So You (Think You) Want a New Design Firm...
By John M. Gleason
Things just are not working out...
We need something new...
|MIND THE GAP|
|A closer look at each side of the client-design relationship reveals a chasm between perceptions and realities. These gaps also hint at an underlying lack of investment and commitment to the client-design relationship, which fuels the ability for brands to change design firms on a whim. We asked survey participants the following:|
|QUESTION||BRAND RESPONSE||DESIGN FIRM RESPONSE |
|Do you listen, really listen, to your design firms?|| |
â€œOf course we do.â€
|Do you allow design suppliers to â€œpush backâ€ and challenge you?|| |
â€œYes, we need them to lead and not simply salute.â€
Clients tell us to â€œshut up and row.â€
|Clients often cite tight deadlines or limited resources for the problem. â€œJust get this done and weâ€™ll talk about the other stuff later,â€ is a common sentiment.|
|Do you provide feedback to your design firms?|| |
|Design firms said the input is focused almost exclusively on the project level. And most of it is negative, e.g., things they could have done better. When positive feedback was offered it was generally superficial: â€œYou worked so hardâ€, or â€œYou were on budgetâ€. Feedback was also focused on the clientâ€™s reward systems (deadlines, budgets or sales this quarter), and not on the stated objectives or brief. Rarely did it touch on the broader relationship or the future.|
|Do you have formal evaluation programs?|| |
â€œNot really a formal program, but we talk with our key vendors every year.â€
|Where evaluation programs exist, theyâ€™re usually verbal; limited (only with direct project contacts); one-way (from brand to design firm); issues-based (not about leveraging strengths or opportunities); focused on cost/price (not value, and rarely about the design firmâ€™s impact on the brand in the market); unpredictable (e.g., â€œannuallyâ€); or they are â€œevent-drivenâ€, the pre-cursor for a change of suppliers.|
|When changing suppliers, did the firm know your concerns, have a chance to remedy them, and prepare for a possible change?|| |
â€œAbsolutely, the design firm was fully aware, and had many chances to turn things around.â€
â€œWe had no idea that the business was at risk.â€
HOWâ€™D WE DO IT?