Do You Really Need a Design Agency? Full Guide And Alternatives
A comprehensive guide to what a professional design agency can do for you, and alternative options.
A comprehensive guide to what a professional design agency can do for you, and alternative options.
Design Agencies have been popping up all over the place, increasingly so over the last decade. Even so, many people don’t seem to know the exact nature of what they do. And more importantly, what they don’t. With this in mind, I decided to make a short comprehensive guide to all things “design agency”. Here you will learn what areas design agencies specialize in, what are the possible alternatives, and of course, their strengths and weaknesses. The goal of this article is to answer the question that brought you here – Do you really need a design agency? Let’s figure this out together.
Although the answer “a company that designs” appears so obvious at first, this is not a pointless question. The purpose of a design agency is to work with the client in order to produce a design. This includes designing a website, app, branding, logos, or even product design. It could be print, it could be digital. Some agencies will also take care of developing the design. The point is always to bring focus on the visuals and the user experience. As you would expect, the agency consists of professionals who specialize in different fields and technologies, with a broad base of experience, creativity, and a nerd-level knowledge of graphic design trends and the latest technologies.
Good design is what brings vague concepts to life and making them functional. Respectively, a good design agency will understand your vision, offer advice and guidance to create something that works for you and your company on all levels.
While you collaborate with the team by explaining your idea and requirements, the designers will handle the rest for you. This way you have the time to concentrate on the aspects of your business you know best.
Let’s take a look at some of the tasks that a design agency can take care of, as well as the alternatives to each.
Let’s say you aren’t satisfied with your website. It might be the way it looks. Maybe you don’t think it represents you in the right way. It might not function the way it should. These are all aspects of the design essential to its success. In fact, the UI/UX design is so important, that it really doesn’t matter how good the content is if the design is bad.
A professional designer will create a professional-looking website. The colors, layout, typography, images, graphics, and experience. The use of other features will make or break your site, all matter greatly. Don’t underestimate the importance of design for your business image and philosophy.
Strong brand: Agencies have branding specialists and experience. If you’re looking to create a strong brand, your website is fundamental. It’s more than just the colors or the logo. If the site looks professional – you look professional.
Unlimited Customization: Working with an agency means you will receive a unique site, and it will be customized to your requirements and your tastes. This is a huge advantage in comparison to websites built on pre-made templates. There will be things you want changing and tweaking and your design agency is there to get it just right.
Small Budget: Design Agencies are professionals, they have years of study, design experience, and skills behind them. They will expect to be paid. Depending on your current budget for a website, you can search for different agencies with different prices. Don’t forget this is a global market, you don’t always have to work with your local agency.
However, if your budget is really tight there are other alternatives, which we’ll look at below.
Tight Deadline: Working with an agency involves plenty of collaboration to achieve a great result. There are many stages of wireframing, designing, prototyping, tweaking, revisions, and so on. These all take time, so if your deadline is ultra-tight it may be worth looking at another option.
Testing an Idea or Prototype: If you are testing something out, it may be better, to start small. When you link up with an agency, to get the greatest benefit you need to have your requirements as specific as possible. This involves what you are trying to achieve, your potential audience, what features you’ll need, etc. All of these details are required by an agency, the more background they have the better the job, and the less chance of misunderstanding and miscommunication.
Freelancers: Web Design is a field that attracts lots of freelancers, many of whom are excellent. There are numerous online platforms available for finding freelance designers. Prices will vary but you might get a great deal, so this is a potentially cheaper option. But it’s worth mentioning that a freelancer is not an agency and therefore doesn’t have the same resources staff-wise. Certain freelancers are specialists in certain areas but can’t do everything. Pick one with the skills that you want, not just a web designer, look at portfolios to get an idea of their style and techniques. Another consideration is that as a freelancer works alone, meaning there are potential issues for voluminous projects with tight deadlines.
Premade Template + CMS: Another option is doing it yourself. There are online web design platforms and software, where you can download premade templates and start creating your own site (WordPress, Shopify, BigCommerce, Squarespace, etc). If you are interested in this idea, it’s important that you check out the options, including the prices involved. Also, think of your own design skills. Templates and software do make things easier, however, it will still take time and some design and development skills to make customizations. If you have some experience with design and coding, this is definitely a cheaper option.
The days where each brand’s social media post is a simple image and a message are over. Brands need their social media design to best illustrate and align their brand philosophy and style. They need to stand out, capture the attention, and get as much interaction and exposure as possible.
Having a social media design consistent across all social platforms is important as the quality of the graphics. A design agency will have high-level experts who know the job inside out.
Strong brand: Color, typography, layouts, style, and presentation need to be cohesive, strategic, and effective. Same as your website, your social media represents your name and business. Social media and marketing design agencies are pros at conveying your message.
Unique content: If you want something that will stand out and make you memorable, you need unique content. Perhaps a creative video, animations, animated characters, cool infographics. Design agencies have all the latest tricks up their sleeves.
Faster growing opportunity: Design agencies have grown up with social media so they know its importance. They’re aware of exactly what does and doesn’t work, and their designs and advice can speed up business growth.
Small Budget: Similarly to other design agencies, social media design costs when done by professionals. Although it’s worth it, it might be challenging for new and smaller businesses.
A lot of content: One vital aspect of social media is that it needs to be regularly updated. It may not make sense for you to go through a design agency on a daily or weekly basis. So it’s probably best if you learn how to produce social media content – the use the agency periodically for special projects.
Socials are not the primary focus: Sometimes, social media design is not a specialism, it can often be seen as an extension of web design, so you may need a specialist Social media Design Agency.
Freelancers: You can find freelancers for anything. There is always the option to search around the various platforms and commission a freelancer to work with you on a specific project. Although this is usually a cheaper option with plenty of choices, the very best are in high demand.
The cheapest option is to create your own social media posts, and here are some sites that can help:
Stencil: A free (with limits) graphic design tool that is ideal for social media designs. Loads of free templates, stock photos, and stock icons and simple to use.
Crello: Another free tool that allows you to produce some stunning social media designs, it’s particularly good for animations, but it has other possibilities too.
Photoshop: Adobe’s Photoshop is great for editing photos and images that you can then upload onto your site.
Apps: There are thousands of other web and mobile apps where you can find tools that will create the exact effect you are looking for.
Your logo is worth some serious thought, it needs to clearly establish who you are and what values you have. Furthermore, it also needs to be dynamic and eye-catching to be instantly recognizable. That is quite a complicated task, way beyond just a quick drawing and bright colors. It should be something to be very proud of that will have a long-lasting appeal.
Strong brand: Nothing new here, the professionals have done it before, they are good at it, and they will work with you to achieve the result that you want. They will give you multiple options on the way and will use your feedback and input to give you the best result.
Unique logo: The logo will be created from scratch to your exacting requirements. It will not be a template with your color scheme and name.
Trademarking option: As the logo will be uniquely yours and custom, you have the option of trademarking it.
Small budget: Quality custom work doesn’t come particularly cheap, although it’s worth checking out some different agencies as the prices might pleasantly surprise you.
Startup / Testing idea: If you are just starting out, you may currently have other priorities before establishing your brand. A logo needs to be thought through, so take your time to really understand what you want, and what you want it to represent.
Small local business: If you aren’t planning on going global do you really need a trademark logo? A cheaper option might do just as well.
Freelancers: You can search for a specialist logo designer, and check their experience and work.
The cheapest option is to create your own logo, and here are some sites that can help.
Squarespace Logo Maker: For a basic logo, SquareSpace will do the job, you can simply add your brand name, pick an icon and you have it in seconds even without an account. Opening an account will increase your options.
Tailor Brands: This is an AI-powered logo specialist site, which takes you through a straightforward step-by-step process, giving you choice options along the way.
Wix Logo Maker: You’ll need to open a Wix account and then you answer a few questions about your brand. It gives you a great section where you choose from a selection of designs, stating what you like and dislike, giving them an idea of your tastes before generating suggestions.
Logomakr: Highly rated Logomakr that can go from free to nearly $300. A great range and the software is pretty easy to use.
Free-Logo-Design.net: Another web-based company that can generate a logo for you in a few minutes. You can choose via industry or theme, or type in a keyword. It’s very straightforward.
Product and package design is another key area of design that really will make a difference to your sales. After all, just as a book is judged by the cover, we buy with our eyes. It’s a terribly complex area, however, let’s focus on the visuals.
Strong brand: As with the above, and probably even more importantly this is an area best left to the professionals. Your packaging could make or break. It’s worth searching for an agency that has experience in your market or the real skill you require.
Small budget: It’s going to be a timely process, time is money. It’s going to be complex, this costs. It’s going to be essential, tiny budgets might not get you the results you want.
Freelancer: Many platforms will have specialist freelancers in this area. For example – Freelance platform 99 Designs offers a custom package from an estimated $349 -$1,499
Local package options: A cheaper alternative may be to search online for a specific premade design for your product which you can then edit or add logos etc. They exist in surprising variations. Check out Packlane and Packwire.
We’ve taken you through some of the key areas where you might need a design agency. Website, social media, logos, and packaging. Here are a few other areas that require design skills. As usual, the three main options are: Agency, Freelance, or DIY.
Animated characters or motion design for your social media or website is a rapidly growing area. There is the option to do it yourself but it requires some knowledge, skills, and practice. If you’re just getting started learning character design and animation, it’s good advice to bet on freelancers and design agencies to do this kind of work.
💌 Email Design
There are many recognized online builders and templates available. The downside is, they are used by many, so if you need something custom, you’ll need not only to craft the design but to learn how to alter the code. On the other hand, freelancers and agencies specialized in email design and email coding know the specifics of the craft. Coding custom emails that recipients will be able to open on different email clients without the design breaking (looking at you, Outlook), requires a special kind of skill that is very different than HTML/CSS for websites.
🛍️ Marketing Campaigns
Similar to email design, you can design your own marketing campaign with templates and software or pay the experts to do it for you.
Whether you really need a design agency or not, knowledge is power. Now you know what design agencies do, you easily decide if you need to work with one. If the answer is yes, the next step will be to select the right type of agency for the specific needs of your project. Time spent on research is time spent wisely. There are many agencies, local to you and online. Look at previous work, message them to test their communication skills, discuss your project and get some quotes. The wider you cast your net, the better chance of catching something big
In the meantime, if you’re for more insights, resources, and inspiration, you might want to make some of the following related articles your next stop.
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