Before you begin any dialogue with an agency, you’ll want to look at samples of their work. Professional design firms have an online portfolio that you can review without even letting them know you’re interested. If they don’t have a website or their own marketing materials, consider it a red flag.
Looking at samples is a great first step because it gives you some idea of who that designer or agency is, and how they might fit in with what you’re looking for. But aside from knowing whether or not you like the look of the work they’re presenting, do you know what to look for or what questions to ask yourself?
Here’s a checklist of some of the things you can find out by looking at an online portfolio:
· Do they have samples of work similar to the project you want to do?
· Do they specialize in work for your industry?
· What is the general tone to their work?
· Is there a common overall visual style to their work, or a diverse range?
· Is it professionally pulled together?
· Is the portfolio easy to find and navigate?
· Does their mission statement or philosophy resonate with you?
· Is it a large corporate agency or a smaller, more intimate firm or freelancer?
In Real Life: Is Sample Work Enough to Make a Decision?
As an example, if the communications director of a nonprofit organization is interested in producing a printed newsletter and visits the Weiher Creative site, she’ll see artwork for the newly-redesigned school communications of Hayward Unified School District, along with other collateral for the Public Health Institute. She’ll also see that the bulk of the work we do is for nonprofits similar to hers and that we’re a small agency focused on service. It doesn’t tell the whole story, but gives enough information at a glance to help her know that we’re probably a good fit. The next step would be to look for online reviews of the agency or get in touch with them directly.
On the other hand, if you like a designer’s style but don’t see the type of samples you’re looking for, it doesn’t hurt to ask—they may have something more appropriate that just hasn’t been posted. Most design firms that have been in business for a while have amassed a large body of work, and can’t possibly show everything online.
Get the Checklist for Your Team
Start searching for the right agency by analyzing their work samples. This handy checklist will help your team navigate through online portfolios to save you time while finding the perfect partner. And if you’re curious about working with a graphic designer, be sure to check out the latest 9 Reasons to Hire a Graphic Designer.