Choosing the right graphic design agency is an important first step in creating an ongoing and profitable relationship.
It’s hard to know where to begin with the myriad of graphic design agencies to choose from, so we’ve put together some key points to consider during your search.
1) How much do you have to spend?
Before you start approaching graphic design agencies, it’s useful to know what your budget will be for the work that needs doing. This not only helps you in the search but will also allow agencies to be realistic with you about what they can offer. Huge agencies might shrug off the £500 you have to get started with, but a much smaller operation may not be able to handle the volume of work that you have planned.
2) But money isn’t everything
The cheapest option is not necessarily the best. While it’s important to be realistic about what you can achieve for your budget, simply going for the lowest bidder is unlikely to yield the results you’re hoping for.
3) Are they experienced?
It pays to investigate what sort of work an agency has taken on in the past. The company website is a good starting point, but don’t be afraid to ask for additional case studies and portfolios. Have they worked in your sector before? Do they have any similar clients?
4) Get inspired by great design
You know that coffee place that just opened in town? With the swish sign and spot on branding? Why not ask them who worked on it? The same goes for the brochures and circulars that you’ve noticed lately and not thrown straight in the recycle bin. They have a certain something, and with a swift email or phone call, you can find out who was behind them.
If you are looking for a new agency, you might like to consider a different form of relationship with them. Check out our new Graphic Design Subscription, tailored to the needs of professionals looking for quick turn-around, high volume and no-nonsense design.
5) Speak to their clients
A good graphic design agency will have nothing to hide. Obviously only their best work and carefully edited quotes will make it on to their company website, but don’t be afraid to drop a line to their clients and find out what working with them is really like.
6) Location, location, location
The location of your chosen graphic design agency can make all the difference to your relationship with them. In today’s digital age, Skype, email and project management tools mean that you can choose to work with an agency anywhere in the world. However, a local agency will allow you to meet more often and potentially offer quicker turnaround times on smaller jobs. It may sound obvious, but check the travel times between your offices before you commit.
Historically, London-based agencies are understandably more expensive – their fees incorporate their higher overheads in comparison to graphic design agencies outside of the capital.
7) Timing is everything
Think about the way your company works, and whether your agency will be able to keep up with the pace. You may have months to get your annual report designed, printed and delivered, but if you need an urgent amend to a menu for an event this weekend, will they be able to turn it around for you?
8) It’s more than just pretty pictures
Try not to be swayed by things that just look great. At the end of the day, you’re creating something that sells your company and products to your customers. You need designs that work, not that just look great.
9) What’s your strategy?
Looking again at what skills you already have in-house, it’s time to decide whether you’re looking for a graphic design agency to help you sculpt the bigger picture. An established full-service graphic design agency can offer advice and guidance on marketing, strategy and development, whereas an independent graphic designer might not necessarily have these skills but can be a very efficient art worker if you already have this covered elsewhere.
10) What else can they do for you?
You might initially be looking for a design agency with the plan of revamping your logo and creating an up to date brochure. But if you want to expand further down the line, will they be able to help? Choosing a full-service agency can provide synchronicity across your print, branding and digital products.
11) Are you on the same page?
This is a difficult one to quantify, but it’s important to find an agency whose practises fit with yours. If you’re cutting edge and experimental, you may find it hard to work with an old fashioned and regimented design agency. On the other hand, a formal corporate client will be tearing their hair out having to deal with a zany team of designers. It’s not just about the work that they produce – these are people you have to develop an ongoing working relationship with!
12) Check their qualifications
A quick glance at a graphic design agency’s website can confirm whether they are accredited by industry bodies and whether they’ve received awards for their work. While it’s not the be all and end all, it’s good to see if your chosen agency is admired by others in the same field.
13) When you meet the right one, you’ll know
It sounds corny, but the best graphic design agency for you is going to be the one that ‘feels right’. The one that shares your ethos and working style, and the one that you can feel yourself doing great things with. Even after considering all the points above, you really have to trust your gut.
If you are looking for a new agency, you might like to consider a different form of relationship with them. Check out our new Graphic Design Subscription Packages, tailored to the needs of professionals looking for quick turn-around, high volume and no-nonsense design we call Toast Design Services.
I’m a content editor at Toast. Content is king and I am its most humble advisor. I help clients to find the right words for what they want to say, as well as copywriting, proofreading and editing. My naturally nosey demeanour means that I also help out in other bits of the business, and will go and get milk as long as it isn’t raining.