Designing for the modern age means being flexible, adaptable, and agile. Though the principles of good design remain relatively fixed, media can shift rapidly and the best graphic design firms are the ones that are capable of changing with the times. Fixed ideas and rigid ways of thinking can be damaging for projects because they limit creativity and inhibit innovation. When interviewing graphic design agencies you should ideally be looking for a partner that is open to adapting ideas and processes to meet the specific needs of your brand or project.
Top Graphic & Print Design Companies
Graphic Design Agency Services: A Complete Guide
Table of Contents
- Questions to Ask A Graphic Design Company Before You Hire Them
- How To Choose The Best Graphic Design Agency For Your Business Needs
- Top Value Propositions And Differentiating Factors Of The Best Graphic Design Companies
- Top Graphic Design Companies Are Agile
- Leading Graphic Design Companies Are Digital Experts
- Effective Graphic Design Companies Are Collaborative
- Cutting-Edge Graphic Design Companies Win Awards
- Exceptional Graphic Design Companies Attract The Best Talent
- The Best Graphic Design Companies Are Strategic
- Service Offerings Of Top Graphic Design Companies
- How The Best Graphic Design Companies Market Themselves
- Top Qualities of the Best Graphic Design Companies
Social Media Imagery
Top graphic design agencies can create imagery that will improve impressions, engagement, and ultimately, increase traffic to your website through your social networks. This can be achieved by designing custom images in the optimal size for every social media platform while maintaining the brand identity and color scheme. Design firms can even watermark certain images with your business’s logo to increase brand awareness.
What’s more? Great graphic design agencies can assist in building a paid social media strategy -- a tactic even more important that organic posting. U.S. social media advertising is expected to surpass $26 billion in 2018, according to the Data and Marketing Association. Because organic reach on social media is down 20 percent across the board, designing on-brand advertisements that suit a demographic and are properly targeted is imperative to building a successful online presence.
Banners & Website Design
While there is a difference between a website designer and a graphic designer, a beautiful site is so imperative to business growth that you should consider investing in both. A graphic designer will be able to assist with branding, create imagery for content marketing, and design banners for websites and retargeting purposes.
In fact, 46 percent of search engine optimization experts believe that retargeting, in particular, is the most underused online marketing technology. However, partnering with the right design agency will place additional muscle behind growing digital marketing tactics proven to grow brands.
Did you know that emails containing graphics have nearly a 27 percent higher open rate and a click-through rate that is almost 4 percent higher? Well, it’s true. So while you might associate email marketing campaigns with copywriters and data lists, incorporate strong graphic design will improve those efforts.
Properly executed email marketing campaigns can have a return on investment of over 122 percent, so incorporating the services of an amazing graphic design agency is well worth the expenditure. A designer can create custom graphics, engaging banners and even specialized layouts personalized to your content and campaigns.
Thirty-seven percent of marketers claim that visual content is their second-most valuable form of marketing. While quippy tweets and engaging blog posts are important in growing a business, the time will come when you might need business cards, stationery, promotional posters, signage for a brick and mortar store, and so on.
The best graphic design firms will have the resources and in-house experts to handle any request for on-brand collateral that you might have without requiring you to keep a department of designers on retainer, which is particularly helpful for growing startups.
Logos & Branding
Perhaps the greatest service a great graphic design agency can provide is logo design and branding. Creating a cohesive brand -- including a responsive logo, recognizable color scheme, consistent imagery and more -- drastically improves brand awareness, increases returning customers, and, ultimately, boosts a business’s bottom line.
Because 59 percent of consumers purchase products from brands that they are familiar with, cultivating a recognizable visual identity is paramount. Plus, studies show that consistent brand presentation across every platform can increase revenue by up to 23 percent.
Questions to Ask A Graphic Design Company Before You Hire Them
Who Will Be Working On Our Project?
When you hire a graphic design agency, you aren’t really hiring the firm -- you’re enlisting a team of curated experts and resources. So, white a design firm’s reputation and client list may be a strong indicator of what they can do for your business, don’t rely on it. Instead, ask specific questions, like those listed below, regarding who exactly will be working on your project and what their qualifications are.
- Who will be working on our project?
- What is their area of expertise/how will they be contributing to the design?
- What previous campaigns have they worked on and what was their role?
- What unsuccessful projects have they worked on and what did they learn from those experiences?
- Have they solved a business problem similar to ours? How so?
Where Do You Find Your Inspiration?
Design projects are, first and foremost, rooted in art. Therefore, make it your mission to understand how each and every design expert determines trends, sources inspiration, and how they will incorporate that art into your brand identity in a way that will captivate consumers. The following questions should help you grasp a
- How would you describe your design aesthetic?
- Where do you find inspiration?
- What brands, designers, artists or campaigns speak to you and why?
- What design elements or trends should our brand focus on and why?
What Other Design Projects Have You Worked On?
Prior work is a strong indicator of the type of results a great graphic design agency can provide your company. However, don’t rely on them to just hand you all the information about previous projects. Do your own homework to learn who they have worked with and the projects they have produced. Then ask the questions below to hear the agency’s take on their portfolio and how they continue to grow.
- Who are some of your top clients?
- What clients within our industry have you worked with and in what capacity?
- What business objectives have you helped clients reach that are similar to ours?
- Have you learned any lessons from collaborating with clients?
How Involved Will We Be With The Design Project?
Working with a top design is a partnership. And like any collaborative environment, there will be time, energy and information that you and your internal team will need to provide in order for the project to be a success -- you aren’t just handing over the keys to the castle and coming back when the project is done. Always ask the questions below to understand how involved you will need to be throughout the entire campaign.
- Will there be a contract?
- Who is our point of contact and how often will they update us?
- How many meetings will we have with the whole team?
- What information or materials do we need to provide and when?
- What is the timeline on the project?
- How often can we expect deliverables?
- How much input will you need from us?
How Will You Target Our Audience In Your Print Design?
The best graphic design agencies are well-versed in identifying the proper audience and targeting designs to them with pinpoint precision -- which is the most important aspect of any design project. Before you hire an agency, review how they plan to analyze your current visuals and their success, define your demographic, and combine trends and goals into a functional design with these questions.
- How would you describe our brand?
- What design materials of ours do you like and why?
- Which design materials of ours would you change and how?
- How will you merge our brand identity into a functional design?
- How do you plan to determine our audience and target them visually?
- How will you incorporate design trends into our design while still realizing our goals?
How To Choose The Best Graphic Design Agency For Your Business Needs
There are tons of incredible graphic design agencies that fulfill a variety of needs. Before you start searching for the design firm to suit your needs, determine the type of relationship that you need to improve your business.
Perhaps you have a one-time project that your design department can’t handle due to workload. Maybe you’ve been slacking in your overall graphic design and need an agency to keep your visual identity strong until your business grows enough to hire full-time designers. Whatever the case, take the time to know what you’re looking for in a professional partnership and your ideal price point before you begin vetting agencies.
Understand The Process
While you discuss potential collaborations with great graphic design agencies, ask them questions about their process. Creating a stunning visual design that accomplishes a goal is a difficult task that requires plenty of organization and communication, so you need to feel comfortable with how a specific design agency will approach your brand, understand your objectives and translate those into an end product.
“I begin all of my designs like a puzzle,” says Taylor Carney, senior graphic designer at King Strategic Communications. “I need to figure out who the audience is and all the assets to the piece. Once I can lay out everything in my mind, the actual designing part comes easy.”
Test The Designers
No project is perfect, but designers at the best design firms can rely on their expertise, resources and work history to adjust to any changes. When you’re searching for the best firm to elevate your visual identity, ask potential team members tough questions to test how they can adapt their strategy to a flexible campaign.
Another great indicator of ability is asking designers what they learned from unsuccessful projects and what they would change if they had to do it over again. Also, assess portfolios and client lists, and don’t be afraid to ask them specific opinions regarding your brand, what they would change, or any ideas they have to help you reach your goals.
Reliable design agencies will create a contract to solidify the agreed upon timeline, deliverables, communication, team members and price -- but don’t commit to a firm before you read it yourself.
Enlist the help of your internal legal team to look over any contract before you sign on the dotted line. This way, you can amend any points, add any requirements, or even outline any private information that you want to prevent from being disclosed to the public or other competitors. Although it may seem like a long process, creating a detailed contract will protect your business, the agency, and ultimately foster a most positive working relationship.
Working with a top graphic design agency will cost you -- but do you know exactly what you’re paying for? Make certain you ask any potential agency exactly what their pricing looks like and precisely what your dollars are going towards.
Know whether their cost is a flat rate for a design campaign or by the hour, which team members you are paying for (and how much time they dedicate each week to your project!), and if additional drafts or meetings will drive the price per project up.
Top Value Propositions And Differentiating Factors Of The Best Graphic Design Companies
Eye-catching creative is a necessity if you want your brand and your campaigns to get noticed by your target audience. Though internal teams know the brand better than anyone else, often an agency partner can bring fresh insight and unique perspective to the creative process. Graphic design agencies are staffed by designers who are experts in their field -- design is their focus, and their skills are constantly being tested and stretched. This type of environment is exceptionally well-suited to producing high-quality branding, corporate identity, and other graphic design work.
If you’ve decided that an agency partnership is the way to go, it’s important to make sure that you identify the right partner for your brand. Agency-client relationships can be tricky, and a relationship that crumbles will spell disaster for project outcomes. That’s why it’s so critical to spend time evaluating each agency’s key attributes and determining which among them matters most to your business. Do you need a graphic design agency that is small, scrappy, and can be nimble with your design budget? Or is it more important to work with an industry giant helmed by a legendary creative director?
Either way, there are certain key differentiators that are markers of respected and reputable graphic design companies. Look for the following company traits as part of your agency selection process.
Top Graphic Design Companies Are Agile
Leading Graphic Design Companies Are Digital Experts
Though graphic design was historically rooted in print media, the rise of the internet has meant that digital media have become dominant. Top graphic design firms, if they originated as print-focused companies, have thoroughly adapted to the digital landscape. Most of today’s agencies take a digital-first approach to projects, which is to the benefit of clients for whom digital is the single most important marketing channel.
Immersion in digital technologies is necessary for a graphic designer to be able to adequately meet the needs of his or her clients. The search for a graphic design partner should always focus on those with a high degree of digital fluency. Creative agencies like Stink Studios emphasize their immersion in digital as a key selling point stating, for example, “We help forward-thinking clients succeed in digital culture.”
Effective Graphic Design Companies Are Collaborative
The best design rarely emerges in a silo. Deep collaboration is almost always necessary for graphic designers to be empowered to create truly innovative products and campaigns. In an agency setting, collaboration must exist both amongst internal teams but also between the agency team and the client team. Top graphic design companies facilitate sharing and discovery with clients in order to ensure all the members of the team acquire a solid baseline understanding of the client’s branding, goals, values, and objectives.
Collaboration persists into the strategy and execution phases of the project as well. Teams should be composed of employees in a variety of disciplines, from strategy and user experience to design and technology. B-reel highlights the breadth of their team’s skills on their website, saying, “We’re an extended family of over 170 designers, developers, writers, strategists, and producers across six offices around the world.”
Cutting-Edge Graphic Design Companies Win Awards
The design world is full of prestigious awards which exist to reward innovation and creativity in many different areas of design. Though the fact that an agency has managed to snag a coveted award doesn’t necessarily make them a good fit for your brand, it does suggest a certain amount of authority and credibility. In general, the most prestigious awards (Cannes Lions, FWA, D&AD, etc.) are only won by the best graphic design companies in the business, so the fact that an agency has one is indicative of both expertise and prior success.
Exceptional Graphic Design Companies Attract The Best Talent
The heart of any agency is its talent. Without top talent, agencies can’t do the kind of work that attracts and retains quality clients. The best graphic design companies invest in hiring the best and brightest graphic designers in the industry. They also invest a lot of effort in creating company cultures that reward passion and creativity while providing room for growth -- all things prospective employees look for in a role. A graphic design company that emphasizes an open, engaged company culture is more likely to have happy creatives on staff, which bodes well for the outcomes of client projects.
The Best Graphic Design Companies Are Strategic
Every design project should be guided by strategy. Research -- whether in the form of analytics data, user surveys, or social listening -- should form the foundation of the assumptions that are used to determine creative direction. The best graphic design companies are the ones with a keen understanding of this principle. Though experienced designers have much in the way of intuition, they never rely on educated guesses alone to guide creative decisions. A strong strategic foundation should be the first step in any comprehensive graphic design project.
Service Offerings Of Top Graphic Design Companies
The best graphic design companies offer a range of creative services to cover most of their clients’ core design needs. Below is a list of some of the most common services you can expect to see on offer at top agencies.
- Naming - Perhaps the most fundamental elements of branding. Naming strategies are offered for new businesses, or those seeking to re-brand themselves.
- Logo design - The creation of a brand logo. Multiple directions will be explored and a handful of logo options will be presented to the client.
- Brand identity - For companies that need a set of full, comprehensive brand assets. Full set of assets and standards will be created, including logo, typography, color palettes, core messaging, and even packaging design if applicable.
- User Experience Design - Some graphic design agencies may offer user experience design as part of their core services. This is the process of designing a functional and enjoyable product experience. It may also include web development.
- Web Design - Full-service agencies will almost always offer web design services. For clients with substantial design needs the agency can execute start to finish custom website design, including strategy, design, development, and post-launch support. They may also engage in smaller projects, like landing page development.
- Miscellaneous Creative - Graphic design agencies can create any number of other assets on behalf of their clients, including emails, print ads, digital ads, social media content, and more.
How The Best Graphic Design Companies Market Themselves
Internet marketing is a core component of how most graphic design companies market themselves to prospective customers. Through social media, email, and company website materials they promote themselves as thought leaders in the design industry. This is a form of content marketing that serves to build authority and bolster trust among the company’s audience.
High-quality, impactful graphic design has a monumental impact on a brand’s ability to stand out from the competition. Graphic design touches nearly every aspect of the way a business presents itself to the world -- from product packaging to website design and letterhead. The power of good graphic design is immense.
Choosing a graphic design company necessitates picking from a crowded field of competitors. Anyone with the right software can call themselves a graphic designer, but exceptional graphic design agencies distinguish themselves from the competition by the caliber of their expertise. The best design agencies differentiate themselves according to a number of key values, including:
- Agility - Is the company flexible when it comes to adapting to new ideas? Do they use the most cutting-edge graphic design software? Do they provide flexible design solutions to their clients?
- Digital Expertise - Is the design firm expert in all things digital? Do they demonstrate a keen understanding of branding and graphic design services in the context of the web?
- Collaborative - Does the company work in collaborative internal teams to bring a range of perspectives to every project? Can they also work collaboratively with client teams?
- Award-winning - Has the agency won awards and/or recognition for their creative work?
- Focused on talent - Does the company go out of its way to try to attract the best talent? What do they do to ensure their creatives remain inspired, engaged, and passionate? Do they base their company image on the caliber of their employees?
- Strategic - Does the company take a strategic approach to their branding and design projects? What research and data do they employ to help inform decision-making and creative direction?
Top Qualities of the Best Graphic Design Companies
Every page of your website should be meticulously designed to work within your overall brand aesthetic and the best graphic design companies put emphasis on this fact. That means color palettes, fonts, animations, and any other design elements should never be chosen at random -- they must fit within the broader brand narrative. It’s also important that the agency is committed to unifying the design across platforms so that assets are consistent on desktop, mobile, social, email, and even in offline assets as well.
It’s easy to churn out the same templated mockups for every client regardless of the project. This is the reason why so many websites end up looking indistinguishable from one another. If you want your website to stand out from the competition, you have to work with a graphic design agency that employs talented, hard-working designers. Your digital assets should be designed specifically to meet the needs of your company, as opposed to being copied from a previous client’s design. Look for an agency that values its employees and that encourages designers to embrace experimentation and creativity.
Top graphic design companies will have a portfolio of work they will be happy to share before kicking off work on your project. Reviewing an agency’s portfolio is an essential step in the process of choosing a graphic design company. It’s the best way to make sure you have a solid understanding of the style, skills, and experience of the agency. Look for examples that demonstrate the skills required to make your company’s project a success. Have they worked with similar clients before? Do they understand the needs of users in your industry? Do they have experience with the technologies that are essential to your project?
The importance of user experience cannot be overstated. Graphic design is about more than simply making a website that looks beautiful, it must also be appealing and engaging to your company’s target audience. The best graphic design agencies incorporate a discovery phase which they use to learn about your company’s customers -- their needs, desires, and pain points -- so that they can design an experience that works for them. Depending on the audience certain colors, fonts, and image directions will resonate better than others.
No agency worth their salt should ask you to sign a contract blindly without first pitching you what their approach to the project would be, were they to win the contract. Whatever your specific vision for the project is, all top graphic design companies should be able to take your ideas and apply them to the creation of the site mockups. Before selecting an agency, ask to see a few simplified concepts that represent their vision for how they would approach the project based on what they know so far. Doing this will give you a much clearer perspective on whether the agency is in sync with your needs, and whether they’re likely to be able to pull it off.