Searching for a great graphic and web design firm? Type less and talk more

Graphic Design: Be Careful What You Search For


When it comes to finding a firm to provide high quality graphic design, and deliverables such as corporate identity, website design and marketing, publication design, infographic design, marketers need to focus on excellence. And the question is often how do you find a graphic and website services firm who delivers excellence day-in and day-out.

Online search can help narrow the field, but finding a firm that is a good fit takes time. 

Improving your search phrases

The major search engines do their best to deliver the information you want, based on your search phrases. Most people who use search scan the first page or two of results and start clicking on links.

While these results may be an accurate interpretation of what your search words and phrases indicate, you might not be getting the best choices. Why? Because unfortunately, the best and the brightest creatives usually are spending more time producing than working on their company search ranking.

A few online search factors that can help affect your search for graphic and web design services:

  • “Local” listing services – free or paid services delivering organized business data you can search based on your city or ZIP code. These services can be helpful, but often they offer little more than an alphabetical aggregation of readily available online business data. Businesses who “claim” their own listings can pay for top line appearance or publicize reviews, which in some cases are canned or “pre-arranged”. Businesses who “pay” for premier or display listings can automatically achieve high ranking based on expenditure rather than work product. Filtering through search results is based simply on ZIP code and keywords of service activity rather than quality.
  • Online “Best of [fill in the blank]” Directories – There are “best of” sites in almost any category you can think of. Some of these sites are real, and genuinely do their best to review and consider work submitted on the basis of creative quality and sound marketing. On the other hand, there are hundreds of directories that are nothing more than data aggregators in an effort to attract search traffic to generate ad revenue. While they are useful in finding virtually every business in a sector, many are useless in there ability to filter for quality or experience.

It’s true that smart marketers need to work at improving their search ranking in order to be found more easily. And there is a place for searching by ranking or paid listings.

Search optimization is an on-going process, and a firm that should appear on the first page of search results may not be there yet. As search technology evolves, the results will better match the real intention of your inquiries. Google’s Hummingbird update is evidence of where things are going.

Since you’re at the keyboard…

Use a credible source for locating designers – American Institute of Graphic Arts | – advances design as a respected craft, strategic advantage and vital cultural force. AIGA has a number of local chapters across the US. Members are committed to high standards of professional practice and ethics.

Consider variations of terms to bring more focused results, such as:

  • “Graphic design firms” instead of “graphic designers”
  • “Graphic Design and branding” instead of “logos”
  • Even though many searches are based on “local” results, you can try including the major city name or state in your region of the country
  • Search by project need, such as branding, interactive, presentations, etc.
  • Search for designers working for a particular brand you respect

Stop typing, and start talking

Look at companies doing great marketing In your region, there are probably several companies doing great work. You can contact those companies directly and ask who does the design and marketing work. If they are doing work for a company that is a direct competitor of yours, you’ll probably still get some good suggestions of other firms that can help.

Ask your peers and vendors Your peers and vendors will often have excellent suggestions. Many will recommend their “favorite”. Asking for the top four names ensures you get more than just their “favorite”. If you gather names from more than one source, you may see a name pop up more than once, which is a good sign.

Once you identify a few firms:

Find out if creative decision-making values data over personal opinion Tastes and preferences are very personal. In today’s world of marketing and design, the goal is to remove personal viewpoints and focus on data and related input to guide communications and design strategies.

The best graphic design and creative is actually data-driven, and speaks to a particular audience in a tone and style that makes sense. In the ideal form, data-driven creative is unique and memorable.

Learn about a firm’s depth of experience Sometimes, the new firm on the block isn’t always the best way to go. While you may save on fees, you run the risk of getting work that lacks perspective or a sensitivity to message strategies. Experience can help prevent you from pursuing dead end strategies, or impractical solutions.

Go with a “can-do” attitude A can-do attitude is not about desperation to get hired, it’s about professionalism. Good design and marketing firms with a can-do attitude focus on your needs, not theirs. They understand that the client’s success is the point of their work and anything within reason that’s needed to deliver success from creative to quality control and follow-through is what their workflow includes.

Choose reliability There are plenty of firms who are here today, and gone tomorrow. Reliable firms have staying power. Stable graphic design and marketing firms have succeeded in spite of challenges. Reliability generally says a firm has business acumen, and a passion for what they do.

Great design alone will not guarantee a successful outcome for your marketing efforts. But poor design can hinder your efforts. When design excellence is combined with a sound communications and measurement strategy, you will see your efforts multiplied. When you are in the market for a design firm, it makes good business sense to seek out quality.

About the author: Tom Weinkle is a founder and partner of Vortex Communications, a graphic and website design firm who offers graphic and WordPress web design, build, troubleshooting and training services along with search optimization, social media and inbound marketing services. Based in Miami, Florida, Tom has over 25 years of experience in visual communications for the healthcare, medical, law, accounting, software, financial services and banking industries.

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