How to Choose the Best Graphic Design Agency for your Needs
Visual communication — that’s what graphic design is all about.
It’s the use of image, colour, space and typography to convey a message.
It may be a logo design, a packaging design, a business card or letterhead, or a website design.
The goal is to make a brand compelling and memorable and attract an audience.
Most business owners are not graphic designers.
These tasks are those that are hired out — either to a single freelancer or to a graphic design agency.
Unless they have a single individual who has been with them for a while, most business owners will look for a design agency.
The reason is that an agency has more versatility among its team members and it can assign the “right” designer or team of designers to your projects.
So how do you go about finding the best graphic design agency for your needs, among the thousands that are out there?
It’s not easy. See this post for more tips — 10 Things to Consider when you Hire a Graphic Designer
However, there are some steps you can take that will help you narrow your search and hopefully land the perfect design partner.
1 — Define Your Project(s) for Yourself
You may have only one or several projects in mind.
Precisely what do you want?
A new logo? A website design or overhaul? A consistent visual branding message throughout all of your literature, product and packaging designs?
Think also about your goals in establishing your “branding” message?
What demographic are you appealing to?
This will determine a lot about the colours, the typography, and the visuals that are used.
Appealing to a sophisticated, upper-class clientele, for example, will means blacks, silvers, some gold perhaps; appealing to millennials will mean more eco-friendly colours.
All of these things matter as a graphic design agency creates your brand message.
What is your expectation for your new design?
Presumably, you are looking to attract a broader audience, to “steal” customers from the competition, and to increase revenue.
Do you have numbers in mind for these goals? Be as specific as possible as you write out your goals.
What are your budget parameters?
This will be a critical factor as you consider design agencies and receive quotes for their design services.
There is nothing wrong with providing your budget parameters to an agency up front.
This will allow them to determine how much they can do for you.
What is your timeline for project completion?
This will be the prime consideration of agencies too, as they consider how they can meet your needs.
When you make initial contacts with design agencies, you will want to have all of these details clearly in your head, as you craft your letters of inquiry.
As Christopher K. Mercer, CEO of Citatior, states,
“When we were ready to rebrand ourselves, we had long discussions about the image we wanted to portray and how that could be accomplished. Those discussions led to very clearly defined goals about that new image which we were able to relate to our designer.”
2 — Spend Some Time Looking for Examples
Getting some ideas on designs you like is an excellent place to start, as you think about what you want.
Look around and see what your competitors or related businesses are “sporting” regarding design.
Even better, take a look at some design-related websites, such as Dribble, Creattica, and Under Consideration, for inspiration.
Note any ideas that you think might work well for you.
You can show them to your designer later.
3 — Begin Your Search
Conducting a generic Google search will not be practical or efficient.
You will get thousands of results that will be useless.
If you decide to stay with Google, then you will need to modify your search, perhaps by location, size of your business, or budget.
This will narrow the search considerably.
However, there are other places to look too.
For example, if you re-visit Dribble, you will find freelancers, but you will also see those that work for a graphic design agency.
You will be able to explore their profiles and the companies they are associated with.
You can view examples of their work and assess if it is a “match” for what you have had in mind.
Another method is to check with any other business owners whose designs you like and ask whom they have used.
It’s okay to contact a stranger with such questions — most will be flattered that you love their designs and will be more than happy to point you to whom they have used.
One thing you may want to avoid is putting out a general call for a graphic design agency on such channels as social media.
Chances are you will be deluged with responses, and you will have a tough time digging into all of them.
Better to control the search yourself.
4 — Narrow your Search and Begin to Dig
Once you have narrowed your options, it’s time to dig into them.
You will check out their websites, their portfolios, and there should be listings of the companies for which they have done design work.
What you will want to do eventually is check a few references when you are finally down to the final few.
Here are some other things you should check as you review the websites:
Is the site current?
This includes portfolios of recent projects, a blog with regularly updated posts, and testimonials that are current.
Speaking of testimonials, are real names, positions and company names included?
What specific client companies are named?
If there are companies similar in size and related to your niche, this is a graphic design agency to keep on your list.
As Neighton White, Chief Marketing Officer at Supreme Dissertations sates,
“When we looked for a designer to renovate our logo and our website, we looked specifically for those with a history of success with clients similar to us. That’s how we initially narrowed our search. So it worked well.”
Most agencies do not speak to pricing.
Moreover, for a good reason.
Every client is unique, and pricing is usually negotiated.
If there are projects within a portfolio with prices, be sure to check those out.
If pricing is way out of line with your budget, there is no point in going further.
Moreover, if an agency only has large enterprise clients, chances are they will be too expensive for small businesses.
5 — Check Out the Social Media Accounts
You can discover a lot about the “personality” of an agency, by accessing social media accounts.
Also, reading comments and conversation will give you great insights too.
You can even ask questions and participate in discussions.
Most agencies will be on LinkedIn.
However, check out Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter too.
What kinds of conversations are they having with clients; how are they responding to criticism or issues?
Are they spammy or do they come across as genuine?
Daniela McVicker, Project Manager at Rated by Students, relied on design agencies social media accounts to narrow her company’s search,
“There is just so much you can learn by accessing and following an agency’s social media presence. You get a feel for the people of that agency along with its more general culture — it can be a real eye-opener. We both eliminated and added agencies to our list of contenders with this approach.”
6 — Narrowing the Selection Further
At this point, you should be down to your final candidates.
They could be local, but they could also be located anywhere in the world.
Do not be put off if you see terrific designs from a graphic design agency in a foreign country.
Remember, there are many ways to communicate, even through video conferencing.
Also, if your initial communication might be better translated into a target language, you can find professional and reasonably-priced translators at Is Accurate, a review site that provides objective summaries of quality and service of translation agencies.
7 — The Initial Communication
It is now time to reach out to your chosen agencies.
Today, this often occurs by email, and for a good reason.
You want to be sure that you do the following:
- Make the agency aware of your goals in seeking the projects you want to be completed.
- Provide information about your company, its brand, its culture.
- Provide information about your target demographic.
- Present your budget parameters.
- Provide at least a general timeline for completion.
This initial communication is critical.
It must be clear, precise, and give the graphic design agency enough information, in a well-organised document so that it can determine whether your needs can be met.
Crafting this email can be tricky, and you may want to hire a professional to compose it.
You will want to check out writing services that have business writing departments.
All have experience serving business clients with a variety of needs.
8 — Evaluate the Responses
Those agencies that have a genuine interest will probably telephone you.
Moreover, the response will be from management, not an individual designer.
Further, the response will not be generic.
An agency that wants to work with you will personalise its response and request further discussion right away.
Once you have received responses, carefully review them and set up further discussion with the one that seems to be the best match.
You will need to get details from the agency regarding who, how many, etc. will be working on your project, how extended communication will occur with your designer(s).
Ask the agency to provide a timeline that meets your expectations.
Above all, remember this.
What you want with your graphic design agency is a relationship.
It’s not just up to them to build it.
It is your responsibility as well.
Formal and informal communication should occur, so that you and your designer(s) get to know one another and become partners, as opposed to just a formal, professional relationship.
If you wish to discuss how we can develop your brand or provide graphic design for your product or business, email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inkbot Design is a Creative Branding Agency that is passionate about effective Graphic Design, Brand Identity, Logos and Web Design.
Originally published at inkbotdesign.com on September 4, 2018.