And then there’s the promotional campaigns that get the products in the hands of consumers and influencers alike in the first place: stunning, clever, colorful assets that make an impact on social media and on store shelves are a must. Products, and what they promise, have to appeal as useful and beautiful in the most literal sense.
But if beauty packaging needs to adhere to a beautiful aesthetic to match consumers’ aspirations, how can brands stand out on shelves and on socials alike?
This is where pairing with a design agency from the off can help brands get ahead. But finding the right partner to communicate your vision can be daunting–so here are some points to consider when seeking out agency partners to bring design expertise to your brand.
Know What You Want
The key to finding the right design partner for your brand is to seek out agencies that have a proven ability to deliver on your brief – agencies that have the right skillset and/or flexibility to meet your needs.
If you’re aiming to get expertise on a one-off project, like a limited edition pack or a product video, it’s smart to look to agencies that specialize in the exact work you have in mind—especially if you already have a very clear idea of the specific visual feel you want to achieve.
But if you’re looking for a long-term creative partnership that will evolve with your product for the long-term, I’d suggest seeking out a holistic agency that’s able to work across branding, digital touchpoints, and experiential so that you have the most flexibility and growth potential.
In either case, having a clear idea of the kind of work and relationship you want will help you single out the right fit. Collect examples of work you like – from competitors, but also from other industries, and from the world around you. Spend time getting to know your own creative approach so you can confidently articulate it to potential design partners – clear communication on both sides will help you choose an agency that suits you and really understands your ask
Seek Out Added Value
While it’s important to be able to communicate what you want, don’t forget that partnering with a design agency is about elevating your brand beyond where it is now—this is the crux of the creative challenge you’ll be working on together, so look for a partner that can surprise you, and ultimately push your brand towards new levels of success.
Don’t work with an agency that is afraid to push you out of your comfort zone – this should be a natural part of the relationship, a key aspect of creative satisfaction for all sides. The right agency will stretch and challenge your creative approach—for the benefit of your brand, you want to work with a team that will offer insight you haven’t thought of before
Avoid Middle Men
The agency you hire should not be a middle man. It sounds obvious, but the truth is that many agencies do work this way, hiring on four or five additional agencies to take advantage of specialist work. I don’t recommend that, because it often leads to competing ideas and an ultimately disconnected overall campaign.
While in theory it’s great to bring the best of the best on from various offices, the reality is that 10 brilliant but disconnected assets won’t further the message of your brand. That’s not the kind creative problem-solving relationship you’ll want for the long-term.
Instead, look for an agency that is flexible enough to approach everything you’re aiming for in your brief – that can take ownership and work closely with you for connected work that represents your brand cohesively.
They need a good understanding of what you need and ability to offer it, so ask how the range of their projects – whether for beauty brands or other industries – make them the right overall fit. Ask for examples of how they’ve worked in the past, but also ask how they’d solve your particular problem with their resources and experience.
Put Chemistry Over Credentials
Don’t rely just on case studies and credentials – the right design agency for you needs a more well-rounded understanding of your brand in order to deliver. They may be impressive on Instagram, but are you going to get what you need?
More than an agency with big credits, you need an agency that is going to be a credit to you—one that makes sense for your brand from a cultural angle as much as from a visual one.
To do that, and to determine all the other important factors I’ve discussed, you’ve got to invest time in getting to know an agency before you hire them. Visit their studio if you can, see their work in various contexts, talk to other clients. Going for a drink or lunch is not enough, it doesn’t give you real insight to who you’re working with.
At Vault49, we often do immersion workshops with potential clients—we bring them into the studio to get to know us, our process, and give them a chance to see hands-on how we might work on a project together. It’s a great way to test personality and cultural fit, while also giving a real sense of the quality and attention we put into our work.
A Beautiful Friendship
In the beauty industry, the aesthetics of your brand play a particularly potent role in communicating your offerings and value to customers, so bringing on design experts to guide, challenge, and support you through that process is the key.
When looking for the right design agency for you, remember this above everything else: any good agency should feel like an extension of your team. A sense of trust and open-mindedness is essential on both sides, and to do that you need to look at hiring a design agency as the beginning of a long-term partnership that becomes part of the DNA of your brand.
Paul Woodvine is the managing creative director at global design agency Vault49’s London studio, working with clients including Diageo, Kiehl’s, and Verizon. He was previously a global design director at PepsiCo.