How to choose a design agency

There is no lack of designers out there, so how do you choose the right one?

If you decide you would like to appoint an agency, the next step is to get hold of The Creative Handbook, or look through your local Yellow Pages.

Ask the agencies you are interested in to submit a portfolio of their work, or better still, get them to present it to you. Other factors to bear in mind might include:

  • Past work and experience – quality of portfolio, specialist skills and knowledge
  • Staff – quality, experience, capability and motivation
  • Interpersonal skills – personalities and teamwork
  • Recommendation – a good word from a trusted source can save a lot of time, effort and money.

Get more than one quote

If you are torn between more than one agency, or not confident your existing agency can deliver, put the brief out to no more than two agencies:

  • Allow them the same amount of time to work up rough concepts.
  • Request an approximate costing for the job.
  • Choose the design you prefer, rather than the cheaper option.

It is likely that the costing will be broken up into design and artwork, print and an agency fee:

  • Remember that agency fees can always be negotiated.
  • If you are suspicious of exorbitant agency mark-ups on print prices, ask them to supply a detailed print specification and ask a local printer to cross-quote, if necessary.
  • Check with the chosen agency that the design and artwork charges include allowance for extra amendments.
  • Ensure that a contingency allowance has been made for deliveries, couriers and so on.

Final checks

Once all costs have been approved, ensure that a few final procedures are in place:

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  • Request that a purchase order is forwarded to you for signoff before any work commences.
  • Ensure that a manageable and realistic timing plan is provided by the agency, again before the project begins.
  • Check the critical dates and that sufficient time has been allowed for you to be available for sign off of final design, artwork and proofs.
  • Remember that the agency can only keep to their schedule with your co-operation.
  • Avoid rush jobs at all cost – when agency or printer personnel need to work evenings or weekends and consequently charge out extra fees).


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