Monday , 21 January 2019
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Design agency insight series 3 of 6

design agency insightWelcome to part three in a six-part design agency insight series about the different types of design agencies that are out there, how they operate and what that means for freelancers and best practice agency management.


Type Three: The process over progress agency

So many agencies fall into this trap, they focus so much on defining a process that they don't realise that they are burning up valuable time and stunting valuable creative energies. My belief is simple:

You should have a process, I definitely do, but you should also be unafraid to let it go and roll with what the challenges of the client brief dictate.

Having proprietary strategy tools is one thing, and something that is very sellable from an agency standpoint (although in reality most of them are flavours of the same thing) but if they are the thing that is dictating your every move then you are not giving it your all, not tailoring your approach and not doing the best by your clients. One agency that a friend of mine freelanced for a while back had a process that they simply would not deviate from, it became so routine that the end content often became quite routine as well and pretty templated. Sometimes the best marketing strategies need to be leaving the overused strategy behind. Another brought me in to define their brand building models and output templates for deliverables but then decided that whilst we did great work in building all of these things and 'made strategy sellable' that it was actually more important to devise a tailored approach from a kit of parts, not use all the strategy tools to solve or clutter every problem. Yet another brought me in to craft the strategic direction of their agency, write a load of theory and work with design teams to design proprietary strategy models around their take on the world of branding.

Every design agency will do some flavour of the following:

Consumer analysis Competitor analysis Market analysis Brand archive analysis Design reviews Store audits Mood boards Consumer mindset development Workshops Benchmarking etc. In my opinion, it is much more interesting for clients and employees respectively to have a strong point of view on the world, on brands, on consumers and on your client's unique challenges than have a toolbox of standardised slides you populate with generics about brands and industries. This gives a much richer outlook on the agency's approach to work and to brand building than any list of tools will, especially when each agency names the tools differently.

What is brandscaping anyway? Wait, that's what my consultancy calls competitor analysis.

Part 4 of the design agency insight series will go live next week...

About GregDillon

Greg is the founder of strategy consultancy GD | Inspires and spends his days strategising for various design agencies and clients around the world - see more at He is also a prolific entrepreneur having launched - a website aimed at giving advice and insight to new, existing and veteran freelancers as well as commenting on all things strategic. Feel free to email him at: or follow on Twitter @StratTalking

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