How to be sure a design agency is the right fit for your business

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

Entering into a business relationship with a design agency can be a bit like commissioning a work of art: both start with a blank canvas! Every design agency has at least one team of creative professionals who will excel when given a challenge. However like all professionals, they work best with clear, well-defined parameters.

But what exactly do we mean by that?

Project goals

Regardless of its scope, every project you decide to undertake must have coherent goals, which must be clearly communicated to the design team. For example, the owners of an upmarket restaurant notice that their clientele are primarily within older demographics, but they want their restaurant to be known as a trendy and desirable nightspot. To achieve this, they plan a brand revitalisation to boost the amount of younger clients by 25 percent in the next quarter. Understanding this, the design team can pitch a new look for the brand to appeal to younger people. This may be achieved by using a specific type of font that triggers attention from this target, as well as imagery to which they can relate with a tone of voice that matches their generation.

By communicating and clarifying the project goals, the design team is able to understand what the project looks to achieve and will tailor the project in accordance with these aims. Clear project goals also serve to prevent undesired or off-brief designs.

What you like/dislike

This is particularly true if you are working with the agency for the first time. Let them know your personal preferences and what your expectations are. For example, the team may suggest a colour for a company’s brand but it may not agree with the goals/ethos of the firm. Setting out the colour preferences for the designers — alerting them to what is required and what can and should not be used — will give them an idea of what will work to achieve design excellence and avoid time-consuming delays.

Share your experience

Have you worked with other designers or agencies in the past? What was your experience? What do you think worked? Or didn’t work? Let your creative director know so that they can tailor their agency’s service to suit your preferences, or tweak your campaign towards what has worked for you previously, as well to avoid what hasn’t been as productive. To the same effect, it will also pay to look into what kind of clients the design agency has worked with in the past to see if your brand is the right fit for their talents.

Don’t be afraid to push the creative boundaries

Professional designers love a creative challenge! Don’t be afraid to ask for something out of the box to really boost your brand and open your own mind to the creativity that will flow. Don’t hesitate to ask for more and always pitch your ideas. Your designer will thrive on the opportunity, and chances are they will come up with a truly creative idea if given free reign. The success of your partnership depends largely on your input, your feedback and the quality and extent of your brief.

Check the service list

Make sure the agency offers the services you are looking for. Most agencies will offer basic design services such as brand development and layout design, but some agencies offer a wide variety of services, whilst others are highly specialised. For instance, an agency that specialises in out of home media such as ambient advertising, billboards and interactive displays might not offer more traditional design services. Likewise a digital agency might not be the best choice when seeking print design.

There is no such thing as over-communicating

Communication between the design agency and the brand’s marketing department is a key factor in the success (or otherwise) of the partnership. However for the relationship to excel, the design team needs to have a clear idea of how you, the client, want to market your brand.

Briefing clearly is key to getting the most out of your designers, however this doesn’t just mean giving a detailed brief at the beginning of the project. Don’t hesitate to request updates and then provide feedback at all stages of the design project. If the project scope needs to be adjusted, it is always better to do this sooner rather than later.

Get your partnership off to a flyer (state & federal legislation requires us to apologise for that pun). Communicate, clarify and challenge at all stages.

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