<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=278116885016877&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">


Dec 20, 2023 | 5 Minute Read

How An External Design Agency Partner May Be Better For Your Brand


Table of Contents


Old Spice faced an image crisis, overshadowed by competitors like Axe. 

The turning point arrived in 2010 when an advertising campaign changed the entire narrative.

Procter & Gamble (P&G), recognizing the need for a major shift, hired Wieden+Kennedy. They worked towards creating a popular campaign - "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” 

The goal was to increase body wash sales by 15%, but by May 2010, sales of Old Spice Red Zone Body Wash had increased 60% from the previous year. By July 2010, sales had doubled.  

This example demonstrates how organizations can leverage external agency expertise to achieve success. 

Logo Old Spice - Before and After

Benefits Of Partnering With External Design Agencies

Hiring an external design agency can help organizations solve challenges and drive multiple benefits.

Challenges Faced By Digital Product Teams
Solutions Offered By External Design Agencies
Limited Expertise  Limited Expertise


In-house teams may not have multidisciplinary knowledge. External design agencies with expertise across diverse niches can step in and work as an extension of the in-house team.

Apple, known for products with top-notch design, collaborated with Foster + Partners to create Apple Park.

Creativity Constraints Creativity Constraints


Finding new ideas for every project can be tough. Instead, organizations might want to spend more time on driving growth.

A simple solution is collaborating with an external design agency that would bring new viewpoints and creative ideas.

The “#ShareACoke” campaign created by Ogilvy boosted Coca-Cola's U.S. sales by 2.5%. After a decade of decline, this marked a significant turnaround for the beverage company.

Encouraging collaborative brainstorming sessions between in-house teams and external design agencies also helps foster creativity and idea generation.

Budget Constraints Budget Constraints


Organizations often face financial limitations, which impact their design projects. For example, a small startup may have limited funds for design, while an enterprise may face overall budget restrictions.

Hiring an external design agency brings cost-effectiveness while ensuring the right expertise.

Scalability Issues Scalability Issues


Organizations with aggressive growth goals and multiple client projects need help scaling their in-house design efforts.

For example, they often need to work on multiple client projects with conflicting deadlines, challenging their ability to deliver high-quality work consistently. The organization’s bandwidth becomes limited when the team already has its hands full, and a new client may be onboarded.  

Collaborating with external design agencies gives organizations access to a diverse pool of resources that can be quickly scaled up to meet tight deadlines for in-house and client design needs.

Implementing The Latest Design TrendsImplementing The Latest Design Trends


Organizations struggle to keep up with design trends as it is time-consuming. Hiring an external agency is the right solution as it helps them stay relevant and ahead of their competition.

External design partners would prioritize continuous improvement, staying on top of industry trends, user feedback, and emerging technologies. 

UK-based digital marketing agency Nativve has been Patagonia's marketing agency since 2015. They've collaborated with Patagonia Europe, executing digital marketing strategies, launching products and stores, and supporting environmental projects such as - Save the Blue Heart of Europe and Shell, Yeah!

Changing Business Objectives Changing Business Objectives


Organizations may find it challenging to align design efforts with evolving business goals, such as increasing visibility or improving customer loyalty and retention.

External design agencies enable organizations to adapt to changing requirements and meet their business goals.

For example, a skilled design agency partner can help modernize the digital platforms of universities, streamlining the navigation and enhancing overall usability.

This approach boosts user satisfaction and engagement and aligns with crucial business objectives such as attracting top-tier students and optimizing administrative processes.

Inconsistent Designs Inconsistent Designs


Consistency is the key to a seamless user experience. Organizations often struggle with design consistency during rapid scaling.

External agencies help organizations maintain consistent design, especially during rapid scaling. Their expertise ensures a cohesive brand appearance across platforms.

Lack Of User Feedback Lack Of User Feedback


Some organizations may need help to gather direct feedback from users.


External design agencies help bridge the gap by employing user research techniques like surveys, user testing, and analytics. 


The research offers valuable insights and data, ensuring user-centric design solutions and improved products.

A Short Tale: How N.W Ayer & Sons Helped De Beers Create A Historic Campaign

The De Beers Group hired ad agency N.W. Ayer & Sons in 1938 to help boost their diamond sales.

As a result, between 1938 and 1941, the brand reported a 55% increase in the U.S. diamond sales in just four years. But the most incredible breakthrough occurred in 1947 when the agency's copywriter Frances Gerety penned the iconic tagline 'A Diamond Is Forever.'

As a result, from 1939 to 1979, De Beers's wholesale diamond sales in the United States increased from $23 million to $2.1 billion. The association of diamonds with engagement rings and the change in consumer psychology played a huge role in the roaring success.

De Beers Sales 1979

How To Choose An External Design Agency

There are a few basic steps that you can take to choose an external design agency.

Step 1: Identify Your Business Goals

Identify your business goals and clearly envision a productive partnership with a design agency. Whether you want a UX audit or revamp your website's user interface, articulating your objectives will help you select the right agency.

Step 2: Evaluate Agency Portfolios

A design agency's portfolio is a reflection of its capabilities. Evaluate their portfolios by paying attention to their quality, creativity, and problem-solving prowess. 

For example, an I.T. company seeking external agency help with an app redesign should ideally partner with a design agency with a proven track record in designing mobile and web apps.

Step 3: Check For Relevant Industry Experience

Assessing industry-specific expertise is essential when choosing a design agency. This is because agencies familiar with the nuances and challenges of your particular sector are equipped to deliver a tailored solution. 

Step 4: Evaluate Agency Values & Culture Alignment

Find agency partners that share your values to build a stronger synergy within the team. For example, organizations with sustainability as a core value should collaborate with agency partners that share this commitment.

Step 5: Consider Agency Size & Scalability

The size and scalability of an agency should correspond to your project's scope and demands. A large enterprise with complex design needs may prefer an agency with ample resources. Meanwhile, a small startup could benefit from a more agile and cost-effective partner that can scale with them.

Step 6: Review Client Testimonials & Case Studies

Testimonials and case studies provide a window into an agency's record of client satisfaction and project success. These resources demonstrate valuable insights, such as the agency's ability to deliver on promises and meet or exceed expectations.  

Step 7: Seek Referrals & Recommendations

Referrals and recommendations from trusted sources within your professional network can be invaluable. You can leverage renowned design communities like the British Interactive Media Agency and Interactive Design Foundation.

Step 9: Request Proposals & Quotes

Contact shortlisted agencies and request detailed project proposals and cost estimates. The thoroughness of these proposals is critical to check whether they fit all your requirements. 

Step 10: Evaluate Pricing  

When choosing an external design agency, the fit between cost estimates and financial parameters is essential, especially for startups or non-profits with limited budgets.  

Step 11: Conduct Multiple Meetings  

Discuss project methodologies, approaches, and team dynamics with your design agency partner. These interactions provide an opportunity to establish rapport, gain a deeper understanding of their approach, and understand their alignment with your vision and objectives.

Step 12: Check Engagement Models

When assessing potential agencies, it's crucial to examine their engagement models. An agency with multiple, flexible engagement models is preferable. These help tailor their approach to your unique needs and ensure a more precise alignment of services.

How Axelerant Designed An Intuitive And Personalized Experience For the University Of East London (UEL)

A higher educational institution with a vision to reshape education, UEL needed its website to be more effective. The website required Drupal migration for better performance, user experience, and security.  

The two main asks for this project were:

  1. Rethinking The Information Architecture: To help users find the information they need quickly and efficiently.  
  2. Redesigning User Interface Elements: To align with the university’s vision and tone and bring in consistency.

Axelerant initiated the information architecture and website redesign strategy with Design Thinking and used key research techniques like User Journey Mapping and Stakeholder and User Mapping. Together with the UEL's digital team, we also worked on the heuristics audit feedback received from the U.K. government. 

The joint efforts helped create a more efficient user experience platform for the users of the University of East London’s website with tangible outcomes.

The university saw an increase in student applications and the website ranked 22nd from the previous 100+ rank among UK universities per Silktide’s (accessibility) rating in 2022. 

UEL also got shortlisted for Times Higher Education Awards 2023 in the Technological or Digital Innovation of the Year category.

Need more clarity on choosing an external design agency partner that aligns with your vision? We’re here to guide you through the process.

About the Author
Dheeraj Khindri, Director of Experience Design
About the Author

Dheeraj Khindri, Director of Experience Design

A pragmatic soul and cinema enthusiast who enjoys larger-than-life films—that’s Dheeraj. In his free time, he explores all things poetry, solo guitar sessions, and binge-worthy web series. His life’s essential values? Empathy, autonomy, and pragmatism.


Sucheta Biswas, Marketing Coordinator

Nicknamed “Monica” for her culinary prowess and tidiness, Sucheta is an intriguing omnivert. Books are her cherished companions, complemented by nature walks and wildlife photography. She’s also a practicing Yogi who loves all things art.

Back to Top