How to Find the Right Design Resource for the Job
by Brent Cook

First off, and this may seem pretty obvious, you want to make sure the type of project you have matches with the capabilities of the service provider. You probably wouldn’t want to take a corporate identity job to a web shop, or your interactive project to a logo designer. That said, there are many shops that are multi-disciplined and can most certainly handle a variety of assignments.

So where do you begin?
If you've got a fairly straight-forward project, by all means go with any designer you feel comfortable with. But if your project or campaign is more complicated and demands a dedicated team, then you'll want to seek out a creative group that can devote enough resources to your project. Once you've got a feel for who can handle the assignment, the best way to find the right designer is to do some homework.

Where to Look
Personal referrals rank first in my book. There is nothing better than getting insight from someone who has done business with your potential creative service provider. But that's not the only way to find a good resource:

Other places to consider...
• Industry membership directories such as the Business Marketing Association (BMA), www.marketing.org and American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), www.aiga.org
• Industry publications such as AdWeek, www.adweek.com
• Other companies (ask who their design resources are)
• Other buyers within your organization
• Internet search (based on your criteria)

What to Look For
It's fairly easy to call in a creative source for a meeting. But when it comes to evaluating, it gets a bit more complex. Whether it's by conference call or in person, take time to conduct a detailed interview to find out more. Are they prompt? Do they act interested and want your business? Do they ask questions and try to "fact find?" Or are they just interested in showing off their portfolio? Do they just talk about themselves or do they listen. If you are still interested, ask them for external references (client testimonials, affiliates or associates).

Here are some more questions to ponder:
• Do they have prior experience and a track record?
• Are they flexible with your requirements?
• Do they understand your business and industry?
• What's their reputation?
• Who are their clients?
• What are their capabilities?
• Who will work on your projects?
• Is their creative portfolio professional and to your liking?

While most of these questions are fairly subjective, it is important to dig a bit before you jump in. Mutual trust is key, so it’s in your best interest to find out who you're working with.

Consider the Business Service Model
Like most everything else in life, there are some pros and cons to the decision making process. These pros and cons are very general and are just meant to give you the big picture before you make the call.

Ad Agency
• Capacity for larger projects
• Good job traffic resources
• Diverse creative abilities
• Strong account management

• More bureaucracy
• Longer project lead times
• Less personal attention from principals
• Costs may be higher due to overhead

In-house Creative Services
Strong brand knowledge
• Understands the business
• Streamlined communication
• Cost efficient

• Ridged Internal review process
• Less design flexibility
• Possible creative apathy
• Longer project lead time

Boutique Design Firms
Project flexibility
• Budget-minded
• Unique creative solutions
• Personal attention

• Brand education required
• Non-dedicated teams
• Limited capacity for large campaigns

Personal service
• Conforms to budget
• Quick review cycles
• Easy to direct

• Limited capacity for multiple jobs
• Brand education required
• May be stuck with a single design "look"
• Can be unresponsive or unavailable

As a final note, have fun with the selection process. You can spend a lot of time fact-finding, but just remember that there's no litmus test to determine who is perfect for the job. Sometimes you've just got to go with your gut instinct and run with it.


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