Choosing a new agency to join the team is a big deal. There is often an expectation set-up that the incoming graphics agency will help visually enhance the experience of the overall space.
Are you confident that you are working with the most creative and most experienced agency to integrate your organisations vision and values vision your workspace?
Here are the 5 areas you should consider in order to select the right-fit agency for your project:
1. Experience in Workplace – Can the agency demonstrate similar relevant projects?
2. Aligned Strategic Thinking – Does the agency have the right unearthing tools to extract a good brief during the briefing workshop?
3. Creative Design Aesthetics – Does the agency offer the right design style to suit your organisations brand?
4. Inch-wide Mile-deep Knowledge – Is the agency a ‘Specialist or Generalist’ agency?
5. Risk Management Processes – What risk mitigation steps or processes does the agency demonstrate to ensure a smooth & successful outcome project?
1. Experience in Workplace
Today’s workplace has changed. Your brand promise… Living the brand, transparency of working, honesty authenticity and integrity all need to run vertically through today's leading organisations. No longer is it a case of putting a large corporate logo at the reception desk, internal communications needs to inform, inspire and enthuse every stakeholder touchpoint, both from a client facing perspective to the internal audience being staff and colleagues.
Does your selected agency understand the complexities of todays workplace? Meaning; whether your proposed workplace is to be; traditional, ABW, co-working, flexi-working etc. Does the agency understand the functional purpose and use for the space? An ABW space fosters a variety of office environments, that are all supporting different activities. In an average ABW office, that may include a mix of team desks, quiet concentration rooms, telephone booths and a meeting room, stand up meeting tables, a brainstorm area, multi media rooms, a lounge area and even stand up working stations.
I suggest that it would be useful to discuss with the agency how these areas could be visually and graphically treated to work synergistically with these diverse areas? ie. In a broader sense, often lessons learned from previous project challenges can help provide prospective clients insights into opportunities explored and barriers encountered. Ask the agency to convey what the challenge, solution and outcomes were from similar challenges they had experienced in past projects.
Request client referees, contact them to gain deeper insights into completed projects. Ask them how did past projects help influence positive staff, visitors and client behaviour within the workplace? Are there any videos showing interviews?
2. Strategic Planning
Different Agencies use a variety of exercise tools and questionnaires to help better understand your organisation its values, culture, business objectives, challenges, communication imperatives etc. Often reflected in the Agency’s proposal, you should be aware what level of investigative processes the proposed agency will be offering. Will it be a scratch-the-surface strategy approach? Or will be a more immersive and deeper explorative process?
The purpose is to unearth what is special, unique or different about your organisation so that the agency can leverage a unique creative response.
To achieve the best outcome, it is important to for the agency adequately delve, discover and familiarise with your business and project objectives. You should look to ask questions about how and what unearthing tools may utilised and how the process fits with your organisation expectations. i.e. Will you be forming a Project Control Group (PCG) to help the streamline decision-making processes and enable the project keep moving forward? If so, you should look to ask questions about how and what unearthing tools are likely to be proposed.
So, best to invest in the set-up stages and remember – a good, clearly defined brief, more often that not, leads to a good design outcome.
3. Creative Design Aesthetics
Does the agency offer the right design-style to suit your organisations brand? Choosing a design agency that has a good visual design ‘fit’ is often a subjective exercise.
Although you can’t always judge a book by its cover (as the cliché goes) you can often gain a good feel for the general 'look and feel’ output a design agency offers. By viewing past projects your organisation will quickly be able to decide if their communication style connects with you on emotional level.
If a design agency a has a subtle 'house style' or set of guiding design principles it employs - in it can often help manage your expectations somewhat, and can give a clue as to the likely creative avenues it may explore. An example may mean… the use of big areas of flat colours, dynamic big bold typography, treated or pixel effect photographic imagery, understated design layout. Each of these visual cues may help you assess the design outcome for your project.
So, remember best to choose a design agency that appeals to your organisations sense of design style and who’s communication connects on an emotional level.
4. Inch-wide vs mile-deep knowledge
Is the proposed agency a ‘Specialist or Generalist’ agency?
Using a common analogy, which would you use to design your new home… a residential architect or jump straight to an builder?
It seems almost too obvious that most would clearly use the ‘residential architect’. Yes, but why is this? Well, you would be looking to tap into the deep expertise, years of training, effectiveness of a specialist professional who has a 'day-in, day-out' narrow focus on ‘residential’ projects. The assumption would be that the architect will achieve a great outcome faster and more effectively (more cost-effectively) and to a higher design standard, than a 'jack of all trades’ all-rounder builder.
I believe that the world doesn’t need a another ‘Jack of all trades’ generalist graphic designer who doesn’t stand for anything imparticular. There are thousands of graphic designers and agencies in Australia each vying for whatever projects come their way, but when it comes to the complexities of spatial design projects it is important to assemble a short-list of ‘specialists’ for interview. This way you’ll know that you’ll be tapping into narrow expertise - and have the 'right team' for the job.
It is important that the criteria of this shortlist should be that are able to demonstrate an 'inch-wide, mile deep’ expertise in environmental graphics and signage.
Other things to lookout for are;
– Individual team bios… Can each of the proposed assembled teams demonstrate previous history of similar such projects?
– Industry recognition… Has the agency been recognised for outstanding design within its industry and by its peers? These are usually a good sign that the agency is an above-average contender.
– Sustainability… Does the agency have a sustainability statement that outline their approach to contributing towards a sustainable workplace environment ?
So, remember choose an agency that offers deep expertise rather than a wide service range.
5. Risk management Processes
As the cliché goes… you never get a second chance to make a first impression. This is especially true when staff, suppliers, and clients visit your workplace. They are likely to form an enduring opinion of your organisation.
The decision to invest in your staff, their well being through their enhancing their workplace environment is often a substantial financial investment - so it is important to get it right the first time.
What are the ways you can minimise potential risk through your project stages?
The three areas I recommend you focus on are:
1. A comprehensive unearthing process
2. Visual territories exploration
3. 1:1 Rapid Prototyping
I believe a good brief 'sets a project up for success' – so, it is important to have a thorough discovery and familiarisation stage to help manage both agency and client expectations for whats needs to be achieved.
This good 'unearthing process’ will allow a deep & thorough, comprehensive briefing definition. This will ensure all the project stakeholder group’s ‘wants and needs’ are recorded and defined - a good creative foundation brief will become the guiding evaluation criteria framework, upon which, all subsequent creative design work will be judged.
Do you ever find that you don’t always know what you want? (or at least can’t articulate it?)… that said, show you an image/idea, and you’ll be instantly opinionated on whether it visually resonates and is on-brief?
Given that it is not uncommon to know what one does’t like? We believe a good way minimise project risk is by offering strategically sound visual precedence mood boards options (we call them 'visual territory boards') supported by key buzz words we are able to present clients a wider range of 'creative avenues’ that stimulate discussion and help narrow the focus of exploration, avoiding unnecessary exploration of futile directions. This effective approach means that the project control group (PCG) has an opportunity to feel part of the creative process and feel a sense of ownership and buy-in to the project outcome.
What other risk mitigation opportunities are there? Well, the other area you should look at is managing expectation around 'production values'. A good agency should offer the option of prototyping all built aspect as a 1:1 prototype… showing you both dimensional and flat forms as one to one section, and produced in the actual colour , and the actual material that will be in the final outcome. this will men there are no nasty surprises experience when the final install happens.
In summary, successfully navigating the Agency-appointment process to achieve the best outcome is influenced by your organisation asking the right questions, during the vetting stages to ensure the 'right fit'.