How to find the right design company for your business

How to find the right design company for your business

Design agencies are abundant in the business world for the simple reason that if selected carefully, they help you improve your business. There are plenty of companies offering graphic design, and most of them may seem the same on the face of it. So how do you choose which is the best company for you? What do you look for and what should you be wary of? Below are some tips on how to choose a company which is right for you and your business.

Please remember that not all designers are experienced in marketing and strategy. Designers are not employed to be business advisers so if you say you want a brochure then quite often that’s exactly what the designer will enthusiastically start on. However if what you really need is a new image and brand identity before you start producing collateral then you may be wasting your time and money. So before you commission any design be sure your marketing strategy is clear, who you are targeting and what your marketing goals are.

1.     Where do you start? Personal recommendations from people you know, like and trust are obviously excellent ways of finding suppliers. Printers, marketing professionals, members of your networking group – will often know of, or have worked with designers. However, beware the printer (or anyone) who offers the design for next to nothing. This could be a ploy to get the printing part from you and your design may not be as professional as it should be for obvious reasons.

2.    Designer’s expertise. Now you have identified a graphic design company or two what should you look for? Designers can be experienced in a number of areas, be it packaging, printed collateral, advertising, POS or web. They can be even more specialised, such as solely producing annual reports and financial documents or perhaps alcoholic drink packaging where technical knowledge of the bottle manufacturing process would be beneficial, for example. Often, however, designers have worked across a number of areas and can design an identity, brochure, pack and exhibition stand and call upon expert advice for the technical specifications if necessary.

3.    Philosophy and approach. Does the design company have an understanding of business and reality? Are they more interested in computer graphics and fancy effects? As you are in business and presumably there to make a profit, you want the communication to be effective and brand building. However small, your company should think about building itself as a brand and not just as a supplier of products. Successful communication will ensure all items build the brand – from the stationery to the signage to the web site – and be consistent in the message they deliver.

4.    Portfolio. Does your graphic design agency have a portfolio of work that they have done for other clients? (If not, then the discussions should probably stop there – you don’t want to be the guinea pig for a new start up!) Is it up to date, extensive and more than just pretty pictures? Do the examples look creative, exciting and stand out? Are they nicely produced and printed or delivered on screen? A designer should be good at ideas and problem solving so you don’t necessarily have to find a designer with experience in your sector. All of us are constantly bombarded with advertising messages and imagery so ideas need to be simple and be memorable. A design may look good in isolation but will it stand out in a crowd?

5.    Does size matter? For a small to medium size company, you should only ever need to deal with one or two designers for your communication needs. Too many designers working on your brand can lead to dilution and misunderstanding. Working with a designer is a two way process where both parties can ‘bounce’ ideas off each other and form an understanding which goes beyond the contractual relationship. So whatever size, make sure you speak to the designers who will be working on your material.

6.    The brief. It is important that designers understand a brief and can think laterally with an open mind. As mentioned above, the marketing strategy is fundamental in influencing any communication but often there is a missing link between the marketing brief and a ‘spark’ which gives the creative real substance. It is often very useful for the designer to delve deeper and understand what motivates the end user to buy a product or service and if possible to experience it. By drinking the beverage, visiting the establishment, driving the car – whatever product you want to promote, the designer should want to know why it is appealing or different.

7.    The stages. A design project is usually broken down into stages. Each stage should be itemised, explained and costed so that you, the client can see what is involved and how much time will be allocated to the project. Typically this may include research or an audit on current material – which may influence the creative brief – design concepts, development of the concepts and artwork suitable for reproduction. There may be the need for bespoke photography – which will probably need ‘art directing’ – and/or liaison with suppliers such as printers or web developers. A project management fee may be charged to cover meetings, travel etc which are not covered under the design stages. Transparency is the key here to avoid unexpected costs or hidden charges.

8.     Print quality. Ask your designer if they can give you advice on the printing of your project. There are many different options and processes available, for example digital printing and lithographic printing. These are ideally suited to different types of projects. A designer should be able to advise the best solution for you, based on their experience. Ask if they can recommend printers and obtain quotes without obligation if need be.

9.     Tools of the trade. As a client, you shouldn’t have to worry that the finished result is technically correct. That is the responsibility of the designer. Whether it is produced in Adobe’s InDesign or Quark XPress makes no difference to you. However, you often see adverts where the font is jagged or the image pixellated. This could be due to the incorrect format file or a low resolution pdf being supplied. Ensure your designer has sufficient knowledge of the production process otherwise any creativity will be wasted.

10.    Passion. Finally ask yourself, “will they understand what it is we do, our vision and are they really interested in my product? And are they truly passionate about what they do?” At the end of the day if they fulfil the criteria above, are passionate and enthusiastic about working with you, then you are more likely to get the results you are looking for.

By following these principles you should be able to find the right person or company to work with. A bit of research, due diligence and ‘a good gut feeling’ will all help you in your final choice.

For any further advice or information please contact:
Paul Holden
Creative Director
PRH Design
T: +44 (0)1684 291658, +44 (0)7870 737450, E: paul@prhdesign.co.uk
or visit www.prhdesign.co.uk

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