With hundreds to choose from, how do you decide on the best graphic design agency for you? Backed by more than 20 years’ working alongside big and small businesses, we’ve compiled our ‘top three’ recommendations for finding the ‘perfect’ fit for your team, business and brand. Here’s our tips on what to look for.
#1: A graphic design agency that’s strategic & scaleable
In a chaotic and competitive marketplace, great-looking design (alone) isn’t enough. In fact, author and Professor Jef I. Richards has famously said: “Creative without strategy is called ‘art.’ Creative with strategy is called ‘advertising’.” (And likewise, in our view, effective branding and marketing!).
Communication and marketing must connect and influence customer perceptions, decisions and behaviour – and that’s no small feat. At Mariart, for example, we call ourselves “creative souls with strategic heads,” which means that everything we do is fuelled by each client’s specific brand and objectives.
Truly effective design drives engagement and helps achieve business objectives. It’s more than impressive visuals: it’s about ‘reading’ your target market, communicating in their tone, style and language, understanding the competitive landscape, and much more. When considering a graphic design agency, you want creative talent underpinned by a genuine understanding of what you need to achieve – and who you need to be talking to.
“The goal of a designer is to listen, observe, understand, sympathize, empathize, synthesize, and glean insights that enable him or her to ‘make the invisible visible.”
Hillman Curtis, new media designer, author
The importance of strategy means that more organisations are looking beyond a graphic design agency, and towards full-service brand and creative digital marketing agencies. They help define a client’s unique identity – and map out the smartest way to stand out over time. That thinking becomes their reference point, to guide compelling (and unified) creative work across all touchpoints.
Take Urbanline for example: we worked with them to build a new brand from the ground up, launch it into the marketplace, and strengthen it over the years through ongoing marketing, clear messages and striking execution. It was all used to showcase what counts to their customers: real architectural style that works.
Scalability and skills on tap
Of course, design flair and technical skills are imperative – but it’s important to think ahead when it comes to selecting a graphic design agency. Consistency across channels and activities produces a stronger voice and better results. You may have a one-off project now, but is that likely to expand over time? Does the agency have skills and expertise across a full range of services from business, brand and marketing strategy through to graphic design, digital and web design, social media management, copywriting, video production and more? A breadth of combined expertise means you get more value (and ‘bang for your buck’) – with more brains and diverse perspectives to brainstorm, bounce ideas off each other, and develop original and thoughtful solutions.
#2: A graphic design agency built on great work & relationships
A solid and sustained track record
The quality and length of client relationships are very revealing when you’re considering a graphic design agency. Do they establish lasting partnerships that evolve over time? Are they trusted to help clients grow – and are there real testimonials to prove it? It’s a great sign if multiple clients choose to keep working with an agency, year after year, and enjoy consistently positive results.
And when it comes to relationships, take a look at the tenure of the agency’s team. Is turnover high and rapid – or is there a sense of stability, strength and skill retention? At Mariart, we consider ourselves lucky to be a tight and longstanding team working alongside loyal clients – many with decade-long partnerships that are still going strong. That leads to flow, efficiency and insight that’s invaluable for our team, clients, output and outcomes.
#3: A graphic design agency built on great communication & process
Open, clear and collaborative
Let’s be honest: you don’t want a graphic design agency that is precious or defensive about its work. Every project is a collaborative process. To achieve stellar results, choose an agency that priorities the flow of information and open dialogue, and is always working to showcase your specific brand: not create their own piece of art. An agency that establishes crystal clear briefs and expectations from the start – and then delivers on them – will save time and headaches while producing outstanding work that builds your brand, inspires your target audience and shifts the dial for your organisation.
Proven processes that deliver
It is so important to ask about process – and how the agency works, day to day. How do they establish agreed goals and targets, keep you updated, and deliver on brief and on time? Mariart has a very specific way of working, with a transparent approach that guarantees there’ll be ‘no surprises’ in terms of price, product or timeframe. By the same token, be wary of any agency that buries its head in the sand when (inevitable) issues arise. You need a team with a positive, ‘can do’ approach ready to tackle any challenge, keep a calm head, and make it happen – no matter what.