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RESIDENTIAL • OFFICE • RETAIL Thursday 12th June 2014



Selecting and appointing a new design partner is an important process for any business looking to market itself or a product.

Unfortunately, the prevailing culture – particularly in the property sector – is just to get a few agencies to pitch and ask them to ‘show us what you can do’.

As part of this approach, agencies are invariably asked to present some creative ideas in their pitch relevant to the work in question.

These are called ‘Creative Pitches’, and I believe can lead to poor decisions which may undermine the commercial strength of your business. This is because ‘Creative Pitches’ encourage selection on the basis of random variables – the subjective attractiveness of the creative work shown and not on the objective ability of an agency to deliver the work in hand.

Inevitably, the creative element of a pitch will be naïve and hastily pulled together (the reality is that client-enforced deadlines mean that agencies rarely get long lead-ins before delivering their pitch). The creative will also be based on a very narrow understanding of your business, your market or your product.

The quality of any creative produced in this scenario will only reflect the amount of time the agency has spent on the pitch. In most agencies this will not be a great amount of time, unless the agency is struggling to win work.

In this context, selecting a design partner on the basis of ‘rough’ creative shown in a pitch means that the decision is being made on the basis of taste rather than commercial sense. Accordingly, if the selection is not based on sound commercial factors it may lead to a failure to achieve the project’s goals.

I am not saying there should not be consideration of an agency’s creative abilities, but this judgment should be based on work that the agency has already consistently delivered for other clients – not on a few ideas hastily produced for a pitch. In other words, the emphasis should be on an agency’s overall credentials rather than a brief snapshot of their creative ability.

To successfully select a design partner, I believe you should consider the following five factors:


  5. COST


You need to gather hard evidence across these five areas. The way to do this is through a ‘Credentials Pitch’. Essentially this boils down to a series of meetings with a small number (usually no more than five) of suppliers. None of these meetings require any of the agencies to produce any original creative.

This is a different approach to the traditional methodology for selecting a new design partner, but it is more likely to result in selecting a partner who can supply a service which is robust, appropriate – and creative.

For a complete roadmap on the process of buying design, we’d recommend the Design Business Association’s Guide to Buying Design which can be found at

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