Who Works with Graphic Design Agencies and Why?

Graphic designers are incredibly fortunate. We get to work with a vast, colourful spectrum of organisations, from wildly differing industries, all with different backgrounds and origin stories. It can be absolutely fascinating to learn what drives a business, how they want to be portrayed, and the nuanced differences between their audiences.

Needless to say, the companies we work with often need very different things from a graphic design agency. But different subsets of organisations often have a handful of quite predictable needs.

So let’s explore the rich length and breadth of what graphic design agencies like ours can offer to organisations large and small. You may be surprised as to the depth of service we can provide!

But First, a Note

Granted, you probably don’t need a designer’s input for every single tiny graphical job, but nonetheless we believe that all organisations should keep a graphic design agency on call, ready to assist at the drop of a hat.

Visual communication is a very nuanced skill. Highly visible design assets like logos, signage, and exhibition display collateral need to portray a message in an instant; sometimes one that needs to transcend socio-economic or linguistic barriers. You only get one chance to make a first impression after all.

Not convinced? Our posts “9 Reasons Why You Need to Outsource Graphic Design” and “Why Pay For A Graphic Designer When You Can Use Canva?” might sway you.

Graphic Design for Startups

Companies that are just starting out naturally want to hit the ground running in terms of their visibility. Without the right design knowhow, you could become visible for all the wrong reasons! Therefore, it’s advisable to get a graphic design agency in your corner as soon as funds allow.

A business’s first 3 years really are “make or break”, so the sooner you can invest in professional design that wordlessly communicates your brand’s whole ethos, the better. However, there’s more to it than merely “obtaining” a brand – it needs to stand the test of time and stay looking fresh and relevant for the foreseeable future. A good graphic design agency can help create an engaging, future-proof brand that puts your company’s unique qualities front and centre.

What Design Services do Startups Need?

Because they’re starting from scratch, startups will generally need… well… everything. They’ll need logo design; brand creation and strategy; website design and development; business cards; social media graphics; internal and external signage; exhibition displays; branded promotional items; possibly more! Depending on what the company does, they may need design for product packaging and vehicle livery too.

Graphic Design for SMEs & Microbusinesses

Once a business has survived its first few years, their relationship with graphic design changes. They’ve usually got a moderate amount of visibility, an established reputation to lean on, and a more consistent handle on budgeting and cash flow. They may well still need much of the same graphic design support that they needed when first starting out, but they now have a firm, long-standing brand image to uphold. They’ll also have a much clearer picture of their industry and audience compared to when they were taking their first, faltering steps. Those in charge may be looking to scale the business further or to simply thrive as they are.

SMEs are generally defined as having up to 250 personnel. Companies in this group may therefore have some in-house marketing staff, but those individuals might suffer with restrictive workloads or have limited hands-on design experience, therefore requiring ongoing support from a reliable external agency.

What Design Services do SMEs & Microbusinesses Need?

These companies usually have established brands that are serving them well, so their focus is generally on maintaining their brand and building on its existing good standing. They therefore may need website redevelopment; social media graphics; online display advertising assets, and probably some level of rebranding (or simply getting a “brand refresh”) later down the line. They may also need packaging and product design; billboards and signage; exhibition collateral; and vehicle livery. Good graphics are also a must for lead generation and inbound marketing efforts. Design agencies can help create blog graphics, visuals for email marketing campaigns, infographics, and “freebie” lead magnet content like ebooks and checklists.

Graphic Design for Enterprises & Large Businesses

As companies grow beyond a 250-strong team, their design needs start to change drastically. These companies are most likely to have in-house marketing support, probably even with dedicated graphic designers on their payroll. Again, depending on in-house designers’ workloads – and the workload of the marketing team as a whole – there may be scope for an agency to take some design tasks off their plate.

However, large companies’ graphic design needs encompass far more than just marketing. When businesses reach a certain size, they will generally need externally facing reports where a polished and presentable appearance is more than merely expected – it’s essential. A simple Word document, Excel spreadsheet, or PowerPoint presentation simply will not do. These are often reports that the company has to publish to some extent, like annual reports, gender pay gap reports, AGM reports, and suchlike.

What Design Services do Enterprises & Large Businesses Need?

Depending on the situation with their internal marketing talent, these organisations may need occasional overflow assistance possibly including web design, signage, packaging design, vehicle livery, large-scale advertising (e.g., billboards or bus ads), exhibition displays, branded items, social media assets, and occasionally adjacent services like print brokerage and web hosting.

They’re also likely to need design for non-marketing purposes, such as corporate reporting, slick slide deck presentations, and other such data visualisations. They may also work with a design agency for rebranding and brand strategy input.

Graphic Design for Charities and Nonprofits

Much like for-profit organisations, nonprofits thrive on visibility – they therefore need slick, carefully branded visuals. For-profits and nonprofits also require many of the same deliverables design-wise. However, their approach to marketing is very different – selling and fundraising have different goals in mind; this can result in very different marketing plans and strategies.

What Design Services do Charities and Nonprofits Need?

Work with nonprofits varies wildly depending on their size and age. Smaller or newer charities may simply need a modest web presence, a handful of social media assets, a small amount of literature, and occasional collateral to promote fundraising events. Larger charities are likely to need far more design collateral – signage, posters, bus ads, leaflets, lottery tickets, event promotion assets, recruitment literature, exhibition display assets – to name but a few!

Larger nonprofits will often also need to publish formal reports similar to those mentioned for large companies, and may require slide presentations for fundraising purposes.

Graphic Design for Educational Institutions

As with other organisations, schools, colleges, and universities also need access to graphic design. In some ways their needs are very similar to charities, but the deliverables vary wildly depending on the kind of institution in question. Schools need to persuade and inform parents, whereas colleges and universities are often more focused on appealing to the students themselves. This leads to very different approaches in their strategy and the materials they require. However, educational institutions of all kinds will frequently need to promote open days, fetes, and fundraising events.

What Design Services do Educational Institutions Need?

Educational establishments often require branded external and internal signage, billboards, posters, leaflets, and social media assets. They’re also likely to need professional-looking annual reports and data visualisations.

Many schools, colleges, and universities also operate minibuses or shuttle buses, so vehicle livery may also be on their agenda. One particular requirement unique to higher learning institutions is the need for prospectuses and comms that promote specific fields of study.

Want to read more about the ins and outs of working with graphic designers? Check out our blog post 7 Solid Benefits of Working With a Design Agency on Retainer. Or if you’re interested in exploring our design services in more detail, read more here!

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