So, you’ve decided to engage a graphic design agency for your latest project. You’ve identified an agency that can do the things you require, they have great testimonials, you like their style and they have an impressive client list. What can you expect from the Design Process? And, how can you work with them to achieve the best result?
Although, it will be different for all agencies, there is a basic flow of work that could be expected when working with a graphic design agency.
What is the Design Process?
Throughout the process you, the Client, will be required to supply details, feedback and various information, and, while this is generally kept to a minimum, it is arguably the most important part of the process. Afterall, it’s your business, your brand, your money – your opinion is important.
The basic steps through a graphic design project are:
- Brief & Quote
- Research & Concepts
How to write a Graphic Design Brief
A well-defined brief is paramount to the success of any graphic design project – after all, without a direction how will the agency know where to go? How will success be measured, if there is nothing to measure it by?
A good graphic design brief should:
- Define the objectives of the project
- Set the budget
- Identify the target audience
- Convey all known deadlines and any other milestone dates
- Provide some inspirational direction, or ‘No-Go’ areas
- Explain how it is to be used and the expected outcomes, and, if available,
- Provide any relevant existing graphic materials; company/brand style guides, high resolution imagery or key visuals, relevant logos, professionally written copy or a detailed outline of what is required for the agency to develop.
The importance of this step (along with your clear input, throughout) cannot be underestimated. No matter how proficient or skilled the chosen graphic design agency maybe, they can only be expected to operate within the scope of the brief you’ve provided – your first responsibility is to provide the graphic design agency with an appropriate framework within which they can produce their best work – and do it all for you.
Receiving the Quote
Upon reviewing your brief, the agency will respond with a quote for the proposed scope of works. Outlining final deliverables, defining a certain number of proofing rounds and overall expectations. The agency will be able to advise whether your budget is suitable to achieve what you want to achieve – if not, an outline of what could be expected from your allocation should be advised.
There may be conditions placed on payment; a percentage required to be paid up front before commencement, or upon completion of certain milestones, or dates; often these are not onerous and are simply put in place to protect the graphic design agency from potentially fraudulent clients or those looking to get free work by shirking payment – believe us, it happens.
If you’re not happy with what they propose, talk to the person who provided the quote, perhaps something was misunderstood from the brief, or the quote covers areas you didn’t realise needed consideration. Whatever the issue is, if you want to work with that agency, talking through the quote will undoubtedly clear up any confusion or misgivings right from the get-go.
If you accept the agency’s quote, let them know and then the work will begin.
From here each graphic design agency will have their own specific process, however, the fundamental steps will follow suit.
Graphic Design Research and Concepts.
Behind the scenes, mostly hidden from you, the graphic design agency will research areas that they feel are relevant to the brief. They may look into different typographic styles, particular colours or forms that work within the projects scope, they will analyse the target audience to gain insights into the behaviours of the end-user and much more.
This step is important for the graphic design agency to build the context within which they will develop ideas and concepts in response to your brief. Not much input will be required through this stage, however, any inspirational or aspirational visuals you may have supplied in the brief will be referred to.
The design agency will develop a number of concepts, and through internal discussions and review sessions, they will sharpen these until they arrive at solutions that they feel respond well to the brief.
Presentation of Graphic Design
The number of solutions you are presented with for the initial round may be defined in the quote and will depend on the scope of the project, however, typically, you could expect between 2-4 concepts.
More than 4 generally shows that the agency is struggling to come to terms with the brief – perhaps it’s too broad or ill-defined. Only 1 concept could indicate a lack of creativity or engagement with the brief.
The presentation process may take the form of a face-to-face meeting at either party’s office, it may be by Zoom, it could be emailed through from the agency with a written explanation, but the premise is the same; the first round of solutions to the brief are shown to the client.
Success at this stage is not expected, (however, it’s always nice to nail the perfect solution first time around!!) and the client should keep an open mind about what they are about to see.
Remember the reasons why you engaged the graphic design agency, and look for these characteristics within the work, don’t just look for what you expected to see, or wanted to see. This stage offers an opportunity to be surprised, before the direction of the solution becomes too narrow.
Feedback here, as always through the process, is critical to crafting and honing the outcome; along with an open mind, a client should be forthcoming and clear in their responses.
Every day a graphic designers work is critiqued and pulled apart, so, on the most part they are used to it, and don’t take it personally, however, there is no excuse to be mean spirited or offensive in your feedback – positive, clear concise criticism, backed with a logical reason will go much further to building a strong rapport with the graphic design agency, and, potentially, more responsive positive work, than harsh criticism backed by nothing but opinion.
Developing the Graphic Design Solutions
Taking your feedback and responses into consideration the agency will proceed with a round of artwork amendments, further refining the solutions to fit within your brief and comments.
Another presentation will follow, and if required (or depending on the agreed quotation) the process may move through these two stages several times. Each time with feedback and each time further refining and defining the solution until the artwork is approved.
It should be noted here that each round of development and presentation will cost time and money, for both you and the agency. Clarity of brief, feedback and overall direction will help to minimise this costly process and result in the timely delivery of your project.
Final Art and Delivery
Depending on the nature and requirements of the project various deliverables will be generated from the approved artwork. These could include Point of Sale displays, wobblers, web banners, social media tiles and other elements.
At this stage, all assets are presented together to ensure consistency, and that everything required is actually there – tweaks and slight amendments are done to finish off all elements.
When completed, the final art is delivered to you in accordance with the brief’s requirements and the quotation. Final art may include printed items, or digital assets that are ready for use, at other times high resolution PDFs or working files are supplied to the client, as they themselves may have organised the final roll-out of the project.
Communicating with a Design Agency
Communication between the client and the graphic design agency is of utmost importance throughout the entire process. It is just as important for the graphic design agency to be transparent and open with the client, as it is for the client to be open-minded and honest with the graphic design agency.
If we can be honest, nice, open-minded and trust the each other and the process, the results will shine.