Why choose a design agency for your project?
With the wide variety of design houses, ad agencies, and printers out there, choosing the right supplier for your creative needs can be a daunting prospect. So what are the key elements involved in choosing the right kind of creative resource for your needs? should you employ an in-house designer? What are the pros and cons?
Most decisions based on sourcing a creative supplier inevitably come down to budget and what you feel you are looking to achieve. If you are simply looking for a few business cards, and yours is a sector where the image is not the highest priority, a design agency may be a more expensive option for the level of input you need.
Many types of the company offer graphic design. Printers no longer just print; even many photographers are offering graphic design as a service, as are stationery suppliers, IT companies, and many other businesses.
What is a design agency?
So what is a design agency, as opposed to these other options? Independence is feature of a true design agency, hence the word ‘agency’ where we are able to choose unbiased solutions that are not tied into having to use, for example, a certain print provider or being limited by any other linked-in factor.
There are advertising agencies. Should you use an advertising agency for design work that is not advertising? The probability is that unless your requirements are linked to a certain advertising campaign that has been produced by the ad agency, the level of budget necessary for them to complete other forms of design is usually prohibitive for most businesses.
The reverse situation is equally true; most design agencies will not be appropriate for producing broadcast or press advertising, and especially where media scheduling and buying are a factor.
The right design agency?
Within the design agency sector itself, there are still many different options to consider; here are a few points to help in making a decision:
Where is the agency based? Do I prefer a geographically close supplier so I can call in, or they can visit face-to-face?
What is their relevant experience? Do they have examples within the type of design discipline I am looking for?
Have they worked for similar-sized businesses in closely related business sectors?
Do they have marketing expertise as well as creativity? Can they understand wider strategic aims?
Can the agency handle my expected workload? What evidence do they have of this?
What is the specific experience of the team, who will handle the account?
Is the agency doing many more web projects than design for print? Are the designers qualified designers for print or web designers who outsource the print design?
Is the agency willing to give references of satisfied customers other than pre-printed testimonials?
Can the agency provide quantitative results for work? What evidence can they provide for the return on investment and accountability?
Which services are outsourced, which are provided in the house?
With the explosion of the web as a marketing tool, many early websites were created by IT people who had no training in graphic design but simply knew how to put a web site together.
The web site design has now become a standard part of a design agency’s portfolio, and it is a the natural progression for clients’ to expect their websites to have the same level of branding as any other marketing communications tool.
The main benefit of using a design agency to design your web site is that a graphic designer can integrate your site’s branding with that of all your other marketing items. It is true that many design agencies have to buy-in technical back-end functionality for their sites, but this is only like using a printer to print a brochure that has been conceived and designed by a design agency.
In-house versus Agency?
Many businesses have taken the decision to employ graphic designers for themselves as in-house creative teams. Reasons for this are usually based on saving money as there are many designers available, and the equipment investment is relatively low.
While employing an in-house team can be profitable, the inherent danger is that while the cost is lower, the long-term value created by designers can diminish as complacency and, ultimately, boredom sets in.
Potentially, in the longer term, the cost savings gained by going home can be overshadowed by a reduction in sales and profits, as ideas in the internal studio inevitably slow down, and communications become repetitive. And obsolete. Of course, it is important to note that this will not apply to all internal creative resources.
Using a design agency has certain key benefits over an in-house creative studio. The main benefit is value. Design agencies work in a competitive environment; their designers must consistently deliver the highest standards of work, as clients can choose suppliers who will often compete for the project by project.
As in football, in order to maintain a ‘place in the first team,’ it is in the interest of all design agencies to constantly come up with exceptional creatives for clients, as there are consequences for not doing so.
This competitive environment benefits clients by offering cutting-edge creativity and projects that deliver effectiveness and return on investment.
In-house designers rarely have that competitive pressure to drive their creative endeavors. They are effectively hired on a production line, and it can be difficult for employers to get a true benchmark on whether levels of creative effort hold up over the long term.
Unlike internal studies, where projects can only involve the products and services of one company, designers within an agency work for many different sectors and types of businesses. This constant variety leads to many new ideas and the refinement of cutting-edge creative talent.
This variety benefits the client as the agency designer is much less likely to become obsolete in the long run. Experiences with new design challenges and the constant use of imagination for new products and services means that when the designer returns to work on a certain client’s project, they have all the experiences of other clients’ work to bring to the table.