By: Evan Levent [Art Director]
It’s the moment of truth. You, the entry-level marketer, the start-up president or the company CMO, sit with anticipation, a little bit nervous. After all, the company is counting on you to deliver. But then it happens. You’re presented with your brand new company design work, and it in no way comes close to matching what you think you wanted at the beginning of this journey. Now you’re left with only doubt and longing for the beautifully designed [insert groundbreaking, career making, design project here] that could have been.
What went wrong? You thought you did everything right. You told the agency exactly what you wanted, how on earth did they not get it right?!
Alas, there is an answer! And it is called the design process, the Rosetta Stone of design communication, and it will allow you to effectively communicate with your agency.
What is the Design Process? It is the step-by-step process by which you work with an agency to collaborate and produce a desired design result. There can be many names for the steps, but it essentially boils down to research, prototyping and development with a few project-specific sub-steps in between. I emphasized “with an agency” because the most important part of this process, and what will garner you the choicest results, is your ability to work next to your agency during a creative build. Your end result will be determined in a lot of ways by the relationship you build with your creative professional(s) along the way. With that in mind, it is my privilege to introduce to you a helpful cheat sheet written especially for you, the client, filled with some industry insight on how to work with an agency and navigate the sometimes challenging waters of the design process!
The Cheat Sheet:
1. Understanding Design and Picking an Agency – Professional design is the act of creating one or many artifacts that communicate an idea. An idea can be communicated in countless ways. However, good design can boil down an idea to its implied common denominator and engage a viewer emotionally or intellectually with speed and influential sustainability. This ability is part research and part creative intuition, so pick creatives who take an interest in learning about your company and your industry [research] by insisting you contribute to a creative brief and whose work and aesthetic you personally enjoy [creative intuition].
2. Have a Thorough Creative Brief – A creative brief should be developed in collaboration with you at the beginning of the research part of the Design Process. Your agency should demonstrate an understanding of your company, your position in the market place and your communication and design needs within the brief. Make sure that the brief your agency delivers to you is thorough and clear in its understanding of your business. You may know your company inside and out, but this may be your agency’s first introduction. Make sure you are on the same page from the start!
3. Talk with Your Agency – After the creative brief is finished, there should be a series of follow-ups as the agency continues with their own industry research and begins prototyping. Find out how they are thinking about addressing your design conundrum, and let them know your thoughts. Work together. Bring your industry knowledge to the table. But allow the creative professional(s) to bring you creative solutions; after all, that is why you hired them!
4. Don’t Be Surprised – By engaging in the process of creation, you head off the dilemma of being surprised by the final result. After research is complete, the creatives on the agency’s staff will need some time to deliver solutions. This is the prototyping stage. This is the time where all of your collective great ideas mature and reveal themselves. Let the creatives give them shape. Set up a meeting time to share each round of ideas. Pretty soon you will narrow these ideas down to a single great solution. If you each buy into the idea every step of the way, you will never be unpleasantly surprised.
5. Be Upfront – You alone know if there are any other players involved to “approve” a final idea, and you alone know what, if any, mandatory items need to be included like logos or disclaimers. For the sake of your budget, the project timeline and everyone’s sanity, have all this information available upfront and plan ahead, even if that means having multiple steps of approval along the way.
6. Be Fulfilled – The time has come. You’ve worked through the research, narrowed down your prototypes and your agency’s team has finished the final product. You have done everything to the best of your ability, so be confident in what you’ve helped produce. Design and advertising is not a perfect science. A market analysis won’t ever tell the full story or guarantee success, just as not all art will resonate with a consumer base. But if you work with a dedicated agency to smartly address your communications objectives, you’ll undoubtedly be ahead of the game!