Which Digital Design Agencies Should You Avoid?

Marketing, branding, and digital design are just a few of the areas of business that are most likely to be outsourced these days. It simply makes more sense, given the expense of developing an internal team that can handle the nuanced yet vital tasks associated with these areas.

The demand for marketing and design has fueled a rise in the number of agencies to perform the type of work that was once mostly done in-house. However, not every digital design company is the same. Here are some types of digital design company you should avoid.

1. The ones that don’t base success on metrics

Agencies that have consistently given their clients positive results will have no problem defining success through real metrics. The useless ones will have difficulty doing just that, either because they don’t know what a successful outcome looks like or because they have problems with data analytics. Either way, you don’t want to get into a contract with such an agency.

2. The ones who tie you down to their proprietary systems

If an agency makes you use their own tools such as a CMS, a proprietary app, or their own Adwords account for your campaigns, you might be setting yourself up for some trouble in the future after their contract with your ends. While an insistence on using their resources is not necessarily an indication of malice, try to at least find out if they can offer other alternatives. If they can’t this can be a red flag that indicates possible problems in the future.

3. Agencies that offer everything

This usually means that they excel at nothing. It’s highly unlikely that an agency that performs well when it comes to a more creative area like design and animation will perform equally well when it comes to a more technical area like SEM and SEO.

Granted, there are good arguments for hiring full-service agencies early in the life cycle of your business, when you’re effectively using them in place of a potentially more expensive internal marketing and design team. However, if you want a campaign to do well in a specific area, you’ll want to go with a digital design company that has a proven track record in the area you need.

4. Those that can’t show you any proof of success

Speaking of track records, if the agency claims they can perform in a certain area — ask for proof. If they try to obfuscate or claim that their clients want to keep their results private, that may be a red flag that indicates they have not performed to their client’s satisfaction or that they do not have sufficient experience. Granted, there are many new agencies out there that can probably do a good job — but do you want to be the one to  find out?

5.The ones who can’t tell you who will be doing the actual work

Outsourcing is a fact of life and it will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. It gets a bit iffy though when you are misled into thinking the agency will be doing the job for you when in reality, they themselves have outsourced the work to freelancers who may not understand your culture or values. If you’re lucky, then no harm, no foul. If you’re unlucky, it can lead to a gaffe that potentially ruins your brand.

While there are plenty of subcontractors that do excellent work, that isn’t the point. You should be able to make an informed choice. When an agency farms out your project to subcontractors who may themselves farm it out to other subcontractors, the potential of a disconnect between what you expect and what you get increases. Agencies that do not have transparency in their subcontracting therefore effectively deny your business of an informed choice, which is not what you want to happen.


Taking the services of a digital design company is often a necessary step for any organization that wants to grow quickly and efficiently. However, it is also important to know which companies you should avoid working with, given that not all agencies are capable of producing positive outcomes for your business.

Check out 500 Designs to find out what a top-rated digital design company can do for your business.