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How Do I Choose A Good Design Agency? From An Insiders Perspective

June 14th, 2013

How To Identify The Good Design from the Bad & the Ugly

Tracking down a good design agency to develop your logo design, marketing brochure or website can be a tricky endeavour. Even if we start with the premise that no one sets out to do a bad job (I really hope that’s true), there’s more to finding a good design agency than randomly picking the company that tops the search results, or is closest to your office or best of all offers ‘free’ printing. How does a client pick their way through the seamlessly endless, self flattering sales pitch, when design agencies are supposed to be a class act in self promotion?

Core Dais Office

Core Dais, Design Agency


To find a great design agency – one that you can really build a relationship with, one that becomes a partner to your business, that changes how your clients view your business – isn’t an easy task. It’s also not a decision that should be driven by budget. It absolutely counts, but if you avoid investing enough money in the short term then it’ll definitely cost you more in the long term. False starts cost time, money and the obligatory heartaches so it pays to find the right design agency in the first place… failing that a frozen bag of peas for the head.


I’ve heard horror stories from clients past experiences and I suspect that this could be an incredibly long article if I let it be, so I’ll flag up a few pointers to consider.


What’s in the brief? Is it a design project or a development project? A branding project or all three? Don’t be blinkered about what you think the real brief is either – be prepared to listen to the experts. It’s not uncommon to help rewrite a client’s brief and hand it back stronger and better structured.


Don’t be too rigid. At Core Dais, we never ask the client to tell us how we want a logo to look – instead we spend time to understand their brief, their objectives and the impression they want to create and we use our combined expertise and experience to deliver something astounding, above and beyond the clients imagination. If they really insist they know what they want then we’ll always show one version alongside our own logos.


How interested does the design agency seem in your business? What questions are they asking you? Are they passionate about what they do? Are they excited about what they can do for you? This is a big factor, creativity needs enthusiasm to work through the rough drafts to get the polished finished article. Do you get the feeling that they’re just going to deliver what you’ve asked for? (These guys are art workers, and they’re great -quick to draw with the mouse- just not some much with creative ideas) Hopefully they’re going to listen to your brief and think creatively about how to solve your challenge, delivering something that really adds value to your business?


How do you respond to their portfolio? Are you inspired by it? Does it have you thinking excitedly about the possibilities for your own business? Are they experienced logo designers? Is it creative? Is it diverse? I always say that you don’t need to like everything in our portfolio but you do need to like the reason behind our design approach. You should like a good chunk of the portfolio if you’re going to work with the agency.


What’s the team like? Is it a single designer? Two? More?… An army of them? There are pros and cons to freelancers vs a design agency. Clearly an design agency is going to cost a lot more than a freelancer -their overheads are higher. The flip side is that the world doesn’t stop turning just because they land a big job or go on holiday and I believe that the diversity and vibrancy of a creative team is essential to generating ideas that are ahead of the curve and raising your head above the parapet.


Are they producing powerful design? What is that? That’s not easy to put your finger on but I believe that our very unique combination of strategy which combines tone of voice, colour psychology, typography and creative flair enables us to produce bespoke design for our clients that help them win more business. Couple that with our robust processes and our insight into our clients businesses and that’s what lifts good design up to powerful design.


What are their strengths? And how does that fit with what you need? All too often we’re asked to redesign a website that has been designed by a web development agency – unsurprisingly it lacks the creative flair, vision and design edge that a design/ branding agency can deliver and it’s that flair that’s essential to ensure that your site engages your target audience. This reflects my passion for a collaborative approach to developing a marketing campaign, bringing in specialists in each field that work well together creates good design that’s stronger then the sum of its parts.


The strength of any design agency has to start and end with understanding the brief and developing an elegant strategy to deliver good design. There is so much more I could write on the subject and it might lead to the sequel (The return of The Agency, more horror with bigger fangs), whether it’s of any interest to you remains to be seen.

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