I took Design Workshops for my consulting company. And this is what I received

Design Agency

Who am I?

Hi! My name is Dima Syrotkin. Originally I am from Ukraine, but for the past 6 years I lived in Finland and Germany.

I am the CEO of a Finnish startup called Panda Training. At the same time, for the past few months I have been consulting the biggest Finnish telecom company Elisa Oyj on the business outcomes of the new emerging technology called eSIM.

My background is from NGO, training, consulting and startup worlds. I have experience in founding organizations from scratch and leading them.

 

Why and how I ordered design services

This vacation I wanted to try something new. Work for a company I like while being abroad. It so happened that being abroad meant being in my home country, Ukraine. I found a top UX/UI and branding agency Qubstudio whose website made me fall in love with them. I wrote to them and offered to help with business development and marketing. They accepted!

At the same time, the team at Qubstudio offered their services for my startup’s brand and design. This was exactly what I was considering for quite a while already, so I immediately accepted. The Qubstudio team works through co-creation and collaboration with the client, not just working for the client and therefore except for just being in the role of a client, it was also a perfect opportunity for me to work with the experts and learn from them.

This article will describe what the process was like and what I learned about branding and design in the short time that I spent working with Qubstudio.

 

My expectations vs reality

To be honest, my expectations were both high and low from the beginning. They were high because

  • as mentioned previously, I was impressed with Qubstudio’s website and social media even before I saw them
  • I really liked their office and people
  • on the first day one of the employees told me about the 365 days banana challenge that Qubstudio’s Art Director Viktor Fedyuk did and I was honestly flabbergasted (I don’t often use such words – take a look yourself). My expectations were low because at that time the agency was quite busy with ongoing client projects and I didn’t hope that they would be able to give me the whole team with the Art Director, business analytic and two designers.

But what I was most surprised by was Qubstudio’s business acumen. Part of our startup’s problem was that we didn’t know what we wanted. I knew my business well, but I couldn’t talk about it with clarity and marketing briefness. Plus, the service we sell is quite complicated, mostly because of being something very new. The agency’s team helped me to clarify our value proposition and target audience, showed me what is understandable and what isn’t for ‘normal people’, and suggested a bunch of creative brand ideas.

I will tell you about the details next.

 

Design process they made me go through

The first thing I was asked was to fill in the “Website Design & Branding Brief”. It was 10 pages. And I absolutely loved it! At this point, you might think that I was paid to do this review. Believe it or not – I wasn’t!

So, why I loved it. It was super relevant! All the questions were asked very well and I think that even just by filling in the document I already answered half of my internal brand & design-related questions. This, of course, also helped the team to jump in right away and understand our business fast.

I also provided all the legacy documents to the team, and we began our journey with a workshop.

 

Unique Value Proposition (UVP) Workshop

You probably know about the Value Proposition canvas. If not, check it out here. The framework itself wasn’t new to me. That being said, it really helped to have a back and forth with the team of communication (branding and design) experts. They helped me to fill in the canvas for our business that enforced the future design process.

 

Target Audience Persona & 5-why Workshop

We filtered through a number of options and ideas to arrive at a decision to focus on one target persona, one main value proposition and one cornerstone creative narrative idea.

It was extremely insightful to go through a 5-why exercise that helped us to look into the root causes of both why someone would or would not want to use our service. The exercise is very simple: you just ask consequently why 5 times to every question, usually, 3 times for every question generating 15 responses.

 

Branding Workshop

Once the picture was getting more clear, we also looked at the archetype of our brand, our tone of voice. This was very insightful because having in mind our target persona it was clear that we should adopt some more conversational approach to our communication and marketing material. We developed a new logo which was way more playful than the old one yet at the same time not too far away as to be unrecognisable.

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Panda logo H-01

We also defined the cornerstone creative idea for the website. Our product is remote coaching via instant messengers and thus involves a lot of texting with our end users. We thus decided to use chat windows and a conversation with an imaginary customer as a way to present information on our website. This solved the problem of having so much text that no one would want to read it and at the same time added something new and fresh to the website

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Some ideas emerged naturally through the iterative work later on, for example the bamboo forest. 🙂 When the fundamentals are in place, everything else falls in place too.

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Daily Stand-up Meetings

Once we defined the main idea, the design process began! We’ve set up a daily stand-up meeting to have a 15-30 mins discussing the work that’s been done and what’s still lying ahead. Iterations were really fast and sometimes we met even twice per day. I was mostly giving feedback, adjusting direction and helping whenever needed (even at this stage I still felt myself as part of the team not only as a client).

 

What you should do to make the most out of the cooperation with a design agency

Don’t use experts only to do execution. Ask feedback. Ideally, co-create with them. Co-creation has a lot of advantages. Even though it takes some time, it allows for nearly perfect alignment between the business strategy and its execution. Workshops might take time, but they will pay off in the long term.

Pick those design agencies who also understand business. Do the ‘discovery’ workshops with them. Get to know them, let them get to know you and see how you feel working with each other.

Do the preparation work they ask for. Filling in one 10 page design brief document will save a lot of money down the road.

Look for and work with versatile teams. Communication is complex. You need a business owner, business analysts, creative people and designers to solve this complex puzzle.

 

What you should be ready for

For the time of the project, you’re taking these people into your team. Don’t treat design projects as outsourced projects, treat them as collaboration projects.

Are you ready to trust them? Do what you have to in order to be able to. Trust is the fundamental ingredient of any collaboration.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, would I recommend working with Qubstudio? Definitely. Why? They understand your business and help you understand your business ever more with their business acumen and a toolbox with frameworks. They are creative and think outside of the box, presenting you with a number of beautiful, practical and brilliant solutions. Finally, they work as a team with individual experts in a variety of topics, from branding to business strategy to design.

One of the most important things to judge any design agency is their work, their portfolio. Here is the result of our collaboration after 3 weeks, judge for yourself: https://panda-training.com

Design Agency