Good visual representation of any brand is essential. Quality branding conveys your offering, your company, and your overall ethos at a glance. At the heart of all brands is the logo, which – alongside other collateral – adds style and personality to your whole business; just look at the branding of some of the world’s biggest brands like Amazon and Apple.
But if you’ve never worked with a graphic design agency before, how do you go about choosing one? There are so many agencies and freelancers on the market – how do you select the right one to bring your brand to life? There’s far more to it than simply choosing the highest ranking agency that Google shows you!
So let’s get started.
Before You Begin
If no agencies immediately spring to mind, then a simple Google Search may be the most straightforward place to start. Similarly, LinkedIn users have a wealth of information available at their fingertips – use the platform’s search function to find suitable organisations and highly recommended people.
Create a shortlist of companies and keep notes about each as you progress. Though you may start off with more agencies in mind, we advise that you approach no more than 3 agencies at one time – any more and you’re likely to make the whole process more difficult for yourself!
Before we get into the selection process, you need to establish your project’s requirements, timescales and goals. Set out all of your expectations for the project – how will you measure success? Do you expect any direct return on investment? Who are your key audiences and customer bases? Communicate these requirements to each prospective agency for their consideration.
How credible are each agency?
Firstly, we need to establish how professional and credible each agency is.
Just as you would with any buying decision, thoroughly look up each company online. Read carefully through their website, their case studies, their blog, their social media profiles, and any physical flyers or brochures you can access. Look them up on review sites such as TrustPilot, Facebook, and Google to see first hand how previous clients rated each agency. After this initial review, you may want to give each one a score out of 10 to help you omit weaker options.
Once you’ve reduced your shortlist to 3, reach out over the phone to any agencies who particularly impress you. Establish a handful of crucial questions you want to ask each agency ahead of time and run through them all with each company. Hopefully some ideas for questions will come to you naturally as you read this article.
One good indicator is to ask each agency if they’d be comfortable with you speaking to a few of their previous clients about their experience. A reputable graphic design agency should have no problem with this and may even reel off a list of satisfied customers for you to approach. A poor agency may be a bit more reluctant.
Do they have relevant experience or specialisms?
Always bear each agency’s experience in mind when making a decision. How long have they been established? Do their team have any relevant qualifications or awards? How experienced are the designers? LinkedIn can be a goldmine of information here – look at the profiles of select team members to gauge their expertise.
Don’t be afraid to ask each agency whether they outsource any creative services. If they do, that’s not necessarily a negative, though it does give you a good idea of their in-house strengths and areas of focus.
An important question to ask (but again, not necessarily a deal breaker) is whether the agency have experience of working with your industry. Depending on your outlook, you may prefer a versatile agency who can turn their hand to any industry, or you may want to opt for a specialist in your field. A lack of relevant industry experience isn’t necessarily a barrier here; worthwhile “generalist” agencies will rise to the challenge! It can even be a positive – the agency can come in with a totally fresh outlook towards your industry.
Also consider each agency’s experience in terms of sector; do they specialise in B2B (business-to-business) projects, B2C (business-to-consumer) projects, or do they offer both? Which kind of sector is most important to you for this particular project?
The best work happens between companies who are well-matched on both an interpersonal and professional level. Speaking face-to-face is a great way to form a solid first impression of a firm, so set up an in-person or Google Hangouts meeting with your shortlisted agencies.
In order to create effective branding and marketing, any supplier, particularly your design agency, needs to understand your business inside and out. So be mindful of how well they understand your industry and how they approach your project. Do they simply accept your directions and carry them out? Or are they confident enough to ask questions and make suggestions that may improve the end result?
Location may also mean a lot to you. If you’re happy for them to work remotely, then the agency can be based anywhere in the world! However if you’d like to meet in person for debriefs and updates, choosing a local graphic design agency is the more sensible option.
Will their size affect you?
Bigger agencies aren’t necessarily better agencies. There are some very well-respected large agencies on the market but smaller companies can be more nimble and flexible.
Larger agencies typically employ account managers to act as a go-between, relaying information between you and the creatives working on your project. Smaller agencies generally allow for a more direct relationship between the client and the design team. This may result in a more accurate interpretation of your needs, reduced costs, and a faster turnaround.
Pricing and Budget
In business, we naturally think of our bottom line before all else. However when it comes to working with a design agency – or any kind of marketing agency – it’s not necessarily the price that you should focus on; it’s the return you get from that investment. Never blindly jump to the lowest or highest bidder – different agencies have different strengths, weaknesses, and ways of structuring their pricing, so carefully weigh up all of your options. Get comfortable with asking each agency what realistic returns you can expect from your work with them and how their contribution will add value to your business.
The terms of payment are almost as important as the payment itself. How flexible are each agency in terms of how and when they expect payment? Worthy companies will take their client’s needs on board and adapt their payment schedule or methods accordingly (within reason of course). However, if an agency is particularly inflexible when it comes to payment terms, this might be a red flag.
We hope this guide helps you find the perfect graphic design agency for your business! Always try to be as clear about your requirements as possible; ask plenty of questions; trust your gut; and above all – enjoy the process!
Do you have any personal experience with choosing the right (or the wrong) agency? Please feel free to share your thoughts below and if we happen to be on your ‘shortlist’ let’s talk!