How to brief a design agency

Pair of blue boxer briefs with white band.

You may end up spending thousands on your website and other marketing materials for your business, especially if you commission a traditional design agency to do the work – so it’s  important you get the results you want. Regardless whether you choose an agency, freelancers or something in the middle. The first thing to ask yourself is, do you really need an agency? If yes, then read on.

Questions for graphic designers

  • Can I see some of your previous artwork and designs for clients in a similar sector to me?
  • What’s the design process? How many concepts will I see?
  • Will do I need to supply text and images? (This can vary depending on the nature of the project. While providing your own text and images will help reduce costs, professional photography services and stock photography can enhance the look of your design and engage the help of a copywriter will ensure your branding remains consistent throughout your wording as well. Please note that when supplying images to your designer, they usually should be in JPEG format and 300 DPI. Images from the web do not reproduce well in print as the resolution is too low, but are perfect for websites.)
  • Will I own the copyright to all the artwork you incorporate? (The answer should be yes, but your designer will normally reserve the right to showcase your project for promotional purposes.)
  • How long will the work take? (This can vary depending on the type of design work being done. Clients usually have a say in dictating timescales.)
  • Will you show me some concept visuals first so I can decide which I prefer? (Your designer should answer yes to this question. During the design process, concepts visuals are usually presented to the client by email in PDF format. Once you are happy to sign off the chosen design, the artwork will be prepared. Different projects have different processes, so the number of concept visuals presented, and the number of rounds of revisions may differ. The designer should agree on these terms with you before work is undertaken.)
  • Will you provide me with the original artwork files you create for my project? (Your designer should answer yes to this question and package up all the relevant files, sending them to you to use as you wish.)

Questions for web developers and programmers

  • Can you set up and provide hosting for my website? (Hosting is often provided but at an additional annual cost. Your web designer/developer should present you with these details before starting work on the project.)
  • Can you purchase a domain name for my website? (Domains can normally be purchased and set up for you. An annual renewal cost usually applies. Your web designer/developer should present you with these details before starting work on the project.)
  • Will you use a content management system when you build our website? (If the answer is yes, this will allow you to update content yourself, quickly and easily without having to pay additional design costs to get updates made to your site. You do not want your site created in flash. Flash sites are all but invisible to Google, and sites created using hand-coded HTML require an HTML expert to update and maintain them, so a CMS system is a great option should you wish to update your site regularly and easily.)
  • Can you show me some examples of pages you’ve created? (Most designers will have a showcase of previous work.)
  • Are you comfortable creating custom forms? (You may need to be able to use your website to collect data, email it to you and/or republish it on your website.)
  • Will you provide me with all user IDs and passwords required to maintain the site? (Your web designer/developer should answer yes to this question.)
  • Will I retain ownership of the domain name and all content and code created? (The answer should be yes, although the domain name will usually have an annual renewal cost.)
  • Will you provide me with an itemised quote? (The answer should be yes.)
  • Are you willing to be paid based on contractual milestones? (Generally speaking, you will pay the developer a percentage of the fee to start work on the project, then pay them the other instalments when specified milestones are achieved.)
  • How do you prefer to implement e-commerce solutions? How long does it take? Will I, or my writers, be able to add and edit products without your help once it is set up? (You should be able to tell your programmer how many products and services you need to sell.)
  • Will my site be mobile device-friendly? (Your site should be accessible by people on the move and deliver the same user experience.)

Questions for copywriters

  • Can you show me other content you’ve written for other businesses in my industry?
  • Are you familiar with search engine optimisation and keywords in copywriting? Can you tell me about the process?
  • Can you give me a price for creating the content outlined here? (It helps if you have a written specification for the content that you want your writer to create including the number of pages, type of content and keywords required)
In this article