Building or refreshing your organization’s look and feel requires expert guidance. But if you don’t have an in-house designer, you might be intimidated by the prospect of working with a creative agency. Below are some tips for simplifying the process:
- Look for an agency that’s compatible with your brand. When you’re auditioning agency candidates, check their portfolio for work that’s relevant to your needs. Ask them what they offer you that other agencies don’t; learn how they differentiate themselves from the competition. See what others say about the agency; if the reviews aren’t good, it’s time to look elsewhere. Be certain that anyone you’re considering takes your goals into account. If you’re on a tight deadline, make sure that the agency can complete the project on time, and incorporate any rush fees into your design budget.
- Be realistic about what you can spend. Share your financial expectations with the agency before you begin the engagement. Don’t ask designers their quoted rate; remember that you’re paying for quality. Ask yourself whether you want the lowest value or the best results; as the saying goes, “Fast, cheap, or right—pick two.” Expect to pay higher fees for design/editorial services if you request numerous changes; minimize cost overruns by submitting all corrections in one email or document.
- Develop clear style guidelines. Avoid unnecessary rework by providing designers with a brand standards manual and a content brief. The former maps out a general idea of the organization’s visual and verbal identity, while the latter outlines expectations for a specific project. Beginning the design process with well-defined instructions will ultimately save you time, money, and aggravation, especially when it comes to making sense of intangibles such as the nuances of brand voice.
- Know what style you’re looking for. Designers can complete the project more quickly and easily if you provide them with examples of styles you like. These examples might be images, webpages, distinctive color schemes, or even shapes that you want to incorporate in your design. Not knowing what you want can lead to many changes and much frustration. The more prepared you are, the better.
- Choose an effective strategy. Start your project with the organization’s content goals in mind; design elements shouldn’t conflict with the text. Tone down vivid colors with neutral backgrounds, and add a touch of brightness to make pastel colors pop. If you have many items to display (as in a catalog or portfolio), simplify their presentation by using a grid with thumbnails. This quilt-block concept is popular throughout the world of commerce.
- Protect yourself. Always have a contract in place before you start a project, no matter how small. You can’t afford to lose your money or otherwise be taken advantage of. It doesn’t make any difference how persuasive the agency is or how many great reviews it has—beginning a project without a contract still exposes your organization to risk. When you draw up the contract, stipulate that all of your information is confidential and will remain your property. Clarify who has ownership rights pertaining to the project and what factors can cause you to incur additional charges. If either party breaks its promise, a breach of contract will have taken place, and legal remedies might be needed.
Forward-thinking organizations recognize the value of good design work and its positive effect on brand marketing. They know that visual appeal encourages engagement, which ultimately prompts clicks and conversions. For help creating a high-impact design strategy, please contact us.