Posts Tagged ‘design firm’

Assembling a Creative Team

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011



Today’s graphic designers are expected to wear a lot of hats: project leader, copywriter, web developer, photographer, and of course—designer! And many of us can and DO all of these things. But should we?

When I began my design career as a freelance designer, I would take on all of the responsibilities of a project, justifying that I would be saving my client the cost of hiring additional professionals. What I didn’t account for—or bill for!—were all of the extra hours that I spent fulfilling those additional rolls. (more…)

The existential pleasure of business ownership

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Sure, there are plenty of challenges associated with owning a business,
but for me there’s simply no other way to work. Here’s what I love about owning my graphic design firm, Mix Creative:

  1. I meet fascinating, accomplished, and enthusiastic business owners all the time. They’re a source of inspiration for my own business.
  2. I get to help the above businesses reach their audiences and achieve their marketing objectives. Really—it’s fabulous to know that the work I do is a part of their success.
  3. I set my own hours, which gives me flexibility to be there for my family as needed, and to pursue creative inspiration.
  4. I get to see the outcomes of my own work on a daily basis.
  5. For the most part, I don’t have to attend a lot of meetings.
  6. I’m the boss. I answer to my clients, not a middle manager.
  7. Communication between my clients, vendors and I typically doesn’t involve the use of “business-isms.”
  8. I get to benefit from the work of talented, creative collaborators.
  9. In promoting my business, I’m constantly meeting and befriending many more successful, creative business owners.
  10. I can work from a laptop just about anywhere.

What do you love about owning a business? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to leave a comment below.

Motives of a design firm/ad agency

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Recently, I read an article about an established Twin Cities advertising firm who spelled out their company’s culture in three simple rules:

  1. Have fun
  2. Make money
  3. Make money for our clients

This struck me as ridiculous. Really? Making money and having fun came before making their clients happy? And where was the goal of doing good work?

It seems like ages ago now that I worked at an ad agency with nearly identical goals. Only, it wasn’t fun. We didn’t do great work, and it felt like we were doing our clients a disservice. When I pushed for better quality in the work we do, the agency pushed back—if our clients were happy with our work the way it was, why would we waste time and money trying to improve it?

So I started my own design firm, placing quality at the center. My credo:

  • Do quality work for good people

Following this motto, I anticipated that:

  1. Quality work would bring loyal clients and good referrals,
  2. That I would have career satisfaction knowing that I produced a good product
  3. Money would follow

And indeed, this has been the case.

For me, the importance of benevolent motives fueling the work of a design firm cannot be understated. My clients place their business in my hands, trusting me to understand their company and convey that appropriately to their audiences. They trust me to approach each project with a problem-solving nature, never recycling work from other clients or applying a cookie-cutter approach to their unique business. They trust me to not sell them something they don’t need, and they trust me to not charge them for something I didn’t do. They trust me to be current in my understanding in the technical aspects of design and to be knowledgeable about the cultural climate of design.

In brief, they trust me to have integrity.

Designer and writer Adrian Shaughnessy wrote in his book How to be a graphic designer, without losing your soul, a passage about integrity that rings true:

We have to show integrity to the three “audiences” for which design is mostly done: our clients, our intended audience and ourselves. Designers will differ on the order of importance in which they place this trinity: in my view, the demands and responsibilities of all three have to be equally balanced.

It should be said that the agency mentioned in the article is fiscally  successful, and has sustained its growth in a poor economy. And, to their credit, the article states that their clients enjoy working with them. But for me, the question is, at what cost is success?

I’d LOVE your feedback on this article. Let me know your thoughts on the motivations of design and ad agencies. What are your “top 3″ rules for running your agency?

Selecting a design firm

Friday, October 24th, 2008

You’ve made the decision to hire a graphic designer to help you with your company’s brand. Congratulations! But with so many design firms and ad agencies out there, how do you make a selection? Here are some tips:

  • Observe successful brands around you and ask business owners or marketing directors who they’ve worked with. If they’re pleased with the results, they’ll most likely be eager to pass along the firm’s information.
  • Consider the expertise of the firm. Most design and advertising agencies specialize in a market or type of product. Seek out those firms that are experienced in speaking to your target market (for example, business-to-business communications, direct-to-consumer communications, or specific fields like medical or real estate marketing).
  • Consider the size firm you’d like to work with. Large firms often offer ritzy offices and accommodations and boast large staffs to work on your projects, but come with a higher price tag. Smaller firms have more modest settings but often provide a high level of customer service at a lower price. Whichever size you select, make sure the firm can handle ALL of your design and advertising needs, so you can keep it all in one place.
  • Talk to people within your network for a referral. They’re likely to have an inside track on how the firm is to work with, whether they meet deadlines, the quality of the their work, their customer service, and more. But don’t stop there, make sure to:
  • Review the firm’s portfolio. You can start with work they depict online, but more often than not, it’s just the tip of iceberg! Ask to see samples related to your industry or of a specific product type (websites, logos, marketing collateral) that you anticipate needing. Evaluate the samples for how consistently they convey the brand across products, how well they stand out against competitors, neatness and clarity, and innovation. A thorough portfolio review should help you avoid this situation:

  • Try them out. Give a firm you’re considering working with a small project to see how they work. Observe how well they estimate the project, set a schedule, meet deadlines, and provide multiple design concepts. They should listen and respond to your critiques well, and make you feel like you’ve been heard. Pay attention to whether they mark up printing or stock photography purchases. While this is a common practice, not all firms do this (Mix Creative selects not to mark up vendor services).

Be honest with prospective firms that you’re looking around. Be prepared to talk about your budget and your marketing goals, so they can get a sense of whether they are a good fit for you too. It’s not unheard of that a design firm will refer clients to a competitor if they’re better suited for a specific market.

Happy Hunting!