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When Gabrielle “Gabbey” Music joined SSDM as a senior visual designer, she immediately came face to face with the “marketing fire,” as we like to call it.

She didn’t miss a beat when asked to develop wireframes for a website redesign project on her first day. And she kicked a** when a large senior-living client acquired dozens of new communities and needed landing pages updated ASAP. Now, she’s sharing what you can expect from a small agency’s creative process and what questions you should ask before getting started.

Living the small agency life

Whether you work with a large-scale agency or a small, boutique agency, it’s important to understand the team and its culture. It may seem like a minor detail, but a thoroughly cooperative atmosphere can make a significant impact on the quality of work you receive. A benefit of the small agency environment is that it allows clients to grow with – and get to know – the team better. Transparent, well-nurtured partnerships can make or break your project.

“One of the best things about SSDM is the close-knit team we have,” says Gabbey. “You get to know your coworkers on a personal level and they really respect your opinions, ideas and expertise. We all want what’s best for the project and the client.

Constantly creative

Design work takes a lot of brainpower and concentration to get it right. Whether they’re running a small business, writing a lifestyle blog, hosting a podcast, or painting masterpieces, creative people tend to look at life differently. So, when you can find a team of people who are creative both inside and outside of the office, it is a major bonus.

For Gabbey, exploring different crafts and repurposing vintage jewelry pieces helps her maintain a creative outlook. Her next adventure is to make polished pendant jewelry from shards of broken glass that are scattered around the Belle Isle grounds.

Understanding the process

You’ve learned about the agency’s team culture, so what’s next? There are a few other things you’ll want to know before your agency starts the development process.

  • How many creative revisions do I get on a deliverable?
  • What does the approval process look like at your agency?
  • Can your team complete my creative project on a tight deadline?
  • How can I communicate to the team what I see in my head?
  • Will I have a designated project manager if I work with your agency?
website page scroll gif

On the flip side, Gabbey shared some of the foundational questions an agency’s creative team will likely ask.

  • What assets do you currently have that can be used?
  • Do you have clear ideas or examples of assets you like?
  • What don’t you like about your current creative assets or overall direction?
  • How do you plan to use these assets in the future?
  • Are you sticking with your current logo, color palette and brand style?

Managing expectations

After the Q&A or discovery process, your creative team will likely start by reviewing all of the available information, brand standards and assets. Then, it’s time for the planning process. Each designer has their preferred method for this, (some like sketching out ideas digitally while some prefer mapping them out with a pen and paper) but it’s the final result that matters most.

“For me, the most rewarding part of being a designer is seeing everything come together at the end,” Gabbey says. “It’s neat to watch your projects go from a Word document or Excel spreadsheet to a fully functional deliverable.”

Creative work, by nature, is entirely subjective. Two people can look at the same piece of art and have decidedly different opinions of it. Gabbey emphasized the importance of walking clients through the “why” behind a design project.

Ready to develop a digital marketing strategy? Ask yourself these 10 questions first

Ready to develop a digital marketing strategy? Ask yourself these 10 questions first