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November 7, 2022

 mins to read

Types of Design Agencies and How to Choose One

Design is a broad word in all its senses. This fact gave birth to numerous types of design agencies, each of which offers different kinds of services and solves different customers’ problems. 

For that reason, when you look for a design agency, you will probably get confused with a long list of similar-sounding companies with different specializations. And it becomes a real challenge to choose the one suitable for your specific needs.

As a design agency that provides UI/UX design services for SaaS companies, we also feel this problem when people ask us to make work that we actually don’t deliver. To keep your nerve and help you find the right design partner, in this article, we will analyze eleven categories of design agencies and discuss:

  • what type of work they do
  • what services they provide
  • what their team composition is
  • what types of clients they serve 

Short overviews of major design agencies

When there is no time and other resources for building your own design team and hiring in-house is not an option, we usually start searching for some help in different design agencies.

Here are brief explanations of the most popular types.

Digital agency

What does a digital marketing agency do?
Image credit: i3diligence

A digital agency works alongside your business to drive traffic and generate leads and customers through your website, email, or social media. The digital agency looks at your goals businesswise and then implements the strategy based on what you want to achieve. As well, some digital marketing agencies provide technical development of marketing products/services (landing pages, websites).

Their services

Most digital agencies offer their clients:   

  • Content creation (images, videos, articles, and so on)
  • Search Engine Optimization (link-building, making sure the content is getting noticed through organic searches) 
  • Email marketing (reaching more people and generating leads through email)
  • Social media marketing (increasing traffic on social media, building trust with the audience)
  • Website design and development (creating an easy-to-use and pleasant website that generates more leads)

Team composition

The team at the digital agency may consist of the following people:

  • Digital marketing manager - builds marketing strategies, implements and manages marketing campaigns
  • Account manager - communicates with the client and the team, delegates the tasks among team members, ensures everyone is moving in the right direction
  • Content manager - develops, distributes, and evaluates content marketing strategy
  • Copywriter - writes the content required by the team
  • Social media specialist - creates and manages a social media strategy
  • SEO specialist - analyses, changes, and tests a website to rank it higher in search results on main search engines. 
  • Graphic designer - creates visual content for websites, ads, social media content, blog, and so on.
  • Web developer - programs the website and guarantees impeccable functionality on all devices

Types of clients they serve

Usually, the clients of digital agencies are small and medium-sized businesses. 

Creative agency

What does a creative agency do?
Image credit: thedesigntrip

A creative agency provides a variety of marketing and advertising services, including creative strategy building or promotion. Such agencies may offer multiple types of services or specialize in one (strategy, design, advertising).  

Their services

  • Building strategies (brand, content, marketing, social media, advertising)
  • Content creation (blogs, case studies, graphic design, copywriting, photos, videos, branding, web development)
  • Communication services (PR, media buys, influencer marketing)

Team composition

Essential roles within a creative agency’s team include

  • Creative director - plans and monitors ad campaigns, shapes brand standards, guides and supervises other creative team members (designers, copywriters)
  • Account manager - communicates with the client and the agency’s team
  • Brand strategist - based on client’s goals, needs, type of industry, and target audience establishes brand standards, ensures brand message consistency across different channels
  • Content strategist - plans, creates, edits, and publishes relevant content based on business goals, market, and user research
  • Graphic designer - designs the creatives that reflect the brand and are needed to support the ad/blog/website/similar.
  • Web developer - creates a website
  • Copywriter - writes convincing copies for the agency’s needs

Types of clients they serve

Such agencies typically serve big businesses that have enough budget to invest a large sum into a brand identity.

Advertising agency

What does an ad agency do?
Image credit: thebalancecareers

An advertising agency (Ad agency) gives its clients professional support in the creation, planning, and handling of traditional promotional campaigns in different forms (television ads, online ads, radio ads, outdoor ads, media buys, print ads, and so on).

Their services

Ad agencies help to

  • Create materials for campaigns (photos of a product, content writing, and ad design)
  • Do media planning (releasing the new brand presence in a form of ad campaigns: posters, flyers, TV commercials, Google AdWords campaigns)
  • Marketing evaluation (analyzing ad campaigns’ reports, and providing continuous optimization)

P.S. Sometimes advertising agencies work with limited media channels (social media, TV commercials). In that case, such an agency may not give you the full spectrum of possibilities for marketing your business.

Team composition

There are the following employees in an advertising agency:

  • The account manager - conducts the project, and works with both the customer and the agency. They create the media plan
  • The art director and/or graphic designer - are responsible for designing all the advertising materials such as posters, flyers, and so forth
  • The copywriter - creates a convincing copy and composes content for the advertising media

Types of clients they serve

Ad agencies can serve businesses of all types and sizes (depending on their focus).

Branding agency

What does a branding agency do?
Image credit: jillmatrix

A branding agency specializes in creating and launching, as well as revamping brands. The role of a branding agency is to create, plan and manage branding strategies for clients to help them increase and reach the target audience, maintain brand consistency, and generally expand the brand.

Their services 

  • Creating brand strategies (company’s/brand’s naming, target audience definition, conducting market research, value proposition definition)
  • Designing brand identity (logo, packaging, identity system, brand architecture, and portfolio)
  • Running creative ad campaigns that spread the brand message

Team composition

Branding agencies’ teams usually consists of:

  • Account manager - an intermediate between the client and the agency
  • Brand strategist - researches the market and the target audience to correctly develop the brand’s message, elements, and tone 
  • Creative director and/or the designer - responsible for creating branding and advertising materials for the client (logo, packaging, campaign inputs), and ensuring that all the ‘artworks’ correctly communicate the brand message and values
  • Copywriter - composes content for campaigns/visuals and ensures it reflects the brand
  • Graphic designer - creates visual concepts for brand’s needs
  • Photographer/videographer - creates visual content for the brand (some agencies have external photographers/videographers)

Types of clients they serve

Branding agencies may serve different types of businesses, non-profit organizations, or even government agencies.

Social media agency

What does a social media agency do?
Image credit: triadsearchmarketing

A social media agency helps other companies reach their goals (create more revenue, drive more traffic, raise brand awareness, increase the number of leads, and so forth) by using social media.

Their services

Among popular services such type of agency provides are:

  • Content creation (creating videos, photos, posters, infographics, copies, and suchlike for social media profiles)
  • Social media management (uploading photos/videos, writing captures, doing hashtags, responding to comments to grow social media audience)
  • Copywriting (writing the emails, content for social media profiles)
  • Paid traffic (Facebook, Google ads, and the like)

Team composition

Some of the important roles in a social media agency are:

  • Social media manager - defines social media campaigns, builds brand awareness, creates and posts content, collaborates with copywriters and designers to consistently represent the brand.
  • Photographer/videographer - creates original content for social media
  • Copywriter - writes texts for social media
  • Graphic designer - creates branding, advertising, social media materials
  • Social media advertiser - defines the target audience, sets, schedules, and tests social ad campaigns

Types of clients they serve

Social media agencies usually serve small businesses with a focus on a specific niche (like gyms, dentist offices, real estate companies, eCommerce brands).

Marketing agency

What does a marketing agency do?
Image credit: vikingmergers

A marketing agency provides full-funnel marketing services that bring together a great variety of different specializations, including branding and graphic design, content, copywriting, search engine optimization, and more.

Their services

Here are some services that marketing agencies provide:

  • Marketing and brand strategies (defining business goals, conducting market/user research and based on this information create a plan of actions called to grow, promote and sell brand/product/service)
  • SEO (moving the content up the ranking to drive an additional organic traffic) 
  • Content creation (creating videos, photos, posters, infographics, copies, and suchlike for all marketing needs)
  • Email marketing (promoting business using email)
  • Special events (organizing events aimed at promoting the company’s brand)
  • Media buys (advertising at a popular media company (TV station, magazine, website, blog, newspaper)) 
  • Marketing automation (automating routine repetitive tasks with the help of special software)
  • PR (maintaining the positive image of a company)
  • Website design and development (creating easy-to-use and good-looking website)
  • UI/UX development (designing web apps/sites that provide coherent user experience)

P.S. It’s not even the full list of services that a marketing agency may offer, for that reason they sometimes may lack strict-focus expertise. 

Team composition

As marketing agencies provide a wide number of services, their team may consist of various different professionals, here are only some of them:

  • Marketing director - develops general marketing plan, approves marketing campaigns, measures ROI of different promotional channels
  • Content manager - plans, creates, edits, and publishes relevant content based on business goals, market, and user research
  • Creative manager - plans and manages ad campaigns, shapes brand standards, guides and supervises other creative team members (designers, copywriters)
  • Project manager - communicates with the client and the team, delegates the tasks among team members, ensures everyone is moving in the right direction
  • Digital marketing manager - builds marketing strategies, implements and manages marketing campaigns
  • Copywriter - writes the content required by the team
  • Social media manager - creates and manages a social media strategy
  • Front-end developer - creates the layout for websites and web applications
  • Graphic designer - creates visual content for websites, ads, social media content, blog, and so on.
  • Web developer - programs the website and guarantees impeccable functionality on all devices
  • Brand strategist - based on client’s goals, needs, type of industry, and target audience establishes brand standards, ensures brand message consistency across different channels
  • Email specialist - builds email lists, writes emails, generates leads through written communication
  • SEO specialist - analyses, changes, and tests a website to rank it higher in search results on main search engines

Types of clients they serve

Marketing agencies work in various industries and various businesses that range from small ones to big enterprises. It’s also important to mention that marketing agencies tend to work with clients that are located close to their physical location. 

Software development agency

What does a software development agency do?
Image credit: digitaltransformationagency1

A software development agency is generally hired to solve business problems related to the front-end and back-end development of custom software applications. They can also build external apps and SaaS products that will be marketed and sold as a part of the company’s core business model.

Their services

Software development agencies specialize in

  • Software development (web apps, mobile apps for Android and iOS, SaaS apps, multi-tenant systems)
  • Digital transformation (business analysis, digitalization)
  • Software testing and QA (manual testing, testing automation, test strategy)
  • Continuous Deployment and Continuous Integration (CD/CI) (automate repetitive processes such as deployments, code quality checks)

Team composition

Major team members of a software development company are the following:

  • Project manager - communicates with the client and the development team, delegates the tasks among team members, ensures everyone is moving in the right direction
  • Business analyst - researches the market and formulates business goals, ensures the alignment of business model and technology
  • Front-end and back-end developers - code the user interface and functionality of the product  
  • UI/UX designer - designs the look and feel of the product, ensures the intuitive interaction with the product
  • QA - tests the product to make sure it functions well and meets all the requirements  

Types of clients they serve

Software development companies serve businesses of various scales and industries.

Copywriting agency

What does a copywriting agency do?
Image credit: rentmywords

A copywriting agency helps businesses make more sales using copy, blog posts, case studies, whitepapers, and more.

Their services 

Copywriting agencies provide two main types of services:

  • Content marketing (producing relevant, conversion-focused content for businesses, like articles, blogs, Ebooks, newsletters, and so on)
  • Search engine optimization (increasing rankings in search engines)

Team composition

The typical team at a copywriting agency consists of:

  • Content manager - develops a content strategy, assigns tasks to the right team members, distributes content, tracks conversions
  • Content writer - implements the content strategy with high-quality texts, work together with the content manager on strategy
  • Editor - receives content from content writers/managers and gets them ready to publish
  • SEO specialist - analyses, changes, and tests a website to rank it higher in search results on main search engines
  • Graphic designer - creates visual content to complement and support writing

Types of clients they serve

Copywriting agencies serve businesses of all sizes and may have niche specialization. 

UI/UX design agency

What does a UI/UX design agency do?
Image credit: UX Collective

A UI/UX design agency helps businesses create products/services that are usable, intuitive, accessible, and visually appealing. They ensure that the UI and UX of your product are coherent and meet your users’ needs.

Their services

The main services of a UI/UX design agency are:

  • UI/UX design (UX audit, web apps, mobile apps)
  • Website design (websites, landing pages, coming soon pages)
  • Marketing design (pitch decks, social media ads, presentations)
  • Branding (visual identities creation, brand strategies development)

Team composition

A typical UI/UX design team looks as follows:

  • Design manager - mentors, and supervises designers, ensures delivering a high-quality user experience
  • UX designer - makes sure users will be able to easily interact with the product by conducting user research, defining user personas, and based on this information creating a prototype
  • UI designer - thinks out the user interface so that users easily interact with the product and quickly find the required information
  • Content strategist - creates texts/copies that are clear, easy-to-read, and correctly communicate brand’s message
  • Developer - turns the design into a ready product by coding
  • Project manager - communicates with the client and the team, delegates the tasks among team members

Types of clients they serve

Most agencies of this type work with both small startups and well-established enterprises from different industries. 

Product design agency

What does a product design agency do?
Image credit: UX Studio

A product design agency may refer to two different things: industrial product design and digital product design.

  • An industrial product design agency specializes in the engineering and manufacturing of physical products from start to finish.
  • A digital product design agency helps brands create consistent and successful products, taking into account both user needs and business objectives. They deal with the full product design process from ideation to testing, prototyping, and development.

Below we will talk about digital product design agencies. 

Their services

  • Product design (idea validation, wireframing, prototyping, a complete web/mobile app design, MVP building)
  • UX research (discovery research, UX audit)
  • UX consulting (business research and assessment, UX strategy)

In general, their services are quite similar to those of a UI/UX design agency, but with a bigger focus on companies’ business needs.

Team composition

  • Project manager - communicates with the client and the team, delegates the tasks among team members, ensures everyone is moving in the right direction
  • Product designer - responsible for intuitive user experience while taking into account business goals and objectives
  • BizDev Manager - develops strategies on product’s long-term growth
  • UX researcher - study target users and translate gathered data into valuable information for the design team
  • Front-end/back-end developer - codes the user interface and functionality of the product

Types of clients they serve

Digital product design agencies work with both small startups and well-established enterprises of a variety of industries. 

Eleken

SaaS design agency

Eleken design agency is not a typical one. We help you eliminate unnecessary expenses and hire professional UI/UX designers experienced in design for SaaS, as part of your product team. That is, hiring Eleken is like hiring experienced in-house designers that work remotely. 

You can find more detailed information in our article about the Eleken Pricing Model.

Our services

Here is the list of our main services:

  • SaaS design from scratch (creating an MVP: UX research, wireframing, user testing, visual design, prototyping)
  • Redesign (UX audit, competitor analysis, UX redesign)
  • Product extension (designing new features, creating design system)
  • Additional services (as a part of the main project we can help you with website design/redesign, pitch deck design, presentations, and the like)

Team composition

There are two main roles in our team:

  • Design lead - supervises and mentors designers, and serves as the contact person for clients that want to leave feedback/apply some changes related to their cooperation with Eleken.
  • Product designers - responsible for user experience, visual design, UX research, and everything needed to create high-quality design solutions while taking into account business objectives.

As you can see, our team structure is quite straightforward. We don’t have project managers, as we believe that speaking directly to the designer helps to get rid of misunderstandings and saves your budget.

Types of clients we serve

We serve SaaS startups and companies of different sizes and industries that

  • Don’t have a design team, but are looking to launch/revamp/expand their SaaS product
  • Lack employees and are looking for additional UI/UX designer/s to join their product team

Key differences between the main types of design companies

Though we’ve just analyzed 11 types of different design agencies, it still may be challenging to choose the one that satisfies your specific needs, as their services often overlap with each other, or they have a specific focus. For your convenience, here are short statements that describe each agency type.  

  • Digital agency focuses on lead generation and SEO
  • Creative agency mostly focuses on brand strategies, brand development, and creative ad campaigns
  • Advertising agency focuses on traditional promotional campaigns in different forms (TV, digital, newspapers, and more)
  • Branding agency specializes in creating and launching new brands and rebranding
  • Social media agency promotes your product/service, generate leads, and build your brand through social media platforms
  • Marketing agency provides a full list of marketing and advertising services
  • Software development agency designs, develops and launches digital products
  • Copywriting agency specializes in writing sales copy
  • UI/UX design agency helps businesses create web/mobile apps, websites with great user experience and pleasing user interface. Sometimes also provide branding services
  • Product design agency takes into account user needs and business goals and creates tests, and refines the product until the market launch
  • Eleken focuses on SaaS product design, redesign, and extension

Now that you know what type of agency you need, it’s time to learn how to find the right designers and then manage your design team.

Kateryna Mayka

Author

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