What to expect on your first meeting with a design studio

Don’t know where to start? Well here’s a few things you can do to ensure that you get the most out of your meeting.

Source: unsplash.com

Over the years, we’ve observed two bad practices clients commonly make when approaching potential agencies and studios:

  1. Window shopping for quotations with no relevant background information on the project brief.
  2. Requesting for an immediate meeting without providing background information on their projects.

These approaches fail to give us a good sense of the project engagement because, at the beginning, both the client and the agency would like to determine if we would be a good fit for each other before going into the project details. Over at Minitheory, we try to establish this connection early on by having a quick phone call or a precise face-to-face meeting. No long project briefs but short and sweet conversations to address a few key points.

To help us identify how we can help you and your business, come prepared. So here’s what we usually ask during the initial conversation.

1. Objectives

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What are we hoping to achieve?
  • How can we define or measure success?

By having clear objectives, it allows us to focus on solving the end goal. It also acts as a marker to keep us in check on our direction. In the design world, this is like having design principles in place. (Read: How clients use goals and objectives interchangeably)

2. Existing Work

  • Are there any existing materials available? (e.g. customer insights, wireframes, usability test results, etc.)
  • Is there anything you’ve tried that wasn’t effective?

Share and show us what you have. Wireframes could tell us what you are trying to do and further define the scope of work. Previous mockups or minimum viable product (MVP) usually sets the benchmark, and we will want to make sure we can deliver better than that. By sharing with us what existing materials you have, it allow us to better plan the project approach and strategies.

Wireframes by Minitheory

3. Users & Stakeholders

  • Who is our target customer/audience?
  • Who are the key stakeholders or decision makers?

Identifying them will impact the type of project and how we deliver it. Here are some stereotype cases.

  1. Companies with deep organisational levels and processes might lead to longer review cycles.
  2. International audience with cultural norms and particular nuances might need a different approach.

Based on past experiences, it’s a different ball game altogether when presenting to asian stakeholders compare to their western counterparts. We have a diverse international clientele at Minitheory such as working with AON Singapore and their London team, startups in Silicon Valley and China.(Read: Describing Personas)

Source: unsplash.com

4. Processes

  • What is your current or intended process/method?
  • Does it align with our approach and workflow?
  • How collaborative can you be?
  • How long will you need to review the work and provide feedback?

By understanding your process, it helps us to uncover possible project risks. We can then devise an action plan to mitigate or avoid the potential pitfalls during project execution. Being a nimble outfit, we are pretty flexible and highly adaptive to fit into your process. Alternatively, we will propose a process that works for you and your organisation. (Read: Optimising our UX design process for agile teams)

5. Resources

  • Who is on the project team?
  • What role will they play?
  • What is their expertise?
  • What are the tools needed?
  • What is the budget?

We always request for at least an approximation of the budget in mind — it can come in a range of values. It allows us to propose a project approach that provides the best value you can get.

If we are working with your in-house team or external partners, we will need to find out their capabilities and involvement in the project. The sooner we have all this information, the better we can propose our approach. It saves time on both sides by having proposals that align with the expectations and budget. (Read: Why I need to know your budget)

Source: startupstockphotos.com

6. Deliverables

  • What are the deliverables required?
  • Any particular format in mind?
  • What are the expectations for design handoff?

Defining the deliverables is important. Deliverables can be in the form of a slide deck, a new product feature, a piece of code, a set of creative assets, etc. (Read: Common UX deliverables)

Source: GlobalMetrics on Minitheory’s Dribbble

7. Timeline

  • Are there any milestones or deadlines to meet?
  • When would you like to start?
  • Are there any dependencies?

By understanding the time-sensitive activities, it allows us to plan a possible schedule that works best. Dependencies are items that need to be completed before the next course of action can be taken, for example, we might recommend that product branding to be done up before visuals can be generated.

Source: startupstockphotos.com

8. Evaluation Criteria

  • How do you decide on who to award?
  • Is it mostly based on cost due to a budget constraint? Or is it based on value? Or expertise? Or past experiences from case studies?

Transparency, in this instance, allows us to formulate a concise proposal. It will help us prepare a compelling proposal to help you make a sound decision.

Recap of what matters

  1. Spell out objectives so as to focus on end goals
  2. Share existing materials for further understanding
  3. Identify users & stakeholders to better plan project approach
  4. Reveal processes to uncover possible project risks
  5. Narrow project budget to align expectations
  6. Define deliverables to ensure fulfilment
  7. Establish timeline to assure feasibility
  8. Describe evaluation criteria for fairness and transparency

By following these suggestions this will help you to streamline your brief and get the most out of your next meeting. Start telling us about your project now.


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Follow me on Twitter. If you have a new project you want to collaborate with Minitheory, do email or visit us if you’re in Singapore. 🤓

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Sylvia Ng is a Senior Project Manager working at Minitheory, a digital design studio based in sunny Singapore. We make software simple, based on how people think and behave.