7 rules for working with a design agency


7 rules for working with a design agency

The executive director of the studio “Turum-Burum” Dmitry Kukuruza talks about the rules of working with any design studio or “Why is your blue not blue enough?”

Effective work on a project for an agency and a client is like a two-way street. In the sense that both parties should go towards each other, but at the same time follow the pre-established rules in order to avoid collision and not to fail the project.

For 9 years of work of our company, we have developed for ourselves a dozen of such rules in order to avoid failures on our part. But there are at least 7 tips that I would like to give to those who are in search of a design studio or have just started working with it.

1. To get an adequate estimate of the cost of work, correctly formulate the question

At the stage of selecting a design studio, the first thing that many companies do is send a request for the cost of work to a dozen agencies.

You will not believe how often we receive letters in 2 lines with a question like: “How much will a design store like Rozetka cost?” This phrase has already become a catch phrase in our office.


It is impossible to give a normal answer to such a question. If you are citing a site like Amazon, eBay, or local leaders like Rozetka, ask yourself if you are ready to hit that level in terms of business and finance. Perhaps you should narrow down your viewing radius?

According to the phrase “I want such a site,” you can only be given the highest price to cover all the risks of working with you, because it is not clear what exactly you need.

A simple rule works here:

The less information you provide to the agency about your product, the more the price will be given to you, and the less justified it will be.


Therefore, even if you do not know the professional vocabulary of designers, do not hesitate to talk about your product in your own words, give a lot of information and ask questions. Your task at this stage is not just to exchange two phrases with the design studio about the cost and say goodbye, but to help it build a dialogue with you in order to properly evaluate the project.

An agency that already has expertise in your topic will sort out your needs, ask the necessary questions, tell you how and what was implemented in such projects, and how much it cost, and thus will suggest the best solution for you.

2. You must have a clear and uniform vision of your product within the company

Often, when working especially with large companies, the following situation arises:

We are negotiating in a conference room where 5-7 top managers are present to find out what exactly needs to be created. And our very first question “Tell us about your product” causes a long discussion within the company about what is still needed. The CEO talks about the mission and values, the head of the marketing department asks to hang banners, the head of the logistics department requires, first of all, automation….

Those. there is no overall strategic vision for the product. Then what kind of synchronization of the product vision with the design agency can we talk about?

Therefore, the first thing you should do before starting a project is to formulate the product concept, goals, objectives, prioritize, etc. within the team.

If you have any difficulties at this stage, seek outside help. An experienced design agency will help you shape your project vision in a few meetings.

3. Let the design agency build the right workflow for your project.

When you have already received the assessment, synchronized your vision of the product with the agency, 90% of success in the future depends on a properly established work process on the part of both teams.

It is my deep conviction that the work on the project should be built by the design agency, but taking into account the internal processes of the client.

In order to choose the right scheme, you, as a customer, need to answer a number of questions:

Who is the decision maker

There should be only one person on your side, whose words in dialogue with the design studio will be final and not subject to revision. Usually this is a project manager who accumulates all information within his team and transfers it to the agency.

Which team from your side will participate in the project

Let the agency know to whom during the work it can address its questions, and who has what competence. For example, 1 hour of live technical communication with the workshop or marketing director replaces a week of correspondence with the project manager.

The ability to get direct answers from a competent person, rather than a manager’s interpretation, speeds up the process at times.

How will you present the results of your work?

For a remote team, for example, it is better to record a video presentation. If the team will discuss the concept in one place, then it is better to present it in a voice with visual materials. If the presentation is handed over to the manager, and he will present it to the team, then you need to choose a format when the presentation will speak for itself, so that everyone will understand it equally and without subjectivity.

What time delays can be on your part

Even in the process of forming the stages of the project, notify the agency when the key people of your team have vacations, specific holidays and corporate parties planned.

Do you have any restrictions on working with Skype or other messengers

Some companies have restrictions on the use of instant messengers on work computers. Discuss such nuances with the agency at the beginning of work so that it adapts its process to these conditions.

4. Help the agency understand something about your business that will create a unique design

For the design concept to succeed, it is important to get not only the technical, but also the emotional component, which is difficult for the agency to grasp without your participation.

You have been in your business for years, maybe tens of years, and no one knows it better than you. And a design agency lives on your project for only a few weeks or months before the first iteration. In such a short time, it should immerse itself as much as possible into the essence of your product and the atmosphere of the company. So help him in this.

The agency will read the page “About us” on your website. Your task is to tell a real story about how the company was formed, who runs it, what traditions and rules you have, values ​​and other features, what do you want to tell your users – any such details will help the agency to feel your uniqueness.

Namely, this allows you to create a custom design and convey emotion in it, and not just a beautiful picture and a template solution.

5. Take design development as a process

After we show the customer the first layout, there are 3 options for his reaction:

  • 100% hit – I like everything.
  • 0% is not that.
  • I like some percentage, but I need to refine it.

And here it is important for you to understand that the “wrong” result is also an excellent result, because now the agency knows what you don’t need. Usually in the second iteration, it already turns into a large hit percentage.

Get in the mood that good product design is a process, and each approach brings us closer to the perfect solution. The chances of finding it the first time are incredibly small.

Therefore, it is worth starting to worry only when, after the 3rd iteration, you are again given an absolutely bad result.

To avoid such a situation and speed up the search for the perfect concept, do not be silent, talk about what does not suit you.

We had a case when, after a 2-hour emotional communication with a customer, it turned out that he had a personal dislike for gray, and as soon as this color was changed to another, the layout was immediately approved.

Therefore, try to think at a high level, and not in “like-dislike” categories, and then the designer can get to the bottom of the real reason for the bad result, which lies much deeper than the wrong color of the buttons.

6. Don’t turn a design agency into your tool


– Please play with the fonts!

First designer:

– Arial!

Second designer:

– Yeah, my L … uh … Letter Gothic!

First designer:

– Castleon! You are on “H”!

Second designer:

– New Baskerville!


– Thanks! Let’s leave the font as it is….

(from the net)

“Work with the shape of the circle”, “play with the font” – these are just a few of the phrases that we constantly hear. And here The main mistake many customers make is that they are trying to discuss the solution, and not to find out the problem:

“Let’s paint the buttons purple”

“Here you need to put a shadow”

“Move a couple of pixels here”

As a result of such communication, there may be 2 options for the development of events:

  • or the agency refuses to work with such a customer,
  • or it becomes an instrument in his hands.

In any case, this most often leads to the failure of the project.

Don’t turn on the “designer” mode. Try not to find fault with trifles, but help the design studio to understand the reasons for your discontent.

Trust in the agency is the foundation of the foundation. If you have doubts before starting to work with it, then it is better to start by ordering something small. For example, you can negotiate a small, paid test assignment.

If there is no mutual respect and an atmosphere of partnership in the work, then a cool project will not work.

7. Not only the designer should prepare for the presentation of the project, but also you

According to my observations, 50% of the success of a concept design depends on how it is presented to you.

Any concept, even a good one, can be killed by a wrong presentation. To prevent this from happening, follow 3 main rules.

  1. Give the agency as much time as it asks for. You have to live with a new concept for more than one year, so don’t skimp on an extra couple of days to prepare your presentation.
  2. Be technically ready for your presentation. Agree with the agency how this will happen, on what devices, and in what team composition. Check the technical side of the organization of the presentation: sound, operability of the projector and monitors.

We had one interesting case when we were creating a website for a publishing house.

After we threw them the first concept, we started getting strange comments like “your blue is not blue enough.” And the screenshots sent to us with the comment about the “strange color transition” looked quite normal with us. When the communication began to come to a standstill, we decided to communicate in person and, most importantly, to see how our layout is displayed on the customer’s devices. It turned out that when viewing a rare model of a 4K monitor, moreover, it was tuned for work with graphics in a publishing house. Our layout really looked different on this monitor. When we deployed the project to a new computer, the problem was resolved.

Therefore, tell the design agency on what devices you will be viewing the layouts and under what permissions you need to prepare them. The display on a Mac, Retina display, or projector is very different and can affect how you perceive the design.

  1. Listen to the agency’s presentation to the end.

When you see 2 pages of the layout on which the designers have been working for 2 weeks, do not forget that this is just a ready-made dish, and all the way to search for an idea, samples and creative wanderings remain behind the scenes.

So give the agency the opportunity to tell their story of a two-week life with your project, show failed takes and concepts. When you see his path, you will find out why this particular option was chosen, and you will not have the feeling that “they definitely did not try any of the shades of blue.”

The formula for successful cooperation with a design agency

The more you are involved in the work on the project and the better you can convey its essence to the design agency, the more responsibility and inspiration it will work on. And if both parties equally understand the task, see a common goal in front of themselves, trust and respect each other’s opinion, then the fruit of such joint work will be worthwhile, and even blue will be the right shade.

Executive Director of the studio “Turum-Burum” Dmitry Kukuruza


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