You wouldn’t expect a statistician or market researcher to be trained in graphic design. So if you’re expecting all designers to be trained in interpreting and visualizing data, you may be sorely disappointed. Visual communication — the process of graphically representing data and information in a meaningful way — is a specialized skill, and not all designers have it. That’s why, when you’re trying to create visual content that effectively communicates an idea or message, going to a design agency isn’t enough. What you need is a visual communication agency — but knowing how to choose the best creative agency for your needs isn’t easy.
The traditional marketing agency would certainly incorporate some visuals into its campaigns, but in the past their content generally relied on text to get its meaning across. Those days are over, and the era of visual communication agencies is here. These agencies are tasked with marrying form and function — telling a story in the most effective way possible with minimal text, relying instead on visual communication such as illustration and data visualization.
How do you decide if a visual communication agency is right for you? Here are 5 questions to ask yourself as you’re thinking about hiring an agency.
1. Is this creative agency taking my goals into account?
As a marketer, you’re not just creating visual assets. You’re trying to achieve a specific goal. Every visual campaign is designed with a specific aim in mind — whether you’re trying to boost sales, improve traffic to your website, or gain more social follows. If your agency isn’t taking your goal or goals into account, there’s no way they can optimize the visual content they create to achieve those goals.
2. Can they recommend a visual strategy?
A visual communication agency shouldn’t just create content. It should be populated with experts in their field, and these experts should be able to recommend the right combination of assets and the best visual language for your campaign based on your goal. This means taking the time to learn about your company, your product, and your brand. There’s no other way to make a thoughtful recommendation that will be truly successful in the end.
3. Can they build a visual language?
A visual language is similar to brand guidelines. However, it’s designed especially for creating visual content, so it’s much more detailed in what it addresses. Each visual campaign should have its own visual language, inspired by the goals it wants to achieve and the audience it wants to reach. A visual language includes fonts, colors, illustration style, icon style, and other art direction, including guidelines on the use of photography if applicable. It serves as a touchstone for an entire campaign, and can save you both time and money while ensuring a consistent look and feel across your campaign.
4. Are they skilled at data visualization?
If a creative agency doesn’t know when to use a pie chart vs. when to use a line graph, ditch them right away. The careful and meaningful interpretation of your data will be essential as the agency creates assets that seek to represent you and your company in a positive light. And the data visualization shouldn’t be just accurate; it should be compelling. When and how to visualize data for maximum impact is a skill learned through training and experience. The visual communication agency you work with should have that skill.
5. Can they produce a broad variety of content?
If the agency you work with only creates motion graphics, or only designs infographics, you’ll soon find yourself searching for other agencies to fill in the gaps. Hiring an agency should create less work for you, not more. Plus, if you want to create a visual campaign with a consistent look and feel, you’ll need all your assets to be made by the same agency — and you need them to be able to give you a broad variety of options, from an interactive web page to conference collateral. No matter what you want to create, they need to be ready to deliver.
If you’ve answered “yes” to all 5 of the questions above, congratulations — you may have found the right visual communication agency for your needs!