As 2022 comes to a close, chances are that you’re planning for the coming year.
On top of your day-to-day tasks, you’re busily creating projections, establishing short and long-term goals, and strategizing how to best attract more clients.
Perhaps you’re planning an expansion, or thinking of ways to diversify. Or maybe you’re looking at how your business can increase brand awareness and name recognition throughout 2023.
To accomplish this successfully, however, means further consideration and planning. Part of that? Deciding whether or not to hire a graphic design agency.
We get it. Hiring an agency can come with a hefty price tag. And that can be a tough pill to swallow, especially if you’re a small business with limited cash flow. But if your goal is to attract more customers to your business, the investment may be worth it.
As you think strategically about the year ahead, here are some things to consider as you determine whether or not an agency is the right fit for your business.
Consider How Good Design Plays a Critical Role in the Success of Overall Brand Experience
It doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re marketing for. Whether you’re focused on selling spa services or roof shingles, branding matters. In turn, this means that the brand experience matters.
If you’re not familiar with marketing terminology, we’ve got you covered.
HubSpot defines Brand Experience as, “The lasting impression customers have of your brand. It includes thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and reactions to everything from direct marketing efforts to large-scale ad campaigns and specific product launches.”
Still confused? We touch more in-depth on branding in this article. But take a look at these commercials to get a feel for what we’re talking about. They not only tell a story, they successfully evoke what we’re all after when it comes to successful branding: emotion.
Once you stash away the tissues after that last one, think carefully about whether or not your brand resonates with audiences as strongly as the branding in these ads do.
Here’s the thing: while you may not be running flashy and expensive commercials, your brand exists in everything you do, from your social media, to your website, to landing pages.
Because of the sheer number of stuff and things you need to produce on a regular basis (those three things we listed above are most certainly not exhaustive!), a consistent and professional brand look is getting harder and harder to maintain.
While these businesses associated with the commercials we just watched may be doing Brand Experience right, it seems a number of others feel like they’re missing the mark. In fact, this article in Forbes says that just 39 per cent of business decision-makers say their brand effectively resonates with prospective buyers.
And this is a cause for concern. Because if your brand is not being connected with positive thoughts, feelings and emotions, it’s going to be forgotten about. That’s not what you want.
A graphic design agency, well-versed in the art of branding, can efficiently and effectively create varied content that will resonate with your target audience.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re producing your company’s monthly newsletter or crafting a landing page for your latest marketing campaign, there needs to be constant, professional branding in place every single time.
Think about it: are you up for the challenge (do you even have the time, with everything else on your to-do list?!) or would this task be better in the hands of pros?
Think About How Brands Use Design More Strategically Today Than They Ever Have
Consumers in 2022 are sophisticated,” says Holly Hamilton, 1dea Senior Designer. “They know when they are being sold to and when a brand doesn’t truly believe in its brand values. While companies have access to more touchpoints in a customer’s life than ever, they also have the challenge of cutting through the noise of all the information out in the world and reaching the right audience who will resonate with their message. Strategic design decisions that align a company’s visual identity with its values, message and brand personality can help reach this audience and capture their attention.”
UX and UI Design Matters
These days, UX (User Experience Design) and UI (User Interface Design) best practices play an important role in customer engagement and success.
According to this Medium article, “The primary goal of any business is to increase its sales and increase the growth of the business. UX/UI Design plays an essential role in achieving this goal. The UX/UI Design of the application improves the user experience and customer satisfaction that ultimately helps increase the number of users of the specific application.”
Put simply? Consumers care how websites work!
“Slow sites, confusing titles and poor user experience will not only cause users to leave your website, but they will also lose trust in your company as a whole,” explains Holly. “Cultivating a positive user experience through usability best practices, accessibility, and strategic copywriting can help form a positive impression. Users are biased toward sites that look nice. They will report a better user experience if they find a website visually appealing.”
It’s also good to note that people visit websites with a goal in mind, says Holly. Just take a moment to think about the last time you visited a website. Chances are, it was to achieve something.
“That could be to gather information, make a purchase, be entertained or any number of reasons,” Holly goes on to explain. “If you keep your user’s journey in mind while designing your website, you can ensure they are engaged through the process of completing their goal.”
And so, even if all your customers are doing is reserving a table for dinner, or looking to learn more about the general services your construction company offers, you need to think about how you can make it easier for them to accomplish what they want to. Could the experience be improved? A design agency will be able to give you the answer.
According to Adobe, companies with a strong design outperform companies with a weak design by 219 per cent on the S&P Index (a stock market index) over the span of 10 years.
Visual Branding and Design That Aligns With Customer Avatars and Personas is Critical
If you’re in business, chances are good you’ve gone through a Customer Avatars and Personas exercise, because, as the saying goes, “If you try to sell to everyone, you’ll end up selling to no one.”
If you want to learn more about this concept, this Hubspot article is a good place to get started, but for today, we’re going to focus on what this concept means in relation to design.
As this article states, “You cannot design an effective product without a deep understanding of the user or the target audience. Personas help in building empathy and understanding of the users you’re designing for.”
Let’s say, for example, that your company is geared towards the medical community. We’re talking scientists, doctors, and other medical professionals.
Any design work, be it social media graphics, your website, a pamphlet, etc., should be created after careful consideration of your customer avatars and personas. It’s more than likely you wouldn’t, for example, use funky, flashy fonts with bold, neon colours. Instead, chances are you’d opt for something more conservative.
Before getting to work on anything it produces, a design agency will carefully consider everything from graphics, to typography, to colour palette, to imagery. Each element should speak to your customer avatars and personas.
Data. There’s no two ways around it: you have to pay attention to it. And even if you’re not a “math person,” you should be using it.
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, A/B Testing (also known as split testing) is a marketing tactic you should be leveraging as much as you’re able to when it comes to your marketing.
As this article by Adobe says, “It’s not enough to test button colors or headlines. Sophisticated optimizers research what to test, and prioritize test ideas accordingly. Knowing what to test is the most important part of any optimization program.”
Measuring visual engagement is just as critical these days.
Why? Well, the numbers speak for themselves. This Forbes article says that visuals rank above blogging and videos as the most important type of marketing content.
Design agencies are trained in the art (and yes, it is an art) of using data-driven design to create an optimized user experience that focuses on behaviour, attitude and needs.
Failing to tap into data properly means ineffective design approaches result in lost revenue and wasted time.
Not only that, but a lack of data-driven design could lead to damaging your overall brand.
Hiring An Agency Versus an In-House Designer
So let’s say that after reading all this, you’ve decided you want to focus on running your business, and have chosen to leave the more creative aspects to someone else. Now the question becomes: Do you hire an in-house designer, or do you find a design agency that can help you accomplish your goals?
Whether you’re a small, medium or large company, it can be a tough decision. There’s a lot to consider, after all.
While hiring an in-house designer certainly comes with many undeniable benefits, working with a design agency might prove to be the better fit (and in the end, more profitable) for a number of reasons. Let’s dive a little deeper.
It’s Hard to Find and Retain a Quality Full-Time In-House Designer
According to CBC News, Canada is in the midst of a “major labour shortage.”
And Stats Can data backs this up. It says the unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio (a key measure comparing the number of Canadians looking for work to the number of available jobs) is currently hovering at a historic low in every province. In fact, the ratio is significantly lower now than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
It’s not exactly “news.” We’ve been hearing it across the board: nobody can find employees. Even though companies are willing to invest in talent, training, mentorship and development, they’re simply not there. And even if you do happen to find and hire talent, keeping them is a whole other matter.
We’ve all heard about “The Great Resignation,” which has a historic number of employees packing up their desks and heading elsewhere, because they were either unsatisfied with their work environment or the industry they were in, or their job lacked a healthy work/life balance.
One article in Forbes says, “Cultural shifts and economic upheaval have fundamentally changed the way that employees want to work, and the success of companies in key industries hinges on an employer’s ability to navigate the new demands of the job market.”
In other words, if you’re not willing to adapt to today’s employee-centric environment, you’re toast.
Now, let’s take a moment to examine turnover rates specific to the design industry.
In a recent article by TrueList, up to 24% of graphic designers stay in a job for less than one year.
It points out that, designers change jobs often and within the first year, the turnover for this job is 24 per cent, followed by 30 per cent in the first one to two years, 12 per cent within three to four years, 15 per cent in five to seven years, while only seven per cent stay between eight to 10 years.
Then there’s the fact that designers are in startlingly high demand. With the rise of digital marketing and social media, there’s simply not enough talent to go around, and oftentimes, they get poached by other companies with all-too-tempting promises of better pay, better benefits, more vacation, etc.
Let’s be real: it’s all a headache you can do without.
In working with an agency, you can rest easy knowing that even if a designer within that company chooses to head for greener pastures, there’s always someone else there. Another designer in the wings who is prepped to take over whatever projects you happen to have on the go. Typically, people within agencies work close together and this means knowledge transfer often isn’t an issue.
As you consider whether to hire in-house or to seek out an agency, it’s worth rolling these thoughts around in your head. Are you ready to risk bringing on a new hire only to have him or her heading out the door in a year’s time? Are you willing to invest the time and energy that’s required to find the right fit? You might have your answer already.
Designers That Are Multi-Disciplinary are Few and Far Between
Graphic design is a diverse discipline. According to Berkeley College, there are, in fact, eight types of design:
- Web Design
- UI and Interactive Design
- Advertising and Marketing Design
- Motion Graphics and Animation
- Packing Design
- Game Design
- Publication and Typographic Design
Each type of design comes with its own set of skills, so you’ll find that oftentimes, many designers will receive training in and then specialize in a single type of design. If you happen to stumble upon a designer with skills in all the different areas of design, you’ve basically found yourself a unicorn. Hang on tight, and don’t let ‘em go!
At an agency, the variety of team members means that in turn, you have an assortment of skills to work with. And the best part? You didn’t have to do all the legwork to track them down!
Those who (successfully) run agencies know their designers well. They know not only what each designer is best at, but also what they’re most passionate about, and this can make a big difference when it comes to the end result.
If you have a web design project, for example, they’ll handpick the designer who has the most skills in creating the visual aspects of a website. If you have something in mind that’s more illustrative-based, on the other hand, they’ll assign the designer who best uses art to tell your story successfully.
This means no matter what idea you have that you want to bring to life, you’re not limited by the skills of someone that’s in-house, who may only specialize in one or two areas of design. And when the world has shifted in such a massive way towards digital marketing and design is so multi-layered and complex, why limit yourself?
A Single In-House Designer Can’t Leverage the Power of Collaboration
Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” We think she was onto something.
Here at 1dea, it’s not at all uncommon to see our group of Senior and Junior designers animatedly discussing a project and the different approaches it could take. And you know what? From this copywriter’s perspective, it’s a pretty awesome thing to see. One idea (get it?) transforms into another, and another, and another. And from there, the sky’s the limit.
So unless you have a team of designers in-house, let’s face the facts: you’re not reaping the plentiful benefits of feedback and different perspectives.
And to most people, collaboration is key. In fact, according to one article by BIT.AI Blog, more than 50 per cent of workers in the United States say their jobs are reliant on collaboration. And about 75 per cent of employees rate teamwork and collaboration as being very important.
An Agency Can Handle a Larger Workload
These days, there’s no end to design-related tasks.
Think for a moment about all the projects you might have on the go at once. Maybe you’re launching a new website, and at the same time, trying to maintain a successful and engaging online presence. Meanwhile, you need some brochures created for a trade show that’s coming up, and new business cards to go along with them.
The list goes on and on.
It should go without saying, but we all have our limits. One person can only take on so many projects at once. All those balls in the air are eventually going to drop and the consequences of that could be disastrous for a business of any size.
Not only this, but it’s important to keep in mind that these days, the mental health of your employees is critical. Overloading a designer can lead to burnout, which is becoming all too pervasive here in Canada. In fact, according to Canada Life, more than one-third (35 per cent) of all working Canadians are feeling burned out.
If you have an agency working for you, the number of projects that can take place at once increases considerably.
A creative agency has the ability to balance tasks and assign designers who are most capable of completing the work within a realistic deadline. Not only that, agencies are also skilled at finding ways to optimize their workflow processes and are able to take control of multiple projects with the help of a Project Manager, who helps to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
A lone, in-house designer won’t have these support systems in place, and ultimately, this can impact you and your business.
To Wrap Up…
We know your company is doing amazing things, but if you really see your star shine bright, you need a team behind you to help make it happen.
With an agency, you get a team of specialized experts working for you, helping your business experience measurable results.
With endless tools and resources at their disposal, and an entire team making everything happen behind the scenes, you can spend more time running your business, not figuring out how to market it.