by Daria Benedict
The world of design (especially in product packaging and entertainment) has changed over the last two decades. A lot. Budgets shrank, deadlines got more aggressive, almost everything went digital and many powerhouse creative shops went under, resulting in the rise of the freelancers.
Most notably, the rise of freelancers disrupted a previously agency-driven landscape. So how do clients know when they need more than just project-based designers? How do creative agencies not only survive but thrive in this new world? Whether you're a start-up, a brand on the client side or an agency on the creative side, here are three questions you should ask yourself before beginning any project.
1. Are you thinking in terms of services?
Clients: do you have a very specific vision for your output, whether it’s the finished packaging or logo, or are you looking for strategic exploration? If you know pretty much exactly what you want to end up with, and just need someone to put it on paper, then you might just need a designer. But if you are looking for a more insights-driven approach, you just might need an agency.
Creatives: are you positioning your design process to the fullest? Be sure to tout the steps you take before you even put pencil to paper on a design project.
2. Are you listening?
Clients: is your finger on the pulse of what your competitive set doing design-wise? What trends are happening around you and more importantly, where do they originate? If you’re studious and curious by habit, then briefing a designer on do’s and don’ts is far easier for you. If you’re looking for someone to give you a broader market-based POV, then you might want to engage an agency.
Creatives: are you out in the community? Do you know the overt and subtle differences between each demographic you serve? Are you following all of the trends--from socio-economic to lifestyle, and their root causes? Most importantly, do you know how to tell the story of trend evolution in support of your designs?
3. Are you designing for the NOW?
Clients: do you find yourself always reverting back to a certain style for no reason? Do you feel like your brand or product is evolving with the times? If so and you want to stick with a strict set of design elements, then you can probably get by with just a designer. If you find yourself missing the mark and feeling tired and dated with your designs but you have a hard time picking a trend to follow or emulate, then you might just want to hire an agency.
Creatives: do you have a go-to set of design elements that you use for every project? If so, you might be in a design rut, and you might not be giving your clients the breadth of experience that your trained eye has developed over the years. Start every new project with a set of insights that observe and capture THIS moment; the now. Yes, it’s fleeting, but they tend to build upon each other and create the longer term trends of the future. If you’re not listening and using all of your services in support of each new project, you might be selling yourself short.