Working with a Small Design Firm

working with a small design firm

So, now that you’re sold on the virtues of working with a small design firm, what comes next? What’s the onboarding process like and what should you and your company expect in the weeks ahead?

Onboarding with a small design firm

We’ll set up an in-person meeting, preferably at your place of business. We’ll want to get a sense of your company, its product or service, and its corporate culture. We’ll want to get to know your team and we’ll want your team to get to know ours. We’ll need to find out who does what at your firm and clue you in on our roles, too. We’ll ask about what’s important to your company, what it is you want to achieve with us as your creative partner and any must do’s we need to take on to get there.

Come prepared to discuss the strengths of your previous creative provider, if you were working with one, as well as their weaknesses. If you have a sense, we’ll also discuss the positives and negatives of your brand’s image and where your brand stands amongst the competition. The conversation will wrap with a budget discussion, where we’ll help you zero in on where your dollars will be most effectively directed. We’ll hope to get some of the simple housekeeping out of the way, too, like exchanging contact information and setting up billing and payment schedules.

What the small firm will need the first few days

We’ll need your company’s brand book for general design guidance. If you don’t have one, we’ll work with you to create one. There will also have to be a transfer of  digital files, including all of your company’s logos, fonts and any projects we might need to reference or build on. We’d love to see any of your company’s existing creative output that you think really hits or misses the mark.

If your company has vendors that we’ll likely collaborate with, like printers or photographers, we’ll want to introduce ourselves to them in these first few days, as well. We understand that they know your company well and that they will be team members of ours, too.

How is all this different than working with big design firms?

If your company is transitioning from working with another, larger creative agency, you’re probably wondering exactly how things will be different when working with a smaller firm.

The process shouldn’t be that different, really. Except for where it counts.

Importantly, instead of an account manager, who’s undoubtedly charged with juggling several other accounts in addition to yours, you’ll likely deal directly with a creative, who’ll put your ideas to paper without your vision getting lost in translation.

Expect us to turn your projects around more quickly than you’re used to, as well, and expect those projects to resonate right from the start.

To ensure that your projects move forward through completion without a hitch, we’ll likely recommend using an application like Basecamp to track project progress, and ProofHQ for project proofing and approvals.

The efficiency should be evident in the first invoice you receive.

Feedback loops with small firms

We’ll check in with you regularly to make sure that the work we’re doing is exceeding your expectations. Frank and honest feedback is the best way to get an outcome that you want- which is why we’re here in the first place. Whatever it is that moved you to work with a small design firm, be it value, responsiveness or quality of work, it’ll serve as our motivation to keep you and your company satisfied that you made the choice that you did.

ABOUT Ryan Bahrke

One of Wordsmithie's senior designers, Ryan has more than 15 years of experience in creative direction and management, working with companies like Google, Quantcast, RSM, Navigant, Starbucks, and Ace Hotel. Ryan is the principal of Auslander Creative in Denver.