What is the difference between a creative agency and a graphic designer?

What is the difference between a creative agency and a graphic designer

When it comes to creating marketing communications collateral it is important to ensure they are produced professionally so that your company brand is well perceived and trusted. Very often an item of collateral may be the first touching point a prospective customer may have of your company so it is vital they get the right impression.

This collateral may range from printed brochures, product leaflets, exhibition stands and adverts, to digital and online marketing tools such as email newsletters, social media graphics and website design.

In order to ensure a professional look and feel, many businesses consider production outsourcing the design to an agency.

But which is the best agency to choose?

Agencies position themselves very differently. Some call themselves creative agencies, some graphic designers and some even call themselves full service agencies. There are also printers who will offer design services.

So, if you are commissioning the design of marketing collateral what type of agency should you approach?

As you would expect, this very much depends on the project.

Creative Design Agency

If you are a start-up business that needs to create your first brand identity, or a mature business which has evolved to the point where current branding no longer reflects this progression, you might decide you need some creative input to the design.

In these circumstance a creative design agency is probably your best option.

A creative design agency will have specialist branding experts who will run workshops with you, your clients and your staff to fully understand your unique selling points, your values, and the mission statement you wish to convey in order to ensure the new brand identity fully reflects these propositions.

From these workshops they will create designs and logos that embody these values and help you create a brand guidelines document which explains the brand and illustrates how future collateral should be produced.

From this process, the brand guidelines document will help you maintain ongoing consistency of how your company is marketed going forward.

Undoubtedly a creative agency will be able to continue to design most of your future collateral, but they may only be design specialists and not have in-house skills or expertise to design digitally based collateral or offer strategic advice to ensure you market your company effectively.

Full service agency

By contrast a full service agency will have all the consultancy and design disciplines in house.

They will have branding experts who will run the workshops and present their findings. These will then be developed into a detailed brief to give to their in-house creatives and graphic designers who will then design your new identity.

A full service agency will also have other specialists to enable you to implement multi channel marketing campaigns such as SEO specialists who will help ensure your website is ranked highly in organic search results. Google Adwords specialists, email marketing experts, copywriters, PR experts, and video production.

Be aware though, that some agencies may position themselves as full-house yet outsource some of the above to trusted partners in a seamless way. There is nothing wrong with this as long as you are getting the best advice but it may be worth asking to meet all specialists and ask for testimonials from satisfied clients if you are considering buying these services to ensure there is a consistent quality from all parties involved.

Graphic Designer

A graphic designer has the skills to work to a verbal or written design brief to create collateral. They can still create a company brand, but it is likely that their fact finding workshops will be less complex. This is why many start up or small businesses will chose to use a graphic designer, particularly if all they currently need is a logo!

A graphic designer might also be the preferred option when a brand guidelines document clearly explains how documents should be laid out. This is an ideal option when all that is required is access to a professional who can use design software and has production facilities.

If you need creativity to come up with ideas and campaigns to generate sales and engagement the graphic designer might not be the most cost effective option because it is unlikely they will have had the opportunity to gain a full understanding of your marketing persona’s, their needs and how you solve their problems to come up with the concepts that produce results. You may find yourself coming up with the ideas, writing copy, headlines and content and advising on choice of photography etc.


Hopefully this has outlined the differences between the various options when thinking about which agency to commission for projects which involve the production of marketing collateral and enabled you to decide which option is right for your business and its current stage of development.

If your project involves a new website you may find this article a useful read.

A website for £1 a month or use a specialist developer?



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