Getting the most from your design agency… seven top tips


All too often businesses end up not getting the most from the agencies they hire by not understanding how to get the very best from them. A good working relationship with a team of designers can dramatically improve your bottom line, both by attracting customers and actually saving money. But you need to make sure the exercise is cost-effective too. Remember that meetings all ramp up your bill so try to get the work done as efficiently as you can. That means doing some preparatory work before you start and being ultra-clear in what you need. In order to get this right, here are some top tips on how to get the best job for your buck!

  1. Never say: “Just do whatever you think best”.

You wouldn’t say this to your stylist, so why say this to your designer, someone that is responsible for a good part of your company’s image? When you are having your initial meeting with your design agency, it is very important to give them a clear idea of the sorts of things that you like, be it colour schemes, websites or other sorts of branding. It’s no good being vague about your tastes and saying you will trust your designers’ expert judgement only for them to come up with a “look” for your business that you’ve a strong aversion to. All that means is wasting a meeting because you didn’t give them enough ideas at the start. Don’t feel foolish saying things as apparently trivial as the fact you hate the colour orange … if you hate orange, it’s best to say so!

  1. But … do let them be creative

Yes, you need to give your design agency clear parameters within which to work, but you also need to let them do what they do best and be creative. If you go too far the other way and are too inflexible with your brief then there is little point in hiring a design agency in the first place.

  1. Think about the whole picture

Before you have your first meeting with your new designers work out exactly what you need. If you need your branding to work on digital and printed platforms – from tablets to business cards – you need to make this very clear in your initial brief, so that your agency can come up with the best overall design solution.

  1. What are the takeaways?

One excellent way of getting good value for money from a design agency is to make sure you’re provided with a set of brand guidelines when they’ve finished the job. These could include the RGB numbers of the colour schemes, the email signatures and the fonts used. This means you can make sure the design you have invested in is implemented across the company and that no-one in a distant department can come up with their own email signature, for example, that doesn’t chime in with your company’s overall look.

  1. Have a budget

From the start of your negotiations with designers make sure you clearly communicate how much you are prepared to spend. This will give designers further parameters to work within when coming up with the work, and will focus everyone’s attention on getting the job done to time and budget.

  1. Remember, you’re not a designer

We all have opinions about what type of design we like, and that’s fine, but try and remember that you’ve hired a design company for a reason. You’re not a designer – I’m certainly not – so don’t assume that role. You’re paying good money for their expertise so make sure you take advantage of it!

  1. Make sure the decision makers are in the meetings

And ending on a more serious note, the final piece of advice is to make sure the decision-maker in your organisation is present in any meetings with designers. They are the ones who will sign the bill and it’s very important they approve of the work. It is all-too-common for a business’s branding to be seen as a “soft” part of the decision-making process when it is in fact one of the most important. Visuals are a very personal thing and if the person who is in charge of the company doesn’t like how the branding looks, you can bet they will want to change it in a few years’ time and bring about further expense. So get it right first time and get the chief involved in the process.



About Clare Bampton

Clare Bampton has nearly 20 years' experience in PR and marketing and founded Derbyshire-based Bampton Communications Limited seven years ago following a career including Lloyds TSB, The Boots Company, TNT and British Waterways. Bampton provides practical, value-for-money PR and marketing services to a wide range of SMEs and marketing professionals across the UK.