09.05.13

5 Points to Consider When Selecting a Branding & Graphic Design Agency

With so many branding and graphic design firms to select from, it can be very difficult to discern which firm is the best fit for you, your company, and your brand. Your branding and communication efforts should not be taken lightly which is why the decision of a branding firm should be addressed with the gravity that is warranted; the perfect branding agency should be sought after to gain every advantage that your company deserves. The following are 5 key points to consider during the selection process.

1. Culture

You’re hiring an agency, but remember it’s the people that make the agency. Chances are most agencies have already gone through their own vetting process to hire an intelligent, talented team, so it’s your job to make sure those people will mesh well with you and your team. After meeting with the agency if you can’t imagine spending two hours with them at dinner, a long-term partnership will likely be just as painful. You should expect to work very closely with your agency, so make sure they’re a group of people you’ll enjoy hearing from anytime of the day.

2. Experience

Yes, experience matters, however not in the way you might think. It’s not about what industries or clients the agency has worked for in the past. Focus on the brand strategies and solutions they’ve developed for their client’s unique challenges. You should learn if the solutions were relevant to the industry, were they innovative, and did they drive results. Often times picking a branding agency that focuses on a specific industry drives expected, staid solutions which keep you in line with your competition rather than set you apart.

3. Style

Does the branding agency have a set style or signature element? Or do they have a varied body of work that focuses on each brand and its unique challenges? There isn’t necessarily a wrong answer here; but remember you don’t need your agency’s signature design, instead your brand needs a visual solution that is recognizable, memorable, and differentiated from it’s competitors to set it apart in the marketplace.

4. Size

Do you want to be a small fish in a big pond or the big fish in a small pond? Larger graphic design firms and branding agencies may seem like they come with a larger safety net—the promise of good work or at least minimized risk, but remember it always comes back to the people working on your account. Even if they have 100’s of employees, you might still have a small team actually assigned to your work. You’re also just another client in a long list of clients, many of which might bring in more revenue. What really matters is the people on your project. They should be hungry, driven, passionate, innovative, and results focused. Small- to mid-sized agencies don’t have room for team members without those attributes, and you’ll most likely be their primary focus which increases the possibility of getting relevant and effective brand strategies and solutions.

5. Collaboration

The best solutions don’t come from one person or even a team of people working in a silo. They come from conversations, brainstorms, sharing information, and meetings—collaboration. You’re an expert on your company and brand and your branding and graphic design firm are communication experts. A successful and close collaboration will always be necessary to develop the most effective solutions. Find an agency where collaboration and partnership is a core aspect of their business model and avoid agencies that prefer to keep you out of the loop until the project is ready to launch. You should be a part of the conversation and development process.

When evaluating agencies, take the time to have a conversation with them; don’t just rely on an RFP or email. Be open with them and have an honest conversation about what you’re looking for, your long-term goals and objectives, budgets, and even your fears. Through these conversations you’ll learn a lot about the branding agency and specifically answers to the five points above—culture, experience, style, size, and collaboration. This can be a daunting and time consuming process, a good rule of thumb to remember is the right agency for you is the one that helped walk you through all these points and set you at ease. Good luck!