Things to Consider When Selecting a Design Firm

4 Minute Read

When selecting a design firm, you’re looking for…great designs!

Man, this blog writing thing is easy! You’re welcome, Google. I just gave you your featured snippet. I’m going to take the rest of the day off to work on my novel. I’ve got 300 words so far, so I should be able to finish it up this evening.

Of course, a 600-word novel would lack any kind of depth, as does the answer I gave. There’s far more to consider when choosing a design firm besides the quality of their designs. Design chops should, in fact, be a given. No one puts “medical knowledge” on a list of considerations when selecting a doctor. It’s just assumed that they went to medical school and that they know the difference between a thumb and a spleen.

When selecting a design firm, there are a host of other intangibles that you need to consider as well as some practical considerations. In the same way that you choose a doctor based on whether he or she feels like a good fit for your needs, you should choose a design firm based on the many ways they fit your business and your design needs.

Industry Expertise

Some firms are specialists, while others are generalists. Depending on the industry you’re in, there may be value in selecting an agency that focuses specifically on your field. They’re likely familiar with the competitive landscape that you operate in and know how to craft designs that will resonate with your customers.

If you opt for a company with a generalized focus, look for one that has at least done some work in your industry. It’s crucial that they understand the greater context of the designs they create for you — the history of design in your industry and what generally works and what doesn’t. Of course, you don’t want a retread of previous trends, but in order to effectively think outside of the box, you need to know what’s inside the box.

Experience

This ties in some with industry expertise but also transcends it. Design firms that have worked with hundreds of clients on thousands of projects have a better appreciation for the design process. They know how to work effectively with clients. They have a deep connection with the ephemeral process of creation, which starts with a blank canvas and a client brief.

Experienced firms generally make everything easier. They have intelligent processes in place to help guide their clients through the rigors of design. They’re generally faster, more attentive to details, and more nuanced in their design sensibilities. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re better designers. But they’ll likely find the right direction for your project more rapidly than less experienced firms.

Shared Values

Good design is a personal process that requires a good bit of soul-searching and sharing. To get the most out of your design relationship you want to find a firm that you feel a connection with. One that shares your company’s values and your way of doing business.

Make sure that your team and theirs gel well. You’ll be working fairly closely on occasion so you want the working relationship to be enjoyable and productive.

Design Aesthetics

Just as some firms are industry specialists, some have a specific design aesthetic that they’re known for. This is particularly true of smaller, boutique firms. Make sure you peruse their portfolio to get a sense of how their design sensibilities translate into client work. Ask yourself if their aesthetic fits your brand.

Imagine a design firm that’s prized by their customers for their kitschy, retro design style. They may be a good fit for freewheeling tech companies, restaurants, and other laidback businesses, but might not be a good choice for law practices or business consultants.

Service Range

Businesses and brands usually need a host of items designed for them. Logos, digital ads, brochures, websites, brand guides, and email campaigns are just a few of the many elements that a skilled design firm should be comfortable with.

When you find a shop that’s a good fit you want to kindle a long term relationship. That’s harder to do if you have to hire other designers to fill in holes in your preferred firm’s service roster. Instead, find a full-service company and stay with them.

Price to Value Ratio

There are world-renowned design firms that charge a king’s ransom for their services. You can also find design students willing to work for a cup of coffee and a testimonial. Unless you’re a Fortune 500 company (or a coffee shop) you’re probably looking for something in the middle.

Less experienced firms usually charge lower hourly rates. But their production process tends to take longer. Firms with higher-skilled talent charge more but are more efficient with your money.  And in the end, you’ll likely be better pleased with their output. And more effective output translates to a higher ROI.

Remember that in most cases you get what you pay for. Except for the king’s ransom companies. Then you’re paying for the name and the free sushi massage cart.

Design Quality

I left this as the last item on the list because I told you earlier it was a given, and I stand by that judgment. However, it is important to note that not all designers are created equal. They all know how to operate design software, and none of them will hand you the equivalent of clip art as a final deliverable, but some are certainly better than others.

Experience is a mitigating factor, and we’ve already talked about that, but you also have to consider raw talent. Some firms are simply more creative, more design-savvy, and more skilled at taking the grain of an idea and fully exploring its design possibilities.

Where Does CCG Fall?

In our entirely objective, unbiased opinion, we hit the sweet spot in every category. But you don’t have to trust us (though you can). Our customers will tell you that we offer the experience, range, and price you’re looking for, especially if what you’re looking for is exactly what we offer…which is exactly what you’re looking for!

We also know the difference between thumbs and spleens, so technically we’re doctors as well. Give us a call and let us show you why we’re your future design firm / surgical team.

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