There’s a lot to be said for trusting those who you work with. If you’re a Dr. Who fan you’ll have noticed that at least from David Tennant’s remarkable portrayal onward, the Doctor has always able to get the very best out of his side-kicks by simply telling them they were brilliant. He turns away time and again trusting they will get it over the line. Its sci-fi (arguably at its best) but the rules are the same on any planet; people work a heck of a lot better when they are trusted to do so. This is a rather juicy topic so for the sake of this piece let’s focus on keeping it around the hypothetical idea of a small business deciding to choose a design agency. A blanket statement like ‘trusting who you work with’ actually applies to everyone in the cycle of a project. It most definitely includes the client and service provider relationship* but extends beyond that to everyone in the process. Lets start with the client. Making a decision like spending 5 or even 10 thousand dollars when you’re a small business is never going to be easy.
We’re big on lists here at IYBI so we suggest that you start with one. If you need your design team to be sexy then make that point 1 on your list. If they don’t publish photos on their profile page then look them up through social media. The point here is research. It’s true that through paid ad spaces and inflated SEO results its getting much harder to trust what you find through search engines but don’t be lazy! Trust yourself enough to take due diligence and find out as much as you can about the company you’re about to engage. Who have they worked with? How long have they been around? What do they stand for? What is their work like? Are their philosophies clear and do you agree with them? It’s not easy but it’s a bit like interviewing people without ever meeting them and that is one great advent about social media on a professional level; you really can’t hide and its very difficult to fake it. Another really good angle is to take the time to see whether or not they invest in things outside of the paid work they do. For us, a sure fire sign that a company is passionate about their work is what we call ‘love project’. Industry driven in-house work for the sake of bringing something beautiful into the world. Now too many love projects means a company is probably still young but the fire is there (they might be worth trying out), too few or non at all means something has been lost along the way (you’ll notice a different tone if talking to these kinds of organisations). Love projects are a big deal around here but there is never enough to indulge in as many as we like! We recently created some first edition Virginia Woolf book spines which we’ll be releasing in very low quantities later in the year. Its our 4th in house project this year and although we’re very busy its a great way to enjoy our skills and bend our minds a little outside of the sphere of client projects.
About now you should have a short of your own to be working through as a guide when making a partner decision. Our suggestion after working through that list** reach out to your top three and talk to them. Every agency is different but you’ll get a very good idea of what to expect based on who you talk to and how you’re left feeling after you get off the phone. Be sure to request a proposal from all three and then once the props arrive it’s time to compare apples. Of course you’ll soon realise that you’re never going to be comparing apples with apples in an industry like ours. We have people tell us we’re cheap some days and on others they ask why we can’t create a $500 website. Regardless of the inconsistencies that you might find yourself facing, you are now very well armed to make an informed decision. We believe that trust plays a key role the whole way through any project; trust through research and an informed decision making process. Our creative director works very closely with our designers but trusts them enough to resolve their first round ideas before any directional changes are addressed. We trust our development team to do a great job taking our wireframe design and turning it into a world class HTML5 responsive site that looks good across all screens and mobile devices. This took time and research and dedication not too dissimilar that described in the process above. Make a list, do your research, reach out and probe your agency and them compare. Once you’ve done this trust that they will deliver and you’ll be amazed at the results.
In the last three weeks IYBI has taken on a branding and web development project for Aspect Media who are a Melbourne based video production company as well as a logo and branding project for Raad | Afyouni who are Kuwait based advertising agency. We met neither face to face but their decision making process was very clear after we began the work and it got us thinking about trust in the digital age. Local is great but the getting the right fit is even better.
*We are very familiar as designers with the stalling client who’s sure they’re proceeding with the project but a deposit or an email reply is delayed for hours, days and sometimes weeks. After years of these scenarios we’re certain it’s the trust hump they are trying every so hard to get over.
**Keep it short otherwise you’ll invest too much in one lot of research and get lazy with the rest.