands dealing with vetting and hiring headaches, Penji offers a hassle-free alternative. By eliminating the need for constant hiring/firing and payroll management, brands can bypass the headaches associated with maintaining a freelance (or in-house) team. Instead, you can tap into Penji’s pool of vetted creative talent, handpicked to meet the demands of even the pickiest clients.

Retain More Customers with a Bulletproof Brand Identity


Customer retention is another area where Penji helps businesses shine. By providing on-brand, consistent quality across every project, you’ll build trust and loyalty with your clients. With a dedicated team of creatives, project coordinators, and quality control experts, Penji ensures you put your best foot forward at every touchpoint. That means your customers won’t hesitate to pick you over a competitor – the design does the convincing.

The bottom line? With costs roughly 70% lower than hiring in-house designers, Penji offers a cost-effective solution without skimping on quality or speed. You’ll boost your production rates drastically for a fraction of what you’re used to spending. 

So don’t let the TikTok ban scare you away from focusing on social media growth. Partner with a design team that just gets you – and your social media strategy will start running like clockwork.

Ready to Win at Social Media?

If your interest is peaked and you’re ready to power your social media channels with more ease than ever, watch a quick demo to see how you can get all the designs you need in one place.

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Fiverr vs Penji vs Canva: Who’s Your Winner?

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Graphic design is essential in business branding. And you don’t want to skimp out on design, especially when you have big-time competitors in your niche or industry. Fortunately, graphic design is so much more accessible for business owners because you can hire graphic designers, do your own graphic design work, or subscribe to a graphic design service. The top choices for these models are Fiverr, Canva, or Penji. The question is, which is the best option?

Companies Overview

If you’re unfamiliar with any of these companies or services, let’s give you a brief introduction to each one.

Fiverr

fiverr logo

Fiverr is a freelance gig platform for hiring remote workers, like web developers, podcast editors, video editors, and so much more. Graphic designers are also available to hire on Fiverr. Many graphic designers specialize in various design work.

Penji

penji logo

Penji is a subscription-based graphic design service. You can subscribe to the graphic design service and request unlimited design projects. With Penji, you can request up to 120+ design types, including web and app designs, presentation designs, motion designs, and illustrations.

Canva

canva logo

Canva is a do-it-yourself graphic design application that will help you design anything related to your business or brand. You don’t need graphic design experience to use Canva. They offer templates to help you get started with designs. Plus, you can edit those designs based on your branding.

Features

Fiverr

fiverr graphic design page

Fiverr provides businesses with two ways to find freelancers. First, you can find freelancers using the search bar. You can type “graphic designer” and find available designers to collaborate with. You can narrow your search by finding designers based on your design needs. For instance, you can browse “logo designers” instead of graphic designers.

As you select graphic designers, you can see that designers offer various plans depending on your design project. Plus, they indicate the following:

  • Number of designs they can create
  • Number of revisions
  • Turnaround time

Plus, you can also find reviews from previous clients to know their working experience with one of your top choices.

The other way to find freelancers is the Fiverr Enterprise platform. Fiverr specialists will help you find the best graphic designers, creatives, and other employees for your team. Plus, the platform includes onboarding, management, payment, and compliance.

Canva

canva homepage

Meanwhile, Canva is a software loaded with many intuitive features to help you design your projects. Features depend on the plan you choose. However, here are the basics:

  • Drag-and-drop editor
  • Access to 1 million templates, 3 million photos and videos, and thousands of design types
  • AI-generated designs
  • Printing and delivery

However, if you need more than that, you can access the following on the paid plans:

  • Resize and translate designs
  • Brand kits
  • Remove backgrounds
  • Plan and schedule content
  • 1TB of cloud storage
  • 24/7 customer support

Penji

penji webpage

Finally, Penji has many features to get you started, from designing your first request to downloading and chatting with your designers.

Here’s what to expect when subscribed to Penji:

  • Request 120+ designs
  • Get matched with the best designer for your project
  • Swap designers
  • Manage multiple projects
  • Point and click revisions
  • Team collaboration
  • Designer chat
  • Real-time updates

Turnaround Time

Turnaround time for Fiverr freelancers depends on the graphic designer. They will indicate how long the delivery date would be. Most graphic designers would have at least a 1-day turnaround time.

Meanwhile, if you are using Canva, turnaround time is usually instant. After all, you’re designing your project. However, if you have a complex project or need to create multiple designs in one go, it could take hours or days, depending on your availability, to design your projects.

Finally, Penji guarantees a 1 to 2-day turnaround time on most designs. If you’re subscribed to the Agency plan, they ensure same-day turnaround. However, some complex projects will take more than two days to complete.

Pricing

fiverr profile
example of a fiverr profile with pricing page

Fiverr pricing depends on what designs you need. But as the name suggests, Fiverr refers to the $5 starting point that freelancers can charge clients with when working with them. However, $5 worth of projects can be low-quality.

Meanwhile, Canva has three pricing tiers, depending on your needs and budget.

  • Canva – Free
  • Canva Pro – $12.99/mo
  • Canva for Teams – $14.99/mo (for five users)

Finally, Penji has a flat monthly rate for all design work. Here are the pricing plans for this design service.

Design Work and Production

Design work by Fiverr freelancers varies from experience level to design specialties. Many Fiverr freelancers produce decent work for clients, considering the rates they charge. However, not all design work from Fiverr is 100% the best. Plus, considering Fiverr is the best for short-term work, expect one or few design variations for a project.

For Canva, we can use templates as the point of comparison for design work. Thousands of creators submit their templates to the graphic design software. Many templates look the same because it is the trend or looks modern. Regardless, Canva templates look decent to use as the base design for your brand. However, you need to modify it to your brand to avoid using similar templates from competitors or other brands.

Finally, Penji produces amazing designs for clients. Penji ensures that the cream of the crop joins the company to create designs their clients love. That said, they have various designers with different styles to ensure that your design specifications are met. Plus, Penji produces designs faster than Fiverr and its other competitors without sacrificing quality.

Competitor Analysis

graphic designer

One fair comparison to make is between Fiverr and Penji since both deal with actual designers and their work. Here are a couple of comparison points for these two services to help you narrow your options further.

  • Design variations – Fiverr freelancers can create a few variations. Meanwhile, Penji designers can produce multiple variations since you can switch between designers.
  • Work volume – Fiverr designers can produce a limited number of designs, depending on plan inclusions. Ideally, they’re a good option for one-off projects. However, Penji can produce more than 10+ designs, especially if you have a monthly volume of designs.
  • Comfort – Penji allows you to sit back and run your company since Penji can be considered an extension of your team. Meanwhile, you need to browse and interview freelancers on Fiverr. Plus, you have to worry about payment and management.

But if we were to put Canva back into the equation, Canva has the upper hand in pricing. Plus, if you’re creative enough, you can produce great brand designs without the help of designers.

Final Thoughts

Graphic design work can be done and delivered in three ways: doing it yourself, hiring a freelancer, or subscribing to a graphic design service. In this three-way showdown among various design services, each has its strengths and weaknesses. The three services have different models, which could benefit users or subscribers in getting their designs. Eventually, it’s up to you which is the best design service option that will help you get the best designs for your brand. 

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Graphics Zoo Review: Is this unlimited graphic design service worth it?

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Due to the increased demand for affordable graphic design, various unlimited graphic design services has been popping up online. The graphic design industry expanded, offering more options to clients.

We can say that the scene is more competitive now than ever. However, let’s focus on Graphics Zoo for this article. We weigh in on if their services can keep up with the fierce competition in the “unlimited” section of the industry. 

What is Graphics Zoo?

Graphics Zoo is an unlimited graphic design service that allows users to request designs on a monthly subscription. All clients have to do is create a submission with full specifications of their design requirements.

It’s also best to attach references to help designers take the creative path towards the client’s preferences. The great thing about an online graphic design service is its flat monthly rate, with no added fees for revisions. 

Graphics Zoo Business Model

Unlimited graphic design is a type of business model which allows clients to submit numerous requests per account. After presenting the design preference, expect a 24-hour turnaround or more before you can receive your output. If you receive a design output that’s far from expectations, you can point out the changes you want to make for the revision. Graphics Zoo has a flat monthly rate with no contracts involved. It means you can cancel your subscription anytime without having any legal worries. 

You might also like: Design Pickle VS Penji Review

Graphics Zoo’s Market

The design service is excellent for startups, bloggers, and entrepreneurs. As long as the business needs a continuous supply of custom graphic design, Graphics Zoo is worth a shot. Here are a few examples of companies that worked with Graphics Zoo: 

  • Enicode
  • Bread of Life Inc.
  • Western Rockies Federal Credit Union
  • Perfect Imprints
  • Green Guard

According to their website, Graphics Zoo has more than 750 satisfied customers with at least 50,000 approved projects. It’s also highly rated by their customers, earning whopping 4.9-star reviews. 

Pros and Cons of Graphics Zoo

Graphics Zoo Pros 

  • PROOF management system

Graphics Zoo offers a robust system that provides a collaborative space for designers and clients. It streamlines the whole submission and revision process. Using the tool, the clients can click on any submitted designs to pinpoint areas that need revision. It also allows users to leave a comment to provide more instructions to the designer. 

  • Graphics Zoo offers a stellar project management system that allows efficient communication between both parties. 
  • Brand profile features add accuracy and efficiency per design project. It quickly provides the design’s purpose to designers. 
  • Graphics Zoo offers a comprehensive design selection across various graphic design categories. 
  • The ability to share one account among multiple users is helpful for most businesses.
  • Excellent customer support and design project management system
  • A team of versatile designers that can provide designs for any business types

Graphics Zoo Cons

  • It’s possible to encounter ill-paired designers that are not fit for other project requirements. It might consume time because of countless revisions. 
  • You can only have one ongoing project per day. So if you’re a business with a high design output demand, you should opt for a plan with more designers. 
  • Graphics Zoo’s system only allows you to chat with the designers. If you’re more inclined to video calls, it might be a problem for you. 

Graphics Zoo’s Pricing Plan

Graphics Zoo offers three monthly plans with robust features: 

Business Plan

  • $349 per month
  • All basic features
  • One dedicated designer
  • Additional $349 for additional designer
  • Five brand profiles
  • Three users
  • 14-day guarantee 

Business Unlimited Plan

  • $449 per month
  • Everything included in the business plan
  • Unlimited brand profiles
  • Unlimited users
  • White-label platforms
  • Customized web design service
  • 14-day guarantee 

Agency Plan

  • $849 per month
  • Everything included in previous plans
  • Two dedicated designer
  • 30-day guarantee 
  • When starting a project with GraphicsZoo, making the most of their streamlined and user-friendly platform is crucial. Here are some key strategies for a successful collaboration:
  • Use Slack for direct communication with your designer. This allows for instant feedback and praise, ensuring clear and efficient revisions or approvals.
  • Prioritize clear and detailed communication. Never assume your designer has implicit understanding of your needs. Be explicit in your project briefs, and don’t hesitate to share comprehensive information about your brand and objectives.
  • Remember, effective communication is as vital with your design team as it is in any other part of your business. The clarity and detail of your interactions can significantly influence whether the final design meets your expectations or falls short.
  • By following these guidelines, you can foster a more productive and satisfying partnership with GraphicsZoo, leading to designs that perfectly embody your vision.

Tips for GraphicsZoo Users

When starting a project with GraphicsZoo, making the most of their streamlined and user-friendly platform is crucial. Here are some key strategies for a successful collaboration:

  • Use Slack for direct communication with your designer. This allows for instant feedback, ensuring clear and efficient revisions.
  • Prioritize clear and detailed communication. Never assume your designer has implicit understanding of your needs. Be explicit in your project briefs, and don’t hesitate to share comprehensive information about your brand and objectives.


Other Unlimited Graphic Design Companies

If you’re looking for more options with a similar business model as Graphics Zoo, we did the work for you. Here is our full list of unlimited graphic design services.

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