In the great scheme of all things creative and expensive, advertising agencies sit at the top of the food chain, corner print shops (CPSs) at the bottom, and design studios in the middle.
Typically, an ad agency offers services with a focus on strategic development, such as multi-faceted campaigns incorporating different media (e.g. billboards, TV and radio commercials). Given the nature of these labour and resource intensive services, ad agencies are priced out of the reach of most small and medium-sized businesses. When it comes to the media, however, they cannot be beaten, for their bargaining and buying power.
Design studios deal primarily with the design and production of promotional and marketing material for businesses using print and/or the Web to communicate. They create documents such as annual reports, brochures and newsletters. Often working alongside PR and marketing companies to provide a wider range of services, they are well suited to the needs and budgets of small and medium-sized businesses, as well as larger corporations.
The CPSs (with in-house designers) work on volume and usually offer layout rather than design services (that is, they follow your art direction rather than create original concepts). With their quick turnaround and cheaper rates, the CPS is a great place to get your basic price list or flyer done.
Finding the right design studio for you
Should your needs point you in the direction of a design studio, the following are a few guidelines to help you find the right one.
Know what you want:
- Do you expect the designer to develop original concepts or primarily follow your specific directions?
- Do you want them to only design or also organise printing/writing/other?
- Are there any specific working procedures which they need to comply with?
When viewing portfolios, look for:
- Relevancy of the design to the specific project – this will show the designer”s flexibility and ability to understand the client”s needs. Do not view the portfolio as a menu, hoping to find something that looks exactly like what you think you need, as this is not always effective in creating a suitable solution for your project.
- Ask about the designer”s participation and role within the various projects to determine if they can service the areas you need.
If more than one designer works for the studio, try to meet with the person who will be responsible for your account. Notice how comfortable you feel with them. This will be important when work-ing under pressure and obstacles arise.
Getting the best from your designer
There are two main characteristics that will contribute substantially to a successful relationship between you and your designer. Firstly, be honest – about your expectations, deadlines and desired results. Secondly, think of the designer as part of your team – not an external supplier or add-on to your business. This latter point may only seem like a slight shift in mindset, but it does yield great results.
Always remember that design is highly subjective. The only way a designer can give you the best solution is through teamwork and open communication. Be willing to explore what you like or don”t like about a concept, and allow yourself to be challenged and inspired by their ideas. Establishing an ongoing relationship with your designer means he/she will get to know your company culture and personal preferences – thus allowing a faster and more cost-effective design process.