5 factors to consider when choosing a design agency

When it comes to finding a good design agency, the most important thing should be good design – right? Well, not exactly – which might sound odd coming from, well . . . a design agency!

Of course, all that creative stuff is hugely important, but you know what? We do realise that we’re not the only ones who are good at it. More on that later, as this post isn’t about us. It’s about helping you find an agency that’s a great fit for your business, and that goes way beyond the pretty pictures.

Having said that, design is of course a vital part of any organisation. How many entrepreneurs have dreamed up a new business idea in the pub over a few drinks – then, after debating a selection of names for their new enterprise, quickly moved on to sketching out a ‘logo’ on a paper napkin?

And there you have it, your first design requirement. Which, if you want to be taken seriously, leads rapidly into the need for some design skills! This blog post will help you find an agency which, in years to come, you can tell people you’ve worked with for ‘as long as we can remember’ or ‘since the business first started’. And that’s how it should be.


Why listen to us?

We’ve been in business for over 15 years now, and many of our clients really have been with us since day one. What’s more, over 40% of our clients have been with us for over eight years too. So we know a thing or two about good client relationships. In fact, you can see more on that in our recent blog post about Why Customer Experience is More Important Than Ever.

We said at the start that it’s not all about design, and we stand firmly by that opinion – although that is of course one of many deciding factors. But arguably, given that most design agencies which manage to stay in business must produce ‘good design’, it’s those other factors that create the differentiators, and which you need to look for when choosing a design partner. Makes sense?

One great illustration which sticks in our minds comes from a very longstanding client of ours, who came to us back in 2000 having be let down horribly by another agency.

We were talking about ways of working and project management methods, and she mentioned that she uses her email Inbox as a ‘to do’ list – filing emails in a separate folder only when that task is complete. But with one exception as it turns out . . .

As she put it, “With other suppliers, if I request something, I keep the email in my Inbox as I know I will probably have to chase it up, but not with Shine. As soon as I’ve asked them to do something, I’m happy to file the email because I know without a shadow of a doubt that it’s being dealt with properly.”

And that, in our opinion, is what you need to be looking for in a design agency – and we don’t just say that to big up our own part! The same goes for any supplier in fact – what you’re looking for first and foremost is peace of mind, and the ability to sleep at night.


It’s more than just good design

Using that as a start-point then, here’s our take on all of those different factors you need to consider. We guarantee it will help you to make a good decision:

Peace of mind – this comes from trust, and of course you won’t know the answer to that on day one of a new relationship. So make sure you speak to a new agency’s existing clients, and ask those searching questions about customer service, ability to meet deadlines and level of communication. Do you feel that working with this particular agency would enable you to sleep soundly at night, knowing they ‘have it covered’?

Business ethos – this might sound a bit fluffy and idealistic, but it’s actually really important. Different businesses have very different view on life, and on how they work – and it’s not rocket science to realise that you’ll get on better with a supplier whose people think the same way that you do, and have the same values. So when making a decision, suggest a coffee or a glass of wine and a little ‘offline chat’ as the IT world calls it. That should tell you quite a bit about what working with them will really feel like.

Charging structure – we were just going to say ‘cost’ here, but the more we thought about it, the more we realised that actually it’s not always just the amount that an agency charges, but also how they go about quoting, and billing, for those costs. Author’s corrections being a classic example, as they can often cause debate later on in a project! There are various different ways of approach this whole area, so ask those questions up front and make sure the agency you choose does it in a way that’s comparable with how your systems work, and in a way that you feel comfortable with.

Clear processes – we mentioned peace of mind, and all that it brings, earlier – and we firmly believe that the best way to avoid sleepless nights all round is to have good solid project management processes in place. When selecting an agency, ask about their PM systems – what processes do they implement, and what tools, if any, do they use to manage those processes? The last thing you want to hear is that you missed a print deadline, or an ad slot, just because someone forgot to press a button somewhere.

Fabulous creative – we decided that we’ve said ‘good design’ far too many times in this post, so let’s be honest. This is important, but you want even more. You want fabulous, amazing, insightful and utterly brilliant creative solutions. Something that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, and goes way beyond what you imagined it might look like. Whatever ‘it’ is.

And that’s an important point. In amongst all those other vital qualities, you want an agency that comes up with the goods design-wise every time – regardless of how exciting, or otherwise, what you’re selling actually is! Sometimes the real creativity isn’t just in making beautiful things look even more fabulous, it’s in making the ‘everyday’ look equally amazing…


For further advice on finding the right agency for your needs, please email anna@shinecreative.co.uk – it may well be us!