How to Find the Right Design Team for Your Project
This is a topic that we feel is not discussed nearly enough. Designers and agencies are competitive and eager for your business, so very few will outright say if they are a bad fit for your creative needs. We fully believe in designing for the right clients. Here I will discuss a few dos and don’ts of how we align with clients, our recommendations on finding the right design team for you, and some things to keep in mind.
An informed way to find a design team would be to reach out to your network for referrals and connect with studios with the best referrals. Referrals are the best recommendation because they come from someone you already know and trust. A second kind of referral is testimonials, which are referrals from people like you who worked with the agency in question, but you do not know personally. An agency with strong work and good testimonials will likely draw your eye, and from there, you can meet with them and determine if they are a good fit for your needs.
Make sure that you understand and trust their process.
Trust is the foundation of all good relationships, business included. Obviously, you should only work with a team you trust. Don’t just go with the cheapest option or the flashiest sales pitch. Much of what goes into trust is intangible, and your instincts will guide you to a certain extent. But it’s also essential to keep some other parameters in mind since we can sometimes be led astray by the wrong details.
A common misunderstanding is that client meetings are a one-way interview process when it is in fact much more like a date, where both parties assess if they are a good fit and understand one another. We describe it as a bit like vibe, you know when someone aligns well with your energy, and you notice when they do not. When talking with an agency, ensure you understand and trust their creative process. And if they don’t explain their process to your satisfaction, ask them to clarify. They should be able to break it down so you understand and have the confidence to move forward with the project.
Consider the Project Deliverables
In the branding process, the main deliverable is the brand and its supporting assets, such as color palettes, fonts, and strategy. At Fizz, we develop a comprehensive brand guide for our clients, which details brand fonts, some open-source font alternatives, color palettes, graphics or icons, social media icons, patterns, and depending on the project, packaging designs, custom illustrations, or brand language work. We typically provide these assets as JPEGs, PNGs, EPS, and Adobe Illustrator files; the exact format depends on the final use. Each studio handles this slightly differently so just clarify if you need something specific.
We are very upfront with what you get with each engagement, but other agencies might leave more to guesswork. It’s important that you clarify what you are getting from your design agency because anything not included will certainly cost extra later. Clarify with your agency if you are getting native design files. These are a good backup should something unexpected happen, and they can be given to printers or other creative agencies in a pinch. If the end deliverables are unclear, insist on clarifying what you are getting and why that is important to you. Leaving this undetermined will only lead to frustration later.
Insist on Good Communication
Something that continually surprises business owners is who at an agency is actually doing your creative work. Perhaps you met with an owner, but you later find out that a junior designer is doing the work, for example. Larger firms will assign a project manager along with a design team that will work with you, versus in a smaller agency, you may be getting to work directly with the owners. Knowing who is doing the communication and who is doing the creative work is important to determine your confidence in that process.
We sincerely believe it is essential to talk directly to whomever you’re working with to get the best results. Did you ever play the telephone game as a kid, where one person says something but a completely different thing comes out the other end? It’s much less fun when that is your money and your brand.
One of the biggest problems we’ve found is that people come to us with a frustrating experience with another design team, and they are worried that will happen again working with us. This almost always comes down to poor communication from the agency. Maybe they didn’t fully communicate deliverables and timelines, or maybe they never aligned with the culture, energy or goals of your company. Either way, it is frustrating for both parties. If you aren’t yet talking to your design team, you should insist on having a meeting with them.
The best way to navigate all of this is by talking with this person you’re potentially working with. Are they clear in their communication? Are they clear in their process? Do they have expertise? And what is it that you need them to do for you?