Small vs Big

Why it’s better to choose a small creative agency for your next big project over a large agency.

I started out with the intention of writing this article as a way of weighing up the pros and cons of both small and large design agencies, however the more points I wrote down the more unbalanced my views appeared. The truth is I’m a believer in small businesses and based on my own experience of working in both large and small agency environments I have observed the following trends.

Large agencies tend to have hierarchical structure in place which separates the client from the designer. Small business however, provide you with access to your team from the inception of a new brief through to your ‘go live’ date. Sometimes in a client meeting with a smaller studio if feels a little like a family dining table, you may be lucky enough to have your account manager, the creative director and your designer, everyone dedicated to your project. Two heads are better than one! The investment of all these parties in your vision is only going to benefit the end product.

This type of access offers a number of benefits to the client, the brief is heard straight from the ‘horse’s mouth’ and that means clarification of expectations and outcomes from the outset. Realistic deadlines are agreed based on the designer’s assessment of the brief and the strategy they will follow to complete the project.

This also means there is potential for not only the brief or your feedback to be lost in translation, but also that the designer rational of their design choices can be lost as information travels though the pecking order. The outcome of this is unnecessary round of amendments, it’s the type of inefficiency that results in a higher price tag and compromised your deadlines. From a creative perspective this also jeopardised the integrity of the design. After all you are hiring a creative agency for their creative expertise and who then if not the designer is the expert in design?

No small fish in big ponds floating around unsure of what they are doing, in smaller agencies mentoring is taken seriously and part of good mentoring is exposure. The junior working on your Christmas campaign for example is heavily support by an experienced team that would never let him or her fail. Designers in smaller agencies get to see their projects through to the very end and without a pre-press team they will be the ones fixing up any issues with image quality or typos. This is the designer responsibility along with their account manager, meaning they are more likely to be to be precise every step of the way. This type of ownership carries a sense of pride for any project leader your projects will be treated as their own. In many smalls agency all the designers are experienced in project management so they know exactly what is going on with the project and how to keep it on track, and our clients can pick up the phone and speak direct to the designer working on their project. I once worked a larger agency where my designers refused to answer the phone at First I thought it was shyness or laziness on their behalf until I realised it was a culture, they believed they were just a cog in the machine.

Designer get excited about new briefs, the direct contact they get with the clients and the accomplishment they feel when they get to see their work go’s live. This type of career satisfaction breeds motivated, passionate and goal focused designer.

Every designer brings their own unique skill set and passion for their art this means when small studios offers an illustrative approach for your campaign they already know which designer will lead the project based on who has the ability to make your project sing or in reality they just would not suggest it.

Unlike larger agency’s I have worked for where clients have one dedicated designer for their brand, in smaller agency’s designers share clients across the team as and when the projects require them and their design skills. While a dedicated designer sounds like a luxury in actual fact I have found this makes designers stale and lacking in inspiration. When a designer is exposed to a wider variety of clients and brands they are more creative and less likely to be formulaic in their design approach.

In a small team environment everyone has to carry their weight and there is no room for slackers. The team mentality of a small agency means they will tend to brainstorm ideas together. There is a sharing of knowledge and experience in a small agency environment which allows for more freedom to critiquing each other’s work in a constructive way. As these types of teams have a much closers working relationship than that of larger businesses counterparts, their success and failures are shared rather than individual.

In my current agency and least two other small agency I have worked for; the culture is very much that there is no job too big or small. That we are more like an outsourced in-house design department that our goal is to provide solutions, we understand not all briefs will be perfect, that not all content can be complete before we commence a project, that everyone is working to tight deadlines and our clients are working just as hard as we are. That sometime 30 phone calls and 2am finish time on a tender document is just what is necessary for our clients to win new business, when they do we celebrate their success as if they were our own.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.