The perils of asking for or providing design work as part of a pitch
Why is creating/asking for design as part of a pitch a bad idea?
Things we are talking about Posted by Darragh on 19 October 2011
Hardly a new topic this, but since we launched our new website a few months back, we have had more requests along with with our proposals to create initial designs to present as part of the pitch process. We hoped having a new website that really showed off our design skills would lessen the requests we received like this. Instead, it has increased it.
There are so many reasons that creating designs as part of a pitch is a bad idea; and it isn't just a bad idea for us as the potential supplier (we prefer 'partner'). It's also a bad idea for potential clients, a bad idea for other companies in our industry, and a bad idea for companies in any industry where design might be required as part of a pitch. Here are just a few of the reasons why.
During the pitch the designers don't know enough about you and your business. It doesn't matter how well known the business is, or how detailed the brief is, there's no substitute for talking to all key stakeholders that you are working for in detail about the business and the project. And that means you need more than a one hour introduction meeting prior to creating designs. At 1minus1, talking in depth means starting with a workshop - something you really can't do as part of a pitch (neither party will be able to invest the time at that point). With another agency that process may be different, but the point is that it's vital designers really understand a business. The quality of any design largely relies on three core factors; knowledge, time and skills. If the designers don't have the knowledge, and don't have the time, they can't really show their true skills. This means the agency cannot sell itself properly, and the ideas aren't fully formed.
It's a beauty parade. And you don't know what turns them on. Anyone that believes design is just about creating something beautiful really is missing the point. Aesthetic beauty is only part of the story. True beauty in design has much in common with how you perceive beauty in a person. Don't see the analogy? It's about initial impact, but it's also about how that design makes you feel after that, how it makes you interact, and what it makes you think. Of course, depending on what you are looking for, you might not want to think, or you might not want to be challenged. It totally depends on what you are looking for.
It's about value. For the agency pitching, it means that the company they are pitching to either doesn't understand the value of design (i.e. how much it is worth), or that they very much do understand the value of design and are aiming to get (for example) three designs for the price of one. Neither of those scenarios is good for the agency, and actually, they aren't necessarily good for the company requesting the designs. Of course a company might say 'How do we know if you can design for us, and how do we know that your designs will be the best otherwise?'. Honestly, there is some validity to that point. However, if the agency you are talking to has created brilliant designs for other clients and has the track record to prove it, the very strong likelihood is that they are going to deliver great design work and ideas for you too. It's very hard for an agency to bring in completed concepts, and when they do they could very easily be wrong because they only have part of the picture. Concepts developed in partnership with a client's full input are essential, and if they are a good agency, they will make sure you are happy with what gets delivered.
Whatever people think of this post, this isn't an issue that's going to go away. Be great to hear anyone's thoughts on this whichever side of the fence they sit on (or if they sit on the fence) ... if you have any comments leave them below and we'll respond if appropriate.