This may or may not seem obvious, but do not hire a designer or agency unless you have looked at their portfolio and you actually like their work.
Our job as an agency is to bring to life your vision, true. However, at the end of the day, design is extremely subjective and how one agency views a solution to a problem is going to be vastly different than another. This is why it is very important to spend a bit of time researching the designer and team who you are thinking about working with. Here are a few steps you should do before reaching out to start a project and DEFINITELY before signing them on for a project.
1. Check out their portfolio.
This is a give-me. The portfolio is where we put all our favorite projects (usually) or at least the ones we're proud of. It's where we are able to truly curate to new clients what we do. This means that the work that is being showcased often reflects the kind of work the agency or designer wants to keep doing. This step is also the most fun and least stressful on your part. Take some time to dive into their work. Check out the websites of their past clients. If you like (or hopefully love) what you see, you might want to reach out.
2. Check out their social media.
This isn't a perfect way to tell if you'd like to work with them, but it does give you a bit more information . You can see how they talk, what they talk about, what their posts look like, and what they highlight. This isn't a perfect science, because weirdly enough a lot of agencies and designers don't post regularly but it will at least give you a bit more of a peek behind the curtain.
3. Read their blog/ design ethos.
Every designer & agency has a design theory and perspective. Before you reach out and start a project with a new team, see if you vibe with what they are putting out there.
4. Ask them their process
You have found a design team who's work you LOVE and you really connect to their mission and design perspective. This is probably a great time to reach out and at least get the process going. During that first call, don't be shy about asking their design process. As an agency, this is something we are constantly honing and having a client be aware that we even have a process will immediately make you look prepared. Now, this the trick is this: if you don't understand or think their process is going to work for you, don't continue moving forward with the agency. We want you to get the best design you can, and with that we recognize that that might mean not working with us.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to doing a little of bit of research on your part. As an agency, when you reach out to us regarding a project, we assume it's because you like what we do. So we are going to give you what we do. Do not simply take the word of a friend or colleague that they enjoyed working with someone (but definitely take it into consideration). A lot of time and money can be saved if you take these simple steps before starting a project.