Fast Company

What to look for in a design firm!

In the ever changing, standardized world of web, it is becoming ever more difficult for small businesses and non-profit organizations to find quality freelancers and firms.  Why?  Because we live in the world of referrals!  The web, logo and graphic design industry is no different from moving into a new community and asking your neighbors for their insight on finding the best grocery store.  The answer is based only on a person's experience, customer service and quality of the products.

So in a referral world, what should a small and growing business look for in a website design firm?  Well here is some quick criteria:

  1. DO THEY HAVE A WEBSITE?
    Now that may be a silly first requirement but in actuality, this is very important.  How is it possible for you to place your trust into a designer (web, print or logo) without being able to have access to their work?  This is just an inexpensive, foundation tool for designers as they (if they have know-how) usually have the ability to design and develop a basic website for themselves.
  2. IS THEIR WEBSITE UP TO DATE/ UPDATED?
    It is not inappropriate for you as a prospective client to expect a designer to update their website with current/ relevant information.  This includes an updated portfolio.  If portfolio items are old and out of date, then what does this say about how serious they take their business.  Essentially design is about marketing and if a firm is not marketing themselves by providing new, relevant and exciting information, how can a prospective client be excited about working with them?
  3. QUALITY OF PORTFOLIO = CALIBUR OF WORK
    Many times, a client reaches out to a firm via telephone or meet with them in person after reviewing amediocre portfolio.  During that meeting or conversation, you are swayed by a wonderful sales pitch and are anxious to sign on the dotted line right away.  STOP! Do some more homework.  Take another in depth look at their portfolio.  Be sure that the quality of work that is provided is similar to the quality of work that you would like.
  4. ASK FOR REFERENCES
    This is where you scare them! This is where you get the real low down!  Ask for a list of professional references.  This is important.  Satisfied client will rave about the work that a firm has done for them, dissatisfied clients will tell you about exactly that... their dissatisfaction with the firm and what displeased them.
  5. GET TO KNOW YOUR CONTACT PERSON
    Before spending an immense amount of dollars with a firm, it is important to create a professional relationship with your contact person (designer, sales associate, company owner).  Why?  Before signing a long term contract/ authorization form, you must ask yourself, is this a person that I would like to deal with when it comes to marketing and promoting my organization for the next (x) amount of years, months or weeks?
  6. DO THEY UNDERSTAND YOUR VISION?
    When you approach the firm and present them with your vision, can they understand it?  After you present your project concept, ask them to reaffirm your ideas.  This is not insulting, this is not rude: remember, you are the client.  It is important for them to have a clear understanding of you would like.
  7. ARE THEY REALISTICS?
    Sometimes a firm in need of work will commit professional suicide by jumping at the chance to take on a project that may or may not be within their scope of professional services.  Look for a firm to tell you, "yes, we can complete that task" and in some cases, "no, that is out of our realm of products and service but we can recommend you to..."
Don't waste time or money!  Investing in your brand, brochure, business card or website is crucial to the development of your company.  Be cautious about how you look in your market as your brand becomes your new face, name and identity.

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