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7 Awful Mistakes To Avoid When Working With A Design Agency

Spent hours looking for a design agency but ended up with a project you didn’t like?

After spending hours (and possibly days) in searching for the right design agency that meets your budget, you feel ready to take your project into the real world.  

But… 

As soon as the project ends, things turn sour between you and the agency. 

“The final product looks horrible!” 

“They’re always slow and late!” 

“This isn’t what I wanted!” or some other similar lines come to mind as you try to figure out what went wrong.   

Looking back, it’s easy to point fingers at the other party and claim that they’re just incapable of giving you what you want. 

In some cases, sure. The agency just didn’t follow through on the original plan. But other times, the clients themselves are the ones who ended up botching their projects instead.

The truth, however, lies in the fact that both sides had some faults at play that contributed to the project's end product. Although agencies have their own improvements to make… clients, on the other hand, can do the same to make future collaborations much better.   

How so?      

Here are 7 mistakes you can avoid making when working with a design agency for your projects. 

01.
Unclear Briefs That Hurts Everyone… Especially You

After several meetings (briefings, contract agreements, etc), the design agency will kick things off, and begin working on your project until the next review date. 

But before that day comes… 

The design agency needs to get a clear, concise and detailed creative brief about the project. Obvious as it seems, many choose to ignore this by giving a rough outline instead. 

When this happens, both sides will suffer from project delays, frustration, and confusion. 

But the clients will be worse off… 

They’ll end up wasting their precious money all because the brief given was unclear. 

At the end of the day, agencies can dismiss this as a one-off bad project, but you’ll be stuck with a Frankenstein creation like this (figuratively), where you wished you’ve paid more attention to. 

So what can you do?

Make sure you’ve covered the nitty-gritty things (objectives, timelines, concept direction & style, types of deliverables, etc.) to the overlooked details (icons, font types, color guides, special elements and more), which plays a significant part in the outcome of the project.

For instance:

  • Do you want a minimalist design on your icons and typography for your website like this?
  • Would you prefer to have a series of vibrant themed ads for your product every month such as this?
  • How about important elements that should not be included?

Whatever you’ve planned to do, get it listed down on the brief so it won’t end up taking more time and effort from both sides to reach a mutual agreement.

02.
Poor Communication That Leaves Both You & The Design Agency Worrying At The End Of The Day

After passing off the brief, all you can do is wait for the review date to come and discuss the necessary changes to improve upon what’s needed. 

But if the unexpected happens… 

Say, a change in the project’s budget, timeline, direction or anything else that would greatly affect the project, communicate such things to the agency immediately. 

Often times, poor communication leads to miscommunication on important matters, as failing to communicate timeline or direction changes, for instance, will only affect your project at the end, as you’ll end up delaying or devaluing the release of said product. 

After all... 

You wouldn’t like it if the design agency made significant changes to your project in the final version without you knowing now, would you? 

Hence, keep them in the loop on the important things in your project, because it not only helps them prepare for the worst, but it saves both of you all the troubles and worries you have at the end of the day.

03.
Unreasonable Deadlines That Sabotages Not Only Yours…  But Everyone’s Business

A well-executed project takes time. It needs time to develop and smooth out all the edges before you release it. The same goes for the design agency as well.

Why rush a project and have it turn out badly when you could have given a reasonable timeline for the agency to work with?  

It not only makes or breaks your projects, but it also hurts your relationship with the agency over the long term. 

Think about it… 

You wouldn’t want to work with people you dislike now, would you? 

Rushing people at the agency with unreasonable deadlines will affect the quality in the end, as they’ll be working under pressure to sacrifice the quality of their work to meet your deadlines. 

From there, any great work will only turn sub-par as they’re forced to ignore all the important and complementary details that could have made the project stand out from your competitors.   
 
When that happens...

It creates a ripple effect, which affects their work with other clients as well. They’ll then need to reprioritize and reschedule important meetings to meet this deadline instead. 

Being reasonable should always be a priority because it helps prevent your project from jeopardized while maintaining a good work relationship with the agency.

04.
Coming Unprepared For The Review Stage Makes Everyone’s Life Harder

As the review date draws closer, the design agency will be actively preparing to present their work in the best light to clients. While they do that, you could also make some preparations of your own to help make the review stage smoother. 

How so? 

This could be as simple as writing down important elements you’d like to see in your notes according to the brief. If you want to go the extra mile, you could have a checklist of things to tick off during the review stage.

For instance, if there are multiple key decision-makers involved, keeping them up to date about the project’s goal, strategy, creative direction, message, etc will only make everyone’s lives easier. 
But say if that weren’t the case….

The review begins and the design agency presents their work. You clearly understand where the work is heading and the changes to make. 

On the other hand… 

The other decision-makers will look at it from a different lens. One might ask to use a different approach that’s unrelated to the project’s direction, while another would chime in to add more elements that go against the whole project itself.

Doing so not only hurts the reviewing process but completely ruins the purpose of having a brief, as the agency will now have to please multiple stakeholders with contradicting demands.   

But keep this in mind… 

Even if you’re the sole decision-maker, it’s important to clearly outline the main goals you intend to achieve, as ideas tend to change over time into something that might go against the project itself. 

This helps prevent both the clients and the design agency from straying away and becoming too vested in an idea that does not achieve the project’s intended goals.

05.
Poor Feedback That Hurts Instead Of Helping Your Project Succeed

What does poor feedback sound like? Here are some examples:

  • “I don’t like this red.”
  • “Can you make that icon nicer?”
  • “That font is not what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it when I see it.”

Giving feedback is important. But poor feedback like these will you get you nowhere with your project. 

Doing so will only leave the design agency frustrated as they constantly try to figure out what you really want from the project. 

Hence... 

Avoid giving general comments that lacks detail and reasoning, because the agency will be using up time on brainstorming when they could use that same time to work on improving the project itself. 

Instead, be descriptive with your feedback by understanding why you don’t like it, by thinking about things like these:

  • Is it because the colors don’t grab people’s attention?
  • Are there too many visuals that are making it hard for people to focus on the copy?
  • Does it fall in-line with the visual theme you’ve established?

Or even examples like these:

By giving constructive feedback that’s backed by detail and rationale, progress is then made for both sides as the agency will now understand what improvements to make, while your project gets closer to your ideal version of the end product.

06.
Being Too Involved With The Creative Process Can Work Against Your Project’s Goals

I get it. It’s your project, and you have a right to be involved in the process as much as you want. 

But... 

Controlling every little aspect of it, especially each creative decision that were placed strategically, while ignoring the agency’s advice can end up affecting the project negatively. 

It’s not that you shouldn’t be involved in your project, but rather you need to have a healthy balance on your involvement and have a view from the grand scheme of things. 

Instead...

Focus on the bigger picture and allow more flexibility. This gives the agency room to breathe and put out more creative and innovative ideas, that would possibly transform your project into a much better version of its own.  

After all, the agency are experts and know what works from a technical perspective. They will always choose to give their best work, so as long as they are given the ability to do so.

07.
Not Getting Involved Puts Your Project On The Line

Although one can get too involved in the creative process, there have been other times when clients may choose to do the opposite. 

They present their brief to the agency and go off the radar by not returning any texts, emails, calls, etc, which puts their project and the relationship with the agency at risk. 

This even stretches out to situations in which key stakeholders or decision-makers do not respond or attend important meetings for reviewing the project’s progress. 

With no proper feedback and guidance, the agency is left to the mercy of their own judgment with the given brief. Even worse, some clients may choose to respond every now and then, but neglect the agency when they need their feedback the most. 

So what happens? 

This pushes the project’s deadlines as the agency can only do so much when the key decision-makers aren’t around for the reviewing process. 

The worst-case scenario?

Clients will demand significant changes at the last minute to meet the deadline. But this only creates tension between the two, and will most likely result in a terrible end product.    

Although clients can argue that a clear, concise, and detailed brief is enough for the agency, the clients themselves need to be present throughout the entire process as it can save both sides ample of time.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, just know that agencies are here to give you something you’ll LOVE, and not leave you with something you’ll kind of like. 

They’re not here to fight you. They’re here to make your life easier, and not a living hell because all they really want from you is to help put your project in the best light possible. 

Anytime you find yourself having a hard time with them, just remember this simple phrase: 

“We’re all on the same team.”  

Working with a design agency can be lots of fun when done right. You might even build a great working relationship with them, which leads to better collaborations in the future. 

And when a healthy long-term relationship thrives between the two, the benefits of having a repeat customer for the agency can spill over to lower costs, better collaborations, special contracts and so much more.   

There are many more ways to go about working with a design agency, but avoiding these mistakes can be a good starting point for those who are new to the process, or have had their fair share of unpleasant experiences when working with one.

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