How to pick a design firm that will suit your needs.

Many entrepreneurs may have products which they think are good and after having a few customers, reiterating the products, making them better, they may think they have a good product which they could sell. There are always questions that come to mind;

Should I design my own packaging, website and social media engagement or hire someone else?

Do you know how to use image editing software to create your own graphics or have access to good graphic designers?

For packaging:
– Do I have contacts that are printers?
– Do I know the printers who have done work in my industry to the quality that I require?
– Do I know anything about packaging design?

For Web:
– How much do you know about creating a webpage to drive traffic?
– What do you want your webpage to be? E-commerce site to sell your products?
– Can I write my own copy editing for my website?

For Social Media:
– Do you know how to engage customer on social media?
– Do you have time to follow up on conversations?
– Do I know how to use the various social media platforms and pick the ones that suits my needs best?

For most of the cases, the entrepreneur may have some experience in doing a little, but may not have the whole picture, it is important to also know that time is also a cost. If the entrepreneur spends too much time on engagement and designing, the most important part of business development and product development may be ignored affecting operations.

So, if there are parts that the entrepreneur needs help on, and there is potential more sales that it makes economic sense, then engaging vendors to get it done may be required. So how do you choose the right designer?

There are a few choices:

  1. Free lance designer.
    This may be a relatively lowest cost way of going ahead. As they have low cost and low overheads, the cost in the end is also relatively low. Pros:
    Freelance designers can be low cost – 1 man team – do it all
    No overheads or monthly costs. Cons:
    Quality of work varies – you get what you pay for.
    Some freelance that are good can be expensive
    Reliability – May be hard to contact and hard to be accountable.
    Can do limited work – Design only – find your own printers, etc.
  2. In-house Design team.
    This is useful as having your own design team allows more control if you consistently have design work. Pros:
    Consistent work, consistent quality.
    Quick turnaround time.e
    Good communications.
    Can double up as manpower for social media Cons:
    Will have recurring payment (Salary)
    Still need to have access to other vendors when it comes to printing or building up trade-show booths
  3. Design house.
    Picking the right design house for your needs is still not straight forward. There are also various choices depending on budgets. Not all MNC design houses are expensive and not all local design houses are cheap. The sizes of these design houses varies, and the work they can do vary as well. So, how do you pick one right for you? 
    a) Get recommendations of design companies by peers in your industry.
    A good design company in your industry will have the necessary experience and credentials to do the job right.
    Some industries like food and healthcare may need various forms of compliance for the product packaging and not all design companies can handle it.
    b) Diversity in their portfolio
    You want to see if the design company has done work for other industries as well.
    Having other industry experience will allow them to experience different materials which allow you to have more options on designs.
    c) How do they achieve objectives that fit the needs of the brand managers?
    Looking at some of the design portfolio, ask how some of these designs fit the needs of their clients to get a better insight of their thought process and creative ability
    d) MNC design houses vs local design houses.
    MNC design houses may have done projects of MNC companies and have a lot of experience behind the team
    MNC design houses can create designs with global appeal for international markets.
    MNC design houses usually have integrated teams which can apply the same designs for web, packaging, display booths, etc.
    Local design houses know more about local culture / context
    Local design houses know local market likes / dislikes
    Local design houses understand buyer behaviour Pros:
    Design houses usually can get the job done. They have a wealth of experience and a big team to get things done
    They can help you navigate away from potential problems. If you need to stack products for storage, they can design boxes to be stackable, etc.
    They can help advice you on regulatory requirements, which may save time and money.
    They can provide more options with designs, materials, etc.
    Whole integrated marketing can potentially be outsourced.
    Accountability – They can give a more definite estimate of how long it is going to take and how much it is going to cost.
    They have a structured approach which can help you organise and get things done. Cons:
    They usually cost more than a freelance, but you get what you pay for.
    Approval and processes may cause projects to take longer than it should.

Budget

During the whole process of picking the right design team, the budget can be one of the most important consideration.
Picking the right design team and design direction will get the tone of the corporate image, which affects your product delivery and packaging. This may also be the first impression on where customers engage your brand.

With a budget set aside for packaging, you can give a clearer picture to your printers / design house on how much you are willing to spend. The budget will be a good guideline on how the packaging ends up to be but again, this is just a guideline.

The actual cost sometimes differ from the budget. The price will also vary greatly if your design house or printer is not familiar with the work. What seemed to be a bargain may end up costing a lot more than expected. If it is just a box, things may be quite straightforward, but when there is a window and division, along with other materials. As designs get innovative, packaging may get more complex.

For more complex design work which involves branding, packaging and product design, the whole process may take months. It is easier to segment the project into smaller parts, monitor progress and project manage it to reach the final objective. Sometimes, there are no shortcuts, and it would be better with a seasoned art director who have deep knowledge in the field to work on the project.

Another tip is to engage a design house in the beginning to plot out the direction and work with them for the direction and have an internal team handle the design. This might save costs and still achieve a reasonable amount of good design in the right direction, without falling Ito pitfalls along the way.

Design Principles

From time to time, it is important to re-look at design at different phases of the company.

  • Evolving trends can shape public perception
  • Cultural norms and sensitivities have changed
  • Reflect company’s commitments towards sustainability. (Sustainable packaging, logistics, processes)
  • New launches, to refresh new designs